Alden Jones: The Wanting Was a Wilderness Book Cover

“Incredibly beautiful and lucid. I love this book.

—Cheryl Strayed

Alden Jones began a deep dive into Cheryl Strayed’s Wild to answer a question: How did Cheryl Strayed take material that is not inherently dramatic―hiking―and transform it into an inspirational memoir, beloved to so many? The answer would be revealed in Jones’s craft analysis, and ultimately in Jones’s memoir of her own time in the wilderness, written alongside her exploration of Wild. But when a sudden personal crisis occurs in the middle of writing the book,  Jones realizes that an authentic account of her history requires confronting some difficult truths, both in her life and on the page. The result is a profoundly original work that merges literary criticism, craft discussion, and memoir―a celebration of Wild, of memoir, and of the power of a book to change one’s life.

“Smart and personal and profound….The Wanting Was a Wilderness is not only lit-crit, but also how-to—a kind of manual for writing a successful literary memoir. Her compound agenda resolves in a long-form essay that is intimate, instructive, and entertaining—all you might want from the genre.” The Los Angeles Review of Books

“On its face, The Wanting Was A Wilderness is a critique of a widely beloved book, but Jones’s analysis of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild quickly becomes ‘a springboard, mirror, and map’ for Jones’s own journey, and The Wanting Was A Wilderness transforms, before our eyes, into her own raw and inviting memoir. The result is a masterclass in memoir writing.The Millions

“Jones is an incredible teacher of the art…Wielding the power of words almost feels sacred; harnessing their strength for the understanding of self is monumental. The Wanting Was a Wilderness is an “I see what you did there” smart spin on its respective genres. The academic approach is refreshing in the nonfiction canon and an open door to Truth, where everything worthwhile inevitably lies.” Entropy

“Jones intended to write a reckoning with a contemporary literary classic — but she has written far more than that. To carefully dissect Wild, she finds she must consider her own quests: her own time in the wild; her self-discoveries as a queer woman; and how she can both live and tell an authentic story. This is a beautiful, lyric, unexpected book about the power of memoir and how desire both leads us into the wilderness and makes for us a map. The Wanting Was a Wilderness is book for readers, true readers, to treasure.—Alex Marzano-Lesnevich

“In The Wanting Was a Wilderness, Alden Jones initiates a smartly syncopated call-and- response with Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, the book that helped her make sense of a past turbulent with conflicting desires. Embedded in the saga of her own wilderness trek is Jones’s open-eyed and completely compelling account of the dynamics of love and sexuality. The book builds itself—beautifully—as Jones keeps asking herself how to best present her story. This is how craft makes a memoir come to life.” —Sven Birkerts

The Wanting Was a Wilderness defies genre—part literary analysis, part memoir, part rumination on memoir and memoir writing. Alden Jones explores her own private wilderness as she takes us along on Cheryl Strayed’s hike. This journey through Jones’s life, and her intelligent, thoughtful considerations of literature and writing, is one you will not want to miss. Jones asks us: What’s in your pack? And that is the question that ultimately resonates: As you think about your wilderness, what’s in your pack?” —Ann Hood