On the shelf: ‘The Last American Man’ by Elizabeth Gilbert

By Melissa Fox, Grand Rapids Public Library-Main 

For those who have dreamed of true adventure, of exploring and of attempting perilous journeys and of living as a pioneer, The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert is a book you will not want to miss. Comparable to admired adventure books such as Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer and Wild by Cheryl Strayed, The Last American Man follows the life of Eustace Conway, who at the age of seventeen left his family’s home to live in a teepee in the woods and wear skins from animals he trapped. He hiked the Appalachian Trail and set the world record for crossing the United States on horseback. Conway eventually purchased land in North Carolina and started the Turtle Island Preserve, which he built with his own two hands in the traditional way, and where he continues to hold camps and classes in survival and living off the land.

The Last American Man takes readers on Conway’s lifelong adventure in pursuit of his ultimate goal — to convince Americans to give up their materialistic lifestyles and return with him back to nature. Because Elizabeth Gilbert does an excellent job of writing his story, The Last American Man was a finalist for the National Book Award, and because Eustace Conway is a compelling character, it’s easy get lost in the adventure and feel oneself called toward the woods, to living a simpler life.