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Wild: An Elemental Journey

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  672 ratings  ·  76 reviews
In Wild, Jay Griffiths describes an extraordinary odyssey through wildernesses of earth, ice, water, and fire. A poetic consideration of the tender connection between human society and the wild, the book is by turns passionate, political, funny, and harrowing. It is also a journey into that greatest of uncharted lands-the wilderness of the mind-and Griffiths beautifully ex ...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published December 28th 2006 by Tarcher
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Average rating 4.13  · 
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 ·  672 ratings  ·  76 reviews

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Jun 11, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Couldn't finish it: it made me feel angry - seemed a bit much "Repressed intellectual privileged white woman goes to hang out with non-repressed poor people, takes drugs, lets it all hang out, feels much better, and writes a rave about how great it is to be poor and in touch with nature etc, dressed up with some residual intellectualism". I don't think that's entirely fair, but that's how I'm felt about it.
Suzi Baum
Jun 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I am refraining from high-lighting passages of this book because I might as well just dunk the whole thing in highlighter. I soak up her words like watermelon juice.
Dec 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, travel
I've never read a book quite like this; it's very difficult to describe. Seven years in the writing, like some mythical hero's trials, it's a hymn to the wild, written by a young poet, anthropologist, philosopher, adventurer, and probably manic depressive too. It's divided into sections for each element: Earth, Ice (an element on its own), Water, Fire, and Air, and Griffiths travels the globe in search of unspoiled wildness: the Amazon, the Arctic, Indonesia, Australia, and West Papua (with a br ...more
Jan 09, 2008 rated it liked it
Ms. Griffith doesn't think like me. This is the very reason I am reading this tome. She is a radical feminist, anti-Christian, anti-corporate, and anti-western civilization in her views. I have found her challenging, engaging, often aggravating, but always a good story teller. It has been a positive stretch for me to read this book.
Richard Reese
Mar 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
If you only have time for one sentence, hear this: Jay Griffiths’ book, Wild, is one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read. Wild is a celebration of wildness and freedom. It celebrates societies that work, societies that have complete respect for their ecosystems, societies that have survived for thousands of years without suffering destructive whirlwinds of mass hysteria.

Griffiths is a brilliant heretic and a proud one. Her book shows us what happens when madness collides with wildness. It
Jan 27, 2013 rated it liked it
This book exhibits strong language and sexual references and my review contains one example of that towards the end. I have checked that this does not violate the Goodreads review guidelines (which you can read by following this link: Although I apologise for any offence this may cause, I believe it is necessary to meet this author on her own ground, as I hope will become clear as you read on.

In her teens Jay Griffiths had an experience of a strongly co
Jul 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel
It took me a year and a half to finish this, simply because I didn't want it to finish this book. It lay beside my bed as a Bible. I have swallowed every single phrase out of this book, chewed it and dived into extreme details, wishing that kids learn all this in geography classes. The author uses great figurative language and if you are not a native speaker, you can learn so much from her. She uses words beautifully and has a coherent research for writing this novel. I awe her attempts to find ...more
Jul 24, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
Twenty pages in, I decided that this was utterly unreadable. Will not finish it.
Angel Cowgirl
Nov 05, 2012 rated it did not like it
While I enjoyed the stories of her global travels and descriptions of other cultures and customs, I was intensely repelled by Ms. Griffiths' obvious deep-seated hatred for so many things, especially white people and western “civilization”. Ms. Griffiths has a way with words and can weave beautiful, poetic images… yet often resorts to crude slang. If you enjoy odd philosophical meanderings and radical ideologies, pseudo-intellectual eco-socialism, and scathing attacks on the moralism and ethics o ...more
Feb 28, 2014 rated it it was ok
Wild - a very confusing story should be the title. I found the author jumped around alot in the book and although some of the description used in the book was very awe-inducing, I found that she repeated herself quite alot.
I did not finish this book because after a while I found her writing to be annoying and she was a little bit condescending and patronising
Sep 29, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
I can't remember being so turned off a book so quickly. It felt like it was written by a teenager. The essence of wildness in peyote! ... please!
Maria Da
Aug 19, 2013 rated it liked it
I've just recently finished reading this book - after eight months. I really laboured through it, and only finished it because I don't like starting a book and not finishing it. It came highly recommended by someone I admire, but I have a few quibbles with it.
Jay writes exquisitely, which I truly admire and envy her for. She is also extremely brave and adventurous for having tackled places and situations that she writes about. I also share many of her views on wildness. What irked me was her sel
Simon Blair
Jun 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Author Jay Griffiths spent 7 years of her life on a life changing journey to the world’s remotest places living with indigenous peoples and learning their compassionate and wise ways. This book is a celebration of their often-neglected outlooks and especially their connection to the natural rhythms and harmonies of Gaia. Divided into chapters named after the four elements, each one follows her experience in the realms of Earth, Air, Fire and Water (Ice). The deepest message of this book is that ...more
Rowan Morrison
Aug 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I found this book hugely compelling. I started reading it on a camping holiday with my children - exactly the right environment. As I turned the pages sitting outside our tent in the dark as they slept, surrounded by hills with bats flitting around me and a whiskey warming my throat, Jay Griffith's words tapped into exactly what I was feeling - the 'wildness' that is so essential to feeling properly alive. 'Wild' is a poem to the earth and the indigenous people who truly know how to treat it and ...more
Aug 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Weirdly alluring.

I stumbled across this book during one of my fishing trips in the charity shops. It was the cover that made me want this, and also because it was so different from what I usually read.

I didn't realise it was travel writing until I was part way through, Griffiths goes on a journey that is more spiritual than literal, even thought her destinations are beautiful and real and gritty.

This was a heavy going read. It reminded me of Anne Michaels, whom I recently read as part of my cou
Aug 08, 2008 rated it liked it
I loved it, I hated it. In and out of it I went. I loved the stories she told, hated her self-importance and her overdone prose, which would at times leave Walter Pater in the shade. See my views on her chum Macfarlane.

Are we entering a new era of ichor and tesellated pavements, where everyoen goes for Immediate Impact? If so, get out the Hemingway! If you want wild, read Big Two-hearted River, which I'm willing to bet Griffiths hates because it's about a man and not menstrual cycles (ay-ay-ay)
Nov 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I've ever read. Part travelogue, part self-exploration, Ms. Griffiths explores how she feels environmental destruction is related to man's inherent fear of other. She's right up there with Terry Tempest Williams in my book.
Mar 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
If ever there was a book to make you pack a bag and travel then this is it.Seven years of travels to jungle,desert,ice and everything inbetween.Plus some great accounts of the best natural hallucinogenic medicines known to man.A classic
Sep 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
An inspiring book of a lady who met many indigenous people around the world and discovered how they have been persecuted by the west and Christians. Trying to change their simpler content ways; being at one with nature, having respect for all living things. It makes me realise how much we have digressed from that in this materialistic world, a slave to corporations and fear.

The Christians intentionally went to uncontacted tribes in the amazon even though they knew they would cause death and dis
So this started out interesting. Griffiths has a compelling, gorgeous style of writing is as wild as her subject, full of long and flowing sentences that are tangled with metaphors and asides and brilliant with passion and anger.

Like, look at this sentence:

"What is wild cannot be bought or sold, borrowed or copied. It is. Unmistakeable, unforgettable, unshamable, elemental as earth and ice, water, fire and air, a quintessence, pure spirit, resolving into no constituents. Don't waste your wildnes
May 10, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a collection of travel essays loosely joined by a central theme of extreme wilderness and it's inhabitants. The essays are of an extremely mixed quality. The best ("Wild Air", set in West Papua) successfully brings together global politics and capitalism, anthropology, and deep ecology, while remaining an engaging journey. The worst ("Wild Earth", set in the Amazon) attempts the same but fails totally on account of its obnoxious tone.

Griffiths' style can best be described as over-c
Jan 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
I loved this book very much. I found the ending very honest but also disappointing in a way. In another way I loved the reality of the ending.
The actual experiences of living with indigenous tribes were amazing, the descriptions of natural history and landscape beautiful and the honest accounts of endeavour, successes and difficulties so inspiring.
Her excursions into feminist philosophising upon male adventuring were both illuminating and humorous and her deep interest in linguistics fascinating
While it starts off with a beautiful meditation about the indigenous cultures, wilderness, and language, halfway through the book it deteriorates into blaming all the world's evils on "white man" and Christianity. It is undeniable that certain countries have occupied and attempted to destroy indigenous cultures for centuries, but at the same time the author is ready to brush off the realities of indigenous life if they don't fit her narrative.

In the chapter describing her trip to West Papua she
May 27, 2013 rated it it was ok
My reactions to this book and the author are ambivalent. On the one hand, she is certainly passionate about preserving wildness in all its forms and taking action. On the other hand, her dualistic viewpoint means that situations and cultures are painted in un-nuanced, black and white terms. Griffiths is also a fierce supporter of native cultures/peoples, who are suffering theft of lands and destruction by western moneyed interests. For example, my eyes were opened to the complicity of the U.S. i ...more
Jun 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel, essay
A striking book. Straightforward, irreverent, intimate and elegant, as wild nature, which never dissimulates, is. Sometimes too wordy like an intricate wild forest, other times profound and wise like the silent and perceptive mind of the ocean, or perspicacious and playful like a bird flight high in the sky. Life is meant to be free and self-willed, a joyful comedy, but too often it is coercively constricted into an oppressive, unnatural tragedy. A denounce of how greed and the thirst for power ...more
Sep 07, 2012 rated it liked it
Such a difficult book to categorise as it transcends travel and emotion.

The book is in sections based on Wild something, e.g. Wild Water and Wild Air and Griffiths had written about her experiences of people and places in these zones.

Parts of it were really good, and a delight to read, other parts were tough because of the subject matter.

The last part was entitled Wild Mind, and she wrote about her experiences of a separation and the trauma following this.

Good at times, but not fantastic
Jennifer Anderson
Jun 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is one of those books I just found being given away. Super interesting. I actually learned a lot from this book, as there was a curious dive into words to express the points and subjects. Halfway through I really wanted to know how she would tie it up and end it, so I breezed through chapters which may explain why I felt the end was a bit disconnected and short, BUT I loved the way it ended. I will be referencing this book for awhile, so I'm not sure I can part with it just yet.
Jun 24, 2017 rated it did not like it
There are a very few sentences of brilliance in this book. Unfortunately, you have to wade through long pages of a privileged white girl's strong repeated opinions to find them. To add to the fun, she backs up her rants with hand-picked quotes from important books to show her breath of knowledge. I forced myself to finish this so I could vent in this review. I think a story of her journeys and observations without all the lists and rhetoric could be quite interesting.
Mar 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
An elemental journey and what a journey! The author uses incredibly rich, lucious language in her attempt to describe her journeys to extremely remote parts of the earth. She is tough, harsh, and irreverent towards those who would compromise wild areas, and creates in the reader a deep appreaciation of 'wildness'. The book is experiential beyond compare, and thoroughly researched by the author.
One of the most inspiring books I have read, and I have read it several times since my first read and will again. It really captures the essence of Wilderness and how beneficial nature is for our souls. something that is all to often forgotten. Always makes me want to put my boots on and disappear into the wild.
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Jay Griffiths was born in Manchester and studied English Literature at Oxford University. She spent a couple of years living in a shed on the outskirts of Epping Forest and has travelled the world, but for many years she has been based in Wales.

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“The wild. I have drunk it, deep and raw, and heard it's primal, unforgettable roar. We know it in our dreams, when our mind is off the leash, running wild. 'Outwardly, the equivalent of the unconscious is the wilderness: both of these terms meet, one step even further on, as one,' wrote Gary Snyder. 'It is in vain to dream of a wildness distinct from ourselves. There is none such,' wrote Thoreau. 'It is the bog in our brains and bowls, the primitive vigor of Nature in us, that inspires the dream.'

And as dreams are essential to the psyche, wildness is to life.

We are animal in our blood and in our skin. We were not born for pavements and escalators but for thunder and mud. More. We are animal not only in body but in spirit. Our minds are the minds of wild animals. Artists, who remember their wildness better than most, are animal artists, lifting their heads to sniff a quick wild scent in the air, and they know it unmistakably, they know the tug of wildness to be followed through your life is buckled by that strange and absolute obedience. ('You must have chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star,' wrote Nietzsche.) Children know it as magic and timeless play. Shamans of all sorts and inveterate misbehavers know it; those who cannot trammel themselves into a sensible job and life in the suburbs know it.

What is wild cannot be bought or sold, borrowed or copied. It is. Unmistakeable, unforgettable, unshamable, elemental as earth and ice, water, fire and air, a quitessence, pure spirit, resolving into no contituents. Don't waste your wildness: it is precious and necessary.”
“What is wild cannot be bought or sold, borrowed or copied. It is. Unmistakable, unforgettable, unshakable, elemental as earth and ice, water, fire and air, a quintessence, pure spirit, resolving into no constituents. Don't waste your wildness: it is precious and necessary.” 15 likes
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