The Hardest Path: Book Review

Sometimes in life, we are faced with tough questions.

We wonder ‘is this life for me?’ and we are left unsure as to if we are seeing all there is in life and this leads to a strange feeling of being incomplete.

It is a feeling that I personally have felt and I am sure many others have. My life was in fact altered when I read a book by world-famous author Paulo Coelho. That book was The Alchemist which has gone on to sell millions of copies worldwide.

When I was handed a copy of The Hardest Path by Matt Jardine I immediately turned to the back cover and read that the inspiration for this book was provided from The Alchemist also.

I wondered ‘was it fate’ that brought this book into my life? Were stranger forces at play?

Either way, I spent the next few days reading the book of which I will try and give you an honest review.

The 88

In writing this, I found it difficult to create a review without giving away the benefits of the book. However what I would say is that the book is a journey where the reader will learn lessons about themselves and life.

The Hardest Path is the story of Matt Jardine. A karate expert and martial artist who decides to undertake one of the world’s most sacred pilgrimages,  the Shikoku Pilgrimage.

The goal of this pilgrimage is to visit 88 Buddhist Temples located on the island of Shikoku in a gruelling feat of dedication and a test of will.

Matt Jardine undertook this incredible journey and The Hardest Path is his memoir and educational tool for this. I guess at this point you would like me to spill the beans and tell you what he learned, sadly I will not do that because unless you go on that journey with Matt I do not feel you should benefit from this knowledge.

The Review

Having read and loved The Alchemist I was looking forward to this book, however, I did not want to read it at first, mainly because I was not ready to.

This might sound odd,  but this is not the type of book you can read whilst the wife has Eastenders on in the background. This is a book that you need a few hours of quiet time.

Like the pilgrimage  Matt went on, you need to devote or make some time for reading this book otherwise, you will miss the beauty.

Ok now on to the real details.

The book is a short read. I managed it in two evenings and this is just about right for this type of book.

The Bad: I would not be writing a good review if I did not say what I did not like and with The Hardest Path I  have to say that the first two chapters aren’t the best of the book. This might sound harsh, but those chapters are about the author and not the journey, which left me just wanting to dive into this trip.

Fortunately, the first two chapters are exceedingly brief and from there on in things rapidly improve for the book, as we start to learn of the author’s misfortune. From credit cards that were rejected to his first night in Japan living on the streets.

From this point on in the book you really start to feel as if you are going through the pilgrimage with him. This should attest to the natural writing style of the author who effortlessly transports you to Japan, providing just enough description to conjure up you own mental image of the land, yet not too much as to spoil your imagination.

Th writing style is incredibly similar to Paulo Coelho and this book will appeal to his fans.

The Hardest Path is a wonderful tale of self-discovery. I would describe it as a part travel book and part self-help guide. For any martial artist, this book will definitely appeal as the journey stirs the imagination of the beautiful lands of  Japan. It will also appeal due to the self-diagnostic nature of the book, it is almost impossible not to relate the journey to an aspect of your modern life.

I have no problem recommending this book to anyone, martial artist or not. I think it will especially appeal to those with an interest in Eastern culture and Paulo Coelho style books.

But who will this book help?

My view is that this book will be of most benefit to those in their 30’s and 40’s. This is the generation that has raised and is raising a family in the world’s longest recession.

We were not born with the internet of today but we have gone from having 4 TV channels and using sticks we picked up off the floor to be our swords and lightsabers, to having TV on demand and smartphones.

We are the generation that had to use their imagination, something I feel is being killed off in our kids today and this book will help our generation to understand our place in this rapidly changing world.

By the end of The Hardest Path, you will have left your family  (you will leave them but not leave them, Walking Dead fans will understand that), slept on the streets, endured pain and suffering yet you will leave with wisdom and understanding.

I would describe this as a must read book that is a combination of a Man’s Search For Meaning and The Alchemist.

I highly recommend this book which you can learn more about by clicking here



The WoMA.TV Team