Feeling like your adventure spirit needs a jump start?
A good book is just what you need. Here’s our list of favorite books full of wonder and inspiration to get you jazzed about all the amazing things out in the natural world. There are stories of survival, of loss, redemption, and an overall celebration of Mother Nature. Pick a book or two (or all of ’em) and get reading. When you’re done, we bet you’ll be ready to pack a bag and head out on your next adventure.
The mountains are calling and I must go. ~John Muir
The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac (1958)
An semi-autobiographical novel written by Beat author Jack Kerouac, Dharma Bums recounts the story of Ray Smith (modelled after Kerouac) and his adventures as a mountaineer, hitchhiker and aspiring Buddhist. Kerouac’s characters attend poetry slams, drink too much wine and find solitude in the high Sierras and Desolation Peak in Washington State, all while seeking a greater Truth. Kerouac describes the feeling of sitting by the water on a perfect summer evening: “Happy. Just in my swim shorts, barefooted, wild-haired, in the red fire dark, singing, swigging wine, spitting, jumping, running—that’s the way to live. All alone and free in the soft sands of the beach by the sigh of the sea out there…”
Wild by Cheryl Strayed (2012)
You’ve probably heard of this book and maybe even saw the movie, but trust us – the book is the place to start. Strayed tells the story of her 1,000+ mile trek along the Pacific Crest Trail which often features flashbacks to her life before the hike. We cheer for Cheryl through her journey from grief and loss to ultimate strength and healing, and in certain ways identify with her inner struggle and the harsh realities of the trail. The PCT has seen a lot more traffic due to this book and we can understand why. “It had to do with how it felt to be in the wild. With what it was like to walk for miles with no reason other than to witness the accumulation of trees and meadows, mountains and deserts, streams and rocks, rivers and grasses, sunrises and sunsets. The experience was powerful and fundamental.”
Wilderness Essays by John Muir (1980)
Maybe you’ve heard of Mr. John Muir. He’s kind of a big deal in the nature world, father of the National Park System and all that. He is also a great writer, and few can rival his love for the outdoors and ability to put words to feelings. Wilderness Essays is exactly what it sounds like, a collection of passionate and beautifully written essays that describe the intimate and vital connection between the human and natural world. Just like you take the time to appreciate your favorite trail, take the time to read a few of these essays. Then go one step further: Ask yourself how you can help protect and conserve the world Muir holds so dear. As he said, “I care to live only to entice people to look at Nature’s loveliness.”
A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There by Aldo Leopold (1949)
Like Muir, Aldo Leopold is a conservationist with considerable writing talents. The Almanac This is a collection of Leopold’s best essays in which he advocates for the responsible relationship between people and the land. It’s a mixture of philosophy, conservation advocacy and beautiful portraits of the natural world that will inspire you to reconsider your surroundings. “No matter how intently one studies the hundred little dramas of the woods and meadows, one can never learn all the salient facts about any one of them.”
Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback by Robyn Davidson (1995)
Years before Cheryl Strayed was hiking the PCT, Robyn Davidson journeyed 1,700 miles across the perilous deserts of west Australia with four camels and a dog. Her journey was grueling, full of poisonous animals, scorching heat, and threatening people, as well as extraordinary courage.
Davidson demonstrates a deep love of the Australian landscape and its indigenous people, and reminds us that we are all capable of more than we might believe. “The two important things that I did learn were that you are as powerful and strong as you allow yourself to be, and that the most difficult part of any endeavour is taking the first step, making the first decision.”
New and Selected Poems Volumes One and Two by Mary Oliver (1993)
Mary Oliver is one of the most famous contemporary American poets and her poems focus mostly on her experiences in the outdoors. She reminds us of the wonder that can be found in our back yards and encourages us to live our fullest life.
When loneliness comes stalking, go into the fields,
consider the orderliness of the world.
Notice something you have never noticed before,
like the tambourine sound of the snow-cricket
whose pale green body is no longer than your thumb.
Stare hard at the hummingbird, in the summer rain,
shaking the water-sparks from its wings.
Genesis by Sebastião Salgado (2013)
Genesis is a collection of photographs taken by the Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado. Salgado spent nine years trekking across the globe to the last wild places on the earth in order to capture disappearing habitats, animals and people. The photographs are all black and white and show a world of stunning beauty, a world that “we must hold and protect.”