What To Read This Fall

September 6th is Read a Book Day, so if you’re in the market for a new read, here’s what the Toads are whipping through for our unofficial fall book club.

The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon by Kevin Fedarko

Part history lesson, part epic adventure novel, a story about a boat has never been so gripping (no offense to Moby Dick).  In 1983 during the legendary El Niño floods of the Colorado river, a small crew set out to chart the fastest dory ride down the grand canyon — 277 miles against the odds. It’s a book about the triumph of the human spirit, the sheer awesomeness of nature, and a history of the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon, the Glen Canyon Dam. Makes you want to white water raft… or not.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

To be fair, anything by Coates is worthy of your time, but if you haven’t read any of his books, this is our favorite place to start. Written as a letter to his son, this book is the story of Coates’ awakening to the truth about Black belonging in the world through a series of experiences — from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, the South Side of Chicago to Paris – he drops you into a world that is clear and vivid. It’s a beautiful wake up call for all and a welcome confrontation of our present with a hopeful vision for the future could (will?) hold.

Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and illustrations by Jules Feiffer

Simply put, this classic is a blast to read. Milo, our young protagonist, is sitting at home bored out of his mind (familiar?) when a tollbooth appears to whisk him off to the Lands Beyond… so why not? Give the COVID headlines and election updates a rest and just get in the tollbooth. It’s world building at its best – fantastical but tangible, childlike but oh-so-poignant. Pure delight.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami is a distance runner. And his beautiful memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk about Running, is a unique contemplation on the crafts of writing and distance running, especially as one ages. Well-worth a perusal – even if you’re not a runner at all.

Madame President: The Extraordinary Journey of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf by Helene Cooper

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was Liberia’s first democratically-elected female president. In an election driven by the grassroots mobilization of female street vendors and traders, Sirleaf’s “rise to power” is a beautiful case study in community building. If you want perspective on female leadership, the power of passion, and a dollop of African history, this book is the ticket.

Born Standing Up by Steve Martin (strongly recommend audio!)

From stand-up to slap-stick to grammy winning musician (and the BANJO no less!), Steve Martin is a national treasure. Sure this is a memoir about a great comedic genius (so, yes, it’s quite funny), but Born Standing Up is a tale of grit. Because anything worth doing is not just about the passion — it takes lots of work, even when you’re not sure of the road



Toad Fall Book Club

It’s back to the books! September 6th is National Read a Book Day so we’re checking in on the Toad Book Club. And by “Book Club” we mean “everyone read your own book of choice and then tell us about it.” So it’s more like show and tell, but for books… let’s not read into it. Here’s what we’ve got bookmarked for fall.

Quakeland by Kathryn Miles

“It’s a book about the history of major earthquakes in the US and understanding what is to come in our future! It is not super technical and can be read by anyone interested in earthquakes. It’s a page turner and told in story format. Great for anyone interested in geology but not necessarily wanting a science book.” – Sarah, HR

Navajos Wear Nikes by Jim Kristofic

“I just read Navajos Wear Nikes, it’s a memoir of sorts about a guy of non-Native American descent who grew up on a Navajo reservation in Arizona. Super interesting!” – Helena, Design

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

“I went to Paris in the spring so I’ve been on a Paris kick lately, but this simple memoir about Hemingway’s life in 1920s Paris takes the cake. He’s so good at capturing a place and a spirit. Definitely inspires me to really be in the moment.” – Daisy, Branding

Coyote America by Dan Flores

“A history of coyotes in North America that weaves in both scientific and Native American perspectives. It’s a really eye-opening book; you don’t realize how much coyotes are part of our nation’s history. They’re really smart, adaptable creatures!” – Thomas, Fit Model

All for a Few Perfect Waves by David Rensin

“This book is sick because it tells the story of Miki ‘da cat’ Dora and his travels. I am reading it because he spends a lot of time in Biarritz and Biadot, France, and I am headed there in a few weeks.” – Dr. Drew, Customer Service


Toad Book Club

Reading is not a lost art. Here are our Toad picks for best books on sustainable living, new perspectives, and some good ol’ fashioned fun. 

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert M. Pirsig (1974)  
Father and son hit the road on a shared motorcycled headed westward from Minnesota to San Francisco. It’s a time-capsule of what “on the road” looked like before Waze and podcasts. And yes, there’s some semi-practical motorcycle maintenance sprinkled in.

How to Change Your Mind, by Michael Pollan (2018) 
The full title of the book is about as concise a synopsis as you can get: How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence. ​If you’re into why humans act and feel they way they do, this one’s for you.

The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America, by Timothy Egan (2009)
This came as a recommendation from our friends at the Conservation Alliance and it’s pretty stellar. This book recounts the 1910 wildfire that ripped through 3 states and eventually led to the pioneering notion of conservation and public lands. A must read for lovers of “America’s best idea.”

Out of My Mind, by Sharon M. Draper (2010) 
Melody is a total genius, but no one knows it. But that changes when a piece of technology allows her to speak up. A thick book in matters of the heart, this novel about a child with cerebral palsy just goes to show you should never judge a book by it’s cover. (Seriously, don’t judge this book by its cover…).

Barbarian Days, By William Finnegan (2016) 
You don’t have to like surfing, you just have to like passion. Gorgeously written, Barbarian Days is a look at the addiction of nature and how a lifetime can be shaped by obsession. Adventurous, inspiring, and a great reminder of what it means to live, not just exist.

Just Kids, by Patti Smith (2010) 
There’s no question that Patti Smith is a rock legend. So it’s no surprise that she’s parlayed her storytelling and penchant for poetic mischief into a great book about growing older (but not up) in 1960’s New York. A love letter to adolescence and a good reminder that even now, we’re all just kids in many respects.

Jitterbug Perfume, by Tom Robbins (1990) 
Time is relative, words are meant to be played with, and plot lines are just suggestions. The closest thing to an acid trip that you can get while you’re sitting quietly reading. That’s either really compelling or the worst book review ever. Hard to pin down, so you might as well pick it up.

Drawdown, by Paul Hawken (2017)
We’ve read a lot of depressing books about global warming, but Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Roll Back Global Warming is not one of them. This book explores the bold and realistic solutions that a cross-functional team of international researchers, scientists and policymakers are putting forth. In short: Climate change is a big challenge, but there are many, many practical solutions. You’ll finish this book feeling optimistic and empowered.


Books To Inspire Outdoor Adventure

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)

kerouacAn 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)

wildYou’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)

muirMaybe 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)

aldoLike 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)

trcksYears 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)

oliverMary 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)

genesisGenesis 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.”