Best Books To Read On The Outdoors

Sitting on this first snowy day in Boulder, CO in front of a fire with my favorite book makes me remember that there is a time and place for everything, and some days time is just better spent immersing yourself in a good read. In my case, I have  been putting together a list of books that truly engage the readers senses and imagination on the topics of: wilderness, and survival. Here is a list of ten books to get you started that delve deep into the psyche of those who have explored the wilderness and gleaned experiences for better or for worse, that would forever alter their relationship with the uncivilized world.


Desert Solitaire-

This classic piece of work by author Edward Abbey is a collection of short stories and lore entwined in a recount of his time as a park ranger in Arches National Park. Painted with vivid words and colorful language, Abbey describes the southwest in its earlier more simple times in contrast with his summers experience in the park. His nostalgic description of the desert before modern tourism bring us back to simpler times and instills in us an appreciation for the raw beauty that existed in its truest form before it became commercially available and exploitable. As he recounts in one chapter whilst pulling all of the flags out for the main road to Arches for the paving crew; things will never go back to how they once were.   In particular the story of Old Moon Eye the horse, and the story of the prospector from Courthouse Wash are high on my list for all-time best stories.

voice of the desert

The Voice of The Desert-

Another classic by Joseph William Krutch, an author known for his fascination with desert ecology, The Voice of The Desert is a great read for anybody interested in this topic. Easily formatted into small chapters, the knowledge encapsulated in this book is broad, yet conveyed in an easy to read story-like fashion. Krutch describes encounters with a litany of flora and fauna, set in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. Check this out if you’d like to learn more about desert ecology.

into thin airInto Thin Air-

John Krakauer is a brilliant, well spoken author who has on more than one occasion proven that most times the story is more than just the sum of all of its parts. A personal hero of mine, and someone I occasionally see in the grocery store line, Krackauer really broke out onto the scene with his book “Into Thin Air”. Essentially a raw, and chilling account of one of the most formidable Everest attempts in history, Krakauer describes the first hand encounters with the elements, bad luck, poor planning, and over inflated egos that led to some of the worst catastrophes, and highest fatalities in a year on Mount Everest. Read this book!

127 hours127 Hours- Between A Rock And A Hard Place-

You’ve probably seen the movie, or at least heard about it; but this is the book by outdoorsman, and the man who cut his arm off with a swiss army knife himself, Aron Ralston. This read will leave you shuddering with reverence for canyons, boulders, and all things that if you’re not prepared, can kill you in a moments notice. Aron, a highly trained and passionate outdoorsman could have never prepared himself for what was about to happen when he went to explore Bluejohn’s Canyon. Having been to this canyon and many others in the area, I think of this story every time I return to play in the canyons. Always let someone know where you will be and for how long, carry plenty of water!

into-the-wildInto The Wild-

Possibly the grail of introspective stories about people seeking answers and salis in the arms of the great american wilderness is this story of Chris McCandless’s trip into the Alaskan tundra. Krakauers research into McCandless’s journey to find himself, uncovered the story of a young man who was so troubled by the “shackles of civilization”, that he decided to just leave. While his decision seems permanent, his slow discovery of the impermanence of even the simply beautiful things coupled with his own loneliness finally compel him to return to civilization. Without spoiling the book, this story is beautiful and heart wrenching and is a must read for anyone who had a deep love for the wilderness and a longing in their heart for something more. McCandless spent a great deal of his time alone reading the works of famed authors and philosphists and trying to piece together what these feelings meant. His ultimate realization that without somebody to share these feelings and realizations with, they meant nothing, is very spiritual and meaningful. I highly recommend this read.

Walden-CoverWalden; Or, Life In The Woods-

This book could not, not make it on the list. Walden is the basis of so many other people’s works, social experiments, and philosophical discussions about environmental stewardship , it’s not even funny. In this classic collection of essays, Thoreau describes his daily lifes’ encounters with his surroundings while living on Walden Pond, outside of Concord, Massachusetts. The intricacies in Thoreau’s observations are developed into ideas which take stabs at all aspects of human interaction, environmental ethics, sociological norms and all things in between. A deep read that will enlighten you on how you may wish to view your relationship with the wilderness.


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