My Top 10 “Outdoorsy” Books

These are my favorite books that deal with hiking, nature, travel, and adventure in the wild. Let me know if you have any comments on the books or suggestions for me.  Thanks!

10)  Lost in My Own Backyard: A Walk in Yellowstone National Park by Tim Cahill. I enjoy Cahill’s writing. There’s an element of humor and it’s an easy read.  The book is all about Yellowstone and it focuses on hiking in the park.  He has chapters on nine different day hikes and three longer backcountry trails.  It’s not exactly a guide book, but is still a good complimentary book for a trip to Yellowstone.

9)  I Hike by Lawton Grinter. This is a compilation of short stories about his many long distance hikes.  He hiked over 10,000 miles in a decade, which obviously gave him plenty of stories to share.  I’ve done a lot of day hiking, but I’ve only backpacked once and I don’t anticipate ever taking on any long distance hikes.  I still found the book to be an interesting and entertaining read, though.

8)  Dear Bob and Sue by Matt and Karen Smith. This is an interesting and humorous read. The authors travel to all 59 National Parks and describe their adventures in a very unique way.  The book is made up of emails that they send to their friends Bob and Sue about their travels.  It’s a quirky and fun read.  Again, it does not serve as a guide book, but the authors do give nice descriptions of what they did and saw in the parks.

7)  Before They’re Gone by Michael Lanza. The author is a very experienced hiker and writer.  He has spent a lot of times in National Parks and is rightfully concerned about changes occurring in many of them (mostly caused by climate change).  As a result, he takes his two young children to ten of them and they explore each park in different ways ranging from hiking, to kayaking, to cross-country skiing, and rock climbing.  I love reading about adventures in National Parks, and he does a good job with that, but I must admit there was a little more science then I preferred.

6)  Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. This National Bestseller chronicles the May 1996 disaster on Mount Everest. The author is an accomplished mountain climber and author, which helps make the book so good.  He was one of many climbers on the tallest mountain in the world that fateful day in May, and he did an amazing job of describing the tragic events that unfolded on the mountain.  This book got me interested in Mt. Everest.  I would never attempt to climb it, but I like to read about those that do.  I have read a couple other books about the same tragedy on Everest, but like this one the most.

5)  Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston. Here’s another National Bestseller.  I would guess that most people have heard the story of the man who got stuck in a Utah slot canyon.  With his arm crushed against a rock wall by an immovable boulder he contemplates his life and tries to figure out a way to free himself.  It makes you think twice about hiking by yourself.  The movie 127 Hours starring James Franco is based on the book.  I enjoyed the movie, but as usual the book was better.

4)  The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey. This is Abbey’s classic novel from 1975 about George Hayduke, Seldom Seen Smith, Bonnie Abzug, and Doc Sarvis and their battle against the industrial development of the southwest. It’s a fun and humorous adventure, but the heart of the book focuses on Abbey’s conservationist beliefs.  I’ve read the book a couple of times and heartily enjoy it.

3)  Ranger Confidential: Living, Working, and Dying in the National Parks by Andrea Lankford. This book is a compilation of stories from the author’s twelve years as a park ranger. I am a huge fan of the National Parks and hold park rangers in high regard.  She is a great storyteller and has had incredible experiences in her job.  She tells of harrowing rescues, humorous misadventures, and much more.  I’ve read this book a couple of times, too.

2)  Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. This is another hugely popular book by Krakauer.  It follows the life of a man who gave away all of his money and possessions to travel the country and eventually live off the land in Alaska.  He planned on hiking back out of the wilderness, but got stranded and ultimately perished.  The author does a good job investigating the events surrounding the man’s death and his adventures leading up to it.  I think Krakauer is a fantastic writer.  The book is an easy read and it sucks you in quickly.  It helped get me interested in traveling and motivated me to drive across the country several times to start exploring the country’s many National Parks.

 1)  Through Painted Deserts by Donald Miller. This is a memoir about two friends on a three-month road trip across the country. They travel and sleep in their beat-up Volkswagen Camping Van.  They drive from Houston to Portland with stops along the way at the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, and more.  I have gone on seven cross-country road trips so I can easily connect with the author and the book.  I have read the book several times in different parts of the country.

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