Man isn’t meant to stay indoors — our weekly “Trekking” column can attest to that. It’s a column dedicated to the adventurer inside of all of us, the one pining to ditch the office humdrum for a quick surf session or seven-week jaunt in the Grand Tetons. One day we may highlight an ultra-light stove and the next a set of handmade canoe paddles. Life doesn’t just happen inside the workplace, so get outside and live it.
For most men and women, the three months that encapsulate the fall are a time of absolute bliss. It’s a moment to quietly reflect on the passing summer with a warm drink, and a chance to cozy up with a book you’ve been dying to peruse but just didn’t get around to during your mid-year travels. And while outdoor enthusiasts might not be able to capitalize on the inspiration they cull from their forays into outdoor literature immediately — the weather isn’t always as forgiving in autumn as it is in the summer, after all — it doesn’t mean you can’t find satisfaction in the plights and perils of others.
Thankfully, there’s a slew of fantastic novels about the great outdoors to catch up on, whether you’re looking for a harrowing tale of a man haphazardly drifting in the Atlantic or an expose on two brothers who grapple with number of metaphysical questions in rural Montana. Below are a few of our favorite outdoor books to pass the time while you wait for the snow to hit or ice to thaw — whatever comes first.
Abbey’s Monkey Wrench Gang is an underground cult classic. It’s the explosive tale of four ecologically-minded individuals who attempt to sabotage the wave of industrial development sweeping the American southwest, whether it be clear-cutting or unnecessary dam building. The book has helped spur a myriad environmental organizations since its debut in 1975 — i.e. Greenpeace, Earth First! — effortlessly splicing together hippy anarchism with traits culled from the best spaghetti westerns of the late ’60s. Is it radical? Absolutely. Yet, Abbey’s simplistic prose and subtle humor make it a delectable read.
Traveling 1,700 miles through the Australian desert is tough — doing it with little more than a fleet of camels and your dog is even tougher. However, that’s precisely what Robyn Davidson did in 1977, first chronicling her tired journey for National Geographic and later in her grand memoir, Tracks. The latter functions as a solitary adventure novel, ripe with humor and fraught with Davidson’s evolving thoughts on sex, race, and the nature of the Australian outback. There’s even a slight touch of romance amid the hostility, though, it’s the underlying politics and personal insights that anchor her feature-length journey.
“There was no clear line between religion and fly fishing” in early 20th-century Montana, or at least the late Norman Maclean claims, in what has become his American classic. The short, semi-autobiographical story — one of three novellas in the collection — examines Maclean’s fractured relationship with his brother Paul and their upbringing in rural Montana. The prose is deeply poetic and profound, often applying vivid descriptions of fishing and nature to the metaphysical questions we all grapple with at some point or another. It’s filled with a sense of wonder that’s borderline ethereal at times.
Mount Washington stands some 6,200 feet above the state of New Hampshire, which is also conveniently doubles as the childhood stomping grounds of one veteran journalist Nicholas Howe. That said, Not Without Peril is more so a constellation of stories revolving around the hazardous peak than a single one, chronicling an abundance of ill-fated climbing treks upon the mountain’s slopes dating back as far as 1849. Howe doesn’t judge those who died unprepared and unaware, though, but merely recounts their misadventures with stunning detail and thorough backstory on the surrounding Presidential Range.
There are countless tales of people being lost at sea, but few of them are riveting as what happened to Steven Callahan when his small sloop capsized a mere six days out from the Canary Islands. Written much like a journal and outfitted with a cornucopia of sketches, Callahan vividly accounts his 76 days at sea, touching on the time he spent spearfishing, retrieving fresh water, and plugging holes in his rubber lifeboat. His inner struggles are just as captivating as those he faces outside, too, whether he’s seeing clear visages of God in the crests of the waves or simply finding solace in his quiet solidarity.
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