Lots of outdoor fiction offers straight faced realism written as if literature hasn’t changed in a century, or the didactic ism of characters each standing in for a position on some environmental issue and making sure you know it whenever they open their mouths. There don’t ever seem to be enough of those books to keep me sated, but here are a few of my favorites (though I’ve left off a couple that are better known, for the sake of sharing some overlooked blooms in the scrub).
Presented as the early 1900s diary of a proto-feminist, single mother author of pulp fictions who goes into an Oregon forest in search of a missing girl, only to get lost herself and discover mysterious creatures beyond what her insistent rationalism allows for, Gloss’s novel delves into myths of the “Wildman” and myths of gender and does it all with a magnificent narrative voice as wild as the surrounding forest. M, who goes by the name Martin though it isn’t his, gets hired by a pharmaceutical company to hunt and harvest DNA from the world’s last living Tasmanian tiger, long after the species is thought extinct.
Somehow, in a very short novel, Leigh weaves together the shadowy reach of modern business, the tragic colonial and ecological histories of her setting, a classic story of exploration stripped of its celebratory machismo, and a mother and children left behind broken by the blinkered desires of men. The nameless middle-aged narrator visits friends at their remote mountain hunting lodge, only to be left alone by the inexplicable appearance of an invisible barrier at the edge of the valley it occupies.
Left to fend for herself, she breaks restraints built up over years spent sublimating her individual identity into that of a mother and wife, allowing a wilder self to emerge. I could have picked any one of Minimal’s novels to put on this list, because it’s hard to think of a writer consistently doing more exciting things in fiction about the natural world.
Alternating between their accounts of events we’re privy to the relationship’s tensions and strains as the couple are stripped of pretenses and niceties by their time in the wild, but we’re also aware of an eerier presence in the surrounding forest. It’s an account of a Scottish couple fleeing the city for a wild home in the hills ahead of the imminent threats of perpetual war, disease, and disaster.
The Blue Fox moves between a hunter, his vulpine quarry, a boy with Down’s syndrome, and other characters in mysterious tandem, woven together as any place is with threads of history and folklore and transformation. Sometimes when I read literature in translation I suspect I’m missing so much that the power of the work is lost to me, but with The Blue Fox that opacity is one of the qualities I most enjoy: I know there are allusions and echoes I’m not attuned to, but that misunderstanding feels like wandering a landscape I only half understand and just makes me want to return.
There are plenty of novels offering sentimental accounts of characters giving up their fast city lives at the inspiration of some noble animal; perhaps some of those are imitations of this. When the world collapses in ways and for reasons they don’t quite understand, sisters Eva and Nell are left alone at the remote cabin their family retreated to in preparation.
Into the Forest is as gripping as any thriller or rural horror, but there’s a thoughtfulness to the novel perfectly balanced with details of the pragmatic, often painful means by which the sisters survive. Like some others on this list it pulls us so fully into its wild bubble that even as we know we should root for rescue or the world’s recovery, we’re torn because of what would be lost.
Riddle Walker is Hogan’s best -known novel (and maybe his best), and Turtle Diary is the one most recently restored to print and public acclaim, but The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz has to go down as my favorite. A domesticated English garden hardly seems wild, but Klinkenborg’s novel narrated by the titular Timothy, a female tortoise kept by eighteenth-century naturalist Gilbert White, makes it so.
McInnes’ debut is a detective novel, following an inspector whose search for a missing man takes him deep into a strange jungle. And it’s also a story about the literal and figurative breakdown of identity, whether as a result of the daily grind of work or of sharing the landscape of our own skins with millions of microorganisms.
If you are someone like me, an outdoor enthusiast, you know the relaxation you get while spending the night under the stars or watching a stream of water flow by while sitting near your camp. However, to pick out a beneficial book from a useless one, you will need to know if the information is authentic, along with the credibility of the author, and the writing style.
Read here how they raise the bar on product sustainability, and you too will become a fan to source all your best survival storybooks and outdoor gear from them. This book has several survival stories that serve as examples of how outdoor adventures can turn tragic, when life may be dependent on a single decision.
Using the most recent scientific studies, Laurence explains the sequences of events that can leave an outdoor enthusiast in mortal peril within seconds. This wilderness survival book is a mix of survival science, adventure narrative, and practical advice that has inspired business leaders, military officers, educators, and psychiatric professionals on how to learn to assess risk, take control of stress and make better decisions under pressure.
If you wind up lost in the wilderness, in need of food, shelter, or unable to find your way back to civilization, this survival guide book will be your best friend. The book covers all the basics of getting through life-threatening situations in the outdoors, from navigating in the wild to sending emergency signals to aircraft via a mirror.
This pocket survival guide also covers how to build an emergency shelter, starting a fire, find food and water in the wild, and dealing with lightning, avalanches, and hypothermia. There are loads of recipes all of them equally tasty-looking, but it’s really all the tutorials and detailed information on what cooking equipment you need for camping makes it the best.
The book also offers pro-tips on everything from building your own pizza oven to today’s fresh, modern, healthy approach to cooking and eating outdoors. This book will be enjoyed by people who love cooking under the open sky, whether at a campsite in the woods or at a grill in the backyard.
The wilderness survival book has quizzes, tips, apps, and solid information on budgeting and saving before and during travel, smart booking hacks, notes on tying up loose ends at home, and hints at saving on solo accommodations and packing like a pro to make the most of your adventure. You don’t have to be an extrovert or hooked on adrenaline rushes to have fun, and going it alone is safe if you follow the book’s advice on choosing your destinations and behaving once you’re there.
In it, you will find much that was forgotten, the most ancient and essential skills of humankind, presented in a simple, easy-to-use format with clear instructions. My dear friends, though GPS devices are great, they can break, get lost, or easily be hampered by weather conditions, which makes basic map and compass skills essential for people who love spending time outdoors.
In this classic environmental call to action book, Laura and Guy Waterman write about preserving the ecology of the backcountry. With humor and insight, the Water mans look beyond the ecology of the back-country to explore the factors that make it wild and consider the most difficult wilderness management issues.
Ultimate long-distance hiker Andrew Skunk shares his knowledge in this best survival guide to backpacking gear and skills. The practical and priceless recommendations give you all the tools and techniques you’ll need to hit the trail.
It began as a website and blog when friends Aimee Trudeau, Malayan Kwan, and Emily Nielson joined hands to share their love for wilderness, outdoor education experiences, and knowledge of backcountry cooking via workshops, classes, catering events, and easy yet exciting recipes. Breakfast, trail meals, sweet and savory snacks, dinners, appetizers, side dishes, desserts, even refreshing camp drinks, you can find all this and more in this best survival book.
He also explains how to safely identify trailside herbs, fruits, weeds, and greens that grow worldwide, and shares his delicious, nutrient-dense recipes. Written by Rick Curtis, Director of Princeton University’s Famous Outdoor Recreation Program, this wilderness survival book provides a gear-agnostic approach to the skills and techniques required for enjoyable and safe backcountry hiking.
Published in 1998, and updated and revised in 2005, The Backpacker’s Field Manual illustrates techniques and skills that have been applied, tested, and refined by the experiences of thousands of college students. It also covers how to research access to domestic and international public and private land and how to create a budget for your travel.
An impassioned, tactile, acidly funny memoir of Abbey's seasons as a park ranger in the rugged Utah wilderness : “We need the possibility of escape as surely as we need hope; without it the life of the cities would drive all men into crime or drugs or psychoanalysis.” A slyly humorous, beautifully observed account of her obsession with a band of elusive desert bighorn sheep: “The fear of being humbles has walled all of us into separate geographies.
This collection of essays shows a razor-sharp mind grappling with the meaning of wilderness in the modern world: “Something vast and old is vanishing and our rage should mirror that loss. In this beautifully-observed memoir of her years herding sheep in Wyoming, Bell tells a classic story of a stark confrontation with the self in a harsh landscape: “Below us the ground falls away unevenly and leaves us stumbling through the air over sage and rock and the holes of prairie dogs.
I’ve found that when you peel off the plastic that industrial civilization vacuum-packs around you, what remains couldn’t be simpler. Anyone who has read Henry David Thoreau’s Walden twice probably fancies giving it a go at some point.
I sense that the resurgent appeal of the so-called simple life is largely borne out of the pressure, stress and speed of modern living, with its relentless bills, emails, deadlines, debts, phone calls, advertising, text messages, noise, clutter and schedules. A lot of people want to slow down, wake up in the morning and do something they enjoy and care about, something which offers them meaning.
Only the raw ingredients of life, to be dealt with immediately and directly, with no middlemen to complicate and confuse the matter. But I love the elements in all their wildness, and I want to feel the whole gamut of human experience, even when it’s hard.
People tell me all the time how they’d love to give it all up and live the simple life you refer to, usually with a wide grin and a dreaminess in their eyes. The reasons why they don’t are as complicated as the political economy we’ve manufactured, but we have to start seeing technology as an addictive substance.
I quit technology primarily because industrial civilization is wiping out life on earth. Sixty per cent of all wildlife gone in the last fifty years alone, much more if you begin counting from the early 1800s and the start of the industrial revolution.
There are other social, geopolitical and cultural reasons why I decided to become an early ejector of industrial technology. I’m reluctant to write much about those these days, as we know them too well already, and it’s not for want of information that we continue down that road.
There’s a lot spoken about something rather vague called ‘sustainability’, the idea of which I find abhorrent. If I asked you, ‘How is your relationship with your partner?’ and you replied, ‘Well, we’re trying to make it sustainable’, I’d suggest counselling.
After all, on the surface it’s a novel set in a bleak post-apocalyptic world covered in the gray, ashen remains of a civilization in which nothing grows. Those that have survived have done so by raiding the cupboards of the past and, in some cases, resorting to cannibalism in the face of starvation.
On its simplest level, The Road shows us what it could be like to live on a planet where we’ve wiped out everything. It seemed like an extreme biblical vision until I read David Wallace-Wells’s The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming, which appears to be (rightly, and brilliantly) scaring the shit out of everyone.
While I was planting trees on four acres of industrially farmed land in Norfolk last year, I encountered three worms over a long weekend. Though the rivers near me, which were teeming with fish only a century ago, are not the grim, black soup of ash and water that they are in The Road, most are just as dead and devoid of fish as they are in the nightmarish world McCarthy imagined.
But in this sense The Road acts as a warning, showing us what a world without much life could look and feel like, and for that alone it is terribly important. The man and increasingly the boy, are always on the lookout, always aware that they could fall prey to cannibals.
It keeps them alert at every moment, and in that sense they’re always present, always fully alive, even as they teeter on the brink of starvation. In our overly comfortable, sedated, too-safe civilized world, we need mindfulness coloring books and counselling to address our lack of connection to life and death.
In my view, The Road is the greatest novel ever written, and McCarthy one of the most important writers of the last hundred years. Reading it in front of a warm fire with a good, fresh meal also reminds me to be grateful for everything we still have.
One of the most promising threads to emerge from the recent glut of nature writing is the idea of ‘rewinding’. The two most important books in this respect are George Monbiot’s Feral and, for different reasons, Isabella Tree’s Wilding.
It was a close call, but I chose this one over Feral because, as important as Feral was in terms of popularizing the idea of Europeans having a Serengeti on their own doorstep, Wilding is about the author and her husband’s attempts to create just that. As much as we need honest reality checks, it’s also good to understand the potential for a meaningful response to it all.
Wilding is about an extraordinary experiment at the 3,500-acre Knapp Wild land Project, and an example of what can happen when we learn to do the hardest thing of all: nothing. We spoke to Isabella Tree after this book came out, and she said she “consciously didn’t call my book ‘ Rewinding because that pesky little‘re-’ prefix suggests to many rewinding detractors an attempt to recapture the past.” I thought that was interesting.
It’s a compelling illustration of how our landscapes could look and feel if we stopped trying to control the rest of life. Knapp demonstrates what can happen in a remarkably short space of time when you allow nature to take the driving seat, unencumbered by our preconceptions and meddling and narrow-minded goals.
In doing so, it offers fascinating insights into the depths of understanding which civilized peoples have lost and what, if we were wise, we might attempt to regain. As the title suggests, this book is not just about wolves, but the lessons their ways can teach us button-pressing bipeds.
That ought to be common sense, but most of us still think of the wolf (or any other animal) as a sort of static, generic beast. It’s what Lopez calls ‘the conversation of death’, that moment where the eyes of predator and prey meet and a ‘ceremonial ritual’ begins, in which ‘both animals, not the predator alone, choose for the encounter to end in death’.
He goes on to explain how this conversation of death goes silent when wild predators meet with domestic livestock. Initiated a sacred ritual and met with ignorance.’ The whole thing is hard for us to get our over-civilised minds around, but various anthropological accounts suggest it’s something our ancestors understood innately.
It posed big questions about the morality of using violence, as a last resort, against the lifeless machines that inflict violence upon the living, breathing wilderness (this had been the subject of his Master’s thesis as a student), and it’s widely understood that the book gave rise to radical environmental groups across the world from the 1980s onwards. They tried to make a Hollywood movie out of the novel a couple of times, but in hindsight it was never going to happen; the idea of destroying private human property to protect non-human life proved too heretical for the big production companies to touch in the end.