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.
Full of staggering and stirring adventures, each one takes place in the wilderness, these tales of rebellion, hardship, and victory are perfect for inspiring even the most jaded tween or teen…naturally. Sign of the Beaver, by Elizabeth George Spare When thirteen-year-old Matt is left alone to guard his family homestead in Maine, he barely survives a terrifying bee attack and has his only gun stolen, leaving him not only defenseless but unable to hunt for food.
Jaw-dropping descriptions of apocalyptic snowfall, budding cabin fever, twisting hay into cords when the firewood is depleted, and dwindling food stores are eventually buoyed by hero Alonzo’s 60-bushel wheat delivery to starving townspeople, not to mention a well-deserved Christmas in May. Karina remarkably teaches herself how to survive by constructing weapons and tools, befriending a feral dog, and building a whale-bone shelter before eventually, and somewhat reluctantly, returning to civilization.
The Cay, by Theodore Taylor Dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr., this classic teaches important lessons regarding tolerance, racism, and ultimately love. When a young boy, Phillip, is blinded in a tragic boating disaster, he finds himself raft-bound with an old man and a cat, and eventually on a deserted island where he must learn to overcome his deep-seated prejudice if he hopes to live.
Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craig head George This stunning library essential is about the life of Mix, a 13-year-old Eskimo girl, who flees an unbearable arranged marriage and sets out across the frozen Alaskan tundra in the hopes of making it to San Francisco to meet her pen pal. A glorious account of her friendship with her companions, the wolves, this selection touches on adult themes like alcoholism and feminism, against the breathtaking backdrop of the Last Frontier.
Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen This riveting classic tells the story of Brian, a 13-year-old struggling with his parents’ divorce who survives a plane crash on route to visit his father in the wilderness of Canada. Chock-full of descriptions about hunting, gathering, farming, and tree house-building, this time-tested book will delight those who enjoy all the nitty-gritty details of engineering a life from scratch.
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.