With the holidays just around the corner, it’s a good time to consider some simple gifts and stocking stuffers for your family and friends. And what better gift than a book to inspire. We’ve compiled a list of some of our guides’ favorite adventure books that we hope might inspire the seasoned or budding adventurer in your life. Or perhaps they’re great books to consider for your own collection.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
This popular book-turned-movie is an autobiographical account of a young woman who, at the edge of despair after her mother’s death, her family’s resulting strife, and her own failing marriage, decides to solo-hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert to Washington State, despite having no previous outdoor experience. The book is more a story of personal discovery than a straightforward account of her physical journey alone on the trail. Scott Parker of The Minneapolis Star Tribune says:
“A long-distance hike through the wilds of the West is a perfect metaphor for someone seeking to draw a new line from past to future, and it’s with such self-awareness that Strayed sets out—with woeful preparation—to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert to the California-Oregon border. The journey’s purpose is to correct the trajectory of her life and lead her to a better version of herself. Flashbacks to her childhood in northern Minnesota, to the collapse of her marriage, and, most of all, to her mother’s death and the subsequent dissolution of her family, give us a troubled and complex figure whose lostness is palpable. It’s a fearless story, told in honest prose that is wildly lyrical as often as it is physical.”
On Trails: An Exploration by Robert Moor
Though plenty of people have studied and written of roads, trails and their history, Robert Moor’s book On Trails: An Exploration takes a unique approach. The art of trail building is often taken for granted by hikers and walkers, but Moor dives into this art and weaves it through his adventures and findings with a dose of science, history and philosophy. And his in-depth scientific and philosophical explorations are accompanied by personal vignettes from Moor’s own life, from sheepherding with Navajos in Arizona to exploring the Atlas Mountains in Morocco.
Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
Perhaps the most well-known and highly regarded books on exploring the canyon country of the Southwestern US, Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire is an undisputed classic. While working as a Park Ranger outside of Moab, Utah, Abbey fell deeply in love with the emptiness of the desert. Alongside that love was a fear of it being destroyed and used up. As passionate and poetic as it is rough and prickly, Desert Solitaire is a meditation on the lonely landscapes of the West, a vote for the preservation of wilderness, and a sorrowful lament for the commercialization of wild places.
Burntwater by Scott Thybony
Lastly, is the work of Scott Thybony, and his book Burntwater. Thybony, a resident of northern Arizona, spends much of his time alone exploring the empty spaces few even think to walk. The book details the adventures of two old friends who get stuck during a winter storm, and use old maps to traverse the Four Corners region, moving through Utah, New Mexico and Arizona. During his travels, Thybony recounts stories of his experiences herding sheep for a Navajo family, a seemingly magical medicine man, and his encounter with a Hopi Sun Chief.
Kirkus Reviews says –
“A thoughtful journey into little-known spots along the Colorado Plateau. . . . Informed by a deep knowledge of anthropology, geology, and history. . . . The author’s love of the land is evident at every turn, and his essays deepen our understanding of both these mysterious places and of people who seek beauty within and without them. Gracefully written, this is outstanding reading for armchair travelers and habitués of the Four Corners country alike.”