These Books Will Inspire You to Put Them Down and Get Outside
At CloudLine, the only thing we like better than a great pair of hiking socks is a good book, and our favorite books are about the adventures we live for. Even when we count every ounce in our packs when backpacking, we never think twice about bringing a good book. Here we have gathered 12 of our favorite outdoor books for hikers, climbers, paddlers, and the adventurous.
Great Books for Hikers
When most grandmothers are busy with knitting and games of bridge, Emma Gatewood set out on a walk and became the first woman to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. She hiked the trail 2 more times once at 72 and again at 75. Grandma Gatewood was a pioneer of the ultra-light backpacking movement, hiking the trail with just a homemade shoulder bag containing an army blanket, rain jacket, and a shower curtain for a tarp. Written using her diaries, letters, trail journals, and interviews with family and friends she met while hiking the AT, Grandma Gatewood's Walk is an inspiring story that shows that adventure isn't just for the young.
You might have seen the movie starring Robert Redford, but as always the book is better. Bryson shares his journey along the Appalachian Trail in a way that is both humorous and approachable. He isn't a professional athlete or breaking any records, he is a middle-aged and out of shape, which makes the average reader feel like they could hike the AT too. A Walk in the Woods isn't just about one hiker's journey, but also explores the history of the trail, ecosystems, animals, and fellow hikers.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed is another book about thru-hiking that has recently been adapted for the silver screen. If you liked the movie you will love the book. Wild tells the story of a young woman seeking healing and a new life on the Pacific Crest Trail. Grieving from the loss of her mother, a failed marriage, and the effects of heroin addiction Cheryl sets off on the PCT with an overloaded pack and no hiking experience. Along the way, she shares what she learns and intersperses flashbacks from events in her past that lead her to a solo hike on the Pacific Crest Trail.
Great Books for Climbers
The Tower explores the controversy surrounding the first ascent of Cerro Torre in 1959 by Cesare Maestri and Toni Egger. Tragically Egger died in an avalanche on the descent, leaving Maestri the only witness to the claimed summit. Since then the controversy has swirled, with climbers attempting to retrace Maestri's claimed route finding no evidence of bolts, ropes, or even the same features of the route that he describes. The Tower goes beyond investigating the controversy surrounding the first ascent and also explores the nature of climbing and why some find meaning in dangerous ascents.
Touching the Void may be one of the greatest survival stories in the history of climbing. Friends Joe Simpson and Simon Yates had successfully summited the unclimbed west face of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes, when on the descent Simpson fell and badly broke his leg. The story of the pairs fight for survival, hard choices made, and the unlikely survival of both climbers makes for a page turner that you may finish in one sitting.
In Alone on the Wall Alex Honnold recounts seven of the climbs that have made him a living legend of climbing. Alex specializes in climbing free solo: meaning alone and with no ropes. We admire Alex not only for his next level climbing abilities but also because he is a true dirtbag who lives in a van so he can dedicate as much time as possible to climbing and other outdoor pursuits. Alex is constantly asked about why he climbs free solo and if he is afraid of falling, Alone on the Wall explores these questions while bringing us into the mind of one of the best climbers in the history of the sport.
Great Books for Paddlers
Rowing the Atlantic is another inspiring story about an epic adventure changing a life for the better. Roz Savage left a corporate job she hated and a bad marriage to became the first woman to row across the Atlantic. We love her story because she had the guts to walk away from the safety of a good job and find the life she wanted. She now holds 4 Guinness Records for ocean rowing. During her crossing of the Atlantic, her stove failed early on leaving her to eat cold meals. Her oars and backup oars broke leaving her to row with patched up oars for over half the journey. The list of equipment failures grows from there, but somehow Roz kept on track and made it to the finish.
Jennifer Kingsley is an adventurer at heart. Her degree in biology and masters of fine arts in writing serves her well as she recounts her arctic adventures paddling the Back River in Paddlenorth. Joined by five fellow adventurers the team endures frigid temperatures, howling winds, raging rapids, and growing tensions as the stress of the adventure weigh on the group. One of our favorite parts of this page-turning tale is the recounting of many of the legendary stories of earlier explorers, who less well equipped often never returned from their adventures in the arctic.
In 1985, a group of 11 explorers set off to be the first to successfully run the Amazon river from head to sea. The journey begins on a goat path high in the Andes where water trickles from the glacial ice with the team hiking until the waters expand enough for kayaks. Along the 4200 mile journey, the group faces deadly rapids, encounters with rebel fighters, and passing through cocaine plantations run by dangerous drug lords. After 6 months of paddling only 4 of the team makes it to the Atlantic.
Great Books for Adventurers
Humphreys is a professional adventurer with an impressive list of accomplishments including 4 years cycling around the world, rowing across the Atlantic, walking across barren deserts and now popularizing the concept of microadventures. As Alastair explains, a microadventure is small, close to home, inexpensive but gets you out of your comfort zone and experiencing something new. Most of us work 9-5 and we come home after work to dinner and time inside, yet we have 16 hours before we have to be back in the office, why not go for a micro adventure overnight every now and then on a work night?
Into the Wild has been one of my favorite books since I first read it when I was twelve. I dreamed of following in "Alexander Supertramp's" footsteps. Of course, McCandless' adventure ends with his death, but the mystery of how and why was part of what captivated my young imagination. In Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer reconstructs McCandless' adventures from letters, his journals, and meeting with people he met along his journey. Even if you've already read Into the Wild, read it again and you'll be inspired to live your life with more adventure.
One Man's Wilderness is the memoir of Dick Preonneke, who spent nearly 30 years living alone in the remote Alaskan wilderness. Preonneke kept a detailed journal and video recordings documenting his daily life including how he built his cabin, raised food, and hunted. The video recordings were turned into a popular documentary which airs on PBS during their pledge drives. After his death, Preonneke donated his cabin to the national park service and it attracts many visitors. Read One Man's Wilderness and you just might be convinced to build a cabin of your own in the wilderness.