This is the time of year when I really start to wonder why I live in the Midwest. As with most things, I’ll just go ahead and blame my parents. When January hits, I start obsessively Googling photos of the Caribbean, Hawaii, Mexico, THE EQUATOR, basically any place where the sun consistently shines for more than an hour a week will do. As much fun as the occasional blanket fort might be, I hate being cooped up in my house for months on end. My favorite things in life all happen outside: running, hiking, snorkeling, swimming, laying on pool noodles for 12 hours, etc.
To cope with the endless horror that is an Ohio winter, I generally resort to reading books about people doing things outdoors. It’s a good reminder that in just a few months, the weather will be nice enough to return to my rightful spot in a hammock, and my skin will no longer be a hue where people wonder why I’m dressed as a ghost out of season. Anyway, read on to discover some of my favorite books about the outdoors, but more specifically, books about people doing really insane things outdoors.
Don’t all of us dream of escaping the annoying repetition of everyday life to live out the rest of our days in blissful isolation? Just me? Clearly not, because Christopher Knight did just that for TWENTY-SEVEN years in the woods of Maine, living in a tent and surviving by stealing food, clothing, and reading material from nearby camps and cabins. Drawing from interviews with the hermit himself, as well as detailed research into the history of hermits worldwide, this book is a heartbreaking portrayal of the lengths one man went to live alone, until he was abruptly forced back into the real world.
I’m just going to say what we’re all thinking: Alex Honnold has a death wish. Why else would he be so enthusiastic about free soloing (to be clear, that means climbing with absolutely NO ropes or harnesses) El Capitan, Yosemite’s infamous 3,200 foot granite wall? Said to be the greatest climber of all time, Honnold shares with readers everything relating to his lifelong obsession with climbing, including how he focuses under pressure, handles his fears and successfully turned his passion into a career. Once you’re done with this book, watch the 2018 documentary “Free Solo.” You’ll see everything you just read come to life as Honnold swiftly scales El Capitan rope-free, and you, the poor empathetic viewer, sweat through all the clothes you’re wearing and possibly have a panic attack, despite knowing that it obviously ends well because they wouldn’t release a documentary that culminates in someone plummeting to their death. **Audiobook also available on hoopla**
This is a great book for every reader that devoured “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed and wonders what to read next. Aspen Matis is a millennial who was raped on campus her first night of college. Her overprotective parents discouraged her from reporting the event, so she was left to deal with the emotional fallout entirely on her own. Her solution? Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada solo, despite a lack of hiking experience. What follows is an uplifting story of a young woman who transforms a tragedy into a triumph by undertaking the physical journey of a lifetime. **eBook and eAudio available on hoopla**
If you haven’t heard anything about this story you must have been living under a rock for the last few years (which, as you’ll soon find out, is much safer than living alone in the Alaskan wilderness).
Christopher McCandless, better known by his self-declared nickname Alexander Supertramp, was a privileged young man and promising college graduate who rejected materialism for an anonymous life on the road. His ultimate dream was to live off the land in Alaska, and as he made his way towards that goal he abandoned his family, gave his savings (to the tune of $25,000) to charity, abandoned his possessions and burned the cash in his wallet. Four months after his arrival in Alaska, his decomposing body was discovered by hunters. I usually have a lot of complaints when a book is adapted into a movie, but the 2007 dramatization is fantastic, and I fully endorse watching the movie before, after, or even instead of reading the book. Regardless of which platform you choose, the story is heartbreaking, maddening, and somehow, a little bit inspiring. **Movie also available on hoopla**
When her husband accepts a new job, Florence Williams reluctantly moves from the quiet mountains of Colorado to the noisy concrete chaos of Washington, D.C. After a few months there, she notices that living in a bustling city, far removed from nature, has made her increasingly more irritable; she then sets out on a cross continental journey to find out why, consulting neuroscientists, biologists, and forest bathers (yep, that’s a thing) along the way. The result is an in-depth look at the science behind why our brains are more productive, happier, healthier and more creative when exposed to nature. This book will make you want to put on your favorite hiking shoes and throw your phone into a lake, which is what I’ll be doing if the sun ever comes out again. **Audiobook also available on hoopla**
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