In the spirit of the new year, I’m making a new resolution to read more. If you’re doing the same, check out some of our favorite outdoor books.
After a long day outdoors, one of my favorite things to do is settle down with a good book. Expedition memoirs are my new favorite genre — although there are plenty of books out there that will quench your adventure thirst.
Here are five of my favorite adventure books released last year that you should add to your 2020 reading list.
‘The River‘ by Peter Heller
Type of book: Novel
Description: Peter Heller’s The River tells the story of two college students on a wilderness canoe trip. It’s a gripping tale of a friendship tested by fire, whitewater, and violence. But a wildfire making its way across the forest adds unexpected urgency to the journey.
From this charged beginning, master storyteller Peter Heller unspools a headlong, heart-pounding story of desperate wilderness survival.
Editor’s note: “Peter Heller is a fantastic writer who I’ve been reading for years. This novel was especially enjoyable, filled with super suspenseful writing and careful details. It’s full of drama and intrigue, but also fact — you can tell Heller is a writer who knows what he’s talking about.”
‘That Wild Country: An Epic Journey Through the Past, Present, and Future of America’s Public Lands‘ by Mark Kenyon
Publish date: December 2019
Type of book: Historical account
Description: Every American is a public-land owner, inheritor to the largest public-land trust in the world. These vast expanses provide a home to wildlife populations, a vital source of clean air and water, and a haven for recreation. Since its inception, however, America’s public land system has been embroiled in controversy.
Part travelogue and part historical examination, That Wild Country invites readers on an intimate tour of the wondrous wild and public places that are a uniquely profound and endangered part of the American landscape.
Editor’s note: “Public lands are really important, and sometimes it’s easy to forget about the tensions when you are out enjoying nature. This book is a great cumulative account of what’s happened in the past and what we can do to protect our lands in the future. For me, it was refreshing to read something outside the usual genre of what I read, and on top of that, something I really care about.”
‘Running with Sherman: The Donkey with the Heart of a Hero‘ by Christopher McDougall
Publish date: October 2019
Type of book: Memoir
Description: When Chris McDougall agreed to take in a donkey from an animal hoarder, he thought it would be no harder than the rest of the adjustments he and his family had made. But when he arrived, Sherman the donkey was in such bad shape he could barely move. It turns out the best way to soothe a donkey is to give it a job, and so Chris decided to teach Sherman how to run.
He’d heard about burro racing — and decided he and Sherman would enter the World Championship in Colorado. Along the way, he shows us the life-changing power of animals, nature, and community.
Editor’s note: “Christopher McDougall is both the writer and character in this book. Reading about how McDougall learned the culture and history of a (almost) forgotten sport gives the story a lot more layers. The book is also a great balance of humor and storytelling. I mean, running an ultra-marathon with a donkey — what could be a better story than that?”
‘Classic Krakauer: Essays on Wilderness and Risk‘ by Jon Krakauer
Publish date: in October 2019
Type of book: Essay Collection
Description: His pieces take us from a horrifying avalanche on Mount Everest to a volcano poised to obliterate a big chunk of Seattle; from a wilderness teen-therapy program run by apparent sadists to an otherworldly cave in New Mexico, studied by NASA to better understand Mars.
Classic Krakauer powerfully demonstrates the author’s ambivalent love affair with unruly landscapes and his relentless search for truth. These ten gripping essays show why Jon Krakauer is considered a standard-bearer of modern journalism.
Editor’s note: “Jon Krakauer — the author of Into Thin Air and Into the Wild — is a gripping writer. I’ve both read his books and heard him speak in person, and the storytelling he accomplishes through his writing is extraordinary. Especially after the media saturation of the story of Christopher McCandless (from Into the Wild), it’s nice to delve into Krakauer’s other fascinating real-life accounts. If you’ve never read Krakauer and have been wanting to, I recommend reading these essays.”
‘Running Home‘ by Katie Arnold
Type of book: Memoir
Description: Running Home is a memoir about the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of our world — the stories that hold us back, and the ones that set us free. Ultrarunning tests the limits of human endurance over seemingly inhuman distances.
As she clocked miles across mesas and mountains, Katie learned to tolerate pain and discomfort, and face her fears of uncertainty, vulnerability, and even death itself. It’s a book for anyone who has been knocked over by life, or feels the pull of something bigger and wilder within themselves.
Editor’s note: “Anyone who runs knows that there are deeper reasons for why we run, why we push ourselves, than just exercise. Delving into Katie’s experiences through this memoir gave me a different perspective on the link between running and our lives.”
This article was originally published in January 2020.