5 Books I’m taking on the Appalachian Trail

I grew up in a house filled with romance novels and self-help books. Consequently I harbor unrealistic expectations for how good my abs should look, a primal desire to own a broadsword, and a nagging voice in the back of my head that tells me, amongst the many things I should work on, that I should read more. Twenty years of schooling I suppose did it’s job in guilt-tripping me to maintain a habit of reading.

oeuvres-completes-de-jules-verne-illustreeAt the recommendations of thru-hiker friends, on my last two thru hikes, I took a book. Actually I took a library. Among other titles, I brought the complete works of Jules Verne, in the original French. Give me a break, I wrote my undergrad thesis on the author’s trend towards depression and nihilism in his personal life and works as he aged. Plus adventure stories like Voyage to the Center of the Earth and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea generally go well when attempting to walk across the country.

Ah, how did I maintain a pack weight under 25 pounds without committing the sacrilege of book h2o_pairing_960x960_usburning? One of the best purchases for my Colorado Trail thru-hike in 2015 was a Kobo Aura H20, an e-reader weighing in at 8.2 ounces and capable of being submersed in one meter of water for 30 minutes. Kobo might not quite have the selection as Kindle, but the waterproof reader sold me since I wouldn’t need a case and didn’t have to worry about exposure to the elements.

the-view-from-lazy-pointBesides Jules Verne, on my previous hikes, I’ve gravitated towards non-fiction books with a bend towards nature: Carl Saffina’s The View From Lazy Point and Song of the Dodo by David Quammen. Reading about the natural world, particularly evolution, extinction, and conservation, provides me with a greater appreciation for passing long days walking through forests and mountains. Song of the Dodo highly influenced a feature article titled “Plop!” which I wrote concerning the near extinction of Sierra Nevada Yellow-Legged Frog. It came out in the latest edition of The Flyfish Journal. Click here to find that.

I haven’t read any of these books, so can’t speak with confidence as to what the books are about or how the stories are told. I imagine my descriptions are vague and uncertain at best. But without further ado, here are the books I’m planning on reading along the AT.

1) The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbertthe-sixth-extinction-5

I’ve read excerpts of Kolbert’s other works, and I imagine this book to be right up my alley. Judging from fossil records, earth has experienced five mass extinction events. This book goes over these extinction events and compares them to the accelerated and widespread human-caused extinctions of the present. The NY Times ranked the book in the top 10 for 2014 and in 2015 Kolbert won a Pulitzer Prize for the work. Should be a good one to take on trail. Click here to find it on Amazon.

about-a-mountain2) About a Mountain by John D’Agata

This book was recommended to me by a writing professor at Colorado State. Also non-fiction, About a Mountain follows the author helping his mother move into a Las Vegas home, where he learns of the government’s plan to store nuclear waste at nearby Yucca Mountain. The Amazon description reads that the story, “results in a startling portrait that compels a reexamination of the future of human life,” and plus I’ve been wanting to read some D’Agata. Click here to get it on Amazon.

3) Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coatesbetween-the-world-and-me

Recommended to my by the editor or ShouldersofGiants.com, Between the World and Me was a #1 NY Times Best Seller and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.  In my understanding, much of the book is written as a letter to the author’s son about what it is like to inhabit a black body in present day America. In the words of one review, “In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis.” Click here to get it on Amazon.

walking-the-bible-14) Walking the Bible by Bruce Feiler

I’ve had this book on my Kobo for over a year now. The book follows the author’s 10,000-mile journey (not all on foot, but impressive nonetheless), tracing the first five books of the Bible, through the Middle East and North Africa. Feiler, a 5th-generation American born Jew, travelled abroad from the desire to “reconnect” to the Pentateuch, but judging from reviews, the book also appeals to a secular audience, as themes of self-inquiry, questions on meaning of life, and testaments to the human spirit have universal appeal. Click here to get it on Amazon.

5) Courrier Sud by Antoine de Saint-Exupérycourrier-sud-8-1

So far the only fiction book I plan on reading on trail, Courrier Sud or Southern Mail has also been on my Kobo for over a year. It is written by the same author of the beloved Le Petit Prince. The book takes place in the pioneering days of airmail and turns the story of a routine mail flight from France to North Africa into somewhat of an epic tale involving adventure, love, and tragedy. I need to get some French reading in anyways so here we go. Click here to get the English version on Amazon.

There is a fairly decent chance that I will get through all of these books and need some more reading material. Right now I’m leaning towards one of David Haskell’s books. Haskell is a professor at my alma mater, Sewanee: The University of the South, and his book The Forest Unseen was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2013. Feel free to leave me a recommendation in the comments!

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Comments 1

  • Ina Richards : Apr 29th

    Thanks for the non-fiction book picks! ???? Keep it coming !! ????


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