5 Books You Need to Read to Better Appreciate the Outdoors
I am a huge believer in the school of thought that you have to understand something to better appreciate it.
Sure, you could just bumble your way into the wilderness without a clue of what is at the soul of hiking and existing in nature, but why not get the full picture?
Trust me, you want the full picture.
Here are five books you need to read to understand what is at the heart of the natural world.
#1: Walden – Henry David Thoreau
This is a classic and, even if you aren’t a hiker, you are doing yourself a disservice by not reading it. This book takes you into the mind of one of the pinnacle nature lovers of the literary canon. The effluence of his writing is only paralleled by its content. After reading it, you will understand more of the mindset of a real outdoorsman. Thoreau is a true romantic in the way he speaks of the outdoors. Maybe he will show you the way.
#2: The Prelude (1805) – William Wordsworth
Wordsworth comes from a different angle. Better stated, it’s a right hook. As one of the better nature poets in existence, he approaches the subject of nature straight from the heart. If you are able to get used to his style of verse (as it is written in stanzas rather than prose), you will come away with an ultimate understanding of how to appreciate nature. It is an autobiography of his love affair with being outdoors and thus it is quite personal. Because of this, you will understand his mindset on a personal level and develop a fondness for perceiving things his way.
#3: Desert Solitaire – Edward Abbey
Ah yes, crazy ol’ Edward Abbey. Another right hook… and then a jab to top it off. Abbey is all piss and vinegar, all the time. A true naturalist, he clouts you upside the head with his adamant belief in the sanctity of the natural world and lays you down laughing. Abbey approaches the outdoors like a zealot and, in entertaining amounts of scathing rhetoric, slaps the hell out of anyone in disagreement. You cannot un-read Mr. Abbey. You’ll enjoy his work and, because of it, will love being in nature all the more.
#4: Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
If for nothing else, Joseph Conrad is the master of descriptive language. You simply cannot go hiking after reading his work and not see things in a new and interesting way. Despite the depth of meaning he packs into relatively short stories, they are worth some light reading simply to attribute new value to the way the world naturally progresses. If you want to love what surrounds you in nature on a cerebral level, Conrad is key.
#5: Moby Dick – Herman Melville
I recommend this for two reasons. One: the main character, Ishmael, is a true visionary and views his surroundings with an extremely involved and technical, but passive lens. This is important in the art of appreciating the outdoors. Two: the whole book focuses on the evils of encroaching upon the natural order of things. Melville writes to show you cannot overcome nature and that you want to exist in a perceptive plane. Melville is another king of description. Moby Dick is entertaining, it’s informative, it’s different. It will give you a new level of care for your environment while on trail.
To sum it all up…
I know some of you will say you don’t have time to read these books. I disagree with you. In response, you are free to agree to disagree.
There are several other routes you can take, just like on trail. I find poetry is good for when I am short on time. Some poets who will help you achieve a similar feeling in less time are Walt Whitman, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and T. S. Eliot.
Descriptive language helps us see the world in color. Food for thought!
Happy reading and happy trails.
For more of my content, please look at my author page: https://thetrek.co/author/paul-madigosky/
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.