The best way to get through these short days and long nights of winter is to settle in with cozy blanket and a STACK of quality books. Learning more about the the philosophy of Wilderness, the meaning of Wilderness, and the natural world around you can heighten your experience, be it on a WV project, or out on your own adventures. So, without further ado, and in no particular order, here are ten of the best books to get you jazzed about being in the wilderness!
~ Edward Abbey
In his unique and captivating voice, Ed Abbey allows readers to fall in love with every aspect of our desolate southwest landscapes.
“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original, is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself.” – Edward Abbey
The Abstract Wild
~ Jack Turner
This book makes you ask the question of ‘what is wild?’ and more importantly, ‘what wild is still left?’. With profound intellect, author Jack Turner delves into what he refers to as the ultimate endangered resource: wildness.
“Humans become foreigners to the wild, foreigners to an experience that once grounded their most sacred beliefs and values. In short, wilderness as relic leads to tourism, and tourism in the wilderness becomes the primary mode of experiencing a diminished wild.” – Jack Turner
Eating Stone: Imagination and the Loss of the Wild
Through her own eyes Ellen Meloy elegantly describes her year spent with a herd of desert Bighorn Sheep who she calls ‘The Blue Door Band’. Meloys words allow for contempation of the relationship between animals and humans, going back to our roots of evolution.
“Each time I look into the eye of an animal…I find myself staring into a mirror of my own imagination. What I see there is deeply, crazily, unmercifully confused.” – Ellen Meloy
A Sand County Almanac
~ Aldo Leopold
A Sand County Almanac, a collection of Leopolds natural, crotchety, and lyrical writings, offers insight into the mind of a man who spent his life in some of the U.S.’s most stunning lands. This book is beloved by environmentalist and conservationists across the globe, and for good reason.
“One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.” – Aldo Leopold
~ Laura Bell
Laura Bell recounts her journey from her home state of Kentucky to a wild life of sheep herding in Wyoming’s Big Horn Basin. Through her search for place, home, and adventure Bell perfectly describes the inexplicable beauty of hard labor and Western landscapes.
~ John Fowles
In one of his only nonfictional works, John Fowles intimately describes his perception on the relationship between nature and human creativity. In an autobiographical manner Fowles presents his compelling argument for keeping wild places wild.
“There is a spiritual corollary to the way we are currently deforesting and denaturing our planet. In the end what we must most defoliate and deprive is ourselves. We might as soon start collecting up the world’s poetry, every line and every copy, to burn it in a final pyre; and think we should lead richer and happier lives thereafter.” – John Fowles
Into Thin Air
~ John Krakauer
Most simply put, Into Thin Air is a mountaineers first hand account of the disastrous events of May 1996 on Mt. Everest. Krakauer delves into the dynamic of climbers on this mountain, where the key tool is money, rather than experience.
“…I quickly came to understand that climbing Everest was primarily about enduring pain. And in subjecting ourselves to week after week of toil, tedium, and suffering, it struck me that most of use were probably seeking, above else, something like a state of grace.” – John Krakauer
A Walk in the Woods
~ Bill Bryson
In Bryson’s eclectic and entertaining voice, he takes you along the Appalachian Trail, describing human history, ecology, and the unique characters he encounters along the way. Bryson coaxes a face-consuming smile and many giggles from each of his adventures (and misadventures) on the trail.
“I wanted to quit and to do this forever, sleep in a bed and in a tent, see what was over the next hill and never see a hill again. All of this all at once, every moment, on the trail or off.” – Bill Bryson
~ Henry David Thoreau
I find this quote to be Waldens’ best advertisement. Do we not all aspire for this richness of life?
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived…I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.” – H.D. Thoreau
Wilderness and the American Mind
~ Roderick Frazier Nash
Listed by Outside Magazine as one of the “books that changed our world”, Wilderness and the American Mind describes the changing of attitudes and perceptions towards Wilderness in the United States. With the inclusion of the historical accounts of conservation and environmental movements, this book is one that will change the meaning of the word Wilderness for you. The newest edition includes a new preface, epilogue, and forward which place it in context with 21st century viewpoints.
“Wilderness appealed to those bored or disgusted with man and his works. It not only offered an escape from society but also was an ideal stage for the Romantic individual to exercise the cult that he frequently made of his own soul. The solitude and total freedom of the wilderness created a perfect setting for either melancholy or exultation.” – Roderick Frazier Nash