After years of talk, we are finally beginning a few home improvement projects. Many trips to Bozeman are required which takes time away from skiing. When one can’t be out exploring, one can live vicariously through good books. I began this post with the idea of sharing five of my favorite outdoor books but five turned into six. Six could have turned into seven or eight or ten, but I stopped myself before I went too far.
A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold I first read this book for a course in my Master’s Degree program and have read and quoted it many times since. Leopold’s use of words is lyrical. Each vignette is a gem that can stand on its own. Leopold is known as the father of modern ecology. His words, though written before his death in 1948, ring even more true today. This is one book that should be sent to each member of congress. Quote: “Our remnants of wilderness will yield bigger values to the nation’s character and health than they will to its pocketbook, and to destroy them will be to admit that the latter are the only values that interest us. “
Satellites in the High Country by Jason Mark This book introduced me to the Anthropocene (age of human) and what it means for the earth. He puts into words what many of us feel. Mark takes the reader to the Point Reyes National Seashore, Yosemite, paddling rivers in Alaska’s Brooks Range and New Mexico’s Gila Wilderness. At each site, he seamlessly weaves together human history, population issues, and human impacts on land. Quote: “My head understands the announcements of the wild’s passing. Wildness does seem an endangered species, or at least a cornered beast, like a mountain lion hounded into a tree. And wilderness, as a place, is a scarce and dwindling resource. The effort to preserve primitive places are, quite literally, losing ground.”
The Flight of the Iguana by David Quammen I first met Quammen in the pages of Outside Magazine, in the column he wrote called Natural Acts, way back in the magazine’s early golden years. He has a unique take on the natural world, each essay ending with a twist that makes me scratch my head in awe at his genius. As he writes about this book: “This book is a gathering of portraits and questions and thoughts. It is populated with a spectrum of creatures that, to my own eye, constitute the biological and aesthetic and philosophical equivalent of tree toads, pismires, leaves of grass. If it doesn’t somewhere among these pages make you angry, and somewhere else make you laugh, and somewhere still else make you sad or worried or vaguely inclined to rethink some matter of attitude, I will be disappointed.”
Searching for Yellowstone by Paul Schullery My list would not be complete without at least one book about Yellowstone. This was one of the first Yellowstone books that I read when I began living and working in the Park. Though it has been a while since I’ve turned these pages, I remember it with affection. Schullery’s words gave me my first overview of the importance of Yellowstone. Quote: “For all the other things that modern society might learn from the American Indian experience, and for all the things that went wrong, even near Yellowstone, in the dealings between Euramericans and Indians, there is this one remarkable reality that binds us together. The magic and power of this place transcend culture; it is a compelling wonder not for just one society but for all humans, whatever their origin.”
The Earth Speaks Edited by Steven Van Matre and Bill Weiler This book has ridden into the wilderness on my back. Edward Abbey, Rachel Carson, Thoreau, Muir, Stegner…. I looked forward to inspiration before dousing the headlamp each night. “Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons. It is to grow in the open air, and to eat and sleep with the earth.” Walt Whitman
The Animal Dialogues by Craig Childs Over years of wilderness travels, Childs has had his share of encounters with wildlife. An interesting and easy read, at least one passage will put you on the edge of your seat. “The life of an animal lies outside of conjecture. It is far beyond the scientific papers and the campfire stories. It is as true as breath. It is as important as the words of children.”
Have you read any of these? If not, I hope that you will give them a try. I’d love to know your thoughts about them. Click on the titles for ordering information.
If you would like to add your favorites to the list, please do so in the comments!