Hooray for summer! ‘Tis the season for outdoor barbecues, ice cold lemonade, watermelon juice dribbling down your chin, swimming and hiking and soaking up some rays.
For many of us, summer is also a time to enjoy the great outdoors and catch up on our reading – especially outdoor reading.
Continuing our month-long salute to Great Outdoors Month, here, in no particular order, are fifteen of some of the best outdoor and nature stories ever (based on my 100% unscientific and totally subjective opinion):
Born Free: A Lioness of Two Worlds, by Joy Adamson. Set in Kenya, this compelling true story chronicles the mutual affection and bond between an orphaned lion cub, Elsa, and the Adamsons, who loved her enough to let her go. Powerful, poignant, and timeless.
Born Free is probably the most moving and inspiring “animal story” I’ve ever read. For my review, click here.
The Haymeadow, by Gary Paulsen
Fourteen-year-old John Barron spends the summer taking care of the family sheep in the haymeadow. He’s alone, except for two horses, four dogs, and 6,000 sheep. John must rely on his own resourcefulness, ingenuity, and talents to survive this summer in the haymeadow.
Winter Dance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod, by Gary Paulsen.
Paulsen and his team of dogs endure snowstorms, frostbite, dogfights, moose attacks, sleeplessness, and hallucinations in the relentless push to go on.
Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen.
Thirteen year-old Brian is on his way to Canada to visit his estranged father when the pilot of his small prop plane suffers a heart attack. After crash-landing in a lake, Brian finds himself stranded in the remote Canadian wilderness with only his clothing and the hatchet his mother gave him as a present before his departure. A gripping tale of determination and survival.
Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Dell. Don’t make me explain this.
Scrub, Dog of Alaska, by Walt Morey.
After a runt sled dog is raised by a young boy, the dog’s cruel owner demands his return. Morey’s descriptions of outdoor adventures and the struggle to survive in the wilderness of Alaska are first-rate.
Lavishly illustrated, this beautiful, informative book tells you just about everything you need to know about the park. It explores the mountain’s geological and glacial origins, its history, ecological health, and the century-old stewardship of Mount Rainier National Park. Stories from Native people, climbers, scientists, tourists, park rangers and volunteers are included.
A Year in Paradise, by Floyd Schmoe.
Written by the first naturalist at Mount Rainier National Park, this eloquent, articulate book is chock-full of appreciation for the region’s natural history and beauty. This delightful first-person narrative offers an informative portrait of Mount Rainier through the seasons.
A Walk Across America, by Peter Jenkins.
A disillusioned young man sets out on a walk across America. Along the way, Jenkins learns lessons about his country and himself that resonate to this day — and will inspire a new generation to get out, hit the road and explore.
The Last Place on Earth: Scott and Amundsen’s Race to the South Pole, by Roland Huntsford.
A brilliant dual biography detailing the great race to the South Pole between Britain’s Robert Scott and Norway’s Roald Amundsen. You may want to bring a sweater. Maybe two. Or three.
Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster, by Jon Krakauer.
In 1996 the climbing world and everyone else was stunned by the terrible news: eight people died when they were caught in a blizzard on Mount Everest during attempts to descend from the summit. This is Jon’s gripping, epic account of the May 1996 disaster.
The Ledge: An Inspirational of Friendship & Survival, by Jim Davidson and Kevin Vaughan.
The true story of a Mount Rainier adventure-turned tragedy when climbing friends Davidson and Mike Price plunge through an ice bridge into a glacial crevasse while descending Rainier. Price dies from the fall. Trapped on a narrow frozen shelf, deep below daylight, Davidson desperately battles crumbling ice, snow that threatens to bury him alive, and crippling fear of the inescapable chasm below. Alone, with almost no equipment, Davidson must choose between death or a nearly impossible climb out.
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America Along the Appalachian Trail, by Bill Bryson.
The “easy way” to hike the Appalachian Trail. Just plain fun.
The Incredible Journey, by Sheila Burnford.
I first read this in grade school. I re-read it last summer. It’s still a keeper.
This is the story of two dogs and a cat who travel 300 miles through the Canadian wilderness searching for their beloved masters. It depicts the suffering and stress of an arduous journey, together with the unwavering loyalty and courage of the three animals.
Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls.
Billy is growing up poor but proud in the backcountry of the Arkansas Ozarks. He desperately yearns for a pair of coonhounds so he can go hunting. Penniless but determined, Billy works odd jobs to earn enough money to buy two fine hunting dogs, brother and sister ‘Ole Dan and Little Ann. Ann is the brains. Dan is the brawn. The book follows their lives from pups to champion coon dogs, and ultimately, to their tragic deaths.
I can never read this without tissue.
What would you add?