26 Books – My Edition

Once upon a time, I was an avid reader. As a child I read constantly, indoors, outdoors, on road trips between Washington and California, through meals, and probably while watching TV.

During college I worked in a library and then a book store, thinking that shelving and selling would bring me closer to my love (I was physically closer, but I had to talk to so many people between reading sessions – I couldn’t stay).

It may seem strange, during a month of outside-inspired posts, to dedicate time to books – doesn’t getting lost in a book result in less time outside? I guess that takes me to the reason I read in the first place. Sometimes there’s a degree of escapism, but ultimately my true reason for reading, is to try to make sense of the world around me. Here we are, seven billion humans, fumbling our way through life. Writers, through what seems like magical alchemy, are able to weave together the most fantastic descriptions of who we are, where we are, and perhaps why we’re here.

My outdoor-inspired book list is heavier on the fiction side. They’re not overtly “books about being outside”, but each contains elements that have inspired me to get outside, explore the world, or they’ve made me think more deeply about my own relationship to the world around me. The categorizing was fun, as categorizing always is!

Let’s start with the comics

I spent hours reading about the world travels of five ducks, a reporter, and a dog names Snowy.  I’m not sure if it was Barks’ “Lost in the Andes” or TinTin’s “Prisoners of the Sun” that helped me decide to go to Ecuador during college. At any rate, they’ve stuck with me, and now I’m excited to be reading them to my kids.

  1. Donald Duck – Carl Barks (we had the hardcover compilation, that I read in our living room, whenever I could)
  2. The Adventures of TinTin – Herge

Grade School 

These are all so predictable, but I loved them, so here they are, no commentary necessary:

  1. Heidi – Johanna Spyri
  2. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
  3. Little House on the Prairie – Laura Ingalls Wilder
  4. Anne of Green Gables – Lucy Maud Montgomery
  5. Beyond the Pawpaw Trees – Palmer Brown

High School 

Again, somewhat predictable, but at least I started to branch out of the kiddie chick lit section!

  1. The Baron in the Trees – Italo Calvino
  2. A Room with a View – E.M. Forster
  3. 100 Years of Solitude – Garcia Marquez
  4. On The Road – Jack Kerouac


  1. Ceremony – Leslie Marmon Silko
  2. Jitterbug Perfume – Tom Robbins
  3. Walden – Henry David Thoreau
  4. Essential Writings – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Post-college, The Book Store Years
  1. The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
  2. The Sparrow – Mary Doria Russell
  3. The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver
  4. Watermelon Nights – Greg Sarris
Then, briefly, I taught Middle School Reading
  1. Hoot – Carl Hiassen
  2. The House of the Scorpion – Nancy Farmer
  3. Hatchet – Gary Paulsen
  4. Seedfolks – Paul Fleishmann

Present -day, on the night stand

Maybe the most random to date, but they’re ones that are at the top of my mind.

  1. The Reconstructionist – Nick Arvin 
  2. The Atlas of Birds: Diversity, Behavior, and Conservation – Mike Unwin
  3. The Enchantress of Florence – Salman Rushdie

I feel like I should explain my reasoning on some of these choices, but on the other hand, maybe you’ll be inspired to pick up a few titles and figure out the natural world connections for yourself. I know there are hundreds of other choices that would make sense – what books are on your outdoor-inspired list?


7 thoughts on “26 Books – My Edition

  1. Thanks for this list, Elise…I also worked in a library and bookstore–during my college and post-college years : ) So many books to read, so little…you know!

    I don’t have any book titles in mind, at this moment, but a movie that makes me think of the beautiful outdoors is Brokeback Mountain. Anne of Green Gables also has beautiful outdoor scenes/settings.

    • Thanks Lisa! My mind started going to memorable movie scenes too! And art work… And music… A million connections 🙂

  2. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
    Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty
    Call of the Wild by Jack London
    Into the Wild by Jon Krakaur
    Some memorable outdoor scenes:
    The parties at Gatsby’s house, and Pip meeting the convict on the Marshes of Kent.
    Looking forward to seeing more titles!

    • Great additions Sean! I think that once you start looking for the outdoor scenes and connections, you notice more and more.

  3. Wind in the Willows (did you already list it?)
    The Man Who Planted Trees (DVD)
    The Good Rain (Egan)
    Artists in Their Gardens (Easton)
    Standing in the Light: My Life as a Pantheist (Sharman Apt Russell)
    Open Range (DVD)

    This is a very fun post with good book ideas and comments too. I liked S’s list as well. A future librarian?

  4. Lets see:
    Childhood: My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
    The Trixie Belden books (they were mysteries that took place in the
    Hudson River Valley lost of traipsing around by kids)
    Island of the Blue Dolphin Scott O’Dell

    Non Fiction: I did study people’s connection to place.
    Solace of Open Spaces by Gretel Ehrlich
    Land Circle by Linda Hasselstrom
    Earth in Mind by David Orr
    The Geography of Childhood by Gary Nabhan and Steven Trimble
    Unspoken Hunger by Terry Tempest Williams
    Spell of the Sensous by David Abrams
    The Unsettling of America by Wendell Berry
    A Trail Through the Leaves by Hannah Hinchman

    Fiction and Poetry by author: Mary Oliver (esp Collected Poems)
    Wendell Berry (esp Sabbaths)
    Paulo Coelho (esp The Valkyries)
    Annie Proulx (esp The Shipping News)

    There are so many more books that inspired my connection to nature and the world around me I could go on and on.

    • Awesome additions Stacey! I was a big Trixie Belden fan too – I should go find some at the library to re-read.

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