Roads Rivers and Trails

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Twelve Books Every Outdoor Adventurer Should Read This Year

From tales to inspire your next adventure to unimaginable feats and struggles in the high peaks to defenders of the places we seek, here are twelve books that can’t be overlooked if you spend your time off away from it all. Whether you read one per month or tear through this list before Old Man Winter retires, these titles will shape your year and beyond.


 Famed environmentalist Aldo Leopold was a progressive voice that fought for protection of our nation’s greatest resources and realized before most the troubles that lay ahead and how to combat them. Still relevant nearly 80 years since it was first published, A Sand County Almanac is a beautiful collection of stories. It contains some of the clearest, most brilliant prose I’ve read and will leave your ears ringing with the call of a goose and your eyes watering over the fate of a fallen tree. Whether your passion is wildlife or wild places, this is a book that applies to and inspires all.

It has a grim title, and its content isn’t any more digestible. It may not be the most heartwarming book you read this year, but it will be the most important. If you care about the future of natural resources, knowing how climate change threatens them is essential to protecting them. Journalist Dahr Jamail takes you from the slopes of Denali to the shimmering waters of the Great Barrier Reef, sharing from his own eyes and interviews he conducted how our most treasured landscapes will fare in the future. This book will leave you determined to do more to save our planet. The first thing you can do is read this book, and the next is pass it on to a friend.

 A classic and harrowing tale of survival, death, and page-turning details of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster. Krakauer is perhaps the greatest and most talented outdoor writer today, and Into Thin Air is one of his best works. It’s told in incredible narrative, and will both inspire you to do more and leave you wondering how to avoid tragedy in the outdoors. With death an inevitable part of alpinism, and a looming debate in the shadow of Everest (Chomolungma/ Sagarmatha), Krakauer’s finest piece will leave you in awe of the mountaineers that know the peak best.

 One of America’s most revered authors, The Call of the Wild is the culmination of London’s talent. His fictional narrative of a California dog that finds itself toiling in the Yukon and racing across frozen expanses is entertaining and relatable. Isn’t it true that somewhere inside each of us is that same call that Buck hears, mysteriously thrilling and luring, compelling us to plunge into the forest and on and on? The perfect book to read when an Arctic blast rages outside and you’re dreaming of adventures to come.

 There are few stories more inspiring than the incredible and true story of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s tale of adventure, survival, and leadership in the Antarctic. The explorer’s heroics are recounted in nerve-wracking detail in this page-turner, sharing the story behind an expedition that was anything but a failure. Not many people today could survive what Shackleton’s crew endured in 1914 without a single death. This book will leave you humbled, amazed, and inspired to withstand a little more misery on your next outing.

 Edward Abbey was a voice for the American Southwest and the preservation of its secrets. Far from a doom and gloom narrative, this thrilling novel shares the adventures of four unlikely friends brought together by their commitment to saving the nation’s most treasured spaces from ever-encroaching industry. The Monkey Wrench Gang is Abbey’s best work, a masterpiece of detail, creativity, and storytelling that will inspire you to join the movement and defend what matters most.

  • The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History; Elizabeth Kolbert 

It would be foolish to pretend that wilderness and biodiversity aren’t threatened globally and carry on with our weekend excursions carefree. It is important, then, to read Kolbert’s account of the peril facing our planet and understand the threat our wild places face. Excellent reporting rather than a happy ending makes this book worth the read. The emotional toll is too great to read it quickly, but it’s important to read, nonetheless.

Whether or not rock climbing is your preferred adventure, there is lots to love in Tommy Caldwell’s book. Caldwell proves he is more than just a professional climber in this well-written book that details the challenges that shaped who he is. There’s something each of us can learn from Caldwell’s story, and it doesn’t take a climber to see that Caldwell strikes something special with this work.

If your outdoor adventures take you across public lands, and I’m willing to bet they do, then Mark Kenyon’s first and immediately impactful book is a must-read. It’s convenient to pretend that our national parks, forests, monuments, and wilderness areas are preserved in perpetuity, but that simply isn’t true. Kenyon outlines how our public lands came to be, why they matter, and how we can ensure they don’t disappear. No matter which side of the aisle you favor, every public landowner (yes, that’s you) should be aware of the issues Kenyon brings to light.

  • The Omnivores Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals; Michael Pollan

Our environment and food are intertwined and connected in more ways than we could imagine. If you’re a foodie like me, and an outdoorsperson, The Omnivore’s Dilemma will inform and inspire your choices. Like he does with each of his titles, Michael Pollan brings exhaustive research, excellent journalism, and personal encounters into this thoughtful work. This book is sure to change the way you think and live. The more people that read it, the better off we’ll be.

Whether we climb, hike, paddle, or bike, trails are at the foundation of outdoor adventure. Robert Moor explores what makes a trail, what they mean, and the history of our wanderings in On Trails. Another obsessively researched book, this piece will please any outdoor enthusiast that loves to learn.

  • Silent Spring; Rachel Carson

This year marks sixty years since Silent Spring was published, and Rachel Carson’s monumental work continues to inspire. It remains as relevant today as it was when it spurred the environmental movement that saved our national symbol. Although some of the environmental crises she details have since been resolved, many remain problematic as pollution continues to rear its ugly head. Science-heavy Silent Spring must continue to be read until the atrocities mentioned in it are no longer a concern.




by: Will Babb