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Inspired by Nature/Science/Travel Books

For me, learning to love being outside actually started with my love for reading (mostly indoors) and then being inspired to get out there. So my question is, what are your favorite reads for either bringing along for winding down at camp in the evening or maybe getting hyped for a trip? I'll go first! These are all non-fiction, science-writing but also mostly framed in the personal stories of the authors. But fiction suggestions always welcome!

(1) On Trails: An Exploration by Robert Moor -- an interesting mix of the author's personal reflections on hiking and trails, paired with a historical, cultural, geological and biological deep dive on paths and path-making. So well written and well-researched I learned a lot from this one 🌲

(2) The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elizabeth Tovey Bailey -- a personal journey about healing and life's fragility, interwoven with facts about snails. This one is the shortest but really impactful. Such a deeply personal story and by the end you'll just never look at snails the same way 🐌

(3) Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness -- you learn about the evolution of cephalopods, which are so cool, but it's also this fascinating reflection on philosophy and cognition. Probably my favorite of the three. Academic-ish but accessible, mostly nice for fantasizing about exploring the ocean next summer 🐙

22 Replies

I was raised in the mountains of western NC and fell in love with nature there.  I didn't really have a great love for hiking until I was stationed in Japan.  There we climbed Mt. Fuji 4 times and would do it again at the drop of a hat.  If you get the chance, never turn it down........

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one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

I definitely won't, but as a newb I think I'll certainly have to train for that! A friend also mentioned to me to try doing all or some of the Nakasendo Way when we get to Japan one day.

One of my favorite topics agraciouspearl!

There's a good thread about this here:


Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Ah thanks for that! I was looking for a similar thread before posting about it but I guess I'm still getting used to the search function. It will be fun combing through folks' responses on that!


The book that inspired me was Bill Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods"

@agraciouspearl - Thanks so much for bringing this topic to the community! My fascination and appreciation of the outdoors has also been greatly impacted by the books I've read. Some of my favorites are the following:

  • The Wolverine Way by Douglas Chadwick
  • The Sun Is a Compass by Caroline Van Hemert
  • The Home Place by J. Drew Lanham
  • My Story as Told by Water by David James Duncan


@AmyB, you have brought lots of great book recommendations and reviews to the community. Are there any that stand out to be added to this list?

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

@REI-CarterC you are welcome -- it's certainly a topic that makes me happy! Maybe one day in a post-pandemic world REI might consider experimenting with a book exchange section in their brick-and-mortar stores. I know some locations have new books and guides for sale, but it would be neat to see all of the titles that inspire the local community in the form of a gently used books for sale or swap the way you do with your Garage Sale gear! Maybe a pipe dream, certainly something that would work in a community center anyway. 

@agraciouspearl - It is always fun to hear members' pipe dreams! Thanks for sending this suggestion our way. We have taken note of it.

Do you have any favorite places to exchange or buy used books now? 

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

I appreciate that. If this whole thread ends up alluding to my secret pipe dream to become a librarian of adventure books...fair and accurate. I usually go for our local used book few and far between those are nowadays. HOWEVER if you are a nerd like me you may occasionally hunt down major local used book sales via I find that the best travel writing and nature/science sections usually are at these big library used book sales. And if anyone is ever on the East Coast in the fall, you might want to make a trip to the Princeton book sale in NJ (yup THAT Princeton. Both the university and the local public library hold MASSIVE events this time of year). And on the plus side, there are some really great nature preserves for a casual hike in that area, too!