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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

Well, here is a list of some outdoor/nature books that I keep trying to make other people read: 

Desert Solitaire/ Edward Abbey (and recently, Desert Cabal / Amy Irvine’s response to Edward Abbey)
The Place No One Knew / Eliot Porter
Refuge / Terry Tempest Williams
Braiding Sweetgrass / Robin Wall Kimmerer
Walden / Henry David Thoreau
Downward Bound / Warren Harding
Radical Joy for Hard Times / Trebbe Johnson
Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada / Clarence King
Worst Journey in the World / Apsley Cherry-Gerrard
Under a Lucky Star / Roy Chapman Andrews
Emerald Mile / Kevin Fedarko
Being a Beast / Charles Foster
Soul of an Octopus / Sy Montgomery

And two new books that I think are going to become classics:

The Secret to Superhuman Strength / Alison Bechdel
Finding the Mother Tree / Suzanne Simard

@AmyB - I love that Emerald Mile made your list! It was almost on mine too. Such an incredible story and so well written. That's a book I'll have to read again one of these days!

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

These lists have me excited to head to the library!

By the way, I also loved the Soul of an Octopus -- Sy Montgomery's writing generally. I tweeted at her after I finished this book and she actually answered me to tell me to read Other Minds by Peter Godfrey-Smith 😯 

Wow!  I'm amazed that she wrote back with a book suggestion!  I haven't read Other Minds, so now that's on my list. 


It was exciting. I may or may not have started a Twitter account just for the reason of reaching out to her and then immediately stopped using it. any case please do read it it's excellent!


Of the books on AmyB's list, I agree about The Emerald Mile - absolutely worth reading. Not familiar with the others but I read Walden in college. I would add The Outermost House, A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod by Henry Beston. First published in 1928, it was reissued as a 75th anniversary edition in paperback but it may be difficult to find now.

As for fiction, I'd recommend any of the Longmire series of books by Craig Johnson. Along with very readable stories of a classic Western lawman coping with the modern world are lyrical, poetic descriptions of the West, centering on Wyoming.


Hi @agraciouspearl .

I grew up on a farm and spent most of my youth outdoors. Hiking, climbing, fishing and biking have always just been normal parts of life.  I can't say I was ever actually "inspired" to get outside.  It was just second nature.  If anything/anyone inspired me, it was my parents and grandparents.  And also like-minded friends.

As to books, well, let me cast one more vote for A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson.  @JeffPPeters you have good taste my man!  @REI-JohnJ recommended to me Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales.  I've gotten a copy, but haven't read it yet.

I am a voracious reader, and lifelong nerd, so I tend towards fantasy.  Authors like J.R.R. Tolkien, Patrick Rothfuss, Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Joe Abercrombie.  

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I only really started appreciating being outdoors in these last couple of years, mostly being stifled by being stuck in a hectic work environment I just had to escape! 

@JeffPPetersTwo votes looks like A Walk in the Woods will be on my short list then, thanks for the suggestion!

If you like good sci-fi/fantasy, try the Safehold series by David Weber, starting with the first one, Off Armageddon Reef.


I recommend checking out the many, many titles published by

They started out publishing Freedom of the Hills. Now, it seems nearly every book my son wants is published by them!