A short, outdoorsy summer reading list

People often come up with summer reading lists. I’m not sure why summer is all of the sudden a season for reading, but that seems to be how it breaks down.

It also got me thinking about a few of my favorite reads. Some of mine are current events-type books, so I’ll spare you that. Besides, my favorite books tend to be more geared toward two things I really enjoy: good writing and a good yarn with an outdoors flavor.

One of my absolute favorites is “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer. It’s well-written, expertly reported and thoroughly engrossing. Many of us who are into the outdoors have often dreamed similar dreams as did Chris McCandless – chucking away our normal lives and going on a permanent road trip adventure. His story ended tragically, but the pulse of the book is one which matches my own, and it’s very much a Gen-X tale (my generation!). If you like Krakauer, then “Into Thin Air” (about the 1996 Everest disaster), “Eiger Dreams” (an anthology of his essays) and “Where Men Win Glory” (his excellent and sad biography of ex-NFL star-turned-soldier Pat Tillman) are worth a look.

Speaking of risk-taking authors, you really should check out the works of Sebastian Junger. He’s done some good work, but my favorite of his is his most famous: “The Perfect Storm.” Chances are you’ve seen the movie. The book is much better. Few people can put together the cold, hard facts of science and history into the human tales in which they are intertwined. Skillfully reported, he takes you into the wheelhouses and cockpits of the vessels and aircraft caught up in one of the freakiest storms to ever strike the Eastern Seaboard. See also his anthology “Fire,” which includes a great piece about Ahmad Shah Massoud, the Northern Alliance leader of Afghanistan who was killed days before 9/11.

The newborn runner in me is also really into the book “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall. The writer takes us to the Copper Canyons of Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains and into the lives of the super-running tribe of Tarahumara Indians. Also in the book is quite a bit about the late Micah True (aka Caballo Blanco), the American runner who learned the Tarahumara’s secrets and founded the Copper Canyon ultramarathon. The popularity of the book is widely seen as the catalyst to the barefoot/minimalist running movement that has taken hold in recent years.

Are you as fascinated by Mount Everest as me? But also horrified by the circus that seems to kill unwitting climbers there every spring? “High Crimes: Mount Everest in an Age of Greed” by Michael Kodas is a very good read that describes just how seedy things have gotten on the world’s highest peak. Another good one in this vein: “Dark Summit” by Nick Heil gives another view of how ambition, greed and amateurism is transforming the narrative of high altitude mountaineering.

That’s a pretty good start. What books are you reading? Let me know and let’s discuss!

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088

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