(Reading About) The Great Outdoors

One of the things I love about living in Seattle is our proximity to the ocean and mountains and old-growth forests. Hey, occasionally you can even see the mountains (when it’s not overcast).  Alas, I don’t seem to get out into the great outdoors as often as I would like, but the next best thing to being there is reading about it. Here are some books about the natural world that I’ve enjoyed:


A Sand Country Almanac, and Sketches Here and There by Leopold Aldo. First published in 1949, this book by one of our country’s foremost conservationists was hailed by the New York Times as “full of beauty and vigor and bite.”

If you enjoy nature writing and personal accounts of extreme outdoor adventure, you can’t go wrong with the classic writings of John Muir. In lyrical prose he recounts many remarkable adventures in the wilderness.

Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs: Living and Writing in the West by Wallace Stegner. In these 16 graceful essays, Stegner explores his enchantment with the West, describing the land’s harsh beauty, its destruction by man, and lessons we can learn.

chasingmonarchs.jpgChasing Monarchs: Migrating with the Butterflies of Passage by Michael Robert Pyle. Ecologist Pyle tracked monarch butterflies for 9,000 miles across their migratory route from Canada to Mexico. He chronicles the wonders of the monarchs as well as the land, plants, animals and people that capture his imagination along the way.

The Northern Lights by Lucy Jago. Norwegian physicist Kristian Birkeland spent his life uncovering the cause of the aurora borealis, risking his life to establish an observatory on the summit of Norway’s Mt. Haldde in 1899. Journalist Lucy Jago presents his discoveries in a style that is both exciting and understandable to the non-scientist reader.

For finding more good nature reads, check the National Outdoor Book Awards , which honors the the best in outdoor writing and publishing.

~posted by Paige C.

2 thoughts on “(Reading About) The Great Outdoors”

  1. If you’ve ever admired or been in awe of an old tree you will enjoy reading “The Wild Trees” by Richard Preston. This recent best seller tells the story of the first ascensions (climbs) to the the canopies of the tallest redwoods some 300 feet above the ground. An amazing new ecosystem was discovered there, including plants growing in the soil (yes, dirt) accumulated in crowns of these ancient trees. The people who did this included college students who became scientists and dropouts who didn’t. Their story is fascinating and the wonders they found will take your breath away. Preston has often written for the New Yorker and writes well and dramatically about this adventure, all of which occured within the last 20 years.

  2. I read a book a while back titled “Tree: A Life Story”. I was curious at the time about how our President’s Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 would effect our forests, especially in the Evergreen State, and having grown-up camping at Lake Trask I wanted to know how it would change my surrounds.
    One aspect of the Heathy Forest Act focused on clearing out so-called debris to cut down on the amount of forest fires that occur more and more every year, but as I read the book I was taught that certain trees need heat to open because they are sealed with resin.
    If these cones do not reach up to a high enough temperature they will not germinate.
    I came to the realization that fire is just another part of the natural process of the forests…and yes sometimes our homes burn down and bear swim in our pools, but to become freighted by it and take such an extreme reaction sometimes we need to reassess the issue and see the bigger picture…..awwww, nature.

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