It’s camping season. The lakes beckon, the rope swings are practically screaming your name, and your tent poles are politely gathered in a trusty rucksack just waiting to be assembled in bleary-eyed haste after everyone has had a chance to pee on the campfire. But you’ll have time to kill between morning swims and toasted s’mores, so let’s find you something to read.
Walden – Although Thoreau admits his cabin was a couple miles from town and not a brutal three-week hike in, as your college roommate used to assume, this pleasant tome on the beauty and importance of nature and self-reliance has spurred many a failed back-to-the-land commune.
A Walk in the Woods – After moving back to his native US, travel writer Bill Bryson became fascinated by the segment of Appalachian Trail running through his hometown. He recruits an out-of-shape pal to tag along on his quest to tackle the entire 2200-mile trail, recounting his hilarious undertaking while also waxing rhapsodic on the AT’s history and the general disappearance of wilderness and greenways.
Wild – Let’s take the previous book and flip it to the West Coast: Cheryl Strayed’s mega-bestselling memoir details the author’s 1100-mile hike down the Pacific Crest Trail after a series of personal traumas, much to the delight of Oprah and everyone’s respective aunts. But don’t be reductive! Oprah and everyone’s respective aunts were spot-on when it came to Jonathan Franzen. Respect is due.
The Monkey Wrench Gang – Sure, all the meat eating and casual littering from the “heroes” of this 1975 novel might steer your Earth Liberation Front friends away, but Edward Abbey’s novel of a group of disparate misfits hellbent on stopping the logging industry from paving over the American West’s forested majesty basically remains the founding text for the direct action eco-defense movement. Bring-your-own-caltrops.
Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark – Alvin Schwartz’s collection of urban legends and scary folk tales probably won’t affect you the way it did in elementary school, but holy crap have you checked out Stephen Gammell’s illustrations in the last ten years? They’re terrifying, the perfect accompaniment to this classic children’s series. If the Vinder Viper has stuck with you, I think that means this deserves a reread. When I have children, I’m going to make them read these books by flashlight when they misbehave on camping trips.
by Andrew Wetzel