We all know that rest is an integral part of exercise and training. There’s nothing quite like curling up with an inspiring read while you’re embracing hygge (a Danish concept of coziness and comfort) season!
As an author of several hiking memoirs, I also read a lot in that genre and related ones. As with any “Best of” list, the contents are completely arbitrary. However, I would like to share my personal favorite books on hiking that have stood out over my years of reading. So, if Santa didn’t bring you enough books and/or you’re looking to stock your winter reading bookshelf, I recommend you start here!
The Living Mountain: A Celebration of the Cairngorm Mountains of Scotland by Nan Shepherd (Canongate Canons, 2011)
“Nan Shepherd describes her journeys into the Cairngorm mountains of Scotland. There she encounters a world that can be breathtakingly beautiful at times and shockingly harsh at others. Her intense, poetic prose explores and records the rocks, rivers, creatures and hidden aspects of this remarkable landscape.” –from the description
I read this book right before I spent 10 weeks hiking around Scotland and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t read her works before! Shepherd’s immersive language paints nature in exquisite detail, even if you’ve never been to the Cairngorm range. I read it again once I got home and wished I’d had it with me while I was trekking there.
How to Be Alone by Nicole Antoinette (Nicole Antoinette, 2023)
“How To Be Alone: an 800-mile hike on the Arizona Trail is a cathartic adventure memoir that explores the privilege to be able to choose your own suffering, as well as the process of becoming a better friend to yourself along the way.” –from the description
This book delves into the “why” of hiking in a beautiful way. Antoinette explores issues of self-trust, motivation, and tenacity while grappling with the bigger question of why it can feel so intimidating to be alone with our selves. She does this all with the austere and challenging backdrop of the Arizona Trail.
Alone in Wonderland by Christine Reed (Rugged Outdoors Woman, LLC, 2021)
“Christine discovered long distance backpacking while surfing the internet at work. She decided that day to attempt to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. One adventure led to another and a few years later she set out on the Wonderland Trail in Mt Rainier National Park.” –from the description
Like How to Be Alone, this book delves into journeys of the heart. Reed explores her relationship to her mother, to partners and to herself through her first forays into the world of hiking and backpacking. Her growth as an outdoorswoman is mirrored in her growth of self along the way.
On Trails: An Exploration by Robert Moor (Simon & Schuster, 2017)
“From a brilliant new literary voice comes a groundbreaking exploration of how trails help us understand the world, from tiny ant trails to hiking paths that span continents, from interstate highways to the Internet.” –from the description
This work is a thought-provoking study of trails themselves, but not just their structure. It also talks about their evolution and how there are interwoven with the human experience. He takes these paths beyond dirt to encompass the other “trails” we take in life from roads to the internet to our own interconnected relationships. It is a deep dive into connectedness, beginning with the dirt threads that started it all.
The Unlikely Thru-Hiker by Derick Lugo (Appalachian Mountain Club Books, 2019)
“The Unlikely Thru-Hiker is the story of how a young Black man from the city, unfamiliar with both the outdoors and thru-hiking culture, sets off with an extremely overweight pack and a willfully can-do attitude to conquer the infamous trail.” –from the description
If you are looking to laugh while cheering a NYC dweller along on his first thru-hike, look no further. Lugo shares his story of tackling the Appalachian Trail with an admitted lack of knowledge of what backpacking is about with humor and poignancy. It’s lighthearted, but also moving and you’ll cheer him every step of the way.