Words have the power to both transport us and inspire us. Readers sometimes get a bad rap for using books as an escape without ever seeking out adventures of their own.
This has never been the case for me. I love reading because it is amongst the pages of wonderful books that I have found some of my most crazy and exciting ideas. Here are some of my favorites.
For Kids (Of All Ages)
When you are a kid, everything seems possible and plausible. I loved reading (and still do) realistic fiction adventure books. They made me think I too could survive out in the wilderness and encouraged me to flex my imagination and play at honing my survival skills.
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
This one is a classic and one of my all-time favorites. It is about a boy, Brian Robeson, who survives a plane crash that lands him stranded and alone in the Canadian wilderness to live off his wits alone. The name of the book comes from Brian’s lone tool, a hatchet that his mom gave him before his departure.
My first recurve bow purchase was based off this book and other Brain books by the same author. Even while preparing to head off to college, I had dreams of disappearing into the wild with limited gear for an extended adventure.
My Side of the Mountain Trilogy by Jean Craighead George
In this delicious trilogy, a young boy runs away from the city to live in the Catskill Mountains. He lives in a hollowed-out tree with a Peregrine falcon he captures as a eyas and trains to hunt for him.
If you have ever dreamed of escaping to the forest, this book will make it seem possible, especially if you are 12 years old living in rural Alabama.
A Kid in Kearlith by Matthew Sanford
I love reading and offering up books that are maybe not as well known. A Kid in Kearlith is a Young Adult book by an author local to my area, Birmingham, Alabama. This delightful novel is set in Kearlith, a magical city hidden in the Smoky Mountains. The protagonist, Simon, spends much of his time racing through Feerthel Forest hunting for a magical blue leaf called Mizik despite the dangers presented by many intriguing and menacing creatures. While trying to settle into his new home as one of only two humans among many intellectual though animalistic creatures, he soon discovers that secrets abound in this magical kingdom, and they’re not all the good kind.
This enchanting story always makes me want to go traipsing through the woods to find magic of my own. Nature never seems to disappoint.
For Thru-Hikers (and Dreamers)
Thru-hiking is one way many individuals have found to escape modern society and live in the woods for an extended period of time. It is definitely not for the weak-willed.
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson
This is a hilarious tale of two middle aged men hitting the Appalachian Trail. It will have you crying from laughter at the many realities of undertaking such an endeavor. Bill Bryson ‘s book is popular for a reason. It is so relatable and makes you want to strap on a pack and see if you can face the challenges backpacking offers if even for just a weekend.
Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail by Ben Montgomery
Emma Gatewood was the first woman to hike the Appalachian Trail alone and in its entirety … at the age of 65 … in Keds … carrying a hand sewn, drawstring sack. Many adventures have been inspired by this amazing woman. I know her story inspires me, and I hope it will you, too.
It reminds me that I don’t have to have all the newest fancy gear to get outdoors. I can throw on a pair of kicks, grab a water bottle, and get outside.
For the Unconventional Adventurers (and Everyone in Between)
Some people are just good at living their lives by their own terms. These last two books are about people that took life by the horns despite what society told them was the right way to behave.
The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert
Elizabeth Gilbert has a special talent at profiling individuals. The picture she paints of Eustace Conway is phenomenal, but so is her subject. He is the modern-day Davy Crocket. He is a man you could literally drop in the middle of the wilderness, hundreds of miles from civilization and he would be fine. He would be more than fine. He would actually be more likely to survive that situation than being dropped in the middle of a bustling city.
Eustace Conway and Gilbert’s description of him will have you ready to shrug off the constraints of modern society and live off the land. Eustace believes you can.
Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback by Robyn Davidson
The ‘70s seem a time ripe with tales of women adventurers and Robyn Davidson was one of the best. She trekked 1700 miles across the Australian Outback with her dog and four camels as her only companions. She approached this great adventure with a brave heart and the ready answer of, “Why not?” when question by many skeptics. Like most truly epic tales, Davidson experienced true splendor and devastating hardships alike. She ended the journey a different person than when she began. Such are such are the results of great quests.
Many of us see only a fraction of the vast landscapes we occupy. This book will inspire you to throw caution to the wind and go out exploring. Get to know the wilderness near and far.
Now, go get lost in some pages, or, better yet, bring a book along on your own adventure. Be inspired and in turn inspire.
“Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.” – Mary Oliver
Narrator: This blog was thoughtfully written by Amy Gravlee. You can find her on Instagram @amygrvl.