Staff Book Recommendations: The Ultimate Reading List on Nature, Wildlife & Wanderlust

Natural Habitat Adventures March 30, 2020 0

“That’s the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.” This observation from American novelist Jhumpa Lahiri could not be more apropos as passionate travelers like us remain housebound for an extended time. But think of it as a gift—like a long stretch of snow days from school. Why not take advantage of this unscripted time to delve into reading, to travel in your imagination while learning more about nature, conservation, wildlife and ourselves in the process? We’ve tapped our staff for recommendations, and we’re delighted to share this list of 30 titles—nonfiction and fiction both—to engage your mind and inspire your spirit.

Nature Books

The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative, by Florence Williams

Recommended by: David Jacobson, Adventure Accountant

For centuries, poets and philosophers extolled the benefits of a walk in the woods: Beethoven drew inspiration from rocks and trees; Wordsworth composed while tromping over the heath; Nikola Tesla conceived the electric motor while visiting a park. Intrigued by our storied renewal in the natural world, Florence Williams sets out to uncover the science behind nature’s…

Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness, by Edward Abbey

Recommended by: Kate Willingham, Adventure Director

First published in 1968, Desert Solitaire is one of Edward Abbey’s most critically acclaimed works and marks his first foray into the world of nonfiction writing. Written while Abbey was working as a ranger at Arches National Park outside of Moab, Utah, Desert Solitaire is a rare view of one man’s quest to experience nature in its purest form.

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, by Bill Bryson

Recommended by: Davis English, Voyage Manager & Adventure Concierge

The Appalachian Trail trail stretches from Georgia to Maine and covers some of the most breathtaking terrain in America – majestic mountains, silent forests, sparking lakes. If you’re going to take a hike, it’s probably the place to go. And Bill Bryson is surely the most entertaining guide you’ll find. He introduces us to the history and ecology of the trail and to some of the other hardy (or just foolhardy) folks he meets along…

Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver

Recommended by: Sandy Shannon, Director of Adventure Operations

Throughout her celebrated career, Mary Oliver has touched countless readers with her brilliantly crafted verse, expounding on her love for the physical world and the powerful bonds between all living things. Identified as “far and away, this country’s best selling poet” by Dwight Garner, she now returns with a stunning and definitive collection of her writing from the last fifty years.

The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature, by David George Haskell

Recommended by: David Jacobson, Adventure Accountant

In this wholly original book, biologist David Haskell uses a one- square-meter patch of old-growth Tennessee forest as a window onto the entire natural world. Visiting it almost daily for one year to trace nature’s path through the seasons, he brings the forest and its inhabitants to vivid life.

Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, by Richard Louv

Recommended by: Mark Jordahl, Adventure Communications Director

As children’s connections to nature diminish and the social, psychological, and spiritual implications become apparent, new research shows that nature can offer powerful therapy for such maladies as depression, obesity, and attention deficit disorder. Environment-based education dramatically improves standardized test scores and grade-point averages and develops skills in problem solving, critical thinking, and…

News of the Universe: Poems of Twofold Consciousness, by Robert Bly

Recommended by: Mark Jordahl, Adventure Communications Director

The renowned American poet and translator collects 150 poems—from across the globe and many eras—that demonstrate our changing relationship with nature. In News of the Universe, Robert Bly has assembled a uniquely cross-cultural anthology of poems that, taken together, illuminate his vision of human history over the past several centuries. The book’s 150 poems span the globe from the 1700s to the present…


Tom Brown’s Field Guide to Nature Observation and Trackingby Tom Brown

Recommended by: Paul Conzemius, Operations Coordinator

Utilizing the ancient lore of Native Americans, Tom Brown passes on a timeless tradition that connects humankind to Earth. This unique volume teaches us the basics of sight, smell, and taste; it shows us how to become one with nature, and how to receive all the signs and signals of the multitude of living creatures with whom we share the beauty and bounty of the wilderness.

American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West, by Nate Blakeslee

Recommended by: Mark Jordahl, Adventure Communications Director

Before men ruled the earth, there were wolves. Once abundant in North America, these majestic creatures were hunted to near extinction in the lower 48 states by the 1920s. But in recent decades, conservationists have brought wolves back to the Rockies, igniting a battle over the very soul of the West. With novelistic detail, Nate Blakeslee tells the gripping story of one of these wolves, O-Six, a charismatic alpha female…

Animal Architecture, by Ingo Arndt

Recommended by: Davis English, Voyage Manager & Adventure Concierge

Every day, all over the world, animals and insects set about the purposeful tasks of designing their homes, catching their prey, and attracting their mates. In the process they create gorgeous nests, shelters, and habitats. Capturing 120 of these wonders in all their beauty and complexity, Animal Architecture presents a visually arresting tribute to the intersection of nature, science, function, and design. Ingo Arndt’s stunning studio photographs and vibrant in-situ shots of nests, forests…

Cry of the Kalahari, by Mark and Delia Owens

Recommended by: Sandy Shannon, Director of Adventure Operations

Carrying little more than a change of clothes and a pair of binoculars, two young Americans, Mark and Delia Owens, caught a plane to Africa, bought a third-hand Land Rover, and drove deep into the Kalahari Desert. There they lived for seven years, in an unexplored area with no roads, no people, and no source of water for thousands of square miles. In this vast wilderness the Owenses began their zoology research, working along animals that had never before been exposed to humans.

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert

Recommended by: Janet Wood, Adventure & Voyage Concierge

Over the last half-billion years, there have been Five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us. In prose that is at once frank, entertaining, and deeply…

In the Kingdom of Gorillas: The Quest to Save Rwanda’s Mountain Gorillas, by Amy Veder and Bill Weber

Recommended by: Mark Jordahl, Adventure Communications Director

In the Kingdom of Gorillas introduces readers to entire families of gorillas, from powerful silverback patriarchs to helpless newborn infants. Weber and Vedder take us with them as they slog through the rain-soaked mountain forests, observing the gorillas at rest and at play. Today the population of mountain gorillas is the highest it has been since the 1960s, and there is new hope for the species’ fragile future even as the people of Rwanda…


Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn

Recommended by: Corrin LaCombe, Adventure Specialist

In Ishmael, which received the Turner Tomorrow Fellowship for the best work of fiction offering positive solutions to global problems, Daniel Quinn parses humanity’s origins and its relationship with nature, in search of an answer to this challenging question: How can we save the world from ourselves? One of the most beloved and bestselling novels of spiritual adventure ever published, Ishmael has earned…

Jaguar: Struggle and Triumph in the Jungles of Belize, by Alan Rabinowitz

Recommended by Court Whelan, Director of Sustainability & Conservation Travel

An amazing account of a biologist in the 1980s setting up the world’s first jaguar preserve in Belize—Cockscomb Basin.  After completing graduate school, Rabinowitz moved to Belize, a small country on the Caribbean coast of Central America, to study jaguars, the least known of the large cats. The tale spun by Rabinowitz…

A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold

Recommended by: Paul Conzemius, Operations Coordinator

Few books have had a greater impact than A Sand County Almanac, which many credit with launching a revolution in land management. Written as a series of sketches based principally upon the flora and fauna in a rural part of Wisconsin, the book, originally published by Oxford in 1949, gathers informal pieces written by Leopold over a forty-year period as he traveled through the woodlands of Wisconsin, Iowa, Arizona, Sonora, Oregon, Manitoba, and…

Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating, by Jane Goodall

Recommended by: Corrin LaCombe, Adventure Specialist

Renowned scientist and best-selling author Jane Goodall delivers an eye-opening and empowering book that explores the social and personal significance of what we eat. In Harvest for Hope, Jane Goodall presents an empowering and far-reaching vision for social and environmental transformation through the way we produce and consume the foods we eat. For anyone who has ever wanted to know how they can take a…

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants, by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Recommended by: David Jacobson, Adventure Accountant

As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer has been trained to ask questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers. In Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer brings these two lenses of knowledge together to take us on “a journey that is every bit as mythic as it is scientific, as…

The Practice of the Wild, by Gary Snyder

Recommended by Mark Jordahl, Adventure Communications Director

A collection of essays that consider nature, wilderness, and man’s place in the natural world. Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gary Snyder is the author of many volumes of poetry and essays, including Left Out in the Rain, Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems, Mountains and Rivers without End, and The Practice of the Wild. He teaches literature and wilderness thought at the University of California at Davis and lives with his family on the San Juan Ridge in the Sierra foothills.

The Overstory, by Richard Powers

Recommended by: Janet Wood, Adventure & Voyage Concierge

The Overstory, winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, is a sweeping, impassioned work of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of—and paean to—the natural world. From the roots to the crown and back to the seeds, Richard Powers’s twelfth novel unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond. There is a world alongside ours—vast…

Wanderlust & Exploration Books

Wandering, by Hermann Hesse

Recommended by: Mark Jordahl, Adventure Communications Director

On May 2, 1919, Hesse wrote to Romain Rolland: “I have had to bear a very heavy burden in my personal life in recent years. Now I am about to go to Ticino once again, to live for a while as a hermit in nature and in my work.” In 1920, after settling in the Ticino mountain village of Montagnola, he published Wandering, a love letter to this magic-garden world that can be read as a meditation on his attempt to begin a new life. His pure prose, his heartfelt lyricism, and his love for the old earth…

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, by Alfred Lansing

Recommended by: Kate Willingham, Adventure Director

In August 1914, polar explorer Ernest Shackleton boarded the Endurance and set sail for Antarctica, where he planned to cross the last uncharted continent on foot. In January 1915, after battling its way through a thousand miles of pack ice and only a day’s sail short of its destination, the Endurance became locked in an island of ice. Thus began the legendary ordeal of Shackleton and his crew of twenty-seven men. When their…

Beyond the Last Village: A Journey Of Discovery In Asia’s Forbidden Wildernessby Alan Rabinowitz

Recommended by Court Whelan, Director of Sustainability & Conservation Travel

In 1993, Alan Rabinowitz, called “the Indiana Jones” of wildlife science by The New York Times, arrived for the first time in the country of Myanmar, known until 1989 as Burma, uncertain of what to expect. Working under the auspices of the Wildlife Conservation Society, his goal was to establish a wildlife research and conservation program and to survey the country’s wildlife. He succeeded…

The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey, by Candice Millard

Recommended by: Kate Willingham, Adventure Director

After his humiliating election defeat in 1912, Roosevelt set his sights on the most punishing physical challenge he could find, the first descent of an unmapped, rapids-choked tributary of the Amazon. Together with his son Kermit and Brazil’s most famous explorer, Cândido Mariano da Silva Rondon, Roosevelt accomplished a feat so great that many at the time refused to believe it. In the process, he changed the map of the western…

Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood, by Alexandra Fuller

Recommended by: Sandy Shannon, Director of Adventure Operations

From 1972 to 1990, Alexandra Fuller—known to friends and family as Bobo—grew up on several farms in southern and central Africa. Her father joined up on the side of the white government in the Rhodesian civil war, and was often away fighting against the powerful black guerrilla factions. Her mother, in turn, flung herself at their African life and its rugged farm work with the same passion and maniacal energy she…

The Dharma Bums, by Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac’s classic novel about friendship, the search for meaning, and the allure of nature. First published in 1958, a year after On the Road put the Beat Generation on the map, The Dharma Bums stands as one of Jack Kerouac’s most powerful and influential novels. The story focuses on two ebullient young Americans–mountaineer, poet, and Zen Buddhist Japhy Ryder, and Ray Smith, a zestful, innocent writer–whose quest for Truth leads them on a heroic odyssey, from marathon parties and poetry jam sessions in San Francisco’s Bohemia to solitude and mountain climbing in the High Sierras.

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster, by Jon Krakauer

Recommended by: Kate Willingham, Adventure Director

A bank of clouds was assembling on the not-so-distant horizon, but journalist-mountaineer Jon Krakauer, standing on the summit of Mt. Everest, saw nothing that “suggested that a murderous storm was bearing down.” He was wrong. The storm, which claimed five lives and left countless more–including Krakauer’s–in guilt-ridden disarray, would also provide the impetus for Into Thin Air, Krakauer’s epic account of the 1996…

Undaunted Courage, by Stephen E. Ambrose

Recommended by: Paul Conzemius, Operations Coordinator

From the New York Times bestselling author of Band of Brothers and D-Day, the definitive book on Lewis and Clark’s exploration of the Louisiana Purchase, the most momentous expedition in American history and one of the great adventure stories of all time. High adventure, high politics, suspense, drama, and diplomacy combine with high romance and personal tragedy to make this outstanding work of scholarship as readable as a novel.

SAS Survival Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Anywhere, by John Wiseman

Recommended by: David Jacobson, Adventure Accountant

Revised to reflect the latest in survival knowledge and technology, and covering new topics such as urban survival and terrorism, the multimillion-copy worldwide bestseller SAS Survival Handbook by John “Lofty” Wiseman is the definitive resource for all campers, hikers, and outdoor adventurers. From basic campcraft and navigation to fear management and strategies for coping with any type of disaster.

The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho

Recommended by: Emily Deemer, Director of Digital Marketing

Combining magic, mysticism, wisdom and wonder into an inspiring tale of self-discovery, The Alchemist has become a modern classic, selling millions of copies around the world and transforming the lives of countless readers across generations. Paulo Coelho’s masterpiece tells the mystical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure. His quest will lead him to riches far different—and far more satisfying—than he…

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