What is a great love of books?

It was a ritual my younger brother and I performed every couple of weeks during summers in the early 90’s. Having just completed a two week session of summer school, we’d sprint across the freshly cut grass lawn and pile into our sitter’s two-door white Acura Integra waiting in the parking lot. Naturally, we’d be arguing over the official rules for calling shotgun – at that age it was a pretty big deal since whoever had physically managed to gain control of the front passenger seat had the privilege of assisting with the shifting of gears for the manual transmission. Yes, we had the coolest sitter in town.

The discussion would then transition to the selection of music that would make its way into the cassette tape deck (yes, writing that sentence made me feel old).  Often, it came down to Sublime, Blues Traveler, Neil Diamond, or Alanis Morissette. We only listened to the best! We’d then cruise over to the local city library, the car speakers blasting, windows down, and the warm summer air blowing in our faces. Once at the library, we’d scurry around like chickens for half an hour, curiously scanning the shelves in search of the next best read which would consume us in the weeks to follow.




There was something enthralling about picking out books at the library as a kid. It wasn’t just the dusty smell, the fragile pages, or the library card glued to the inside cover informing you of past readers who had borrowed the very same book just days prior. Being in the presence of so many books made me feel important and grown-up. I had access to personal stories, wisdom and secrets of influential and significant people. There’s a great quote by scholar John Bright. He asks:

“What is a great love of books? It is something like a personal introduction to the great and good men of all past times. Books, it is true, are silent as you see them on their shelves; but silent as they are, when you walk into a library it’s as if the dead are present, and if you put questions to the books they will answer with all the faithfulness and fullness which has been left in them by the great men and women who have left the books with us.”

After checking out more books than my bro and I could carry, we’d spend the rest of the afternoon building forts, playing on tire swings and riding our bikes, before crashing on the front lawn with ice cold lemonade and getting lost in the worlds created by authors like Roald Dahl, Katherine Paterson and E.B White. It was those early years of reading young adult fiction that sparked my interest in adventure stories and travel memoirs. I became fascinated by the stories of people exploring the world and discovering alternative ways of living and being in far away places. Books created a lens through which I could experience life across the globe and become a part of something larger than myself.

As we head into summer and begin selecting our own adventure and travel reads to dive into here at OutsidePR, we thought we’d follow-up with some of our gear-testing, outdoor-loving, adventure-obsessed editor friends across the nation to find out some of their go-to reads. These are the stories and travels which have inspired them and which keep them coming back for more. Here are 7 great reads to add to your summer reading list, along with the reasons they resonate with the outdoor experts who’ve shared them. Enjoy! – SN


Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness

by Edward Abbey


Desert Solitaire

“The first time I read this was my first summer in Utah, back when I volunteered for The Nature Conservancy in 2005. The prose was so evocative that I couldn’t help but go out into Canyonlands NP, find a rock to sit upon in solitude, and read the book aloud. Now, I live in Abbey country. I run across the landscapes he wrote about with Boy, the dog of Abbey’s best friend. Many of my runs start on a dirt road–Desert Solitaire Road. When I find the time, I still pull Desert Solitaire off the shelf, walk out into the pinyon and juniper country, and read the book aloud from above the house where Abbey wrote his final book. He, his book, and his country continue to inspire me.”

Bryon Powell, iRunFar.com


The Natural Navigator:

The Rediscovered Art of Letting Nature Be Your Guide

by Tristan Gooley


natural navigator

“The Natural Navigator inspired me to be independent in the outdoors, from guiding guests on horseback at 10,000 feet in the Rockies to mountain biking alone in the San Juan Mountains. It reads more like a story than a how-to, which keeps me coming back time and time again.”

Whitney JamesOutside Magazine


The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession In The Amazon

by David Grann


 I probably read this book twice a year. It’s non-fiction that reads better than most novels. Grann tracks the explorer Percy Fawcett’s journeys into the Amazon in search of a mythical city of gold and his subsequent disappearance. It’s like a trip to the Amazon, minus the parasites and malaria.”

– Billy Brown, Trek Tech


Born To Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes,

and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

by Christopher McDougall


Born To Run

“It was the first book I read about running that really resonated. I really got into the personalities of each runner that Christopher profiles, and it pitted the “traditional” views on the sport against naturally occurring facts among the Tarahumara Indians – proof that science only goes so far.”

– Caitlyn Pilkington, Competitor and Women’s Running


Slowly Down The Ganges

By Eric Newby




“One of my absolute favorite classics, it describes everything that a great outdoor adventure should be – nothing goes according to plan, there are no maps, engaging with locals then not seeing a single soul for miles, sleeping under the stars, gradually learning the ebb of flow of the local landscape. Outdoor adventures can be full of frustration but also packed with tons of reward for those that push through and make the best of every situation.”

– Amy Jurries, TheGearCaster



An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel

by Rolf Potts



“It’s a wonderfully inspiring book about traveling the world longer than we’re “allowed to.” Two weeks a year is hardly enough time to properly explore faraway lands. Potts motivates readers to take control of their own life by taking an extended time out from everyday life.” 

Beth PulitiGuide to Mountain Biking


A Walk in the Woods:

Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

by Bill Bryson


Walk In The Woods

“This guy is the man. His nappy voice, and rich character building make his journey hiking the Appalachian Trail with his old Euro-trip buddy (Katz) a true gem. The best part? The scene where Katz, a fat, 40-somethings old man, realizes how challenging the trail is, and starts chucking bricks of cheese and twinkies over a ridge in Georgia to lighten his pack. This is a laugh out loud read.” 

Patty HodappYoga Journal

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