Search This Blog

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Must Reads for Hikers

I have to admit, December is starting to get me down.  Temperatures will be 50 for a day or two before plummeting to the 20s and single digits at night (and that's without a wind chill).  yes yes, it is New England and winter happens this time every year.  But you start to feel like a caged animal when it gets dark at 4:30, the ground is frozen and the weather is just bitterly cold.   So, what do you do when you can't go hiking?  You read about it of course.   I have been reading a ton of books lately, especially audiobooks on my commutes to work and I have been on an outdoorsy adventure biography book kick lately, reading about other people's outdoor adventures.  One of the best ways I get inspired is a good blog, an excellent movie or my very favorite,  a good book.  These are some of the books I highly recommend and the books I want to read.  Make sure you tell me your favorites (or what you thought of these) in the comments.  

A Walk in the Woods  by Bill Bryson 
I am almost finished with this book and I will be so sad when it ends.  This book gets 5 stars for me for a few reasons:  Humor, History, Honesty.  Bill Bryson tells his story of his quest to hike the Appalachian Trail (largely unprepared, and with his even more unprepared and entertaining friend).  The humor in the scenes he describes will make you chuckle and smile as you read along.  I also love that throughout the book, Bryson includes a ton of history on the Appalachian Trail, hiking, the National Parks Services, and the towns he walks through.  An amazing mix of history, honesty, story-telling and humor which will make you want to pack your bag and hit the trail. 

See also "Lost on the Appalachian Trail" in the Hiking With Dogs (below) for another book on the Appalachian Trail 

Wild  by Cheryl Strayed
I don't care if you have seen the movie, go read the book.  As much as I love Reese Witherspoon, the movie leaves out so much of the important details, humor and beautiful dialogue that Cheryl creates.  This is another thru-hike book, but this time, about the Pacific Crest Trail.  Its a lot about hiking, but also about facing challenges, family struggles, and identity.  Cheryl is a master of prose and the way she writes leaves me swooning.

If you like Cheryl Strayed:   I decided to read some of her other books unrelated to hiking and in the spring read Tiny Beautiful Things.  Strayed was the author of the advice column "Dear Sugar" and this book is a compilation of some of the questions she was asked and advice she gave.  This book left my head spinning and swooning as I read her advice to others.  The way she writes is so eloquent that I am quickly becoming a fan of anything she writes. Also on my list from Strayed is Torch and Brave Enough.

The Last Englishman by Keith Foskett
Another book about hiking the PCT and this one is topping the charts. I haven't read this one yet but it is next on my list.  "An Amazon Number One Best-Seller. Shortlisted for Outdoor Book of the Year by The Great Outdoors Magazine. The second book from Keith Foskett". ‘The Last Englishman’ is Keith’s account of his 2,650 mile adventure on Americas Pacific Crest Trail. With only 20% of hikers finishing this trail, “Fozzie” must face his fear of snakes, bears, getting dirty and camping in the woods after dark. Far from his home in West Sussex, Englands and a stranger in a very strange land, The Last Englishman is a funny and entertaining adventure story that includes the highs, the lows, the companionship, the solitude, nature’s grandeur, and the inner journey of hiking a long distance trail. "

I follow Kyle's blog The Mayor Hikes and loved reading about his almost daily recap of his time on the Pacific Crest Trail.  I love that Kyle hikes with his dog, the little "Catfox" Katana. He carries her when she is tired, and even has a little umbrella for her on the hottest of days (is it precious...).  I started following along on the blog after they hiked the Appalachian Trail, so I followed Kyle's journey on the PCT.  However, I was excited to see that Kyle wrote a book about his thru hike on the AT and I can't wait to read more about Katana .    "Join Kyle and his little dog "Katana" as they take you along for every step of their 2,185 mile adventure hiking the entire Appalachian Trail. Confront the terrain, severe weather, injury, dangerous wildlife and questionable characters as you grow and learn just as Kyle did from start to finish on this epic adventure. Make some friends for life, learn the finer points of long distance hiking, and realize that what you take within your backpack is not nearly as important as what you bring within yourself... This exciting and often times humorous narrative does more than simply tell the story of Kyle and Katana's adventures out on the trail. It urges the reader to examine their own life, fears, strengths, weaknesses and dreams, then learn to overcome or realize them. This book tells a story as much as it teaches, inspires and motivates you to get out there and see what the world has to offer. You will learn what it takes mentally and physically to accomplish an undertaking such as hiking thousands of miles through mountainous wilderness and countless obstacles that are all determined to make you quit. As Kyle did, you might even learn some things about yourself..."

Following Atticus: Forty-eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship

Following Atticus by Tom Ryan 
Another book about long hikes with man's best friend.  This book covers Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship.  This book is all about "Tom Ryan’s tale of how he and his miniature schnauzer companion, the “Little Buddha” Atticus M. Finch, attempted to scale all forty-eight of New Hampshire’s four thousand foot White Mountains twice in the dead of winter".  Another feel good story about a man and his pup out on the trail together with a large goal to conquer in the outdoors.

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
When I tell people I like to hike, or that I really enjoyed Cheryl Strayed's Wild, they almost always respond with "Have you read Into Thin Air"? This book is told by a hiker on the trail during the 1996 Mount Everest Disaster. I haven't read this one yet but it is on my list. "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 May 1996 disaster."

A Million Steps by Kurt Koontz
I am always intrigued by some of the amazing (and lesser known) hikes outside of the U.S. This one caught my eye after watching the Martin Sheen movie "The Way", about a man hiking the Camino de Santiago after his son loses his life on the same trail. "Part diary, part travelogue, A Million Steps is Kurt Koontz’s engaging memoir of hiking the historic Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in Spain. With outgoing humor and friendliness, he embraces the beauty of the countryside and joyful connections to other pilgrims from around the world, while navigating through his personal history of addiction, recovery, and love."


  1. Over the past few weeks, I've watched most to all of Jessica Mills' youtube videos documenting her AT thru-hike in 2015. A friend of hers edited the raw video she sent from stops along the trail, but Jessica did an extremely good job creating it. She wrote an ebook as well ("Take a Thru-Hike") about her experience. I found the videos entertaining and informative. Well worth watching, if you haven't already seen them.

    1. I have not heard of her, but I am looking forward to checking out her youTube channel and the e-book. Thanks for sharing!


Let's Chat!