Book recs [books & nature]
Updated: Mar 30, 2020
My husband and I decided to do an impromptu day date and rented kayaks on the Kinnickinnic River in River Falls, Wisconsin. I have been canoeing before, but it has been years and I have never tried kayaking. My nerves set in as we drove up to a dirt road with a small trail to the river, with the sounds of rapids and water flow below us. We piled into a ten passenger van from the 1970s that I questioned would even start, and headed to the drop off point down the highway. We were given a few instructions about how to sit, hold the paddle, and something called "positive looking" to avoid fallen trees and tipping over. The guide described "positive looking" as looking where you want to go, not where you don't want to go. When you hit a point in the river where there is a fallen tree, human instinct is to look at the hazard, because we do not want to hit it. But when you do that, you almost always hit it and then tip over like a chump. We were instructed to ignore the danger and look where we want to go, hence "positive looking." Simple, right? If only!
Alright guys, I'm going to get all philosophical with you, but I swear, kayaking had so many great metaphors for life. As I navigated myself down the river and tried to avoid obstacles, while also enjoying my surroundings, I thought of how we all face hardships throughout our lives and this theory of "positive looking" could actually be something we could use. Think about it, if you have hit a rough patch and you are dwelling on it, nothing gets better. It is when you start to think positively about how you can get yourself out of it that you start to make some progress. Same thing with kayaking. You see the downed tree in the middle of the river, you focus on it, you are going to hit it and you better be ready to get soaked with 50 degree water! But if you focus on that sliver of calm water to the far right and focus on getting through it, you will, and you'll be dry and comfortable.
Rapids were something that I was also nervous about. The first few rapids we hit, I paddled like hell to get through them. Whenever I did that, my kayak zig zagged all over the place and I usually ended up spinning around backwards and having to right myself. After awhile, I realized if I just relaxed and let the rapids carry me, all was great. Can't the same be said about life? When life gets a little rocky, it is natural to want to fight against it, but maybe going with the flow is the way to go. Stop resisting and start practicing acceptance. I was surprised how a much a two hour kayak voyage had me thinking about life. The combination of the solitude in nature and the feeling of balancing on top of the water really got me self reflecting. This is why nature is so incredible!
While I was trying to avoid hitting sunken logs and flipping my kayak, I thought about some books that I have enjoyed, or hope to enjoy, that have a strong element of nature. In each of these books, nature has such a strong presence, I consider it it's own character.
Here is a recommendation list I curated of books that have nature front and center in their storyline. It is a mix of fiction and non-fiction, with something for the nature lover in all of us. Reach out to me if you want more information or more specific recommendations. I love giving book recommendations and love even more when you enjoy the books I recommend.
The River by Peter Heller
My rating: 4/5
"A gripping story of wilderness survival when two college friends embark on a wilderness canoe trip and encounter a wildfire."
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
My rating: 5/5
"The life story of Kya a.k.a. "Marsh Girl," who was abandoned by her family at the age of ten in her North Carolina marsh home. Left to fend for herself and survive, until she becomes entangled in a murder investigation."
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
My rating: 5/5
"The true story of Jon Krakauer's experience in the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, where eight people were killed and several stranded on the mountain during a storm."
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
My rating: 4.5/5
"The true story of Christopher McCandless who abandons his possessions, gives his entire life savings to charity, and hitchhikes to Alaska to live in the wilderness."
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
My rating: 5/5
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
"A man's journey with one of his oldest friend's along the Appalachian Trail."
Have you read any of these? What else should I add to my list? I found it challenging to find fiction books with a strong nature presence, so I am open to recommendations. Please comment below!