There’s nothing better than kicking back, with your tent set up, campfire going and the stars up above you. Sometimes, though, it’s not always possible to get outside and live the good life. Reading, for me, is a form of escapism, and when life gets tough or stressful, all I want to do is pick up a book and escape to a new world, especially when it’s one of the best nature books.
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This book list of Best outdoors books includes memoirs and biographies of people who have gone outside and done incredible things, fiction books about the outdoor adventurers, how-to books for surviving in the wild, and guidebooks for hiking and camping in North America. These are some of the best nature books.
The best nature books: non-fiction biographies
Have you always wanted to hike the Pacific Crest Trail or explore the wildest places? Well, these people have done it. These best outdoors books are about journeys, usually an excellent hiking journey or a trip to a particular place. These people have done incredible things and are sharing their experiences with us. Here’s a list of best nature books that are memoirs.
Lands of Lost Borders by Kate Harris
Kate Harris always wanted to go to Mars; she even got so far as taking part in a Mars camp before realizing what she craved what exploration. She found that by cycling across Asia on the Silk Road. This book is an incredible mixture of travel narrative, deep reflection and history lesson, perfect for anyone wanting an excuse to start an adventure.
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
Many of us know the story of Christopher McCandless, who set off into the wilds of Alaska and lived for 119 in an abandoned bus before succumbing to nature. This book is about his journey, compiled from diaries and research by Jon Krakauer. Was he irresponsible or inspiring? You decide after reading this book.
If you are inspired to visit the bus after reading this book, think again. The Alaskan Army National Guard removed the bus in the summer of 2020 as it was a public safety issue due to the number of people needing rescuing.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
I couldn’t mention the best nature books without mentioning Wild. Wanting to heal from a life that was thrown into chaos, Cheryl Strayed hit the Pacific Crest Trail, a five-month journey from the Mexican to the Canadian border. Against all odds, it seems, she succeeds, and this is her story.
From Source to Sea by Tom Chesshyre
UK Travel writer Tom Chesshyre has written numerous times about trains, but it’s the pull from the Thames River that inspired this book. Walking 200 miles from the source of the Thames to the sea, commenting on the communities on its banks, it’s vibrant history, and, of course, the people who call this place home.
Beyond the Trees: A Journey Alone Across Canada’s Arctic by Adam Shoalts
Adventurer Adam Shoalts sets off on a 4,000km journey through Canada’s most wild and remote place: the Arctic. He sets off in spring and has to make to his destination before winter sets in, all alone. Follow his tumultuous journey in the great white north.
Northland: A 4,000-Mile Journey Along America’s Forgotten Border by Porter Fox
Did you know that the longest undefended border in the world lies between the US and Canada? Stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean, 4,000 miles of borderland touches seven provinces and 11 states. Adventurer Porter Fox explores this border region in his book Northland, diving into the history and culture of this imaginary line.
On Trails: An Exploration by Robert Moor
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
Love him or hate him, there’s no doubt that Henry David Thoreau has influence outdoors culture since writing the book in the late 1800s. “All good things are wild, and free,” and “In wildness is the preservation of the world,” are some of his quotes that make reading this book in the 21st century all that much more enjoyable.
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson
Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube by Blair Braverman
What’s it like to live in the arctic? Well, Blair Braverman, a sled-dog driver, glacier tour guide and all-around “tough girl,” spills the beans of her funny but terrifying life in Norway and Alaska. Getting through this book might just make you exhausted!
Ranger Confidential by Andrea Lankford
Have you ever wanted to be a park ranger? Get the behind-the-scenes look at the life of a park ranger in some of the coolest US national parks like Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Yosemite and more. From having to protect people from the dangers of the park and protecting the park from the risks of people, this book tells all.
Called Again: Love and Triumph on the Appalachian Trail by Jennifer Pharr Davis
Normally the Appalachian trail can take months, but Jennifer Davis completed the trail in just 46 days. While she holds the record for the first female to set that mark, this book is more about her reflections of endurance and love that she found on the trail.
She Explores: Stories of Life-Changing Adventures on the Road and in the Wild by Gale Straub
This collection of stories from adventure-loving women is the most inspiring book on this list. From advice to inspirational stories and incredible photos, this book has it all, wrapped in a bit a girl power. It’s recommended reading for any adventurous woman!
The Adventure Gap: Changing the Face of the Outdoors by James Mills
Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors by Carolyn Finney
Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback by Robyn Davidson
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Girl in the Woods by Aspen Matis
Leave Only Footprints: My Acadia-to-Zion Journey Through Every National Park by Conor Knighton
The best outdoors books: fiction
Spooky stories, raging wilderness and harrowing stories. That’s what I love about reading fiction books about the great outdoors. This list of best nature books will get you started. Don’t worry; Lord of the Flies is not on this list. That book is terrible, and no one should read it. These best outdoors books are ones you should definitely read while on your own adventure.
The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore by Kim Fu
The Wildfire Season by Andrew Pyper
This book is about a wildfire fighter who escapes to an end-of-the-road town in the Yukon after a tragic accident leaves him scarred. His former partner and child show up looking for him and turn his life upside down. I read this over a decade ago and again a couple of years ago. It’s an incredible and suspenseful story.
The Mountain Story by Lori Lansens
The Bear by Claire Cameron
Taking place in the wilderness of Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park, a five-year-old girl and her younger brother find themselves without their parents in the shadow of a bear. This short but heart-wrenching story is a must-read, but maybe not while you’re camping.
Greenwood by Michael Christie
Following the history of the Greenwood family from future to past, this fictional book talks about the last remaining forest in BC through the environmental protests of the 70s back to the maple syrup farm in the 30s. It’s a book about family, history and, of course, the environment.
The best how-to outdoors books
Alright, fiction and memoirs are great, but no list of best nature books is complete with a few how-to books to help you learn everything you can before heading out in the wild. Whether you want to learn to read nature’s signs, become a better hiker or camper, or are looking for a better place to hike, this list of best outdoors books is for you.
The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide by National Geographic
A Woman’s Guide to the Wild: Your Complete Outdoor Handbook by Ruby McConnell
The Natural Navigator by Tristan Gooley
The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs by Tristan Gooley
A History of Canada in Ten Maps: Epic Stories of Charting a Mysterious Land by Adam Shoalts
The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative by Florence Williams
The Great Outdoors: A User’s Guide: Everything you Need to Know Before Heading into the Wild by Brendan Leonard
The best nature guidebooks
Some of the best nature books are actually guidebooks for hikes and camping around the world. These best outdoors books are perfect for any nature-lover’s coffee table. The books also can be a present to yourself if you just LOVE the outdoors.
Fifty Places to Hike Before You Die by Chris Santella
America’s Best Day Hikes by Derek Dellinger
50 Hikes in (State) series by Countryman Press
100 Hikes of a Lifetime: The World’s Ultimate Scenic Trails by Kate Siber
Great Hiking Trails of the World: 80 Trails, 75,000 Miles, 38 Countries, 6 Continents by Karen Berger
Lonely Planet’s Epic Hikes of the World
Loops and Lattes – Ontario hiking guidebooks
I love hiking in Ontario. It’s one of my goals to hike the Bruce Trail from end to end. But some parts of the trail can get pretty busy! That’s where Loops and Lattes hiking guidebooks come in. They’ve got one for almost every region in southern Ontario! Try starting with Halton Hikes.
There you have it. Here are 38 best nature books to fill your shelves and get you excited and prepared for your next hike or camping adventure.