My Favorite Books
Some of these have taught me invaluable lessons about hiking, some that are just great stories. All of which I highly recommend. Whether you get a physical copy or a version in audio form, if you’re into hiking like I am, all of these will provide a lot of value and entertainment on or off the trail.
1. Trail Life, by Ray Jardine
- My number one recommendation for anyone wanting to learn more about ultralight hiking. I guarantee that you will learn more from this one book, than you could from any other single source anywhere. Covering every possible topic and aspect of backpacking, from gear to technique and skills it really is as good of a resource as it gets. Both “Beyond Backpacking” and “Trail Life” are the same book, just one being many years newer and somewhat updated. Either book is great, despite how long ago they were published as in my opinion they are timeless.
2. The Pursuit of Endurance, by Jennifer Pharr Davis
The Pursuit of Endurance, by Jennifer Pharr Davis
- This book holds the history of speed records on long distance hiking trails. From the people that paved the way early on, to interviews with legendary figures in the hiking world, science behind endurance on an FKT, and a whole lot of very inspirational and interesting stories in-between. I personally have read this book 4 or 5 times, love it, and tout it as being my favorite of all the hiking books I have ever read.
3. Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall
Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall
- Another book I seem to read over and over. An adventure down into the Copper Canyons of Mexico to learn the secrets of running from the Tarahumara Indians, who are said to run hundreds of miles without stop, all while barefoot, and never getting injured. Filled with colorful characters, the science behind footware, and the evolutionary history humans have with running. It is truly a great story, that also happens to be incredibly informative.
4. The Monkey Wrench Gang, by Edward Abbey
The Monkey Wrench Gang, by Edward Abbey
- A fictional book taking place in the beautiful desert southwest around northern Arizona and southern Utah. When industry threatens these wild and natural spaces a small group take to sabotage, destruction, and vandalism to try and drive the machine of development away. I found this story to be hilariously wonderful, and certainly a must read for anyone who spends a lot of time in the wilderness. In a world that is growing rapidly, protecting the environment becomes evermore important, and this book takes that to the extreme.
5. Ultralight Backpackin’ Tips, by Mike Clelland
Ultralight Backpackin’ Tips, by Mike Clelland
- A true classic of a backpacking book, and certainly much more fun of a read than the previously mentioned ‘Beyond Backpacking’ by Ray Jardine. This is full of hilarious cartoons and illustrations showing gear and techniques on how to lighten your pack weight, and there really isn’t anywhere better to start when diving into the topic as Mike really makes it fun. A lot can be learned here, and even if you know it all already the drawings really will make you laugh, and I still think you’ll pick up more than a few great ideas from this.
6. The Last Season, by Eric Blehm
The Last Season, by Eric Blehm
- Set in the Sierra Nevada mountains, not far from the Pacific Crest Trail in California. Randy had worked as a backcountry ranger for 30 years, until one day he goes missing. This book chronicles the life of a backcountry ranger, and the search for Randy. I found it extremely fascinating, and a good reminder of how wild a place the Sierra is! I think as a hiker, reading about how passionate these rangers are about these places we hike through holds many lessons.
7. The Dharma Bums, by Jack Kerouac
The Dharma Bums, by Jack Kerouac
- A classic in the way of dirtbag traveler stories, the beginnings of the rucksack revolution, and carefree wanderers. This book really helped me find a new meaning in hiking, one I would experience but didn’t quite know how to describe. Hiking at its best puts me in a zen state of being it sometimes feels. When the miles just fall away, and time holds no meaning. I am just happy, and living in the moment. An energetic book, thoughtful, and spiritual surrounding the zest of life in such a beautiful world.
8. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert M Pirsig
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert M Pirsig
- This book is not about motorcycles, though they do use them as a metaphorical tool to talk about much larger philosophical ideas. Searching for meaning, value, quality, and how to live. It is a fairly short book, but one that packs a lot in. One I feel I can read again and again, and always take something new from. A book that makes me think about my own life and what holds value. At times a strange read, but it all comes together into a very meaningful story.
9. Desert Solitaire, by Edward Abbey
Desert Solitaire, by Edward Abbey
- A passionate and poetic description of life in the desert. A view into life as a park ranger in Arches National Monument in the 60s. Dry humor and extremely descriptive, this book is certainly a must for those who love the desert southwest, or have any interest in hiking there. A lot can be learned about the local flora and fauna as well as what the area was like so many decades ago. Reading this book makes me want to be there and find communion with that same solitude described.
10. A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson
A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson
- As classic of a hiking book as there ever could be, I really love this story, and highly recommend it. Whether you have already thru hiked the Appalachian Trail, just heard of it, or are planning on attempting a thru hike of it… this book really is hilarious, and all around such a gem. In many ways I would recommend doing the exact opposite of everything Bill Bryson does. So hey, maybe you could consider this book extremely informative, in some roundabout way! If you’ve been putting this read off for a while (like I was) please take a chance, it really is great.