Your TV is gone, the radio, blackberry, cell phone, and IPOD are unavailable…. You’re camping or backpacking in a serene forest setting. Or maybe in the desert, or along the coast – east or west – or maybe out of the country in a remote place. So what do you do? Read a book, of course! Or write in your journal, or sketch the flora and fauna around you, or simply breath deeply and take in the natural beauty all around you!

For me, not having a TV while in the backcountry is no big deal, as my TV has long been off (since early 2000s). My major pastime and hobby is reading anyways, but I do love to take some of my favorite authors and titles with me into the backcountry.

Here’s a list of books and authors to take with you on your next excursion:

1. If you’re headed to the  South West, try Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey, or anything else by Abbey for that matter. Monkey Wrench Gang and Hayduke Lives are great choices too!

2. Another must for the  South West is Terry Tempest Williams. Try Red or Pieces of White Shell.

3. For mystery readers, try JA Jance, Tony Hillerman, CJ Box, or Craig Johnson. Okay, even if you’re not a mystery fan, try one anyway. Sometimes, a good mystery just takes you off into the story and you can really enjoy the characters, scenes, and scenery, just like a movie would.

4. Two personal favorites for science fiction are Earth Abides by George R. Stewart and The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis. Earth Abides is an apocolyptic novel and quite dark, but very thought provoking. The Doomsday Book is so well researched (about the bubonic plague) that you feel like you’re learning something, along with fantastical time travel (another favorite topic of mine).

5. When you stop at the visitor center, be sure to check out their bookshelves. I inevitably find gems that I hadn’t heard of before. One I found recently, The Journey of Man by Spencer Wells, was at the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument visitor center.

6. Bring all your maps, guidebooks, fieldguides and books on the local flora and fauna and ecology. I always bring my bird guide (Golden) as well as wildflower guides and a book on animal tracks (Peterson). Do your research before your trip and find the appropriate books to cover your area. Using fieldguides to learn more about the sights, sounds, and wonders you will see will augment and enhance your experience.

7. The Classics. I like to bring a mix on fiction and non-fiction on my backcountry trips. What better fiction than the classics? The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Dorian Grey, Lady Chatterly’s Lover, and Jane Eyre are some of my favorites.

8. What else? Visit your library, independent book store or used book store for ideas and inspiration on what to read. Time in the backcountry can be well used, so use your time wisely. Choose reading material that will inspire, teach, educate, and entertain. Try some poetry and be sure to bring a small notebook and pen to write your own nature-inspired poetry. Stories and biographies on survival, survivalists, and explorers are great choices too. For top notch titles, check out Mountaineers Books, or titles like Into Thin Air, Touching the VoidBetween a Rock and a Hard Place, A Walk in the Woods, Into the Wild, The Last Season, and others. Also, for the trip to and fro, check out the Roadside Geology books. These guides can be a great way to find out way more along the way than intended and hey, it’s the journey not the destination that counts, right?

9. More classics like 1984, Animal Farm, Call of the Wild, Never Cry Wolf, Where the Red Fern Grows, Bridge to Terabithia, The Catcher in the Rye, The Plague (A. Camus) are sure bets. Read a book you’ve never read before, or always wanted to read,  or even read those cherished stories from your childhood again. Just make sure you can pack it and carry it safely without getting water damage or crushed. (Double check your backpack to make sure your water bottles or bags aren’t leaking, and aren’t packed directly next to your books.)

10.  I also choose books that cover the local history and geography of the area. There’s nothing better than reading about first ascents of the ascent you are about to embark on. It’s wonderful for the imagination to read of the past, and then place your steps in the same footholds as 100, 200, 500 or 1000 years earlier.

Whatever you read, make your time in the outdoors as valuable as possible. Use the time for quiet reflection, to make peace with yourself and the world, and to experience a full range of emotions and gratitude for the time and space you are in. Cherish each moment….

Happy Trails and Tales!

ps. Suggest a title by posting a comment or email me at greycatblog @