KEEN Summer Reading List

Between cloud gazing, SUP, and backpacking, we’ve managed to find a bit of time for reading in this summer. Here’s our official KEEN Summer Reading List. Enjoy!

[FICTION] Wildwood by Colin Meloy & Carson Ellis

Colin Meloy, lead singer of The Decemberists, romanticizes the landscape of his adopted hometown, Portland, Oregon, in his first novel Wildwood. In the story, the young protagonist Prue McKeel must venture into the depths of Impassable Wilderness (in reality Forest Park) to save a baby named Mac who was captured by a murder of crows. As Claire Dederer of the NY Times writes, “Meloy lovingly describes the jungles to the north and the cobbled streets and elegant tree houses of the more civilized south. The result is a richly satisfying weave of reality and fantasy.” Meloy enchants us with bicycle heroism, a nod to Portlandia culture, and lovely illustrations by his wife, Carson Ellis. Can’t make it to Portland this summer? You’ll get close enough.

[MEMOIR] Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Reviewed with enthusiasm by the New York Times and recently featured on Oprah’s 2.0 Book Club, Wild has gained admirable press since its publication in March of this year. In her memoir, Cheryl Strayed recounts her solo journey along the Pacific Crest Trail at the age of 22. Alarmingly, Strayed had never been on a backpacking trip before she started out on the trail. She quickly dubbed her absurdly heavy backpack  “Monster”; in retrospect, however, Strayed offers a charming metaphor, stating, “I needed to carry the weight I couldn’t bear.” Despite her lack of preparation, the trail enabled her deal with the grief of her mother’s sudden death in a way she was previously not capable of. Strayed’s story is clear, poignant and warm. A must-read for the summer.

[POETRY] The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems by William Stafford

William Stafford: pacifist, teacher, explorer, adventurer, father, poet. Inspired by the mountainsides, riverbanks, and roadsides of his childhood, Stafford embodies the spirit of an explorer with complete tranquility. He pays homage to the natural and made-man worlds that he adores, both along the rivers of his childhood and in the mazes of books at the public library. Born and educated in the midwest, Stafford objected to the Second World War and instead worked in the Civilian Public Service Camps, which he describes in Down My Heart. In 1944 he began teaching at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon where he lived until his death in 1993. Stafford was commissioned to write a series of poems about the Methow River Highway in Washington State. Seven of these poems are posted along the highway, including “Time for Serenity, Anyone?”.


The Way It Is is the most complete collection of Stafford’s work to date with excerpts from his best publications. A perfect compliment to your breezy afternoon picnic.

[NON-FICTION] A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson

“Each time you haul yourself up to what you think must surely be the crest, you find that there is in fact more hill beyond, sloped at an angle that kept it from view before, and that beyond that slope there is another, and beyond that another and another, and beyond each of those more still, until it seems impossible that any hill could run on this long.”

Sound familiar? Bryson describes part of his seemingly never-ending trek along the Appalachian Trail. His prose is light and witty, and he weaves historical accounts and geological explanations into his stories. In short, Bryson is friendly  guide who will keep you smiling and make you eager to get on the trail. Interestingly, Bryson began hiking the trail and writing the book after he spent 20 years living abroad in England.  A Walk in the Woods is the ideal companion for your weekend camping trip.

[GUIDE] Trees of Greater Portland by Phyllis C. Reynolds and Elizabeth F. Dimon

Phyllis Reynolds and Elizabeth Dimon lovingly crafted this collection of 132 trees they admired in the Portland area. The small press book includes photographs of each of the trees with detailed descriptions of what distinguishes them from the rest. The book offers a gentle introduction to tree identification with more emphasis on the narrative behind the tree than scientific facts. A charming collection of stories disguised as a guidebook.

What are you reading this summer? Share your favorites with us.