KEEN-Fave Books for Fall and Winter
Every season is reading season. But when the air starts to get that familiar autumnal snap, we get really in the mood to curl up with a good book (and our virtual KEEN Book Club has been going strong during the pandemic). We love to read about our favorite topic: the great outdoors. So we rustled up some of our top books to share with KEEN fans. You can find them at the library or your local bookstore. And here’s a little tip as we head into the holiday season: they make excellent gifts (for someone special, or just for yourself).
Check out our recs for adventurous memoirs, camping-friendly cookbooks, and kid and family picks:
Moments of Doubt and Other Mountaineering Writing
by David Roberts
Roberts was both a dedicated mountaineer and a professor of literature at Hampshire College, in Amherst, Massachusetts, and was often referred to as the "dean" of American climbing literature. Moments of Doubt collects 20 of his essays and articles on mountaineering and adventure, written over a 20-year period. The book is divided into three sections: Adventures, Profiles, and Reflections. There’s quite a bit of climbing/mountaineering storytelling, but one of our favorite adventures chronicles a rafting trip Roberts took for the BBC and the travails of translating a hair-raising river adventure into good television.
Touching the Void
by Joe Simpson
In 1985, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates made the first successful ascent of the West Face of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. But then they had to get back down. The true account of their harrowing descent back to base camp makes up the bulk of this nail-biting survival story. It’s not for the faint of heart; Simpson and Yates struggle through disaster, injury and some truly unbelievable conditions (it’s a miracle both climbers lived through it). But if you’re craving a high-octane read, you won’t be able to put this one down. (There’s also a very gripping docudrama film version by the same name.)
Breaking Trail: A Climbing Life
by Arlene Blum
Mountaineer Arlene Blum has been blazing trails for women in the outdoors since the ‘70s, when she led all-female ascent teams to scale McKinley, Denali, and Annapurna peaks (she also wrote Annapurna: A Woman’s Place, about the latter). Also a biophysical chemist, she’s done pioneering work in the sciences, working for decades to research and regulate the use of carcinogens and other harmful chemicals in consumer products. Her memoir recounts her difficult childhood and her adult drive to find her footing in the male-dominated arenas of mountaintops and research labs. It’s this drive that leads her to carve out a life of exceptional adventures, including hiking the European Alps with her four-month-old daughter on her back.
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail
by Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson was in his forties when he got a wild hair to hike the Appalachian Trail. At the last minute, he decided he’d be better off taking a buddy along for the trip, and got his friend Stephen Katz to sign on. And that’s how two men — one particularly unfit, inexperienced, and profoundly unprepared — set off on one of literature’s most hilarious backpacking expeditions. This incredibly entertaining memoir is packed with interesting history and tidbits about the Appalachian Trail, but what you’ll remember is the ridiculous relationship between two guys bumbling through the wilderness. It’s a delight for hikers and outdoorspeople, but we’d recommend it to almost anyone; you won’t need much of an interest in outdoor adventure to get a kick out of Bryson’s satirical voice.
The Campout Cookbook: Inspired Recipes for Cooking Around the Fire and Under the Stars
by Marnie Hanel and Jen Stevenson
After writing their first cookbook, The Picnic, about the joys of dining al fresco, writers Jen Stevenson and Marnie Hanel teamed up again for this volume that brings fresh meal planning ideas to your next campout. They bill their camp fare as “for survivalists with standards” — think elevated crowd-pleasers with fun names like Pedal-to-the-Metal Migas and Middle-of-Nowhere Mac ‘n Beer Cheese. You don’t even need to be on a camping trip to enjoy these recipes (we’d make the Prosciutto, Fig, Basil, Black Pepper, and Honey Skillet Pizza at home any night of the week). We love the charming, New Yorker-esque illustrations and “just because” extras like entertaining flowcharts.
The Camping Cookbook
by Sara Mutande and Andrea Lo Vetere
Two food-lovers move to New Zealand and discover their passion for all things outdoors. And then, since they’re both designers, they co-create this gorgeous cookbook of their go-to camping recipes. Many of the recipes reflect the authors’ Spanish and Italian heritage (yes, there’s a recipe for sangria). They also focus on culinary minimalism, with meals that can be prepared with a single pan or pot, and tips to help you avoid overpacking (we need that help!). This approach gives rise to clever hacks like bringing along a jar of salt-preserved sofrito, a cooked combo of onion, celery, and carrot that travels lighter than raw veg. We love their practical thinking (and we love drinking sangria in front of a campfire).
WILD Adventure Cookbook
by Sarah Glover
Photographed “documentary-style” in scenic locales across the east coast of Australia (miles away from the nearest kitchen), this large-format coffee table book is equal parts wanderlust-y fantasy and devil-may-care cookbook. Chef Sarah Glover doesn’t believe in getting bogged down in measurements and prescriptive methods. Instead, she loves to go a bit wild and really revel in food as an adventure. Sure, some of her recipes are a bit ambitious (we haven’t yet worked up the courage to try making calamari in the woods) but that’s part of the fun. There are also plenty of down-to-earth recipes, like spicy chicken wings and roasted corn with aioli. Yum.
Mallman on Fire: 100 Inspired Recipes to Grill Anytime, Anywhere
by Francis Mallmann and Peter Kaminsky
Grilling’s not just limited to camping, but it sure does fit in well on a forest retreat. If you’re ready to leave the gas stove at home and try cooking all your food over an open flame, get some courage from Argentine chef Francis Mallman. He specializes in Argentine and Patagonian cuisine (so he knows a thing or two about barbecue). His recipes will have you charing mushrooms, blistering peppers, braising chorizo, and even grilling whole fish the South American way. What really sets this book apart is the storytelling. It’s as much a travel book as a cookbook, featuring tales of his “travels with fire” in Brazil, Patagonia, Uruguay, New York, and Paris.
Kid and Family Picks
by Clare Vanderpool
An awesome Young Adult novel for middle school readers, Navigating Early is a “coming of age” story that follows two boys traveling the Appalachian Trail on their own. They’re hoping to find a legendary bear out in the forest, and they go on an Odyssey-like journey filled with twists and turns, exploring friendship and philosophy along the way. Our kids loved the boys’ adventures as they encounter surprising challenges in the woods. We loved the beautifully expressed theme of feeling lost and finding oneself through experiences in nature.
Curious George Goes Camping
by Margret Rey
You probably know Curious George, that iconic little monkey whose curiosity gets him into trouble. Did you know he went on a camping adventure of his own? This picture book has nostalgic, vintage-style watercolor illustrations and is recommended for four – seven year olds (but we think younger kids will enjoy having it read to them as well). It’s a fun way to introduce little ones to the concept of camping and also contains an important lesson about fire safety (a topic it’s never too early to start emphasizing).
Who Pooped in the Park?
by Gary Robson
If your kids are ceaselessly entertained by all things scatological (like ours), have we got a book for you. Actually, it’s a whole series of books. Gary Robson is the executive director for the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary in Montana, and he’s translated his love of tracking into an entertaining series that teaches kids how to find poop (scat) and footprints (tracks) in the woods, and then find out which animal made them. There’s a Who Pooped book for many of our favorite national parks, from Death Valley to Yosemite to Shenandoah. There’s even Who Pooped in Central Park? for NYC dwellers. A must for budding naturalists!
Let The Kid Guide: Putting Nature Back Into Our Lives
by Lisa Kosglow and Margot Angstrom
This book for adults teaches us how to tap into kids’ excitement about the outdoors and all the messy, awesome riches it has to offer. Lisa Kosglow and Margot Angstrom are educators in the Pacific Northwest who love to connect children with the natural world. Together, they create activities, games, recipes, and crafts that guide kids to build an “exploration ethic” and develop curiosity, independence, compassion, and resilience. There are tips and activities for wild and urban settings and for kids of all ages and temperaments. We’d love it if every parent read this book and applied it to their adventures with kids.
Whether you’re out there reading with a flashlight in your tent or propped up on the couch dreaming about future camping trips, we hope these reads get you inspired to try something new!
Curl up by the firepit in comfort