Megan Reardon

Find your way home with these special books.

The cold and dark of winter can lead to neglected boots and seriously unrequited wanderlust for trekkers of a certain latitude. Although they might not fit into an ultralight pack, these five books will inspire the avid hiker in your life to plan their next adventure.

National Geographic Atlas of the National Parks by Jon Waterman
Any outdoor lover will appreciate the lush and comprehensive National Geographic Atlas of the National Parks. Former ranger Jon Waterman profiles 60 national parks, from the Gates of the Arctic to American Samoa’s jungles, with detailed maps, photographs and plenty of stories of the parks’ histories and ecosystems that are perfect for omnivorous readers. The information is practical for planning a visit, but more importantly it’ll make you itch to see them all. It’s hard to read a book like this without being awed by the enormous treasure these parks represent. (Send copies to your elected officials.) There’s no substitute for visiting, but this atlas is a fine alternative.

Hiker Trash by Sarah Kaizar
Sarah Kaizar’s unique Hiker Trash is neither a guidebook nor a personal memoir, but rather a collage of the places and personalities along the Appalachian Trail. Although it celebrates the beauty of the landscapes with Nicholas Reichard’s photographs and Kaizar’s graceful illustrations of the trail’s iconic shelters, the real star of the book is the community of tired, inspired hikers who have built a network of communication through the shelters’ trail logs. Through their handwritten messages, this eclectic group of modern nomads (with trail names like Food Truck and Dr. Pickles) tell their stories: jokes, lamentations, triumphs, shout-outs to friends ahead and behind. Evocative scenes of hikers in repose—with Sawyer filters, socks and snacks—feel instantly relatable to anyone already seasoned on long-distance trails, but these images will also resonate with anyone looking for a glimpse into a sometimes smelly, always fascinating hiking subculture.

She Explores by Gale Straub
The digital community She Explores, created by author Gale Straub through her website and podcast of the same name, comes into gorgeous, tangible form in a new book. With personal vignettes by outdoorswomen and stirring photography, Straub curates stories that challenge the one-size-fits-all archetype of what it means to be “outdoorsy.” Nomads, entrepreneurs, mothers, activists and artists all share space in these pages. Tucked between their anecdotes are tips on skills from solo hiking to how to stay creatively inspired. Unlike outdoor narratives that focus on elite extremes, She Explores feels accessible, inspiring and affirming that the outdoors is for all. You’ll find yourself wanting to connect with these women and write your own story, too.

Expeditions Unpacked by Ed Stafford
Spend too long with a group of outdoor nuts, and talk will inevitably turn to gear. You’ll watch a dreamy look come into someone’s eyes as they wax poetic about the weight of their favorite tent. British explorer Ed Stafford’s fascinating Expeditions Unpacked details the stories of 25 adventurers and their famed expeditions by analyzing their gear. Poring over beautiful flat-lay illustrations for each expedition, armchair travelers can compare the kits of pioneers like Roald Amundsen, Amelia Earhart and Thor Heyerdahl, as well as lesser-known adventurers like Clärenore Stinnes, the first woman to circumnavigate the world by car. In each chapter, Stafford examines how the chosen gear impacted the expedition. The minutiae of the selections reveals not only the hazards of their journeys but also the explorers’ personalities, as with Percy Fawcett’s accordion in the Amazon and contemporary balloonist Fedor Konyukhov’s religious icons. Curious outdoor lovers of any stripe will find something to inspire them here.

An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo
U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo’s An American Sunrise is an important companion for the thoughtful hiker ready to wrestle with complex questions of land ownership and stewardship. Harjo, the first Native American laureate, synthesizes history, memory and contemporary issues in her collection of poetry that laments the treatment of Native peoples and sings tribute to her Muscogee Creek heritage and ancestors. The legacy of the Trail of Tears and its echoes in today’s political landscape weave together with her personal experiences, benedictions and exhortations for us to care for the earth—and to listen. Leave the other books on your nightstand; this one is slim but powerful, with plenty of complexity to unravel as it keeps you company on a solo trail. It deserves to be appreciated in the wild spaces that Harjo celebrates: “for even the land is a singer, a lover of poetry.”

Find your way home with these special books.

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