Help me find vivid books about man in nature.
October 11, 2009 6:55 PM   Subscribe

Help me find books of a particular genre, or collection of similar genres. Specifically, books on living in or traveling through nature that have visual, picturesque language about the landscape/scenery/ecology.

I just finished reading Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey, about his summer spent working in a ranger cabin in the middle of Arches National Park in Utah. While much of the book is preachy about the need for conservation (animals good, people bad) he did an excellent job defining the area and the associated ecology in very vivid, easily visualized terms - like you were actually there.

Randomly, a month or so ago I also read Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac which also had two scenes similar to this, where he worked a summer (similar to Abbey) on a mountaintop all alone watching for fires in a park in Washington state, and a hike of his with friends in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains.

Now these are two incredibly dissimilar in theme books, so while they have the one thing I like in common, they wouldn't normally be put together. When I do my best to search for these "kinds" of writings in Google or Yahoo! I invariably get travel guides, which isn't what I am looking for. Even Amazon's usually helpful "books of similar type" and "listmania" isn't doing the job.

They don't have to be about national parks in the US. I would love some that take place anywhere in the world, in any type of terrain, as long as it's natural and described in good detail.

posted by Stryke11 to Science & Nature (17 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold
posted by Midnight Rambler at 7:26 PM on October 11, 2009

Laurens van der Post: The Lost World of the Kalahari.

Bruce Chatwin: The Songlines, and In Patagonia.
posted by plep at 7:33 PM on October 11, 2009

I'm actually looking for the same type of books. I've read both Dharma Bums and Desert Solitaire recently too.

The Desert by John Van Dyke.

With some googling, the genre nature writing sounds like a place to start.
Check out ASLE bibliography. EXTENSIVE listings.
This is an example link off their site.
posted by shinyshiny at 7:33 PM on October 11, 2009

George Rodger: Village of the Nubas.

Rodger was a British photojournalist and the book documents (in writing and photography) a journey through Africa and a stay among the Nuba people of Sudan after WW2. He was deeply affected by his experiences photographing concentration camps in Europe, and the African journey is a sort of humanistic counterpoint to that.

There are some very interesting photographs of village life , including Nuba wrestling and so forth.
posted by plep at 7:44 PM on October 11, 2009

Have you read The Solace of Open Spaces by Gretel Ehrlich? It's lovely.
posted by keener_sounds at 7:44 PM on October 11, 2009

I once took a class on literature and eco-philosophy, and we read several of the authors mentioned already. We also read "Into the Wild" by Jon Krakauer, "The Snow Leopard" by Peter Matthiessen, (Matthiessen has written several books that fit into this genre) and "My First Summer in the Sierra" by John Muir. I enjoyed all of them, but was particularly struck by how beautiful Muir's writing was.
posted by bibliophibianj at 7:58 PM on October 11, 2009

Sorry, those titles should be underlined, not in quotation marks. They're all books.
posted by bibliophibianj at 8:00 PM on October 11, 2009

Seconding John Muir and Gretel Erlich. Additionally suggesting possibly some Bernd Henrich. Specifically Ravens in Winter and Winter World. They are mainly about the animals he's studying, but there's also a good feel of the isolation and perils to survival as well. They are definitely not travel narratives, but staying-in-one-place narratives. Although I haven't read it, I would hazard that A Year in the Maine Woods is in the same vein.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 9:28 PM on October 11, 2009

Perhaps it was just me, but I found Seven Years in Tibet to have some really wonderfully sparse yet evocative interactions between Harrer and the landscape he found himself in. It was this quality that, to me, fueled my inability to put the book down, rather than his interactions with people.
posted by WidgetAlley at 3:12 AM on October 12, 2009

Barry Lopez's Desert Notes is excellent.
posted by jon1270 at 5:38 AM on October 12, 2009

Cold Mountain is more a travelogue through 19th-century North Carolina than it is a Civil War novel.
posted by marxchivist at 5:56 AM on October 12, 2009

Arctic Dreams

posted by mearls at 7:12 AM on October 12, 2009

"The Path to Rome" by Hilaire Belloc. It's about his solo walk through the Alps to Rome and he is very good with vivid descriptions of nature. It's also in public domain.
posted by of strange foe at 9:08 AM on October 12, 2009

Response by poster: Thank you all for the great suggestions! I can't wait to look through them.
posted by Stryke11 at 8:08 PM on October 12, 2009

You might want to look through Willa Cather's "My Antonia." It takes place mostly on the Nebraska prairies, and has some absolutely stunning descriptions of the natural features of that area. Seasons, sunsets,'s all there. It's also a relatively short novel, so if time is an issue you can leaf through it and find these passages pretty easily. I hope this helps!
posted by lucky25 at 9:18 PM on October 13, 2009

« Older Extending the life of my car brakes.   |   Weird boob grab on SNL last week, or part of the... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.