Books about being off the grid / moving away
December 28, 2021 8:05 AM   Subscribe

Please recommend me books about moving to the woods, an island, the mountains, whatever. Memoirs great, contemporary great.

I am looking for books about moving away from the world - leaving an established (city?) life for an island, a cabin in the woods, the mountains. I'm looking for books about increased self-sufficiency and increased isolation from the world, primarily.

Memoirs would be great - I am more than happy to hear about how much this sucks.
Contemporary would be great, women protagonists / authors fantastic.
I think the leaving is a part of it.
Little interest in actual farming, but recommend whatever.
I am fine with books about people just up and moving to small towns or the countryside, but the farther afield, the better.
posted by quadrilaterals to Media & Arts (28 answers total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
The Stranger in the Woods might fit the bill, read it last year and really enjoyed it.
posted by jabes at 8:09 AM on December 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

The Good Life: Helen and Scott Nearing's Sixty Years of Self-Sufficient Living seems to fit pretty well.

I haven't read the book, One Man's Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey, but the documentary is great.
posted by gregr at 8:11 AM on December 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Woodswoman by Anne La Bastille.
posted by mareli at 8:12 AM on December 28, 2021 [3 favorites]

One Man's Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey

For more Proenneke, see the recently published The Handcrafted Life of Dick Proenneke.
posted by zamboni at 8:15 AM on December 28, 2021 [2 favorites]

One Man's Wilderness. About Dick Proenneke building a cabin in Alaska and living by himself.

I received this book for Christmas, about the same man, but I haven't started it yet. I think it's mostly about the things he made rather than about him. We'll see.

If you're into YA fiction at all, the classic along these lines would be My Side of the Mountain.

I haven't read it and I think it's a lot more personal and goes deeper than just homesteading, but I expect this book by Laura Waterman has some of what you're looking for. It looks like it does get into her husband's suicide a bit, though. Laura and Guy Waterman's story is fascinating.

Edit: woah. Jinx, zamboni .
posted by bondcliff at 8:20 AM on December 28, 2021 [2 favorites]

Into the Wild is worth a look. Different focus, and the story (and book) have been critiqued on many grounds, but Krakauer does a good job of portraying how badly and quickly things can go astray within shouting distance of settlements.
posted by cupcakeninja at 8:43 AM on December 28, 2021

A classic: We Took to the Woods by Louise Dickinson Rich (1942)
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:44 AM on December 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

Coming Into The Country by John McFee brought a horde of would-be settlers to Alaska.
posted by SemiSalt at 9:07 AM on December 28, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I really liked Moritz Thompson's Farm on the River of Emeralds. It's a follow up to his Peace Corps memoir, Living Poor, and covers the years where he returned to that village and tried to live and farm there.

(I was sure he had been the subject of an FPP here before but searching isn't turning that up.)
posted by Dip Flash at 9:07 AM on December 28, 2021

The Wall has lightly supernatural framing but the bulk of the book itself is the day-to-day self sufficiency of the female protagonist, it's fantastic.
posted by EmilyFlew at 9:18 AM on December 28, 2021 [2 favorites]

Once Upon an Island and One Man's Island by David Conover.
posted by jgirl at 9:26 AM on December 28, 2021

Maybe not quite what you have in mind, but I liked the Norwegian novel Out Stealing Horses, which involves a move to a cabin in the woods.
posted by pinochiette at 9:51 AM on December 28, 2021

Ten Years Off-Grid: Don't Try This at Home was written by a friend of ours.
posted by Too-Ticky at 10:43 AM on December 28, 2021

Sea Room, by Adam Nicolson. Contemporary-ish (2001) non-fiction, male writer. Interview.

We Bought an Island, by Evelyn Atkins. Older (1976) non-fiction, woman writer.

The Garden Cottage Diaries: My Year in the Eighteenth Century by Fiona Houston - if this counts; Houston doesn't physically move apart from to a shed in her garden, but does try to move in time. 2009, woman writer.
posted by paduasoy at 10:58 AM on December 28, 2021

Seconding The Wall - it's fiction, but very detailed regarding survival, and has stuck with me for many, many years.
posted by sedimentary_deer at 11:04 AM on December 28, 2021

Island Sojourn-Elizabeth Arthur
posted by LaBellaStella at 11:07 AM on December 28, 2021

Best answer: South from Granada: Seven Years in an Andalusian Village 1957 - English writer goes south
I Bought a Mountain by Thomas Firbank 1940 - 5000 acres of Wales and a lorra sheep
Ring of Bright Water Gavin Maxwell 1960 - a cottage, an otter in Scotland
Nineteen Acres John Healy 1974 - journo goes smallholding in Ireland
White Goats and Black Bees by Donald Grant 1974 - ditto
Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage 1986; Stones of Aran: Labyrinth 1995 Tim Robinson - deep maps of archipelago
Driving over Lemons Chris "Genesis" Stewart - andalusia and many sheep
In the High Pyrenees Bernard Loughlin 2003 Irish family head south
Sheepish: Two Women, Fifty Sheep & Enough Wool to Save the Planet 2011 - writer falls for farmer in Minnesota
The Yorkshire Shepherdess Amanda Owen 2014 - citigirl raises family amid sheep
Escape to Ikaria: All at Sea in the Aegean by Nick Perry 2017 - hippy family do Greek island in the 70s
posted by BobTheScientist at 11:11 AM on December 28, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The Feast Nearby by Robin Mathers. She was a former food writer for the Chicago Tribune who got laid off and divorced in the same year so she moved back to her family's cottage in Michigan and lived on $40 a week. I found it a very soothing read.
posted by Constance Mirabella at 12:15 PM on December 28, 2021

Living at the End of Time, by John Hanson Mitchell

Woman of the Boundary Waters, by Justine Kerfoot

Bogtrotter: Notes from a North Country Cabin, by Richard Coffey
posted by RedEmma at 1:08 PM on December 28, 2021

Best answer: The Way Home by Mark Boyle was published in 2019. He lives in a cabin in County Galway, Ireland, eschewing modern tech.

Caveat: I didn't enjoy the author's narrative style that much but the account hits most of your prefs (albeit with a male protagonist) so you might!
posted by freya_lamb at 2:43 PM on December 28, 2021

Best answer: For a religious/spiritually-seeking take on the subject: I enjoyed reading The Barn At the End of the World by Mary Rose O'Reilly. O'Reilly (raised Catholic, now Quaker) spends a year tending sheep, as well as living at Thich Nhat Hanh's Plum Village monastery in France for a while.
posted by The demon that lives in the air at 2:56 PM on December 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I'm sort of randomly marking best answers; these are fantastic recs and am looking for many. Thanks!
posted by quadrilaterals at 6:35 AM on December 29, 2021

It's short and doesn't cover everything you've mentioned, but just as a treat I think you would enjoy Rockwell Kent's A Northern Christmas.
posted by JanetLand at 6:43 AM on December 29, 2021

I'm not sure how well it has aged, but Theroux's The Mosquito Coast is a classic novel of the genre.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:15 AM on December 29, 2021

Home Comfort: Stories and Scenes of Life on Total Loss Farm (Packer Corners in Guilford, Vermont). Poems, fables, essays, recipes, advice, vignettes and stories by Hugh Beame, Pete Gould, Marty Jezer, Joan Marr, Ray Mungo, Doug Parker, Robert Payne, Jeanne Pepper, Verandah Porche, Connie Silver and Ellen Snyder, with illustrations by Alicia Bay Laurel. Edited by Richard Wizansky. Published by Saturday Review Press in 1973.

Full disclosure: The editor and one of the authors are relatives of family friends. I grew up seeing Home Comfort on my parents' nightstand and became most intrigued with it as a teenager. (My mom and dad -- even tangentially -- knew these cool-looking people? No way!) Later, having shared a home with numerous other wayward adults, I reread it for tips on how to live in community without losing your shit.

Now that I've realized that Ray Mungo and Verandah Porche were two of the founders of the Liberation News Service (started in 1967 as a radical alternative to The Associated Press), and that they retreated to Vermont because of "rancor and divisions" within the LNS, I need to read Home Comfort yet again. (And I've added to my reading list Mungo's 1970 memoir, Famous Long Ago: My Life and Hard Times With Liberation News Service.)

A history of Packer Corners and other Vermont communes, by Susan Green, Seven Days, Aug. 20, 2008.

Total Loss Farm, 50 years later, by poet and co-founder Porche, Southern Vermont Arts & Living, 2018.
posted by virago at 8:36 PM on December 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

An Island to Oneself - Tom Neale.
Some background:

I strongly recommend it.
posted by bystander at 5:01 AM on January 11

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