5 Books That Will Get You Off Your Couch and Into the Great Outdoors

Hey, you, the tired urbanite with the self-diagnosed Seasonal Affective Disorder in the down booties listening to “Room for Squares” in your cramped apartment. Enough moping in your plaid Marmot flannel already! Get off the couch, lace up your gators, fill up your Camelback and head into the Great Outdoors!

You’re still sitting there.

Need more than a Clif bar to get motivated? We have books that will send you out the door, hiking poles/jodhpurs at the ready (aside: what do we think about hiking dresses?).

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster, by Jon Krakauer 
This book is a fascinating chronicle of the will-to-climb mindset. There is something that drives us beyond the Whole Foods salad bar out into the wilds to plod slowly up peaks that care not if we live or die, if our insta-cous-cous dinner tastes good, or if we sit on a cactus. Everest might seem a stretch from the Adirondack peaks you’re used to climbing, but there’s something universal about putting yourself out there, at the mercy of nature, in a pair of embarrassing wool-knit pants. If this book doesn’t have you down at REI buying a retractable hiking staff, I will eat my words.

My First Summer in the Sierra, by John Muir 
Years ago, a young Scot strolling the Sierra Nevadas thought to himself, “Scottish Highlands are boredsies compared to this, imo.” So began his commitment to promoting wilderness conservation, and shamelessly romanticizing meadows of high-alpine flowers while drinking herbal tea. These were the raptures that launched a thousand dorm-room wall quotations. His prose is so earnest, you will think nothing of sacrificing your SpinCycle membership and Tumblr for a truer life of soul-stretching perambulation.

The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac 
Forget On the Road, forget Jenna Elfman and Thomas Gibson’s magnetism—the only book you need read to understand the Beats is Dharma Bums, Kerouac’s paean to his friend Japhy, Buddhism, and the Pacific high country. You have no idea how prescient this novel is: it foreshadows Marin bicycles, Joanna Newsom, getting sloshed in Sonoma, being poor and eating canned food, James Franco, Arcteryx, and Alice Waters, somehow. Really, it’s only a matter of time before Urban Outfitters releases a complementary hiking trail book for Beat scenesters. Among the top moments are Kerouac’s (high) panic that he is going to fall off the mountain (the Matterhorn Peak—way more badass than the one at Disney), and his rendering of a failed orgy. Lace up and get to the Cascades!

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, by Bill Bryson
Sometimes, we crave a bucket-list-level action that says, “We are alive!” For Bill Bryson, the decision to hike all 2,100 miles of the Appalachian Trail was sudden and somewhat unexpected; thankfully, he discovered plenty of rest stops and Roy Rogers along the way. The trail, which is spotted with towns, doesn’t require the kind of urgency you might feel on a jaunt up Everest. Bryson has ample time to crack dad jokes, relay local history, and plod slowly up the wilder parts of the Eastern U.S. Hey, if that uncley-looking man can do it, we all can.

The Horse Whisperer, by Nicholas Evans
Put away your copies of The Notebook and Bridges of Madison Country! Envision Robert Redford’s soft-focus gaze in the film adaptation of this romantic fireside read (or feel free to replace his mug with one of an aged Ryan Gosling in your mind). Allow your uptight city self to be slowly seduced by the Montana scenery, calming touch of a whisperer (the first whisperer!), and description of hearty crockpot meals that would delight Deborah Madison (if not for the meat). Forget 50 Shades of Grey and saddle up for one of the greatest love stories since Pacey gave Joey her own wall. It will set your heart galloping like wild horses.

Which books motivate you to stop being lazy and start vigorously hiking?

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