The holidays are generally a time to relax and spend time with family and friends. In addition to this notion, we also believe that the holidays are the perfect time to plan your next big adventure. Therefore, the staff, Instructors and directors at Outward Bound have gathered together some of our favorite outdoor books and paired them with an Outward Bound expedition to get the ideas flowing. Whether you read these books as inspiration for your next outdoor adventure, or gift them to someone who needs a little excitement in their life, they are sure to inspire and instill a passion for the outdoors that you might not have known existed.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Description: The Alchemist follows the journey of an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago. Santiago begins his travels looking for worldly treasures, before encountering a lone alchemist who teaches him that there is more to life than gold. The book focuses on the importance of following our dreams and recognizing the opportunities that come before us on our journey through life.
Outward Bound Expedition: This is a great book that speaks to life transitions and is perfect to read before any Outward Bound course.
A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean
Description: A River Runs Through It is the true story of two boys, Norman and Paul, growing up in 1920s Missoula, Montana with their Presbyterian minister father. Much of the book is about the two boys returning home after becoming troubled adults. A common theme in the book is the men’s love of fly fishing for trout in the Blackfoot River and how it impacted their lives. It is a coming-of-age book where the characters are on a journey of self-discovery and inner power, while also exploring their relationship with nature.
Outward Bound Expedition: This book is great read before or after going on an Outward Bound rafting expedition.
Stolen Water: Saving the Everglades from Its Friends, Foes, and Florida by W. Hodding Carter
Description: At times downright hilarious, this is a book about the environmental, political, and economic issues that surround the Everglades. Reading the book before a Florida course will shed light on the unique wetland wilderness that makes up lower Florida and connects to the waters of the Florida Keys. The author’s descriptions of his own adventurous exploration in the Everglades includes swimming with mermaids, bushwhacking in saw grass, and adopting a 2,000 lb manatee named Bruce. The stories will prepare you to appreciate the wonderful and wild environment of your course and exercise your sense of humor.
Outward Bound Expedition: This book is a great read before embarking on any of our Florida courses.
Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail
Description: This is the true story of Emma Gatewood, A 67 year-old woman who became the first woman to hike the entire Appalachian Trail alone, as well as the first person to walk it multiple times. As Gatewood gained public attention for this feat, her vocal criticism of the difficult, unkempt sections of the Appalachian Trail helped save it from extinction. This story demonstrates the power of human spirit and determination and is an inspiration to readers of all ages.
Outward Bound Expedition: This book is a great read before or after courses that backpack along the Appalachian Trail, such as Maine Appalachian Backpacking & Canoeing. It would also be a good read for the parents of students who are away on an Outward Bound expedition.
Endurance by Alfred Lansing
Description: Based on the true story of the survival of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his 27 men on the 1914 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, Endurance is the ultimate tale of tenacity and grit. Shipwrecked on Antarctic pack ice! Open boat journey in the Weddell Sea against impossible odds! Threat of mutiny! This is an amazing account of one of the most remarkable survival tales in polar exploration, and will most certainly add perspective and depth to the hardships you might face and overcome on an Outward Bound expedition. Many books have been written about Shackleton and his men, but this is by far my favorite account.
Outward Bound Expedition: Although I often recommend this book to any audience, it would be a poignant read pre or post-course for participants in the Boundary Waters Dog Sledding & Cross Country Skiing, Boundary Waters Dog Sledding To Florida Keys Sailing Semester, or Pathfinder Boundary Waters Dog Sledding & Cross Country Skiing courses in Minnesota. Although we enjoy plenty of benefits of modern outdoor equipment technologies on trail, we still embrace many of the classic winter survival techniques that Shackleton and his men used. The reader will be glad to snuggle into their modern goose-down sleeping bag after reading about Shackleton’s frozen yet rotten reindeer-fur equivalent!
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
Description: In April of 1992, Christopher McCandless gets dropped off near Mt. McKinley and hikes into the wilderness. He spends the next sixteen weeks hunting small game, foraging, reading, and living in a deserted bus made to be a shelter for hunters, not seeing a single human the entire time. It is a great book for young adults to read as they challenge (hopefully) their traditional ways of being in society.
Outward Bound Expedition: This is a great read before or after any Outward Bound course.
Living the Best Day Ever by Hendri Coetzee
Description: This is the story of Hendri, a world-renown expedition kayaker who logged some of the most audacious first descents around the world- most famously in the heart of the African continent, where he tackles never before run, hippo-filled, remote rivers of class 5+ waters. Do not be fooled, Hendri was not just another adrenaline junkie. He was drawn to the possibilities and the potential of the human body and spirit. He found direction and strength to carry on in his regular life from these incredibly trying expeditions. He found solace from his own pain and longing. Eventually he centered his life’s philosophy around what he learned from being on expedition. The book is centered around leadership, perseverance, and self-reflection, and is a total page turner, even if you’re not a paddler.
Outward Bound Expedition: This book is relevant to any Outward Bound expedition, but specially could be read before going on a Pathfinder or Intercept course. The book contains slightly mature content and is recommended for individuals over the age of 16.
The Tao of Leadership by John Heider
Description: This book is a seemingly short, easy read, with only a paragraph or so per page. However, there is so much contained in each page that allowing space to reflect upon it and have “Ah Ha!” moments as you read is encouraged. The book is a loose interpretation of the Tao Te Ching as it applies to leadership. When I first read it, every passage jumped out at me as a formula or guidance for what I perceived all Outward Bound Instructors are ultimately aiming for in their approach to facilitating the Outward Bound experience.
One of my favorite quotes from the book:
“Many leaders spoil the work just as it nears completion. They get eager. They get invested in certain outcomes. They become anxious and make mistakes. This is a time for care and consciousness. Don’t do too much. Don’t be too helpful. Don’t worry about getting credit for having done something.”
Outward Bound Expedition: This book is perfect for when you need inspiration post-course. It works great to read a page out loud at random, knowing they all have something to offer and discuss. Or at times, to peruse and find a section that seems to apply more directly to the topic at hand. This book is useful for students on the Yosemite, Joshua Tree & San Francisco Instructor Development course, and is great for students as they began to understand the art of facilitation on a deeper level.
Walking It Off: A Veteran’s Chronicle of War and Wilderness by Doug Peacock
Description: Walking it Off is a memoir revisiting Vietnam, the desert in the Southwest, Montana and other wild places, both in the mind and out. The author, Doug Peacock, a Green Beret combat medic, was a friend of the well-known writer Edward Abbey, and was Abbey’s inspiration for the character “Hayduke.” This book is a recollection of Abbey and Peacock’s relationship and the places they explored throughout the Southwest.
Outward Bound Expedition: This book seems best matched with the 6-day Veterans Backpacking Course in Joshua Tree because it is written by a Vietnam veteran dealing with PTSD who feels strongly about the power of wilderness. As we read this book we are reminded of the courage and strength of all veterans, and we thank them for their service.
The Everglades: The River of Grass by Marjory Stoneman Douglas
Description: At Outward Bound we primarily choose to use the wilderness as our classroom, so we understand the importance of enjoying the outdoors responsibly, protecting our public lands, and teaching our students to do the same. This is one of the best books on environmental awareness and one of the rare occasions that a book has had an immediate political effect.
Originally published in 1947, Marjory Douglas’s writing drew attention to the vast, little-known area that South Florida developers at the time had deemed a worthless swamp. The book not only detailed the natural environment and countless animals and species, but it redefined the Everglades as a free flowing river rather than a swamp. The book inspired and brought the world’s attention to the need to preserve the Everglades and its unique environment of countless animals and species.
The book was so popular that it helped gain public support for Harry Truman’s controversial order later that year to protect more than 2 million acres of the Everglades National Park. The Park is now one of three locations in the world to show up on the following lists: an International Bioshphere Reserve, A Wetland of International Importance and a World Heritage Site.
Outside of its emphasis on the environment, Marjory does a great job of researching the eccentric human history as well, from Native Americans, to Spanish explorers, pirates, runaway slaves, fisherman and outlaws.
Outward Bound Expedition: The River of Grass is a great read before any course in the Ten Thousand Islands and Everglades National Park. As you paddle through this vast sub-tropical wilderness it is important to understand not only its history and precious animal inhabitants, but all the work that is being done to preserve it for future generations.
To learn more Outward Bound and all of the expeditions we have to offer, visit our website at www.outwardbound.org.
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