Although we’ve compiled lists of books for outdoorswomen before, reviewed some of our favorite reads, and talked to authors a time or two – we’re still continually seeking stories that have the capacity to crack us open.
On our ‘to read’ list this fall, we’ve got ten women-authored stories of solo travel, surfing, swimming, skiing, books about place, identity, botany, and motherhood, and an anthology of outdoor-inspired creativity.
In the 1960s, Audrey Sutherland left her kids at home and packed cans of apricots and diving fins into a foam box that she wrapped in a shower curtain, and then strapped onto an aluminum pack frame – to hike, climb, and swim her way around Hawaii’s treacherous Molokai Coast – returning many times over the coming years.
Originally published in 1978, it was re-released this year by Patagonia books with beautiful illustrations and maps throughout.
Steph Jagger quit her job and sold everything except her ski equipment and laptop, and spent a year following winter around nine countries of the world. In North and South America, Asia, Europe, and New Zealand—she was on a mission to ski four million vertical feet.
“What hiking was for Cheryl Strayed, skiing became for Steph: a crucible in which to crack open her life and get to the very center of herself.”
Released earlier this month, Waymaking is a collection of prose, poetry and art by female writers and artists, all inspired by nature and the outdoors. It features the creative work of more than 50 women (including Nikki Frumkin who we’ve featured before!).
Royalties from sales of the book will be split equally between the John Muir Trust and Rape Crisis to conserve wild places and raise awareness of sexual violence.
In 1975, International Women’s Year, Japanese mountaineer Junko Tabei was the first woman to climb Mt. Everest. Her memoir is a humble and poetic in its recount of the Seven Summits and others she climbed throughout her life.
“Whether I wanted it to be or not, our climb became a symbol of women’s social progress.”
A collection of fifteen essays that meditate on textures of the Southwest with personal narrative woven in.
“Of all the things I wondered about on this land, I wondered the hardest about the seduction of certain geographies that feel like home — not by story or blood but merely by their forms and colors. How our perceptions are our only internal map of the world, how there are places that claim you and places that warn you away. How you can fall in love with the light.”
A memoir of reflections from Alaska and the Arctic, Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube explores fear and danger, and what it is to be a young woman in unforgiving frozen landscapes and the larger world.
“I knew I would never be a tough girl. And yet the phrase, with its implied contradiction, articulated everything I wanted for myself. To be a girl, an inherently vulnerable position. And yet, unafraid.”
Robin Wall Kimmerer is a botanist but she’s also a poet. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she braids her scientific training with the traditional views of plants as medicine, and the natural world as a gift who’s language is ignored by academia and complicated by the increasingly distant relationship between people and land.
“Plants are also integral to reweaving the connection between land and people. A place becomes a home when it sustains you, when it feeds you in body as well as spirit.”
A series of essays by a range of diverse authors that explore history, displacement, return, heartbreak, hope, and human relationships with place that are complicated by racism, inequity, and economic power.
“Bracing, provocative, and profoundly illuminating, The Colors of Nature provides an antidote to the despair so often accompanying the intersection of cultural diversity and ecological awareness.”
Canadian scientist turned explorer, Kate Harris and her childhood friend, Mel, bicycle the entirety of the Silk Road. In it, she offers a contemplation of what pushes us out the door and how we change when we’re out there.
“Every day on a bike trip is like the one before—but it is also completely different, or perhaps you are different, woken up in new ways by the mile.”
In 2006, Liz Clark set sail from the California coast and headed to the South Pacific, solo. That became her lifestyle: captain of her own boat, sailing in search of big waves and meeting people along the way with her sea-faring cat, Amelia. Her memoir surges with stories of surfing, sailing, solitude, and self-awareness.
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