13 Outdoor Books from 2019 (by Women Authors) to Read this Fall

Women-Authored Outdoor/Adventure Books of 2019

By Hailey Hirst, with recommendations from the She Explores team

As we lean into shoulder season (while still backpacking and road tripping, of course) we’re asking ourselves the perpetual question: What should we read next? Conveniently, a lot of great outdoor books by women authors were released this year.

So, we’re taking a look at what’s new in women-authored outdoor-related literature in 2019, and filling our ‘to-read’ list with memoirs, poetry, and essay collections from contemporary female writers. 

What we’re reading this season:

Into the Planet: My Life as a Cave Diver by Jill Heinerth (2019)

Jill Heinerth takes readers inside icebergs and sunken caves in this adventure/science memoir. Her recollections of her work as a renowned cave diver reveal the complexities of being a woman in a dangerous and male-dominated field, and also what it’s like to be swimming through the planet’s literal veins.

Erosion: Essays of Undoing by Terry Tempest Williams (2019)

In the newest book from Utah’s foremost modern naturalist writer, Williams looks at the current state of American politics and environmental crisis by exploring the concept of erosion: of the land, self, belief, and fear.

Her collection inspires a strength to not look away, and offers hope: “Our undoing is also our becoming.”

Shapes of Native Nonfiction: Collected Essays by Contemporary Writers edited by Elissa Washuta and Theresa Warburton (2019)

This collection of essays features 27 established and emerging native writers from various tribal nations, including Deborah Miranda, Terese Marie Hailhot, Eden Robinson, and Kim TallBear.

Ultimately the essays that vary widely in shape and form offer a rich compilation of modern Native experience, touching on history, healing, race, place, trauma, culture, and more.

Women Who Hike by Heather Balogh Rochfort (2019)

Heather Balogh Rochfort brings us profiles of twenty women hikers, their favorite hike and personal reflections, combined with practical how-to suggestions for hiking and life.

Each profile includes a map of the hike, miles, and directions—making this a worthy guide to beloved hikes, in addition to an inspirational introduction to some of today’s women adventurers.

An American Sunrise: Poems by Joy Harjo (2019)

This new collection of poetry from our current poet laureate folds together personal vision and historical reflection, as Harjo writes on her return to her family’s lands two hundred years after the Mvskoke people were forcibly removed from east of the Mississippi to what is now part of Oklahoma.

Run Wild and Be by Sydney Zester (2019)

Run Wild and Be is a collection of poems and stories inspired by wild spaces and endurance running.  Zester draws inspiration from a 4,000-mile run across the U.S. through tiny towns, sprawling cities, and into the desert, to reflect on gender, power, identity, freedom, and self love.

The Sun is a Compass by Caroline Van Hemert (2019)

Ornithologist Caroline Van Hemert sets off on a 4,000-mile wilderness journey with her husband, from the Pacific rainforest to the Alaskan Arctic.

Together they traveled by rowboat, ski, foot, raft, and canoe. The Sun is a Compass is a blend of science, adventure, and personal narrative about nature, survival, and the limits of the physical body.

The Way Through the Woods by Litt Woon Long, translated by Barbara J. Haveland (2019)

For Malaysian-born Norwegian anthropologist Long Litt Woon, a beginner’s course on mushrooming helps her move through the grief of losing her husband.

As she mushrooms from Norway to New York, giving her full attention to the natural world allows her to re-engage with life.

Inconspicuous Consumption by Tatiana Schlossberg (2019)

If you care about the outdoors, there’s a good chance you’re already thinking about your impact. But with humor and wit, Tatiana Schlossberg nudges us deeper.

She examines the unseen and unconscious environmental impacts in four areas: the internet and technology, food, fashion, and fuel.

The Shooting Star: A Girl, Her Backpack and the World by Shivya Nath (2018)

A travel memoir that maps the world and the human spirit, The Shooting Star follows 23-year-old Shivya Nath as she gives up her home and possessions to travel the world. Nath lives with an indigenous Mayan community, hikes the Andes alone, and sleeps under a meteor shower in Gujarat.

Yes, this one is from last year, but we missed its fall release in 2018 so we’re sharing it now!

Surfacing by Kathleen Jamie (2019)

U.K.-based poet and author, Kathleen Jamie, brings us along the coastlines of various continents, to reflect on what surfaces and what connects us to our past: from ice ages to neolithic farmers, to her personal transitions as her children leave home and her father dies.

“Surface offers a profound sense of time passing and an antidote to all that is instant, ephemeral, unrooted.”

She Explores: Stories of Life-Changing Adventures on the Road and in the Wild by Gale Straub (2019)

I’d be remiss not to include the book written by our founder, Gale Straub, that was released earlier this year. It includes stories that first appeared right here on She-Explores.com that help to expand the definition of what an outdoorswoman looks like. 

She Explores is a compilation of outdoorswomen in six categories (enthusiasts, creatives, founders and professionals, nomads, transplants, and advocates) and practical tips from Straub on topics like solo hiking, staying creatively inspired, building bonds in the outdoors, and respectful recreation.

Downriver: Into the Future of Water in the West by Heather Hansman (2019)

Finishing off our compilation of 2019 releases, Downriver is part adventure memoir, part investigation into how water in the American west is currently being used for agriculture, recreation, power, and how that may change as the climate and culture of the west do too.

We got to know Heather before the book came out, and know for sure it’s worth a read.


Looking for more reading recommendations?

Check our our previous reading lists:

Fall 2016

Winter 2018

Fall 2018

Note: This list contains Amazon affiliate links. If you make a purchase, we receive a small commission at no cost to you, that supports the work we continually do. Thank you for your support!

What’s on your to-read list lately?



  1. Lilace Mellin Guignard says:

    Great list! I love that you included poetry. Two more titles are Waymaking: An anthology of Women’s Adventure Writing, Poetry, and Art edited by Helen Mort, Claire Carter, Heather Dawe and Camilla Barnard (winner of a Banff Award) and my book, When Everything Beyond the Walls Is Wild: Being a Woman Outdoors in America. Both are available on Amazon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *