Recently, several noteworthy books were published by leaders within the outdoor community, including Patagonia Founder Yvon Chouinard and Survivalist and TV Host Ed Stafford. Their gorgeous coffee table books are collections of stories and photographs that you can pick up and skim through time and time again or dive into anytime you crave a little inspiration.
Some first-time publishers also put out interesting reads this year, including an introduction to #vanlife from a couple who lived it for several years and a book focusing on a few dozen inspirational females in the outdoors industry by the founder, editor-in-chief, and podcast host of She Explores.
So grab a blanket and curl on up. Here are our picks of the best new outdoor books.
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Some Stories: Lessons From The Edge Of Business And Sport by Yvon Chouinard
This new coffee table book from the founder of Patagonia takes readers through his colorful life with entertaining stories alongside stunning photographs of Yvon and friends over the decades. It’s a tale of his epic adventures—sometimes funny and lighthearted, other times thoughtful and reflective.
Some Stories is a personally curated collection of 81-year-old Yvon’s favorite writings, though he much prefers to refer to himself as a storyteller than a writer.
From being an active participant in the Golden Age of so many outdoor sports like rock climbing and fly fishing to running one of the world’s most popular outdoor gear and apparel companies, Yvon is someone worth listening to and learning from.
While you wait for the book to arrive, get excited for the impending wisdom by listening to his interview on the NPR Podcast How I Built This with host Guy Raz. Yvon is not afraid to try new things that his competitors wouldn’t dare. He’s driven by doing what’s right for the world and for its people—not for sales or his bottom line. Take for example, Patagonia’s pop-up shop in Boulder selling second-hand clothes and repairing old gear for customers.
Yvon ends the book with a shift to today’s environmental issues, something he and his company are truly pioneering in the outdoor industry.
In the book, he presents Patagonia’s new mission statement, revised for the first time in 27 years to read: “We’re in business to save our home planet.” With it, Mr. Chouinard emphasizes the urgency of the climate crisis, then entreats every person’s obligation to reflect on, commit to, and act on this mission.
“Every time I do something good for the planet, my business grows.” – Yvon Chouinard
Expeditions Unpacked: What the Great Explorers Took Into the Unknown
For all you gearheads—and anyone inspired by the stories of the people who set out on the most daring first attempts—this book will really speak to you.
Written by explorer and survivalist Ed Stafford, Expeditions Unpacked details 25 great expeditions by taking an up-close-and-personal look at the equipment these explorers took along with them.
Some of the most notable expeditions highlighted in this coffee table book include Amelia Earhart’s 15-hour flight across the Atlantic in 1932 and Roald Amundsen’s 19-month race to the South Pole, 1910-1920.
With 200 photographs and illustrations, you understand the scale, style, and complexity of the exact items taken into the unknown by these famous explorers, and—most importantly and certainly most interestingly—the impact each item had on their journey.
Author Ed Stafford is the Guinness World Record-holder for being the first person to walk the Amazon River. His survival skills are tested to their limits on the Discovery Channel series, Ed Stafford: First Man Out.
MORE: A Modern-Day List of the 10 Essentials for Outdoor Survival, Plus 10 Extras
She Explores: Stories of Life-Changing Adventures on the Road and in the Wild
She Explores is written by Gale Straub, founder of the website She Explores and host of the podcast with the same name.
As Gale’s first foray into books, she’s culled together a collection of 40 first-person stories and photographs from women in the outdoors, including artists and activists, paid professionals and casual participants, and countless others who don’t quite fit into a bucket or mold but offer influence and inspiration nonetheless.
This book is about their personal journeys in life and leisure, detailing their accomplishments and fears—and everything in between. It’s an intimate look into the subjects, touching on their experiences with things like mental health, motherhood, diversity, and inclusion.
Some of the subjects include Brooke Weeber, a Portland-based photographer, illustrator, and adventurer, and Summer, one of the ladies who started Fat Girls Hiking.
Also check out She Explores’ list of the best 13 women-authored outdoor adventure books of the year.
MORE: Inclusivity in the Outdoors
The Culture of Vanlife by The Rolling Home
Since this book published in March 2019 by Lannoo, it seems the duo behind The Rolling Home has moved on from their website and Instagram account dedicated to the nomadic, mobile lifestyle and have permanently posted up in the UK to focus on van designs and conversions. Not that that takes away from the lovely book they created based largely on their life-on-the-road experiences.
The Culture of Vanlife is a great introduction to what #vanlife is all about. The photos are interesting and insightful. Some are well-styled with the van just so against the sunset, while others seem to offer more of a behind-the-scenes, honest glimpse into the lifestyle (but still very pleasing to the eye, of course).
Topics range from the vanlife culture and the types of people who are labeled “van dwellers,” to vehicle types and what works for who with tips on how to maximize interior designs for full-time living and how to build a rolling home of your own.
As far as I can tell, the content isn’t anything you can’t find on the Internet. And if you’re really interested in exploring the idea of vanlife, I suggest you spend a lot more time researching and reading different people’s perspectives and experiences.
It is a fun book, though, and would make a great gift for anyone who loves a good road trip. Like moi.
MORE: My Vanlife Childhood
Mindful Thoughts for Stargazers
Written by a PhD who studied astronomy before becoming a yoga teacher and later a zen monk (what are you doing with your life?), Mark Westmoquette, Mindful Thoughts for Stargazers can be boiled down to this: it is about finding your inner universe.
In the intro, Mark explains the intention of the book is “to explore various aspects of the stars, the planets and the Universe to help us live with more presence and awareness of our own two feet on the ground.” Hell yes. The book looks at how astronomy is an enlightening tool to transformative awareness. Are you still with me here?
Mark offers some basic background on space (which is helpful for anyone like me who cannot wrap their head around light years and black holes) and how the universe came to be, while weaving in mindfulness and emotions, and ultimately, how it’s all connected.
I will say this. This is all very fascinating to me, and there were a ton of interesting tidbits in this book. No offense to the author whatsoever, but I fancy it as a perfect bathroom read. It’s a psychically small book and fits on the tank so nicely, and it’s broken up into bite-size pieces, making the information easy to digest. Learning about the cosmos is a perfect way to pass the time. Who’s ready for some toilet transformations?
In all seriousness, I dig this book and its concept. In a busy world where most of us are making a focused effort to make time to unplug and unwind, stargazing and meditation seem like a perfect combo to help silence the mind and still the body.
Reading this also reminded me of times I’ve stared endlessly into dark skies. Like the first time I went camping in Yosemite or visiting the country’s first Dark Sky Park, Natural Bridges National Monument, on a road trip through Utah.
National Parks Our Living Treasure (A Time for Concern)
This book is not a compilation of short stories nor a potty publication, which is to say I have not read it enough to personally suggest it or really dive into the topics presented. However, I am including it because I think it’s an important subject worth looking at, and I think some of you will agree.
Author Dr. Gil Lusk brings his 35+ years of experience in the National Park Service to this book, detailing not only his successful career but also taking a look at the issues that face our national parks today.
In National Parks Our Living Treasure, Dr. Lusk addresses some of the major challenges—like funding and resource deterioration—and how these need to be addressed and corrected in order to uphold the original mission of the National Park Service. He discusses political and fundamental challenges that the parks are up against today and the need to create tangible steps for the preservation and restoration of the National Park System.
Before you buy the book, check out an article he contributed to The Hill, titled, “Close some national parks for the rest to survive.”
It’s certainly a complicated issue and one that takes time to understand, but it is something we should all be interested and invested in, as lovers and protectors of our parks. You can read more in this report from Outside Magazine on how proposed budget cuts to the Department of the Interior in 2020 would devastate national parks.