Whether you live in a large crowded city or call the suburbs home, nothing is more American than seeking adventure and getting lost (often to be “found”) in the great outdoors. Recent hits like Cheryl Strayed’s Wild have brought camping and the classic outdoor adventure narrative back into the mainstream, but American authors and citizens from all walks of life have been pitching a tent across deserts, forests and mountains for over 100 years.
If you’re looking for a little inspiration for a future trek of your own, or just want to live vicariously through someone else’s adventures for the moment, give these three books a try.
The Call of the Wild by Jack London (1903)
Most people first encounter Jack London’s classic in school. The short novel provides a great read (or re-read) for nature, animal, history and adventure lovers of all ages and backgrounds. The story of Buck’s epic journey from a domestic dog in California to a victim of trafficking and forced labor, and his struggle to serve and conquer the wild in the Yukon during the Gold Rush, has drawn parallels to everything from Darwin’s theory of the survival of the fittest, to the very human concepts of love, loss and loyalty.
Ranger Confidential: Living, Working, and Dying in the National Parks by Andrea Lankford (2010)
For an insider’s perspective into what life is like in some of our country’s most iconic and majestic national parks and wilderness areas that you can’t get from a guided tour or the seat of a tour bus, check out Andrea Lankford’s account of her life as a park ranger. The frontier days may have come to an end a long time ago, but there is still plenty of adventure, wildness and danger to be found off the beaten path in Ranger Confidential.
Roughing It by Mark Twain (1872)
For a little more humor and fun than earnest wilderness narrative, pick up a copy of Roughing It, which is a semi-autobiographical account of Twain’s travels through the Western Territories after the Civil War. In addition to his humorous account of what happened (and maybe happened) as he traveled through Nevada and Utah by stagecoach, it is an early look into the iconic writer’s mind before the birth of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.
Once you’ve made your way through one (or all) of these classics, you might just find yourself inspired to pick up some camping gear and head out on an adventure of your own.