July Book Club: Outdoor Living

There’s no better time to take to the open air than the hot, slow days of summer. And if you’re planning a woodland excursion or lazy hours spent at the beach, be sure to pack one of these reads — or several — in your bag. Each devoted in some way to outdoor living, the books below will make for the perfect companions on any sun-dappled afternoon.

Walden; or, Life In The Woods 

Written by transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau, Walden; or, Life In The Woods was published in 1854, a period bookended by the first and second Industrial Revolutions. A social experiment of sorts, the book is a reflective meditation on Thoreau’s experience living alone in a cabin near Walden Pond for two years, two months, and two days. This book was heavily influential on generations to come, and stands today as required reading for anyone looking to live a smaller, more minimalist life.

Hinterland: Cabins, Love Shacks, and Other Hideouts

If reading Walden stirs some romantic fantasies of running away to live in the woods, this book is the perfect follow-up. This collection features gorgeous photo spreads of rural escapes and hideaways: cabins perched on mountaintops, nestled in villages, or surrounded by lush green forests. This book is a colourful homage to cottage culture and the curious structures we build and seek out for respite. Let your imagination run wild with these inventive buildings crafted from unexpected materials, each of which gives new meaning to the concept of being at one with nature.

Testimony: Writers Of The West Speak On Behalf Of Utah Wilderness 

This book is a remarkable testament to the power of the written word in enacting social and environmental change. Testimony was originally compiled by Stephen Trimble and Terry Tempest Williams as a limited edition volume to be presented before Congress. Seeking to protect the wilderness of Utah when it came under threat of development, Trimble and Williams reached out to some of the most beloved and prolific writers of the west, and this unique book played a huge part in Congress’ decision to protect these public lands. This rare volume stands as a historic marriage of art and justice.

The Outsiders: New Outdoor Creativity 

 Joni Mitchell’s song “Woodstock,” released in 1970, stands as a warning — or perhaps a prophecy — of our need to return to a simpler, more environmentally friendly way of life. “We’ve got to get back to the garden,” she sang, and these words are indeed prevalent in a growing trend of those seeking a wilder existence closer to the land. The Outsiders explores the new creative scene that is born out of that desire, delving into the lives of today’s successful outdoor/lifestyle entrepreneurs. A combination of natural beauty and the design-savvy aesthetic of these young adventurers, this book is the perfect addition to your coffee table.

Finding Beauty In A Broken World 

Given her lifelong dedication to environmental work and conservation, and the beautiful body of writing she has produced to accompany that work, it’s hardly a surprise that Terry Tempest Williams makes our list twice. Finding Beauty In A Broken World is a thoughtful, nuanced meditation on the relationship between humans and nature — where we collide, where we connect, and where we clash. Vast in scope, this book is threaded with anecdotes about the Italian ancient art of mosaic, the endangered prairie dogs of the American Southwest, her encounters with genocide survivors in Rwanda, and more, each story adding new and insightful layers to Williams’ search for meaning in a world that is physically, spiritually, and politically splintered.

Living On Water

If you’ve ever fostered fantasies about trading in your sturdy brownstone or sky-high condo for life on a houseboat, this is the book for you. This beautifully photographed book is devoted to houses designed in homogeny with natural bodies of water like oceans, lakes, and rivers, or even human-made pools. This is some serious architectural eye candy; gorgeous houses offer stunning waterfront views, are nestled on watery surfaces, or are specifically designed to create striking reflections in the surrounding water. Think of this as the modernist, tantalizingly design-savvy answer to life on a raft.

Mapplethorpe Flora: The Complete Flowers 

Known for his often graphic, sexually charged imagery, artist Robert Mapplethorpe experimented in numerous mediums like painting, drawing, and sculpture before gravitating towards photography. But that work wasn’t always violent; Mapplethorpe was fascinated by flowers and explored their multitudinous forms through a variety of photographic processes, like Polaroids and dye-transfer colour works. This book is perfect for perusal on a summer afternoon, sitting on a bench in a garden overflowing with flora and fauna.

National Geographic Greatest Landscapes 

Is there any publication with a name more synonymous with breathtaking landscape photography than National Geographic? This book contains one stunning photograph after another, showcasing some of the world’s most extraordinary locations. Steeped in natural beauty and some of the most otherworldly sites on the planet, these pages will draw you in with iconic imagery of deserts, snowcapped mountains, forests, and more, photographed beneath star-spangled skies or the pink twinges of twilight. This book will not only make you want to get outside and immerse yourself in the natural world, but we’re also betting that it’ll leave you itching to travel!

The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create The World’s Great Drinks

If you’re planning a camping trip this summer, forget about your standard beers and coolers; reach instead for The Drunken Botanist and get inspired to whip up some drinks whose ingredients come from nature! This New York Times Bestseller explores the herbs, flowers, trees, fruits, and fungi that different cultures around the world have transformed into sake, scotch, tequila, rum, bourbon, and more. A combination of history, botany, chemistry, etymology, biology, and of course mixology, this curious collection of recipes, gardening tips, and profiles on unusual plants will leave you feeling like a connoisseur. Thirsty yet?

A California Bestiary

Much like Terry Tempest Williams, Rebecca Solnit’s writing has dealt heavily with the relationship between humans and nature, often using her own life as a lens through which to explore this complicated connection. In A California Bestiary, Solnit joins forces with artist Mona Caron to explore the native wildlife of California in a magical way. Drawing inspiration from medieval bestiaries, in which animals were depicted as fanciful creatures, Solnit writes lovingly about the state’s very real animals, but approaches her study of each with a language ripped straight from the folklore of days gone by. This book shines an interesting light on just how extraordinary the real animals of our world are — and why we should strive so hard to protect them.