Does your list of favorite things in life include hiking and reading outdoor books? Interested in meeting others who enjoy the same? Each month I will choose an outdoor book to read and discuss while hitting the trails near Seattle. Sign up below for the monthly newsletter to receive the latest book selection and meetup location. The club is open to anyone and everyone. I will choose trails that are within everyone’s ability levels as specified when you sign up. Babies, kids and well-behaved dogs are all welcome, the more the merrier!
Don’t live in Seattle? You can still sign up for the newsletter to receive the book selections and read along. After the meetup hike I will post a recap page here where you can share your thoughts and favorite parts of the book.
You can also join our Facebook Group.
And now (drum roll, please), the book selections:
April 2017: A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying, but before she ends it all, Nao plans to document the life of her great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. A diary is Nao’s only solace—and will touch lives in a ways she can scarcely imagine.
Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox—possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao’s drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future.
Full of Ozeki’s signature humor and deeply engaged with the relationship between writer and reader, past and present, fact and fiction, quantum physics, history, and myth, A Tale for the Time Being is a brilliantly inventive, beguiling story of our shared humanity and the search for home. (From Goodreads)
March 2017: The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben
In The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben shares his deep love of woods and forests and explains the amazing processes of life, death, and regeneration he has observed in the woodland and the amazing scientific processes behind the wonders of which we are blissfully unaware. Much like human families, tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, and support them as they grow, sharing nutrients with those who are sick or struggling and creating an ecosystem that mitigates the impact of extremes of heat and cold for the whole group. As a result of such interactions, trees in a family or community are protected and can live to be very old. In contrast, solitary trees, like street kids, have a tough time of it and in most cases die much earlier than those in a group.
Drawing on groundbreaking new discoveries, Wohlleben presents the science behind the secret and previously unknown life of trees and their communication abilities; he describes how these discoveries have informed his own practices in the forest around him. As he says, a happy forest is a healthy forest, and he believes that eco-friendly practices not only are economically sustainable but also benefit the health of our planet and the mental and physical health of all who live on Earth. (From Goodreads)
February 2017: The Ice Palace by Tarjei Vesaas
Commonly seen as the legendary Norwegian writer’s masterpiece, this story tells the tale of Siss and Unn, two friends who have only spent one evening in each other’s company. But so profound is this evening between them that when Unn inexplicably disappears, Siss’s world is shattered. The Ice Palace is written in prose of a lyrical economy that ranks among the most memorable achievements of modern literature. (From Goodreads)
January 2017: The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey
In a work that beautifully demonstrates the rewards of closely observing nature, Elisabeth Bailey shares an inspiring and intimate story of her uncommon encounter with a Neohelix albolabris —a common woodland snail. While an illness keeps her bedridden, Bailey watches a wild snail that has taken up residence on her nightstand. As a result, she discovers the solace and sense of wonder that this mysterious creature brings and comes to a greater under standing of her own confined place in the world. Intrigued by the snail’s molluscan anatomy, cryptic defenses, clear decision making, hydraulic locomotion, and mysterious courtship activities, Bailey becomes an astute and amused observer, providing a candid and engaging look into the curious life of this underappreciated small animal. (From Goodreads)
December 2016: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Set against Iceland’s stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution.
Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes’s death looms, the farmer’s wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they’ve heard.
Riveting and rich with lyricism, Burial Rites evokes a dramatic existence in a distant time and place, and asks the question, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others? (From Goodreads)
November 2016: The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
Daniel James Brown’s robust book tells the story of the University of Washington’s 1936 eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans. The sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the boys defeated elite rivals first from eastern and British universities and finally the German crew rowing for Adolf Hitler in the Olympic games in Berlin, 1936.The emotional heart of the story lies with one rower, Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not for glory, but to regain his shattered self-regard and to find a place he can call home. The crew is assembled by an enigmatic coach and mentored by a visionary, eccentric British boat builder, but it is their trust in each other that makes them a victorious team. They remind the country of what can be done when everyone quite literally pulls together—a perfect melding of commitment, determination, and optimism. (From Goodreads)
October 2016: Thru-Hiking Will Break Your Heart by Carrot Quinn
Carrot Quinn fears that she’s become addicted to the internet. The city makes her feel numb, and she’s having trouble connecting with others. In a desperate move she breaks away from everything to walk 2,660 miles from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail. It will be her first long-distance hike.
In the desert of Southern California Carrot faces many challenges, both physical and emotional: pain, injury, blisters, aching cold and searing heat, dehydration, exhaustion, loneliness. In the wilderness she happens upon and becomes close with an eclectic group of strangers- people she wouldn’t have chanced to meet in the “regular world” but who are brought together, here on the trail, by their one common goal: make it to Canada before the snow flies. (From Goodreads)
September 2016: The Steady Running of the Hour by Justin Go
In this mesmerizing debut, a young American discovers he may be heir to the unclaimed estate of an English World War I officer, which launches him on a quest across Europe to uncover the elusive truth. Just after graduating college, Tristan Campbell receives a letter delivered by special courier to his apartment in San Francisco. It contains the phone number of a Mr. J.F. Prichard of Twyning Hooper, Solicitors, in London and news that could change Tristan’s life forever.
In 1924, Prichard explains, an English alpinist named Ashley Walsingham died attempting to summit Mt. Everest, leaving his fortune to his former lover, Imogen Soames-Andersson. But the estate was never claimed. Information has recently surfaced suggesting Tristan may be the rightful heir, but unless he can find documented evidence, the fortune will be divided among charitable beneficiaries in less than two months. In a breathless race from London archives to Somme battlefields to the Eastfjords of Iceland, Tristan pieces together the story of a forbidden affair set against the tumult of the First World War and the pioneer British expeditions to Mt. Everest. Following his instincts through a maze of frenzied research, Tristan soon becomes obsessed with the tragic lovers, and he crosses paths with a mysterious French girl named Mireille who suggests there is more to his quest than he realizes. Tristan must prove that he is related to Imogen to inherit Ashley’s fortune but the more he learns about the couple, the stranger his journey becomes. The Steady Running of the Hour announces the arrival of a stunningly talented author. Part love story, part historical tour de force, Justin Go’s novel is utterly compelling, unpredictable, and heartrending. (From Goodreads)
August 2016: Extreme Sleeps by Phoebe Smith
Veteran globetrotter Phoebe Smith sets out to prove that outdoor adventures are available in the UK which rival anything found elsewhere in the world. In this sometimes scary, frequently funny and intriguing journey around the country, Phoebe attempts to discover and conquer its wildest places.From spending the night in the decaying wreckage of a World War Two bomber at Bleaklow to pitching next to the adrenaline-inducing sheer drops of Lizard Point, Phoebe’s extreme sleeps defy her perceptions of the great outdoors and teach her about herself along the way. (Synopsis from Goodreads)
July 2016: The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
An elderly artist and her six-year-old granddaughter while away a summer together on a tiny island in the gulf of Finland. Gradually, the two learn to adjust to each other’s fears, whims and yearnings for independence, and a fierce yet understated love emerges – one that encompasses not only the summer inhabitants but the island itself, with its mossy rocks, windswept firs and unpredictable seas. Full of brusque humour and wisdom, The Summer Book is a profoundly life-affirming story. Tove Jansson captured much of her own experience and spirit in the book, which was her favorite of the novels she wrote for adults. This new edition sees the return of a European literary gem – fresh, authentic and deeply humane. (Synopsis from Goodreads)
June 2016: The Middle of Somewhere by Sonja Yoerg
A troubled, young widow hikes from Yosemite Valley deep into the wilderness on the John Muir Trail to elude her shameful past in this emotionally gripping novel. With her thirtieth birthday looming, Liz Kroft is heading for the hills- literally. Her emotional baggage weighs her down more than her backpack, but a three-week trek promises the solitude she craves- at least until her boyfriend, Dante, decides to tag along. His broad moral streak makes the prospect of confessing her sins more difficult, but as much as she fears losing him more. Maybe. They set off together alone under blue skies, but it’s not long before storms threaten and two strange brothers appear along the trail. Amid the jagged, towering peaks, Liz must decide whether to admit her mistakes and confront her fears, or face the trail, the brothers and her future alone. (Synopsis from Goodreads)
May 2016: Phenomenal by Leigh Ann Henion
One woman reclaims her sense of wonder by seeking out the globe’s most incredible natural phenomena. Heartfelt and awe inspiring, Leigh Ann Henion’s Phenomenal is a moving tale of physical grandeur and emotional transformation, a journey around the world that ultimately explores the depths of the human heart. A journalist and young mother, Henion combines her own conflicted but joyful experiences as a parent with a panoramic tour of the world’s most extraordinary natural wonders. Phenomenal begins with hardship: with Henion deeply shaken by the birth of her son, shocked at the adversity a young mother faces with a newborn. The lack of sleep, the shrinking social circle, the health difficulties, all collide and force Henion to ask hard questions about our accepted wisdom on parenting and the lives of women. (Synopsis from Goodreads)
Book Club Recap- Phenomenal @ Barclay Lake, May 2016
April 2016: Spirited Waters by Jennifer Hahn
In this insightful account of her solo voyage in a sixteen-foot kayak, Jennifer Hahn vividly relates the terrifying predicaments, ecstatic moments, and personal challenges of paddling against the winds through Alaska’s Inside Passage. Much more than a memoir, Spirited Waters is a remarkable blend of adventure travel, natural history, personal challenge, vivid animal encounters, Northwest mythology, and heartwarming coastal characters. (Synopsis from Goodreads)
March 2016: Grandma Gatewood’s Walk by Ben Montgomery
Emma Gatewood told her family she was going on a walk and left her small Ohio hometown with a change of clothes and less than two hundred dollars. The next anybody heard from her, this genteel, farm-reared, 67-year-old great-grandmother had walked 800 miles along the 2,050-mile Appalachian Trail. And in September 1955, having survived a rattlesnake strike, two hurricanes, and a run-in with gangsters from Harlem, she stood atop Maine’s Mount Katahdin. There she sang the first verse of “America, the Beautiful” and proclaimed, “I said I’ll do it, and I’ve done it.” Grandma Gatewood, as the reporters called her, became the first woman to hike the entire Appalachian Trail alone, as well as the first person—man or woman—to walk it twice and three times. Gatewood became a hiking celebrity and appeared on TV and in the pages of Sports Illustrated. The public attention she brought to the little-known footpath was unprecedented. Her vocal criticism of the lousy, difficult stretches led to bolstered maintenance, and very likely saved the trail from extinction. (Synopsis from Goodreads)
February 2016: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart–he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm, she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning, the snow child is gone–but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees. This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them. (Synopsis from Goodreads)