Move over, beach reads! The pandemic forced me to be a lot more outdoorsy than usual just to get out of the house. I’ve always enjoyed camping, but I definitely started doing it more frequently when it became my only vacation option. I know definitions of what can actually be considered “camping” vary widely from person to person. For some people, a cabin in the woods with AC and a functional toilet counts. For others, if it’s not in a tent with no access to running water, it’s not “real camping.” Some people are into yurts. I’m not here to gatekeep. Whatever the case, camping is prime reading time. You’re surrounded by nature, you’re disconnected from wifi and technology … what else is there to do? One of my favorite things about camping is picking out which books I’m going to bring along. Here are some suggestions for whatever genre you’re into.
If you like horror, camping is a perfect reading setting. You’re surrounded by darkness and spooky woods (and the myriad of weird sounds that come from them). With that in mind, two great books to bring along are “The Only Good Indians” by Stephen Graham Jones and “The Twisted Ones” by T. Kingfisher. Both involve, among other things, some truly creepy deer-like creatures that emerge from the woods.
For romance, “Get a Life, Chloe Brown” is a fun book, especially if you’re more of a reluctant camper. In her attempt to “get a life,” Chloe makes a list of things outside of her comfort zone to do, one of which is going on a camping trip.
Nothing pairs better with waking up slowly over a cup of coffee right as the sun rises than Mary Oliver’s “Why I Wake Early.” This book is a celebration of nature and the lessons we can learn from it. Similarly, Wendell Berry’s poetry invites the reader to “come into the peace of wild things that do not tax their lives with forethought of grief” (“The Peace of Wild Things,” from “The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry”).
For literary fiction, “Into the Wild” is a pretty classic choice. Envisioning a Jack London-esque adventure, a wealthy young man gives up all of his possessions and savings and hitchhikes to Alaska to start a new life. It … does not go well. If you’re, like, really into trees, check out “The Overstory.”
Camping is all about making everything more difficult for yourself. Need to cook? You have to start a fire instead of just turning on the stove. Need to wash dishes? It’s a lot harder without a sink. Need to go to the bathroom? You get it. Take that difficulty and dial it way up — that’s what Mark Watney is dealing with in the sci-fi novel, “The Martian.” Stranded on a space station on Mars, he must work with dwindling and inadequate resources to stay alive long enough to be rescued.
Among the most iconic wilderness memoirs, “Wild” follows Sheryl Strayed as she solo hikes the entirety of the Pacific Crest Trail after her life falls apart. This book will probably make whatever sort of camping you’re doing feel comparatively easy. On the more humorous side of things, Nick Offerman (who plays Ron Swanson in “Parks and Recreation“) discusses love, life, and woodworking in “Paddle Your Own Canoe.”
Camping can bring an extra dimension to nature-related non-fiction. A huge perk of being far away from the city is that you can actually see the stars at night. “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” will tell you all about how everything you see in the night sky is even cooler than it looks. For the daylight hours, “The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs” can tell you all of the things nature reveals such as time, direction, weather forecasts, etc.
Also, reading by flashlight or firelight is hard, so be sure to get yourself a head lamp.