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Work, family, finances, foul weather. You’re in need of a wilderness escape, but you just can’t get away. Curl up with a book, disappear into a lively story, and explore vicariously. Here are 5 books to feed your soul.

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. This is the type of book that I’ll return to again and again, sipping small doses at a time. Annie Dillard observes, muses, and records in glorious prose the natural world around her in the mountains of Virginia. It’s poetry and philosophy, rich in images and insight. These are words to savor.

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver. Kingsolver amazes me with her lyrical prose and wealth of knowledge of our natural world. I especially liked the structure of this novel – three alternating and interconnected narratives. Lush and illuminating, humorous and passionate, Kingsolver weaves a world of wonder. I don’t think you can go wrong with any of her books; her work has a conscience. Pick your way through her essays in Small Wonder or experience her move to a rural farm in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams. I’m quite sure I would have never discovered this gem of a memoir if I hadn’t browsed in Maria’s Bookshop during a trip to Durango, Colorado. It was a staff recommendation and perfectly pocket-sized for my airplane ride home, but little did I know the vibrancy I would find inside. I can’t describe it any better than this review by Anne Lamott: “Brilliant, meditative, and full of surprises, wisdom, and wonder.”

If you’re in the mood for a mystery, choose any novel by Tony Hillerman. Dance Hall of the Dead is one of the most highly regarded of his novels, but you might as well start with Blessing Way, the first in his Navajo mystery series featuring Lt. Joe Leaphorn of the Navajo Tribal Police. You’ll be hooked. These are classic murder mysteries, but Hillerman’s stories are infused with Native American tradition and lore and set in the vast and sacred Four Corners lands.

The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality by Belden C. Lane. Here’s a cerebral pick if you want to feel more intelligent and erudite. This book is beautiful, dense, highly researched, deeply philosophical, and sure to put you soundly to sleep. ☺

Yes, I know I said only 5 books, but I can’t help myself. On a trip to Asheville, N.C., we discovered several shelves of books wrapped in brown paper at Malaprop’s bookstore. The book inside was a surprise; you had to trust their recommendation. We chose the wrapping that said, “inspirational, knowledgeable, poetic, scientific, eye opening, engaging,” and were delighted to find The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature by David George Haskell.

This list could go on and on. From Thoreau to Rick Bass to Bill Bryson to Cheryl Strayed, you have so many choices. Escape into some of the books-to-movies too. 

The Forest Unseen book photo (1)

What’s your favorite book or movie about a journey into the wild?

Kristin Lenz

Kristin Lenz

Kristin Lenz is a writer and social worker whose career has taken her from rural Appalachia to the California Bay Area to inner-city Detroit. Currently, she lives with her husband and daughter in Michigan. Her writing has been published by online literary journals including Hunger Mountain and Great Lakes Review. Learn more at