Spending time outside is one of the easiest ways to boost your mental health and overall well-being — and science agrees. A 2019 study discovered that spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is linked to good health and well-being. With the weather getting warmer, there’s no better time to get up and get outside. The collection below includes advice on how to improve your walks, funny stories about (very) long hikes, new ways to experience the world around you, and even inspiration to begin gardening. So get out and explore the great outdoors, these nature-filled novels and nonfiction favorites make the perfect companions.
Everyone knows walking has physical, spiritual, and emotional benefits. But did you know that there are fifty-two different ways to walk? In her book, 52 Ways To Walk, author Annabel Streets shows you how to find joy in walking by encouraging you to seek out new locations (many on your own doorstep), find new walking companions, and discover new skills to acquire while walking. Inspirational and backed by science, this practice how-to guide will inspire, challenge, support, and encourage you to become more ambitious with your walking practice.
Noe Alvarez, the son of working-class Mexican immigrants, tells his story of fleeing a life laboring in fruit-packing plants to run in a marathon from Canada to Guatemala (a journey of more than 6,000 miles!). A Remezcla Best Book of the Year by Latine or Latin American Authors, Spirit Run is a stunning memoir that shares the story of Alvarez’s time running through mountains, deserts, cities, and the Mexican territory his parents left behind. Fellow author Luis Alberto Urrea reviewed this book, saying, “You will see this country in a fresh way, and you might see aspects of your own soul. A beautiful run.” Run, don’t walk, to read this one.
Get outside and get gardening with Michelle Obama’s American Grown. In her bestselling book, Obama tells the story of the White House Kitchen Garden she created and shows how gardens can transform your life and the health of your entire community. Going inside the White House will undoubtedly inspire you to get outside and grow your own garden. From unique recipes created by White House chefs to the fascinating history of community gardens in the United States, to stories about the impact of produce in underserved communities, American Grown will show you how much we can grow together.
Wild is the book that inspired thousands of people nationwide to get outside and go hiking. In Cheryl Strayed’s bestselling book, readers are taken on an inspiring journey along the Pacific Crest Trail — an eleven-hundred-mile hike that Strayed did alone when she felt she had nothing left to lose, and the strength and healing she found along the way. Even if you’ve seen the major motion picture starring Reese Witherspoon, this book is worth reading (and re-reading) because it’s all about forging ahead — again and again. It’s a blazingly honest tale that serves as a beautiful reminder of how resilient you can be in the face of tragedy and how getting outside your comfort zone can help guide you home.
If you no longer wish to live in a world that revolves around disconnection and crave a healthier relationship with yourself and nature, I welcome you to read Returning the Self to Nature by Jeanine M. Canty. For fans of self-improvement, you’ll enjoy Canty’s analysis and meditative practices that encourage visualizing and embodying the wild nature of being human. In reading, you can expect to gain skills to experience a more courageous, pluralistic, and ecological lifestyle. Pick this one up to connect to your true nature and experience “a gift to all lovers of the natural world,” as one reviewer said.
The New York Timessays A Walk In The Woods is “the best way of escaping into nature.” Here, you’ll follow the author Bill Bryson on his 2,100-mile trek from Georgia to Maine on the Appalachian Trail — a journey he took to reacquaint himself with the United States after spending twenty years in Britain. With a mix of adventure, comedy, and celebration, A Walk in the Woods is far more than a laugh-out-loud hike (but it will make you laugh). This book (now a major motion picture) is a modern classic of travel literature that’ll inspire you to take your own walk in the woods.
The Invention of Nature is a biography of Alexander von Humboldt, a visionary German naturalist, whose discoveries forever changed how we understand the natural world. Acclaimed author Andrea Wulf brings Humboldt’s extraordinary life into focus, from his prediction of human-induced climate change to his daring expeditions, to the highest peaks of South America and the anthrax-infected steppes of Siberia. You’ll also hear about Humboldt’s relationships with iconic figures like Simón Bolívar and Thomas Jefferson; and the major influence of his writings on visionaries like Darwin, Thoreau, and more.
A broken engagement and a broken heart left Conor Knighton longing for a change of scenery, and so he made the decision to visit each national park in the United States, from Acadia to Zion, in the course of one year. Knighton is at first worried that he has bitten off more than he can chew, but ultimately this idea turns out to be the trip of a lifetime. Named one of the Best Books of the Year by Outside and a New York Times bestseller, Knighton’s journey is best summed up by Nick Offerman who called the book, “a delightful sampler plate of our national parks, written with charisma and erudition.”
If you’re a visual person, Great Outdoors U.S.A. is for you. From exhilarating mountain biking trails and forest rope courses to easy day hikes and lake excursions, this comprehensive collection — complete with Instagrammable photos — offers over 1,000 exciting escapades to experience across the United States. In this book from National Geographic, you will find 20 activities in every state geared to a wide range of experience levels (including family-friendly activities and accessible options). You will have no choice but to create your own bucket list of exhilarating adventures, as this book will make it difficult to stay indoors.
Take yourself on an adventure with Two Trees Make a Forest, the genre-shattering book by Jessica J. Lee. The best way to tell you about this book is from a review from Karla Strand at Ms. Magazine, who describes Two Trees Make a Forest as “part travel guide, part memoir, part history, the new book by environmental historian Jessica J. Lee takes us on a journey through her ancestral home of Taiwan as she examines the landscape, the wildlife, the legacy of colonialism and her own roots. The book beautifully captures the deep connections between the natural world and family history.” Yes, please.
Tolkien once famously said, “not all who wander are lost,” and that’s certainly true with Keri Smith’s The Wander Society. Here is a guide to the Wander Society, a secret group that holds up the act of wandering, or unplanned exploring, as a way of life. Inside these pages, you’ll learn about the group’s mysterious origins, meet fellow wanderers, discover how wandering feeds your creativity, and learn how to best practice the art of wandering — to get you off your couch and outside. Wander away!
Discover the healing power of trees and learn the ancient Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku (aka the art and science of how trees can promote your health and happiness). The book’s author, Dr. Qing Li, is the world’s foremost expert in forest medicine. Inside Forest Bathing, Dr. Qing Li opens your eyes to how shinrin-yoku can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, strengthen your immune and cardiovascular systems, boost your energy, mood, creativity, and concentration, and even help you lose weight and live longer. Yes, all that from trees (and yes, it’s also backed by science)! Read this to make spending time in your backyard or planning your next hike happen ASAP.
Horizon immerses you in Barry Lopez’s travels to six regions of the world: from Western Oregon to the High Arctic; from the Galápagos to the Kenyan desert; from Botany Bay in Australia to, finally, the ice shelves of Antarctica. Horizon is undoubtedly this National Book Award-winning author’s most far-ranging, yet personal, work to date. Read it to follow Lopez as he searches for meaning and purpose in a broken world, and use it to find inspiration to get outside and find your own purpose.
Theresa Cheung is well known for her 21 Ritual series, and she now continues that with a nature-based daily practice book. Inside 21 Rituals to Connect With Nature, you will find 21 simple, easy daily rituals that will help you tune into the natural world around you and help you feel more grounded and connected to yourself as well as others. You’ll be encouraged to perform these rituals daily over three weeks, as research shows that it takes around three weeks to transform a daily practice into a habit. So want to make connecting with nature part of your routine? Pick this guide up.
From the bestselling author of the modern classic, A Little Life, The People in the Trees is a thrilling anthropological adventure story with a profound and tragic vision of what happens when cultures collide. Set in the 1950s, follow a young doctor as he embarks on a journey to a remote Micronesian island and encounters a group of forest dwellers who carry the secret of immortality, but at a tragic cost.
This book is for those who long to forge a more vital, meaningful connection to the natural world and to live a better, more fulfilling life. The Eight Master Lessons of Nature is a striking statement about the powers of physical, mental, and spiritual wellness that come from reclaiming our relationship with Mother Nature. Through cutting-edge data and research, drawing on science, psychology, history, and philosophy, author Gary Ferguson shows readers how to rediscover a connection with the natural world. Think of this one as a meditative book for nature lovers.