|History and lists|
Outdoor literature is a literature genre about or involving the outdoors. Outdoor literature encompasses several different sub-genres including Exploration literature, Adventure literature, Mountain literature and Nature writing. These genres can include activities such as exploration, survival, sailing, mountaineering, whitewater boating, geocaching, kayaking, etc. or writing about nature and the environment. They all involve being in the outdoors as a central theme and are usually narrative non-fiction. It differs from Travel literature, although the two genres can mix and there is no definitive boundary.
Henry David Thoreau's Walden (1854) is an early and influential work. Although not entirely an outdoor work (he lived in a cabin nearby civilization) he expressed the ideas of why people go out into the wilderness to camp, backpack and hike: to get away from the rush of modern society and simplify life. This was a new perspective for the time and thus Walden has had a lasting influence on most outdoor authors.
Robert Louis Stevenson's Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes (1879), about his travels in Cévennes (France), is among the first popular books to present hiking and camping as recreational activities, and tells of commissioning one of the first sleeping bags.
Notable outdoor literature
- Pre-19th Century
- Richard Hakluyt (1589). Voyages. A foundation text of the travel literature genre.
- 19th Century
- Charles Darwin (1839). The Voyage of the Beagle.
- Richard Henry Dana, Jr. (1841). Two Years Before the Mast. Some of the earliest descriptions of California.
- Henry Walter Bates (1863). The Naturalist on the River Amazons. Unrepeatable observations of a vanished rainforest, its peoples, plants and animals.
- John MacGregor (1866). A Thousand Miles in a Rob Roy Canoe. Considered the first documentation of recreational canoeing.
- Alfred Russel Wallace (1869). The Malay Archipelago. Classic tales of tropical discovery.
- Edward Whymper (1871). Scrambles Amongst the Alps in the Years 1860-1869
- Mark Twain (1872). Roughing It. Part real part fiction, classic account of life in the American Old West.
- Robert Louis Stevenson (1878). An Inland Voyage. A canoeing trip through France and Belgium in 1876; Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes (1879).
- Joshua Slocum (1900). Sailing Alone Around the World. A 53-year old Nova Scotia mariner is first to do this between 1895 and 1898.
- 20th Century
- Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World, an account of Robert Falcon Scott's 1910-1913 expedition to the South Pole.
- Ernest Shackleton (1917), South: the story of Shackleton's last expedition, 1914-1917. A classic of polar exploration.
- Evelyn Waugh (1930s). When the Going Was Good. With Waugh around the Mediterranean, to Ethiopia, across Africa and through the jungles of South America, in the late 1920s and 1930s.
- Grey Owl (1935). Pilgrims of the Wild. About Grey Owl's life in the wilds of Canada.
- Gontran de Poncins (1939). Kabloona. French adventurer living with Eskimos in the late 1930s.
- Wilfred Thesiger (1950s). Arabian Sands. Another classic of adventure. Since he travelled so much, Thesiger's biography, The Life of My Choice also rates as a great travel book. Thesiger's travels took him to Ethiopia, Arabia, French West Africa and the Sudan. He was an explorer/adventurer, soldier and British colonial official.
- Maurice Herzog (1951). Annapurna: Conquest of the First 8000-metre Peak. Probably the most influential mountaineering expedition book.
- Wallace Stegner (1954). Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West
- Eric Newby (1958). A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush. Popular English travel writer.
- Alfred Lansing (1959). Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage.
- John Hillaby, Journey to the Jade Sea (1964); Journey through Britain; Journey through Europe; Journey to the Gods (1991). Accounts of various long distance walks.
- Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time of Gifts (1977); Between Wind and Water. The two volumes describe a walk across Europe.
- Jon Krakauer (1990s). Into the Wild, Into Thin Air.
- Joe Simpson, Touching the Void (1988). Mountain climbing in the Andes
- Jim Perrin, Spirits of Place (1997); The Climbing Essays (2006); West: A Journey through the Landscapes of Loss (2010). A rock climber and travel writer.
- Rory Stewart, The Places in Between (2006). A walk across Afghanistan in 2002, after the Russians had left.
- Robert Macfarlane, Mountains of the Mind: A History of a Fascination; The Wild Places; The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot (2012). He is one of a number of recent British writers who have provoked a new critical and popular interest in writing about landscape.
- National Outdoor Book Awards
- Outdoor Book Review. A Guide to Outdoor Literature.
- National Geographic Adventure: 100 Best Adventure Books. Alternate site.
- Outside Magazine's 25 Best Adventure Books of the Last 100 Years
- Bookmarks Magazine 101 Crackerjack Sea Books, the best books about the sea.
- Adventure Literature; A Critique from The Open Critic
- American Journeys, collection of primary exploration accounts of the Americas.
- Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature