I had a hell of a time writing my Outside Online story, Before Cheryl Met Oprah: 5 Other Outdoor Adventure Memoirs by Women. When I pitched it, I’d had an idea of the books I wanted to include in the list, but I wanted to be sure I wasn’t overlooking anything crucial — and as I googled and cruised the library stacks and asked friends and colleagues for recommendations, the job got harder and harder. Turns out I was tapping into a seriously rich vein.
Here are some of the female-authored outdoor adventure books that didn’t wind up on the final Outside list, but which have definitely landed on my personal To-Read list:
- The Lobster Chronicles: Life on a Very Small Island and The Hungry Ocean: A Swordboat Captain’s Journey, by Linda Greenlaw
Remember the fearless female ship captain who radio-bantered with George Clooney in “The Perfect Storm”? Greenlaw is her real-life inspiration, and her two books on life in the New England fishing industry have hauled in praise and sales.
- Diary of a Wilderness Dweller, by Chris Czajkowski
This one was recommended to me by several friends around Whitehorse. It chronicles the author’s efforts to carve out a home in a remote, uninhabited stretch of British Columbia’s Coast Mountains. Sort of a Canadian west coast classic.
- This Cold Heaven: Seven Seasons in Greenland, by Gretel Ehrlich
This was one of the last titles I cut from the final list, and it was a tough call. It’s beautifully written, and about a part of the world that we rarely hear much about.
- Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman’s Skiff, by Rosemary Mahoney
Mahoney’s travelogue about rowing the Nile solo has been on my radar since it came out in 2007.
- Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard
I’ve read parts of Dillard’s classic meditation on the natural world that surrounds her home over the years, but I’ve never sat down and worked my way through the whole book. Someday!
- Anything by Freya Stark
I know, I know. This is a huge gap in my travel reading repertoire. Five of Stark’s books landed on World Hum’s list of the 100 Most Celebrated Travel Books of All Time a couple years back, but I still haven’t managed to read any of them.
Other suggestions, from friends and in comments on the story, included Kabloona in the Yellow Kayak (a memoir about paddling the Northwest Passage); Pam Houston’s A Little More About Me; Isabella Bird’s classic, A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains; A Mile in her Boots: Women Who Work in the Wild, a collection recommended to me by my favorite female field geologist; and Maiden Voyage, by Tanya Aebi, the story of a teenager’s solo sail around the world.
I’m thrilled to hear about all of these books – I’ve often thought of the outdoor adventure genre as being pretty male-dominated, but it seems there are plenty of memoirs by women out there, too. Pick one up, why don’t you?