Couple reading  a book outdoors
Discover nine books that deserve to be read at the park, on the beach, or in your backyard.

Many of us have found ourselves spending more time outside this past year because, frankly, there was no place else to go. But the truth is, outside is exactly where we need to be.

Studies show spending time outdoors is good for our physical, spiritual, and emotional health. Best of all, it doesn’t take an expensive beach vacation or a long road trip to a national park to get the benefits. 

Stepping outside right where you are for 20 minutes a day can help lighten your mental load. Breathe the air, look at the flowers, listen to the birds, gaze at the sky—it’s life-changing medicine for the soul that’s free for the taking any time you need it, day or night.

At Discover Books, we’d like to take those benefits one step further. Since going outside is good for our health and reading books is good for our health, why not do both at the same time to double the benefits? While the actual science behind our idea might be sketchy, empirical evidence says otherwise. No one can argue that enjoying a great book while relaxing outside feels fantastic. Here are nine books that are perfect for an afternoon of outdoor reading.

The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey (biography)

Candice Millard, 2006

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One part biography, One part adventure story, The River of Doubt recounts the remarkable events surrounding Theodore Roosevelt’s exploration of an uncharted tributary of the Amazon River. Roosevelt and his team were unprepared, lost their canoes and supplies, endured hunger, and survived starvation, disease, and an attack. And let’s not forget the murder. This book brings the story as well as the rainforest alive in a thrilling non-fiction narrative.

The Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (memoir)

Annie Dillard, 1974

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The Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is a soaring narrative about the wonders of God’s creations. Ms. Dillard shares deeply personal thoughts about the goodness of God and the cruelty of the world around us. The first chapter is entitled Heaven and Earth in Jest, a dichotomy that’s echoed throughout this memorable book. Her descriptions of insect life and her account of a frog being drained and eaten by a water beetle are haunting and unforgettable. You’ll learn to see the world differently after experiencing this book.

Wilding: The Return of Nature to a British Farm (memoir)

Isabella Tree, 2018

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Isabella and her husband lived on an unruly, unproductive, unsustainable farm in West Sussex. In 2000, they took an unexpected approach to the problems and stopped trying to manage the land entirely. The result: their 3,500 acres are now teeming with life. Rare species have returned, and biodiversity has skyrocketed. 

If you’re ready to take an entirely new look at ecology and maybe find a legitimate reason to do less yard work this summer, this is the book for you.

The Secret Life of Water (non-fiction)

Masaru Emoto

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The secrets water carries have the power to help us define and overcome the challenges facing our planet. That’s the premise of this science-meets-spirituality look at water. It’s hard to categorize this book, but what’s certain is that reading it will move you along your path towards serenity and happiness.

My Family and Other Animals (autobiography)

Gerald Durrell, 1956

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This book is the first in a trilogy written by Gerald Durrell about his family’s time living on the Greek island of Corfu between 1935 and 1939. You might have seen the Masterpiece television series based on the books. What you might not realize is that Gerald Durrell grew up to be a famous zoologist. His books are packed with charming observations about the wildlife he observed on the island.

Upstream (essays)

Mary Oliver, 2016

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Ms. Oliver, a renowned poet, takes her readers on a voyage upstream to consider the connections between living, moving, thinking, and creating. In witnessing her willingness to lose herself in the power of nature, her readers will also find a yearning to become part of the natural world. This book was voted one of the year’s best by O, the Oprah Magazine. You’re sure to love every thought-provoking page.

Blind Descent (true-life adventure)

James M. Tabor, 2011

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You won’t be able to put this tale of two scientist-adventurers seeking to find the deepest caves on Earth. Their search for Earth’s center led them to Cheve Cave in Mexico and Krubera, a supercave in war-torn Georgia. These intrepid explorers spent months surviving two miles down. They faced rivers, waterfalls, mile-long belly crawls, and the horrors of agonizing darkness.

How to Send Smoke Signals, Pluck a Chicken & Build Igloos (how-to, humor)

Michael Powell, 2019

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If you think you might need some new skills to increase your enjoyment of the outdoors, then this is the book for you. You’ll find 75 wilderness skills ranging from the highly practical to the practically useless and everything in between. You’ll laugh a lot, and you might learn something, too. Think of it as your number one guide to handling the inevitable.

The Art of Getting Lost: 365 Days of Adventure Big and Small (non-fiction)

Brendan Leonard, 2018

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No adventure is beyond your reach. Mr. Leonard helps his readers learn to overcome the barriers that stand in the way of having new experiences, either big or small. You’ll be inspired with ways to move your dreams from the talking phase to the action phase. As you read, you’ll get ideas about what you want to do and how to make those ideas a reality. Sometimes, to find ourselves, we need to get lost.

Get Outside. And Take a Book.

You’ll notice our reading list is fiction-free. That’s because when it comes to experiencing nature and all its wonders, truth is so much better than fiction. There’s no need to invent stories when the absolute majesty and grandeur of the world leave those who experience it speechless. So go outside and take a book. You’ll feel better.

At Discover Books, we’re all about discovering new things; after all, it’s in our name! There’s so much to experience, and these and many other books will help you on your journey. Learn to garden, uncover the fascinating world of birds, or simply luxuriate in your favorite story. As temperatures climb, create a space outside where you can enjoy relaxing outdoors with a good book. Want some great recommendations on gardening read our last post here. For great beach reads click here.
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