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My Top 5 Books for Reading in the Wilderness

Leslie Leyland Fields chooses five books best read away from the comforts and conveniences of modern life.
My Top 5 Books for Reading in the Wilderness
Image: Carol Scott Photography

Leslie Leyland Fields is at home in the wilderness. The author, speaker, and CT editorial board member dwells with her husband and children on remote Kodiak Island, Alaska. In the summer, she and her family retreat to nearby Harvester Island, where (as the island’s sole residents) they run a commercial salmon fishing operation. CT asked Fields to choose 5 books best read in the wilderness.

Two Old Women by Velma Wallis

If you’re nervous about going “Into the Wild,” don’t take that book; take this one. Wallis, herself Athabascan, serves us an Alaskan Athabascan legend about two elderly women abandoned by their hungry tribe during a winter famine. Their canny survival through a brutal winter and their eventual return to the tribe as wise elders offers an extended parable on perseverance and community. If you’re having trouble running with the wolves, or running to the outhouse in the dark, this is for you.

The Wisdom of Wilderness by Gerald G. May

We’ve been retreating to the wilderness looking for God ever since our expulsion from Eden. May, a well-known psychologist and theologian, penned his final book about forays into the woods while dying of cancer. With thoughtful abandon, he drums with cicadas, watches a swan drown a duck, and lies breathless in his tent as a bear passes. But wilderness is not just a place; it’s a state of being. May illuminates the ways we can find joy and healing through what he calls the “Power of the Slowing.”

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

Yes, a predictable choice. But few writers model attentiveness to muskrats, water beetles, the bacterial mud between our toes, and their transcendent rewards and mysteries better than Dillard. ...

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