The best books about Americans going out to discover themselves and finding so much more

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been writing about my explorations in the wilderness for over 20 years starting with the first edition of my Tahoe Rim Trail guidebook. I’ve always been fascinated by writers who embark on solo journeys into nature, or just traveling in general, and in so doing discover themselves and what they really want from their lives. While I’ve read my share (and written a few) stories about super feats of human endurance, I find the most satisfaction from reading about ordinary people experiencing life at a scale that makes sense to all of us. 


I wrote...

Going It Alone: Ramblings and Reflections from the Trail

By Tim Hauserman,

Book cover of Going It Alone: Ramblings and Reflections from the Trail

What is my book about?

Going it Alone is the story of my solo backpacking misadventures. It focuses on the conflict between my desire to find solitude in the wilderness, and the feelings of loneliness I encountered along the way. It is both a love letter to nature and a reminder to laugh at ourselves along the way. 

Word After Word Bookstore owner Andie Keith says, "This one is an all time favorite in the genre! Going It Alone is a wonderful and humorous tale of Tim's solo hikes and the lessons he learned from his time on the trail both alone and with hiking companions. A mixture of Henry David Thoreau and Bill Bryson, this book made me laugh out loud and think harder about my relationship to nature.”

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Travels with Charley in Search of America

Tim Hauserman Why did I love this book?

This is the story of Steinbeck traveling around the country for three months in a truck camper with his dog Charlie. The aging writer set out to rediscover the real America that he had been writing about his whole career. In the process he not only gains a new understanding of the country but of himself. For me, it was fascinating looking at the United States through 1960 eyes and realizing that while much has changed, we still face many of the same issues they dealt with then. Like my own experiences it was also a wonderful reminder that we grow from taking on challenging adventures. 

By John Steinbeck,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked Travels with Charley in Search of America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An intimate journey across America, as told by one of its most beloved writers

To hear the speech of the real America, to smell the grass and the trees, to see the colors and the light-these were John Steinbeck's goals as he set out, at the age of fifty-eight, to rediscover the country he had been writing about for so many years.

With Charley, his French poodle, Steinbeck drives the interstates and the country roads, dines with truckers, encounters bears at Yellowstone and old friends in San Francisco. Along the way he reflects on the American character, racial hostility, the…


Book cover of Blue Highways

Tim Hauserman Why did I love this book?

Blue highways are the roads on maps that are less traveled. Least-Heat Moon follows those roads all over the country, experiencing small-town America. He is a curious man who is not in a hurry and is open to discovery. I’ve read this book several times and it has never failed to inspire me in the underlying goodness we can find if we are open to discovering it, and a reminder to get out of my comfort zone and explore. If you like his writing, you could also read River Horse which tells about his solo trip across the country in a small powerboat.  

By William Least Heat-Moon,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Blue Highways as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hailed as a masterpiece of American travel writing, Blue Highways is an unforgettable journey along our nation's backroads.
William Least Heat-Moon set out with little more than the need to put home behind him and a sense of curiosity about "those little towns that get on the map -- if they get on at all -- only because some cartographer has a blank space to fill: Remote, Oregon; Simplicity, Virginia; New Freedom, Pennsylvania; New Hope, Tennessee; Why, Arizona; Whynot, Mississippi."
His adventures, his discoveries, and his recollections of the extraordinary people he encountered along the way amount to a revelation…


Book cover of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Tim Hauserman Why did I love this book?

This winner of the Pulitzer Prize is not about going someplace, but about truly discovering what is in your own backyard. Dillard spent a year alone studying in intimate detail the natural environment around her Virginia home. Her realizations about the capriciousness and brutality of life on earth were both unsettling and beautifully powerful. She said: “There is no one standing over evolution with a blue pencil to say, ‘now that one, there, is absolutely ridiculous and I won’t have it. Not only did the creator create everything, but that he is apt to create anything. He will stop at nothing.” If you are fascinated by nature, you must read this book.

By Annie Dillard,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Pilgrim at Tinker Creek as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek has continued to change people's lives for over thirty years. A passionate and poetic reflection on the mystery of creation with its beauty on the one hand and cruelty on the other, it has become a modern American literary classic in the tradition of Thoreau. Living in solitude in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Roanoke, Virginia, and observing the changing seasons, the flora and fauna, the author reflects on the nature of creation and of the God who set it in motion. Whether the images are cruel or lovely, the language is memorably beautiful and poetic,…


Book cover of Desert Solitaire

Tim Hauserman Why did I love this book?

Edward Abbey’s deep exploration of the wilderness of the desert Southwest is on one hand inspiring and enlightening, and on the other disturbing, as Abbey can come across as a total jerk. Go to any site with reviews of this book and you will find everything from one star diatribes to five star reviews that talk about how his descriptions of nature and his own analysis of self are spot on and have changed their lives. I invite you to check it out and see what you think. For me I agree with both sides, but the good parts are what I remember. Once finished, you can read the counterpoint to Abby, The Desert Cabal by Amy Irvine.

By Edward Abbey,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked Desert Solitaire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'My favourite book about the wilderness' Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild

In this shimmering masterpiece of American nature writing, Edward Abbey ventures alone into the canyonlands of Moab, Utah, to work as a seasonal ranger for the United States National Park Service.

Living out of a trailer, Abbey captures in rapt, poetic prose the landscape of the desert; a world of terracotta earth, empty skies, arching rock formations, cliffrose, juniper, pinyon pine and sand sage. His summers become spirit quests, taking him in search of wild horses and Ancient Puebloan petroglyphs, up mountains and across tribal lands, and down the…


Book cover of Desert Cabal: A New Season in the Wilderness

Tim Hauserman Why did I love this book?

Published 50 years after Desert Solitaire, seventh-generation Utah resident Amy Irvine talks about her respect for Abbey’s impact on her life and writing, while also not holding back on lambasting Abbey for his behavior and hypocrisy. Irvine told Orion magazine, “My goal was not to take Abbey down, but rather to make space for other voices and relationships to the natural world.” While Abbey might be the context for the book, Irvine goes on to deliver a fascinating exploration into her own take on the wonders of wilderness. She can be as hard on herself as she is on Abbey. This book is a great contemporary look at a key question for those of us who explore the wilds: How do we keep from loving it to death? 

By Amy Irvine,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Desert Cabal as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A grief–stricken, heart–hopeful, soul song to the American Desert."

—PAM HOUSTON, author of Deep Creek

As Ed Abbey’s Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness turns fifty, its iconic author, who has inspired generations of rebel–rousing advocacy on behalf of the American West, is due for a tribute as well as a talking to. In Desert Cabal: A New Season in the Wilderness, Amy Irvine admires the man who influenced her life and work while challenging all that is dated—offensive, even—between the covers of Abbey's environmental classic. Irvine names and questions the "lone male" narrative—white and privileged as it is—that…


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The Woman at the Wheel

By Penny Haw,

Book cover of The Woman at the Wheel

Penny Haw Author Of The Invincible Miss Cust

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Storyteller Dog walker Dreamer Runner Reader

Penny's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Inspiring historical fiction based on the real life of Bertha Benz, whose husband built the first prototype automobile, which eventually evolved into the Mercedes-Benz marque.

"Unfortunately, only a girl again."

From a young age, Cäcilie Bertha Ringer is fascinated by her father's work as a master builder in Pforzheim, Germany. But those five words, which he wrote next to her name in the family Bible, haunt Bertha.

Years later, Bertha meets Carl Benz and falls in love—with him and his extraordinary dream of building a horseless carriage. Bertha has such faith in him that she invests her dowry in his plans, a dicey move since they alone believe in the machine. When Carl's partners threaten to withdraw their support, he's ready to cut ties. Bertha knows the decision would ruin everything. Ignoring the cynics, she takes matters into her own hands, secretly planning a scheme that will either hasten the family's passage to absolute derision or prove their genius. What Bertha doesn't know is that Carl is on the cusp of making a deal with their nemesis. She's not only risking her marriage and their life's work, but is also up against the patriarchy, Carl's own self-doubt, and the clock.

Like so many other women, Bertha lived largely in her husband's shadow, but her contributions are now celebrated in this inspiring story of perseverance, resilience, and love.

The Woman at the Wheel

By Penny Haw,

What is this book about?

Inspiring historical fiction based on the real life of Bertha Benz, whose husband built the first prototype automobile, which eventually evolved into the Mercedes-Benz marque.

"Unfortunately, only a girl again."

From a young age, Cacilie Bertha Ringer is fascinated by her father's work as a master builder in Pforzheim, Germany. But those five words, which he wrote next to her name in the family Bible, haunt Bertha.

Years later, Bertha meets Carl Benz and falls in love-with him and his extraordinary dream of building a horseless carriage. Bertha has such faith in him that she invests her dowry in his…


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