The best books on spirituality and wilderness

Belden C. Lane Author Of The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality
By Belden C. Lane

The Books I Picked & Why

The Wisdom of Wilderness: Experiencing the Healing Power of Nature

By Gerald G. May

The Wisdom of Wilderness: Experiencing the Healing Power of Nature

Why this book?

The last book of a highly-respected psychiatrist and theologian, written as he was dying of cancer. It describes his solo camping trips into the Appalachian Mountains, where he found healing in what he called “the Power of the Slowing”. This spiritual practice taught him to welcome whatever the moment offered. When a growling bear brushes the fabric of his tent in the middle of the night, there’s nothing he can do to protect himself. But he can choose in that instant to enter the “slowing”, going into the quiet acceptance of his own terror. He can be present—“in a place beyond all coping”—to the immediacy of being alive, within the very fear that grips him.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

The Practice of the Wild: Essays

By Gary Snyder

The Practice of the Wild: Essays

Why this book?

A Buddhist activist and Pulitzer Prize-winning beat generation poet, Snyder celebrates “wildness” as a moral principle. It gives value to the living world and invites us to the wild places within, the inner wilderness that carries us beyond the comforting assurances of the mind. He cautions against looking for metaphorical and spiritual meanings “beyond and through” the natural world. This risks our not “seeing what is before our very eyes: plain thusness” … which in itself is more than enough to astound!


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World

By David Abram

The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World

Why this book?

Abram is a cultural ecologist and sleight-of-hand magician who always surprises. In this book, he describes a way of reading (and interacting) with the landscape that draws on indigenous traditions, the philosophy of Merleau-Ponty, and a deeply embodied perception of the natural world. Our human language, he affirms, is itself rooted in the sounds of falling water, birdsong, and wind rushing through the branches of larch trees. 


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Soulcraft: Crossing Into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche

By Bill Plotkin

Soulcraft: Crossing Into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche

Why this book?

A depth psychologist and wilderness guide, Plotkin is director of the Animas Valley Institute in Durango, CO. Building on the work of Joseph Campbell and others, he proposes various exercises, rituals, and disciplines to use in nature wandering as a soulful practice. These include dream-work and drumming, vision quests, and cross-species dialogue. His later book, Nature and the Human Soul (2007), offers a nature-based pattern for understanding stages of human development.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Desert Solitaire

By Edward Abbey

Desert Solitaire

Why this book?

You either love or hate Ed Abbey. His fierce love of wilderness made him a passionate, angry man. A former park ranger become an environmental activist and monkey-wrencher, he won the Pulitzer Prize for this collection of essays. The chapter on floating the Glen Canyon before the dam was completed is worth the price of the book. He points up the need for cutting through sappy and romantic thinking about wilderness. Wild places teach us resistance and irreverence in the face of mindless commercialism.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Closely Related Book Lists

Distantly Related Book Lists

Random Book Lists