100 books like Up and Down California in 1860-1864

By William H. Brewer,

Here are 100 books that Up and Down California in 1860-1864 fans have personally recommended if you like Up and Down California in 1860-1864. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Mountains That Remade America: How Sierra Nevada Geology Impacts Modern Life

Allen F. Glazner Author Of Geology Underfoot in Yosemite National Park

From my list on wandering through California’s geology.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a boy in southern California, I knew that the mountains were to the north, that they were big, and that they were somehow related to earthquakes. I loved chemistry and the outdoors and decided on the first day of college that geology offered a great way to be an outdoor chemist. I learned the craft of writing in high school as a sports reporter for the local paper. After I started as a geology professor at the University of North Carolina in 1981, Bob Sharp of Caltech and I founded the Geology Underfoot series to get people into the outdoors to discover geology on their own.  

Allen's book list on wandering through California’s geology

Allen F. Glazner Why did Allen love this book?

Jones gives a modern account of the roles that the Sierra Nevada range has played in the history of California: barrier to transportation, source of gold, source of water, desert maker, provider of unique ecosystems, inspiration of water law and mining law, target of vacationers, hikers, and climbers, and inspirer of the national park system. This engaging book weaves the history of exploration and development of the state into the larger story of why the range exists, what it is made of, and why it is so odd that the Sierra Nevada, unlike most tall mountain ranges, lacks a low-density root to hold it up. Jones excels at explaining things that I never even thought to wonder about.

By Craig H. Jones,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Mountains That Remade America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From ski towns to national parks, fresh fruit to environmental lawsuits, the Sierra Nevada has changed the way Americans live. Whether and where there was gold to be mined redefined land, mineral, and water laws. Where rain falls (and where it doesn't) determines whose fruit grows on trees and whose appears on slot machines. All this emerges from the geology of the range and how it changed history, and in so doing, changed the country.

The Mountains That Remade America combines geology with history to show how the particular forces and conditions that created the Sierra Nevada have effected broad…

Book cover of The Ends of the World: Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth's Past Mass Extinctions

Michael R. Rampino Author Of Cataclysms: A New Geology for the Twenty-First Century

From my list on mass extinctions of life.

Why am I passionate about this?

A visit to the American Museum of Natural History when I was seven years old hooked me on dinosaurs and geology in general. I have maintained that passion to uncover the history of the earth with fieldwork on all seven continents, cutting-edge research, and teaching undergraduates to appreciate the implications of our tenancy on the planet, and our place within the solar system, the galaxy, and the wider universe.

Michael's book list on mass extinctions of life

Michael R. Rampino Why did Michael love this book?

Brannen examines the major mass extinctions in earth’s past and concurrent times of eruptions of massive floods of lava. He introduces us to the front-line researchers who are using the forensic tools of modern geology to uncover the connection between these titanic eruptions and the release of volcanic gases, severe greenhouse warming, ocean stagnation and eventual mass extinctions of life. This leads to the possibility that catastrophes can come from inside as well as outside the earth.

By Peter Brannen,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Ends of the World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A book about one apocalypse - much less five - could have been a daunting read, were it not for the wit, lyricism, and clarity that Peter Brannen brings to every page.' Ed Yong, author of I Contain Multitudes

Apocalypse, now?

Death by fire, ice, poison gas, suffocation, asteroid. At five moments through history life on Earth was dragged to the very edge of extinction.

Now, armed with revolutionary technology, scientists are uncovering clues about what caused these catastrophes. Deep-diving into past worlds of dragonflies the size of seagulls and fishes with guillotines for mouths, they explore how - against…

Book cover of Salt to Summit: A Vagabond Journey from Death Valley to Mount Whitney

Arthur G. Sylvester Author Of Roadside Geology of Southern California

From my list on exploration of the American West.

Why am I passionate about this?

I had never been out of a Los Angeles suburb until my high school biology teacher took our class on a river trip running rapids down the Yampa and Green Rivers in Colorado and Utah. The trip was absolutely exhilarating and opened my eyes to the American West and to a career exploring its geology and landscapes. Fifty years and over 300 field trips later, mostly in southern California, I finally learned enough to write Roadside Geology of Southern California. That book was followed by the second editions of Geology Underfoot in Southern California, and Geology Underfoot in Death Valley and Eastern California with co-authors Allen Glazner and Robert Sharp.

Arthur's book list on exploration of the American West

Arthur G. Sylvester Why did Arthur love this book?

Imagine a solo cross-country hike in “the land of little rain” from burning desert floor at Badwater at -282 feet below sea level in Death Valley, the lowest point in the continental United States to chilly, windswept Mount Whitney, the highest point at 14,505 feet above sea level at the crest of the Sierra Nevada. I’ve seen but not hiked much of the country between the two points, and I cannot imagine trekking it all in one hike. Arnold’s book did it vicariously for me and will also for any reader looking for an out-of-the-ordinary hiking adventure.

By Daniel Arnold,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Salt to Summit as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the depths of Death Valley, Daniel Arnold set out to reach Mount Whitney in a way no road or trail could take him. Anything manmade or designed to make travel easy was out. With a backpack full of water bottles, and the remotest corners of desert before him, he began his toughest test yet of physical and mental endurance.

Badwater Basin sits 282 feet below sea level in Death Valley, the lowest and hottest place in the Western Hemisphere. Mount Whitney rises 14,505 feet above sea level, the highest point in the contiguous United States. Arnold spent seventeen days…

Book cover of In the Distance

Alyson Hagy Author Of Boleto

From my list on the West that twist the myth.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a writer fascinated by landscape and history—and the American West is my magnet. I’ve set three books in the West. I can’t get enough of the place. An entire national myth is enshrined “where the deer and the antelope play.” Independence. Freedom from the past. Land we can supposedly call our own. The West is so beautiful and also so scarred. I love to read books that deepen my experience of the deserts, mountains, and rivers. I also love to learn about the people who were here before me, those who have hung on, and those who hope to heal the scars. These books are great stories about a bewitching place.

Alyson's book list on the West that twist the myth

Alyson Hagy Why did Alyson love this book?

Hernán Díaz’s first novel, In the Distance, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. The book is gorgeously written and meticulously researched. The West’s huge, startling landscapes loom on every page. But the real genius here is the novel’s “reverse epic” structure—how Díaz takes a young Swedish immigrant who gets off his ship at the wrong port (San Francisco) and sends him traveling east, against the migrant tides, in search of his brother. The journey doesn’t go as planned. Håkan makes friends and stymies enemies. Stereotypes warp and tumble as Håkan (and the reader) are forever transformed. The descriptions of California gold fields, science expeditions, questing Mormons, and other frontier communities delight and confound. You’ll never cross a Western desert the same way again.

By Hernan Diaz,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked In the Distance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A young Swedish immigrant finds himself penniless and alone in California. The boy travels East in search of his brother, moving on foot against the great current of emigrants pushing West. Driven back again and again, he meets naturalists, criminals, religious fanatics, swindlers, Indians, and lawmen, and his exploits turn him into a legend. Diaz defies the conventions of historical fiction and genre, offering a probing look at the stereotypes that populate our past and a portrait of radical foreignness.

Hernan Diaz is the author of Borges, Between History and Eternity (Bloomsbury 2012), managing editor of RHM, and associate director…

Book cover of In the Land of the Blue Poppies: The Collected Plant-Hunting Writings of Frank Kingdon Ward

Teri Dunn Chace Author Of Seeing Flowers: Discover the Hidden Life of Flowers

From my list on flowers.

Why am I passionate about this?

Hiking in the flower-covered hillsides of Central California as a nature-loving kid, I couldn’t help but wonder about my companions. One of my first purchases (with babysitting money!) was a wildflower guide. I’ve moved around the country many times and every time I’ve had to start over, make new plant acquaintances and discoveries—always an orienting process. Of course, I’ve also studied plants formally, in college and in my career, and (honestly, best of all) via mentors and independent study. All this has shown me that flowers are more than just beautiful! They’re amazingly diverse, and full of fascinating behaviors and quirks. In fact, they are essential parts of the complex habitats we share.

Teri's book list on flowers

Teri Dunn Chace Why did Teri love this book?

Once upon a time, “plant explorers,” intrepid botanists (mainly from the UK) fanned out over the lesser-known world looking for interesting plants to bring into wider appreciation and cultivation. Frank Kingdon Ward (1885-1958) is best known for introducing the breathtakingly beautiful Tibetan blue poppy. There’s an internet meme featuring his grizzled face with the caption “Make sure you want it enough,” a clear reference to what he went through to bring his prizes back. (Imagine: you spot the fabulous blue poppy in some remote place, but, you have to find a way to return in a few months to get seeds.) This book, edited by Thomas Christopher and with a preface by Jamaica Kincaid (both super-credentialed horticulturists and authors), features highly readable, awe-inspiring selections from the great man’s journals.

By Frank Kingdon Ward,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In the Land of the Blue Poppies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Modern Library Paperback Original

During the first years of the twentieth century, the British plant collector and explorer Frank Kingdon Ward went on twenty-four impossibly daring expeditions throughout Tibet, China, and Southeast Asia, in search of rare and elusive species of plants. He was responsible for the discovery of numerous varieties previously unknown in Europe and America, including the legendary Tibetan blue poppy, and the introduction of their seeds into the world’s gardens. Kingdon Ward’s accounts capture all the romance of his wildly adventurous expeditions, whether he was swinging across a bottomless gorge on a cable of twisted bamboo…

Book cover of Meet Me in Atlantis: My Obsessive Quest to Find the Sunken City

Jennifer McKeithen Author Of Atlantis On the Shores of Forever

From my list on Atlantis if you love adventure.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a novelis who's had a lifelong fascination with travel, lost civilizations, aquariums, swashbuckling stories (both true and fictional), dancing, dusty old bookstores and libraries, sangria, and sunny beaches. I grew up in beautiful south Louisiana and my earliest memories were in New Orleans. Living in “America's first melting pot” taught me to appreciate cultures, languages, cuisine, and music from a young age. Ancient and Medieval history and folklore remain major influences on my writing.

Jennifer's book list on Atlantis if you love adventure

Jennifer McKeithen Why did Jennifer love this book?

Mark Adams is simply a delightful writer. In this book, he dares to ask the age-old question: did Atlantis actually exist? He sifts through the facts and the fiction, taking the reader with him in his traipse across the globe to find answers. Like his other books, Meet Me in Atlantis is a fun read, where you’ll learn a lot and have some laughs along way.

By Mark Adams,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Meet Me in Atlantis as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The New York Times Bestselling Travel Memoir! 

The author of Turn Right at Machu Picchu travels the globe in search of the world’s most famous lost city. 

“Adventurous, inquisitive and mirthful, Mark Adams gamely sifts through the eons of rumor, science, and lore to find a place that, in the end, seems startlingly real indeed.”—Hampton Sides

A few years ago, Mark Adams made a strange discovery: Far from alien conspiracy theories and other pop culture myths, everything we know about the legendary lost city of Atlantis comes from the work of one man, the Greek philosopher Plato. Stranger still: Adams…

Book cover of Endurance

Robin Esrock Author Of The Great Global Bucket List

From my list on inspiring your bucket list travels.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a travel writer, author, broadcaster, speaker, and producer, I’ve reported from over 100 countries on 7 continents for major print and digital publications worldwide and networks like National Geographic and Travel Channel.  I kicked off my career with a solo, 12-month round-the-world backpacking adventure, largely inspired by the formative books I read below. Embracing the world with insatiable curiosity, an open heart, an open mind, a sense of humour, and enthusiasm to share my stories clearly resonated. Here I am, two decades later, author of a half-dozen bestselling books that focus on my own eclectic travels, which will hopefully inspire others as these books inspired me.  

Robin's book list on inspiring your bucket list travels

Robin Esrock Why did Robin love this book?

This book made me want to visit Antarctica, and when I finally did, I read it again.

There are a few things going on here:  an insane adventure with a daring mission that defies the odds through incredible hardships; an introduction to that sparse, frozen continent that has long captivated the imagination; and a cosmic dissonance knowing modern travellers can visit such a harsh, unforgiving place today with the comfort of hot tubs, cocktail bars, and gourmet buffets.

Learning about the history of polar exploration makes your own journey that much more meaningful. 

By Alfred Lansing,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In August 1914, polar explorer Ernest Shackleton boarded the Endurance and set sail for Antarctica, where he planned to cross the last uncharted continent on foot. In January 1915, after battling its way through a thousand miles of pack ice and only a day's sail short of its destination, the Endurance became locked in an island of ice. Thus began the legendary ordeal of Shackleton and his crew of twenty-seven men. For ten months the ice-moored Endurance drifted northwest before it was finally crushed between two ice floes. With no options left, Shackleton and a skeleton crew attempted a near-impossible…

Book cover of The Adventures of Alexander Von Humboldt

Jack Nisbet Author Of The Collector: David Douglas and the Natural History of the Northwest

From my list on the interwoven lifeways of plants and people.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have studied the intersection of human and natural history as an enthusiast, newspaper columnist, teacher, museum curator, and author. I strongly believe in the value of local knowledge, which has led me to work with and learn from several Plateau tribal communities. I use primary documents, including field journals, maps, artwork, oral histories, and the landscape itself as my building blocks. If I can arrive at a confluence of rivers on the same day of the year as some early white visitors and search for the living things that they wrote about during their stay, then I have something that I can compare directly with tribal oral histories. 

Jack's book list on the interwoven lifeways of plants and people

Jack Nisbet Why did Jack love this book?

I love comics of all kinds, so found it impossible to resist Andrea Wulf’s idea of adapting her popular biography of ecological pioneer Von Humboldt to the graphic form. Illustrator Lillian Melcher combines her comic chops and inventive design sense with Von Humboldt’s own drawings, maps, and specimen papers to create a book that truly enhances Wulf’s scholarly investigations. Plus it’s so much fun. 

By Andrea Wulf, Lillian Melcher (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Adventures of Alexander Von Humboldt as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


From the New York Times bestselling author of The Invention of Nature, comes a breathtakingly illustrated and brilliantly evocative recounting of Alexander Von Humboldt's five year expedition in South America.

Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) was an intrepid explorer and the most famous scientist of his age. His restless life was packed with adventure and discovery, but his most revolutionary idea was a radical vision of nature as a complex and interconnected global force that does not exist for the use of humankind alone. His theories and ideas were profoundly influenced by a…

Book cover of The Tree Where Man Was Born

Anthony Ham Author Of The Last Lions of Africa: Stories from the Frontline in the Battle to Save a Species

From my list on wild Africa.

Why am I passionate about this?

For more than two decades, I have been travelling to the wild places of this planet looking for stories. Africa in all its diversity has always been my first love. Whether I’m off the grid in the Kalahari, or scanning the far horizon of the Serengeti looking for lions, Africa feels like home to me, and I’m passionate about finding, and then telling the stories of the people I meet, and the wildlife I encounter, along the way. And driving me every step of the way is my great belief in the power of the written word and that of a good story to transform the way we think about, and interact with, the natural world. 

Anthony's book list on wild Africa

Anthony Ham Why did Anthony love this book?

I could have chosen any of Matthiessen’s books set in Africa – Sand Rivers and African Silences are both magnificent – but The Tree Where Man Was Born is a book of wise observations, superb writing, and great humanity. Whether writing about the Maasai, the poignant death of a zebra, or the landscapes of the Serengeti, the words are perfectly chosen and the tone elegiac. The final chapter, ‘At Gidabembe’ is a masterpiece.

By Peter Matthiessen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Tree Where Man Was Born as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A timeless and majestic portrait of Africa by renowned writer Peter Matthiessen (1927-2014), author of the National Book Award-winning The Snow Leopard and the new novel In Paradise

A finalist for the National Book Award when it was released in 1972, this vivid portrait of East Africa remains as fresh and revelatory now as on the day it was first published. Peter Matthiessen exquisitely combines nature and travel writing to portray the sights, scenes, and people he observed firsthand in several trips over the course of a dozen years. From the daily lives of wild herdsmen and the drama of…

Book cover of Almost an Island: Travels in Baja California

Jennifer Silva Redmond Author Of Honeymoon at Sea: How I Found Myself Living on a Small Boat

From my list on nonfiction Baja that can transport you there.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up on Southern California beaches—Manhattan Beach, Venice Beach, Ocean Beach, La Jolla—but first experienced Baja as an adult. It was like a different world. Returning repeatedly over the next decade, I came to know the stunning shorelines and quiet bays of the peninsula’s midriff as intimately as my home state’s beaches. Swimming and diving Baja’s clear blue waters and hiking its dusty trails and palm-studded mountains, I have admired the many moods of this unique desert peninsula. A writer and editor, I have read extensively from the vast selection of books about Baja, both new and classic works.

Jennifer's book list on nonfiction Baja that can transport you there

Jennifer Silva Redmond Why did Jennifer love this book?

My favorite memoirs blend personal observations with some history and natural history and this book delivers on all those fronts.

I enjoyed how Berger’s essays ranged from the microcosm to the macrocosm, focusing on subjects as diverse as the dogs who lived on the rooftops of La Paz neighborhood, to the joy and the business of chasing eclipses.

An amateur natural historian who previously wrote about the environmental effects of the Glen Canyon Dam in “There Was a River” Berger obviously loves Baja, but more importantly, he is fascinated by the unique desert peninsula. His book drew me in from its first page and fascinated me in repeated readings.

By Bruce Berger,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Almost an Island as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Long frequented by pirates and haunted by pariahs, Baja California has become a favorite destination for whale watchers, hikers, and scuba divers. For Bruce Berger it has been more. In Almost an Island, he takes readers beyond the Baja of guidebooks and offers a wildly entertaining look at the real Baja California.

Eight hundred miles long, Baja California is the remotest region of the Sonoran desert, a land of volcanic cliffs, glistening beaches, fantastical boojum trees, and some of the greatest primitive murals in the Western Hemisphere. In Almost an Island, Berger recounts tales from his three decades in this…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in exploration, the natural sciences, and California?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about exploration, the natural sciences, and California.

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