Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Prevent Cabin Fever: A Sportsman's Reading List

Photo by Matt Reilly
      Yes, winter is upon us, and while there are certainly outdoor pursuits to be had in the winter, the action slows to a noticeable crawl until the first harbingers of spring arrives; and preventative measures must be taken before the onset of cabin fever.  Sitting at home, in front of a warm fireplace, nothing eases the symptoms of cabin fever like a good book.  What follows is by no means a complete list, nor are they in any particular order.  Instead I’ve included a rounded collection of titles that have served me well in the past and tied my soul over until spring.

#1 The Old Man and the Boy

      This book was recommended to me by a friend, a local fishing guide and magazine editor—it’s now one of my favorites.  Robert Ruark reverently tells the stories of his childhood in coastal North Carolina as the humble apprentice to his grandfather, the Old Man—a wise and seasoned man in both the outdoors and life.  The Old Man’s lessons on both subjects are retaught through beautifully-captured mornings in a duck blind, and hazy summer days on the sea, as Ruark skillfully reveals the character-building qualities of an outdoor lifestyle.

#2 No Shortage of Good Days

      John Gierach is the author of several books on the topic of fly fishing, including Trout Bum and Sex, Death, and Leaky Waders.  In his most recent book, No Shortage of Good Days, the nationally renowned fly fishing author continues a history of wit, insight, and self-depreciation that reveals the truth about nature and the “healthy passion and clinical pathology” that characterizes fly fishermen and their sport.

#3 The Deer Hunter’s Book
      This book I carry with me annually in my hunting pack to pass the long woodland waits.  Authors such as Ted Trueblood, Theodore Roosevelt, Jack O’ Connor, and William Faulkner offer essays and stories to explore the nature of deer hunting in all aspects.  From Jack O’ Connor’s “Portrait of the Mule Deer,” to Sigurd F. Olson’s “The Swamp Buck,” The Deer Hunter’s Book is a recurring delight both in the woods and by the fireplace.

#4 A Walk in the Woods
      Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods is a narrative insight into one of the last true American wildernesses—the Appalachian Trail.  From the trail’s head at Springer Mountain, to its end at Mount Katahdin, escape the dreary weather with this humorous journey that portrays the spirited nature of the trail and the unique personalities that choose to undertake it. 

#5 To Build a Fire and Other Stories

      This collection of short stories by American writer Jack London, author of such classics as White Fang and The Call of the Wild, is “the most comprehensive and wide-ranging collection” available.  Captivating tales of the north like “In a Far Country” and “To the Man on Trail” tell of brutal winters and wind-weathered characters to parallel the season.  Jack London is a treasure for the adventurous spirit.

#6 A River Runs Through It

      Norman Maclean tells his family’s story in the novella turned motion picture, A River Runs Through It.  Written in the autumn of his life, Maclean’s recollection speaks of a rich family history lost, and the spiritually rejuvenating essence of fly fishing that endures through life, love, and tragedy. 

#7 The Singing Wilderness

      For more than thirty years, Sigurd F. Olson worked as a wilderness guide in the Quetico-Superior region of the Great Lakes.  This book—one of six on the area—eloquently describes with intrinsic understanding the nuances of wilderness living and exploration, and of the overall experience that typifies the North Woods.

#8 A Treasury of Outdoor Life

      What is lost in today’s world of how-to and where-to outdoor magazine content is retained in A Treasury of Outdoor Life.  Countless Me-n-Joe-type stories and nostalgic essays by the premier voices of outdoor sports’ past are included in this valuable selection.  Published in 1975, this collection is a refreshing image of the outdoor world as it was as early as the turn of the century.

It has been my general experience that absorbing how-to and where-to reports when weathering a case of cabin fever can further your knowledge, but it mirrors walking in the cold rain with a cold.  The intellectually provocative qualities of the above titles offer a pleasant respite.  As the last of the hunting seasons peter out, feign a career in philosophy and take stock in outdoor literature—it’s great food for thought. 

*First published in The Rural Virginian

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