Books to soothe your adventurous spirit during shelter in place

I haven't wrapped up the lymph series just yet, but I wanted to take a sidetrack this week.

I know it's tough to quench wanderlust and get a decent fill of nature (especially since it's too early to garden in many parts of the country) while we're indoors keeping COVID at bay, so I thought I'd help you out with a reading list.

This isn't just any random reading list. 

Here you'll find a compilation of books about people in tough situations - staring down death on a glacier, enduring the Sweating Sickness that plagued England during the late 1400s and through the mid-1500s, living through a bombing that precipitated America's entrance into World War I. 

This list is full of deep, emotionally rich books, but we're in this deep, and it gives me comfort to read about situations that are worse still, and it gives me hope and strength to see grace, love, and humanity portrayed in these books.

I also think you'll find a sense of adventure in each of these... and maybe lose yourself in someone else's story for a while.

Stickeen

This short book written by John Muir describes his adventures amidst a storm on an Alaskan glacier with a little dog, named Stickeen.  It's short (originally just an article published in The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine) but I found myself grinning from ear to ear as I read this little book. 

It has Muir's signature tone and also a sense of awe that a dog could have such a human personality and seeming wisdom (I for one was dumbfounded to realize that Muir didn't know these things at the age of 42, when he found himself stuck on a glacier with Stickeen, but I'm glad Stickeen was able to show him). 

The Sierra Club maintains a vault of Muir's writings, which is the most easily accessible way to read it.  It's also so short that you'll probably be done with this one before you can download the rest of the books on this list.

 

John Muir quote from Stickeen "No right way is easy in this rough world."

Wolf Hall

Hilary Mantel's writing took a bit for me to get into.  In fact, I almost gave up before I adapted to her writing style.  The first in a trilogy on the life of Thomas Cromwell, advisor to King Henry VIII, Mantel paints this story with words. 

She traces history from Henry VIII's first marriage to Catherine of Aragon through to Anne taking reign with Thomas Cromwell at the heart of this story.  While the book is written in third person, Mantel also writes from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell adapting her writing style to match Cromwell's thoughts.  Cromwell has flashbacks to his childhood with an abusive father and to his youth abroad, and the prose changes distinctly and abruptly during these flashbacks becoming quite disjointed.

But, Mantel has a way of writing poetry in prose, and her description of peacock feathers that served as angel wings on Thomas' youngest daughter, Grace, around page 170 or so... well, I could not put this book down after reading that passage. 

During this time period, Europe and England were plagued by frequent outbreaks of the deadly Sweating Sickness, a mysterious disease that first appeared in the late 1400s and disappeared again around 1550. Sweating Sickness is frequently mentioned throughout Wolf Hall and its deadly fingers touch Cromwell's life on more than one occasion.

Mantel also does a beautiful job of sculpting the nuances of politics and religion during this time - when Catholicism was still predominant in England, right at the birth of the Protestant Reformation.  Indeed, these were dangerous times.  Life under a dictator in the form of a king, lack of religious freedom, and occasional epidemics due to a deadly disease.

Wolf Hall is rich, deep, nuanced, and hauntingly beautiful.  I've read it twice, and the second reading was like the first, a new journey into history as I picked up more and more of the culture I'd missed during the first reading.

What's more, all three of the books in this trilogy are now available.  I've read Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies (the second in the trilogy).

The Mirror and the Light (the third in this trilogy) was just released earlier this month. 

Needless to say, I'm waiting for it to arrive (in physical form, as I love holding a book in my hands as I read it).

Dead Wake

Erik Larson follows passengers aboard the Lusitania on its final fateful voyage across the Atlantic.  Dead Wake is incredibly prescient to what's going on in our world right now.

This book tells of the warnings precipitating the sinking of the Lusitania, the same warnings echoed before borders started closing to contain the outbreak of COVID.  Dead Wake is the story of the people who didn't heed the warnings and what happened when "What if" became a reality. 

Their stories are captivating - both the stories of the ones who lived and the ones who perished, and that's the mastery of Erik Larson - bringing history to life, telling the story from the individual's point of view, exhaustively researching his subject matter and then weaving an alluring tale that etches history into my mind in a way I cannot forget.

If only they made us read books like this (both Dead Wake and Wolf Hall) for our history classes.

My Southern Journey

Erik Larson and Hilary Mantel are intense writers.  And, Stickeen isn't quite enough to balance this list out, so to bring some levity back into your days, My Southern Journey:  The Stories from the Heart of the South by Rick Bragg is a collection of short stories that will have you in stitches. 

Why am I including it here? 

I've found few writers take me on an adventure quite like Rick Bragg - visiting a quieter era, a leisurely travel to a slower time, a reminder that life is lovely even in everyday routines and adventure is where we find it - as close as a river mud bank or a patch of grass under a pine.

woman reading a book under a tree outside with natural light cascading around

I hope you enjoy at least one of these books while you're sheltered in place, and I'd love to hear which one you choose, so please leave a comment below or DM me on IG.

To wellness and better days.

About the Author

Brandy Searcy of Return to Eden Cosmetics

Brandy Searcy is a nature lover and dog mother.  Her spirit lifts when she sets foot outdoors each day, and she seeks to develop skincare products that enable us all to maximize our time outdoors. 

Even though her formal training is in chemical engineering, she comes from generations of nurses, and health jargon is her second language.

During the daylight hours, when she's not at her day job formulating pharmaceuticals, you'll find her outside in a garden, walking alongside meadows and streams, or watching hummingbirds with her husband and two rescues in Southern California.  By night, she's likely whipping up a batch of product or developing new skincare formulations.

The products offered on this site are creations of her own hands with years of experience and a passion for safe, effective, & multi-functional skincare poured into each product.

Brandy's LinkedIn Bio

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