Lose yourself in the language and imagery of great storytelling, adventure writing and nature journalism.
By Life’s An Adventure Guide Chris Armstrong
Travel restrictions and national park closures at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic have been particularly hard on avid bushwalkers. It is hard to replicate in a town or a city, the sight of a long, narrow foot track winding away through the forest, the comforting weight of your backpack on your shoulders; the promise a full day of self-sustained, quiet walking in the fragrant, colourful, life-filled Australian bush.
The next best thing was to pick up a book and lose yourself in the language and imagery of great storytelling, adventure writing and nature journalism.
Our guides in Tasmania did just this and their reading list came courtesy of Lifes An Adventure customers. During the summer season of walking Chris and Craig, Lifes An Adventure guides on the Three Capes Pack-free Walk, got chatting to customers about books, sharing favourite reads and getting some great tips on what they should read next. Here’s three books that customers recommended and our guides read. Then there’s another three books that our Chris and Craig would recommend that our customers read.
Overstory by Richard Powers – Thanks to Jan and Michelle for this recommendation. This was Chris’ first read in Covid-19 lockdown. It is a powerful sweeping, impassioned work. Chris says: “I loved this book, the writing is extremely accomplished and mesmerising but I needed two days to recover from the disturbance it caused in my thinking. It is an indictment of our world’s human-centric exploitation of the natural world. I was left with the overarching feeling that while Powers highlights these ills he (and the story) remains a part of them. The book’s strength though is its moving evocation and tribute to the complex, beautiful, ancient life of trees and forests. The trees in this book will take your breath away. They will make you fall in love with age and wisdom.” Overstory is Powers’s twelfth novel and it won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
The Joy of High Places by Patti Miller – Thanks must go to Sue from the Blue Mountains for this moving and easy read. The author is Australian and the book tells the story of her long-distance walking trips covering hundreds of kilometres on some of Europe’s most famous trails. Beside this, is the story of her brother’s obsession with paragliding and the life-changing moment when his paragliding wing collapsed and he plummeted to earth, breaking his spine. The story of his struggle to walk again intersects Patti’s long-distance journeys. Craig says: “I loved the literary references and descriptiveness of Miller’s writing. This is an easy read, and the sections that covered her brother’s struggle to walk again are truly engrossing and inspiring.”
Preservation by Jock Serong – Some friends of the author’s joined our Three Capes walk in 2019 and recommended this book. It was of particular interest to our guides as the story is based on the 1797 shipwreck of the ‘Sydney Cove’ off the coast of Preservation Island in Bass Strait. Survivors of the wreck use a longboat to try to reach Sydney settlement but are shipwrecked a second time near what we now call Ninety Mile Beach in Victoria. The 17 survivors then begin to trek along the unexplored coast to the frontier town of Sydney. Seventeen men begin the walk; only three are found, barely alive, just south of Sydney town. Chris says: “It’s an entertaining work. And a truly interesting mish-mash of characters. I loved the re-imagining of this incredibly unique story from Australian history. There is very little record, historically, of what actually happened to the survivors in this true story so who is to say this novel isn’t the truth?”
And here’s some reading tips from our guides –
Karrawirra Parri: walking the Torrens from source to sea by Mike Ladd – this delightful little book tracks Ladd’s walk from the source of the Torrens River in South Australia to where it flows into the sea. Chris says: “I just loved this book. It is quite short but his observations are so poetic and it is a fascinating look at the history of a major river that I knew little about. It is accompanied by lovely photos too. A real little gem of a book.”
King: the story of a river by Patsy Crawford – The King River is one of the two principal rivers that flow into Macquarie Harbour, that huge bay on Tasmania’s west coast. This book is a moving personal account of the author’s involvement with the river, growing up around the mine that all but destroyed it. Craig says: “This is an eye-opener. It is from a person who lived there, seeing the lifeblood of her town, the King River, and how it was allowed to be compromised by one company and one industry. It is really well written, engaging.”
Snow People by Marie Herbert – This book may be difficult to find but it is worth it if you can. Published in 1973, it documents 18 months of living amongst the Inuit at the point in time when their traditional hunter gatherer lifestyle is changing forever in the face of modernisation and western influence. It is incredibly well-written. Herbert is a fabulous observer, non-judgemental or self-indulgent. Chris and Craig both rate this book as one of their favourite books.