my best outdoor books motivation inspiration book reviews

Let’s set the stage right from the start. This isn’t a list of outrageous adventure books that tell you all the things you wish you could do but no human really does. These aren’t picture books of killer vacations you won’t take. The books on this list, many of which aren’t directly outdoors related, have fundamentally changed my mind state to push harder and farther than I’ve ever gone before outdoors, especially now that I’m in my 40’s. Not only do I own these books, I bought them myself and continue to read them over and over. I call them my 7 Best Outdoor Books because they’ve changed my outdoor life.

These Books Will Never Leave My Side Table

As an adult, I can’t get enough books. But not all books. Only certain kinds. I like books that teach me things or inspire me, which of course is subjective. I’m not a fiction girl. I like facts, real-life stories, and those golden nuggets that I feel can directly apply to my outdoor journey.

Here’s my top 7 reads that I say are my personal Best Outdoor Books. My arsenal of inspiration. Some of these are a challenge to read, but in the end, I keep coming back to them and they continue to move me forward. These are in order of how I read them, not in their ranking of greatness. I still feel they are all equals in my book quiver, hopefully some of which make a connection for you too.

The Joy of Living by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

The Short & Sweet: Such a basic concept to enjoy life and yet so many of us are miserable. He’s a buddhist and mediation master, neither of which I will be, but his perspective on how to tap into the joy in living has changed my life. If you need a new perspective on how to fully embrace this crazy thing we call life, Yongey is the best teacher I’ve ever had.

The Joy of Living by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche buddhist inspirational bookThe self-help book that is so much more than its description. This book has impressed upon me to stop being so rigid and accept the fact that there are many things I will never know and understand. But I’m on this earth for a reason and therefore I’m moving forward, with a positive mind, open heart… and what happens, happens. No, this isn’t all hippy dippy, head in the clouds jumbo. The mind control that true mediative geniuses have is something I will never reach. Not because I can’t but because I don’t want to devote my life to that training. But what it does give me is an inner peace that I’m doing the right thing. I’m moving in the right direction. I feel good about my passions and while I can work towards goals, I don’t rule the world and some of it I have to believe in before I see it.

You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero

The Short & Sweet: If you just read the title to yourself everyday, you’d already do better. A right to the point daily affirmation for positive (edgy) thinking. Take every excuse you have to why you’re not good enough and this book will set it on fire and then yell at you to get going.

You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero motivational bookJen’s style is contagious. She might not be slaying the outdoors, but being a badass is directly transferrable to claiming a slot as best outdoor books material. One of the best books for taking any excuse and just pulverizing it. And I mean like you’re embarrassed you had it in the first place and then promise yourself to never think it again. I enjoy reading a book that’s written like you’re talking to a friend. But the kind of friend that’s brutally honest with you but you know it’s what you need. We don’t like to be told what to do at any age, but this book is the perfect mix of direct advice with funny real-life stories, easy brain exercises, and of course a few swear words for maximum effect. It’s a fast read that’s great to add to your daily reading schedule, even if you’re in the middle of another book. You won’t lose your place or forget what she says. I like reading it with breakfast as a quick 10-15 min a day reminder to be awesome and keep going.

Everything Is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo

The Short & Sweet: When you think about it, everything really is figureoutable in the world. Someone’s either already done it so you can too or it’s new and someone’s bound to discover it, so why not me? A hundred years ago, cell phones would have sounded like crazy talk. And look at us now.

Everything is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo motivational bookWhen people say “it’s not rocket science”, I’m always baffled by that saying. They’re trying to describe something as it can’t be that hard because it isn’t like rocket science. And yet rocket science has already been figured out so it isn’t any harder, you just have to study it and then you too can be a rocket scientist. Pretty plain and simple. I love how this book really breaks life down into such easy, digestable and inspirational bits for you to shape a dream and then go after it. Because after all… Marie is right, everything is figureoutable.

The Surrender Experiment (and The Untethered Soul) by Michael Alan Singer

The Short & Sweet: When you stop trying to control your life and fully embrace the idea of go-with-the-flow. Michael takes that to a level that few of us will ever do, but it’s an eye opening recount of holding onto the reigns too tightly because you think you know best may be the greatest limiting factor in your life.

The Surrender Experiment by Michael Singer go with the flow bookI come back to this book when I feel like I’m stuck and not moving forward. Think back… you go through a brainstorming session, map out all your plans, and start executing. It’s perfect. You’re going to crush all your targets and there’s no way you can lose. Until you hit a wall. Stumped why things aren’t working. Faith is a hard pill to swallow. To 100% believe in something, especially when you have no proof it’s possible or vision of how. But in life, we really control very little. All we have is our own emotions and thoughts. We only control ourselves. The rest of the universe is doing what it does. I’m a driven person that likes goals and checklists. And I forget often that I don’t control the world, so I need to relax and take things as they come. You never know… just the right person at the right time could be in front of me but I miss them because they weren’t on my timeline. Bummer.

The Comfort Crisis by Michael Easter

The Short & Sweet: Every time I complain about something, it usually has to do with comfort. It’s too hot. Cold. Exhausting. My heart rate is blowing up. It’s dark. I’m wet. These aren’t life and death situations. I’m just cranky and uncomfortable. It comes down to wanting to “like” doing everything.

The Comfort Crisis by Michael Easter best outdoor book I hate when people say there’s no growth in comfort. But it’s true. When things are great, it’s like cruising downhill on a smooth road, effortlessly. But nothing about that makes me feel accomplished. I’m just content and would stay there forever. Pushing beyond the edge you set for yourself… that’s when you really test what you’re made of. This book is a genuine best outdoor books winner. A true outdoor life saga. I’ve read this book many times to remember to get out of my comfort zone. And I’m not talking about being risky or stupid. But the simple idea of getting comfortable with being uncomfortable will revolutionize your life, especially an outdoor one. It’s easy to run on a treadmill during the winter, but what if I dressed right and put on shoe spikes. I’d head outside, where I’m not comfortable, and push through a run that will make me tougher and more resilient. I’ll hate it during but love it when I’m done.

The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace D. Wattles

The Short & Sweet: It’s not a get rich quick scheme. Dumb mumbo jumbo on raking it in. It’s the simple formula that what you think becomes your reality. Misery loves company and positive energy attracts more or it. Nothing like a crabby demeanor to chase away anything and everything good from your life.

The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace D. Wattles inspirational bookOne of the hardest books I’ve ever read. His style is difficult to absorb. Some people can’t even get past chapter one and already hate the author’s ideas. But I’m telling you, if you can just give it an honest go, slowly reading the words and letting it sink in, the book is amazing. The concept is that every thought starts out as a blank slate for you to mold. Where will you take your ideas? Your direction? Your life? If you walk around defeated that nothing good will ever happen because you see no way how, you’re 100% right that none of it will happen. But that also works in reverse. Believe it like it’s already happening and watch how the stars align to become your reality. “I’m a gravel racer and I won!” It’s not easy believing when you don’t see a way, but if you don’t believe at all, you’re guaranteed failure… so why not try?

SOLO by Jenny Tough

The Short & Sweet: Take on six mountain ranges on six continents and then just run across them by yourself. Sounds insane and impossible, but apparently it isn’t. Oh, and be a solo female traveler just to up the ante even more. Her name fits her better than you can imagine. Tough isn’t a strong enough adjective.

SOLO by Jenny Tough best outdoor books women runnerThe entire time I read this book, I thought to myself that I don’t think I could do what Jenny did. I have aspirations to gravel race and bikepack different parts of the world, but not to the adventurous level that Jenny did. And that’s what made the book so meaningful. Our limits and desires are all different. I might not want to run across the Andes by myself, sleeping under a bivy, but Jenny’s tenacity and belief in herself to push forward and know that she could do it is so inspirational and applicable to my own thinking in pushing myself. Her outside life is the epitome of a best outdoor books specimen. There were very few moments in the book where she was comfortable and on cruise control. She fought to make it through every expedition, making mistakes but figuring it out. And that’s what transfers to me personally, not in magnitude of adventure but in mind state to accomplish anything I put my mind to.

Another Book Worth Mentioning

She Explores by Gale Straub outdoor women bookThis one might not be on my top best outdoor books list but still worth mentioning as it’s been very useful to me. I probably won’t read it again, but I gathered a lot of badass women to follow their inspiring journeys. She Explores by Gale Straub holds the single most inspirational people in one book that has greatly added to my own outdoor journey. It’s a compilation of women in the outdoors, each with a different story and perspective. Their parts are short, maybe a page or two, but so many were intriguing enough to get me to look them up and choose to follow them further. If you’re looking for women to inspire your own outdoor adventures, you’re likely to find several in this book.

What’s Next On The Book Docket

A bigger topic for another time is my newfound obsession with gravel racing and bikepacking. Neither of these I currently do or know anything about. But my love for mountain biking is morphing into a desire to start gravel racing and exploring the outdoors via bikepacking. Both exciting and intimidating, starting a whole new outdoor athletic chapter at this point in my life is a challenge, but I’m ready to take on. It’s also brought me into the fierce world of learning, studying, and becoming a rookie once again. This is where you don’t let your age stop you from starting over. And with this, my new book choices are headed towards gravel racing, bikepacking, wilderness survival, bike repair, navigation, and those real life stories of more outdoorsy adventures to inspire me. Probably more actual outdoor themed books on this list. I’ll need all of that if I’m going to be any good at this. Will any of these new reads make my best outdoor books list? TBD…

She Rides by Alenka Vrecek

She Rides by Alenka Vrecek bikepacking book women athleteMy first foray into the bikepacking world is She Rides. Less how-to and more get inspired by a woman in her fifties powering through the trials of life and out onto the open gravel road from Northern California to Baja. Considering both our ages, if I start now, I’ll have a 10 year head start on her. I should be able to pull off plenty of biking adventures with that timeframe… you’d think.

Girls Gone Gravel (podcast)

I’d like to think I’m super coordinated, but reading and walking isn’t something I do well. On days when Alex and I are off schedule at the gym, I’ll walk home alone. So I’ve been using that time to listen to podcasts. I know, this isn’t related to my best outdoor books list. But it’s a free 15 min a day that I don’t want to waste. The first one I started following is Girls Gone Gravel. And I’m sure by the name of it you can figure out the gist of it. My hope is to start getting my pedals wet on the idea of gravel bikes and racing. The goal is to start gravel racing next summer, 2025, and that means I have a lot to learn over the next year. It can’t hurt to mix a few podcasts in with my new stack of books.

But Don’t Get Stuck In The Pages

It’s easy to just keep reading and studying. It’s a whole new level to actually get out there and do it. New outdoor adventures come with not only knowing what to do but also the money to do it. My new gravel racing and bikepacking desires have a lot knowledge and gear to acquire, all of which will take planning, practice, and creative thinking to pull off. But I will because I want to and the first step is not to get analysis paralysis, lost in the pages and my headphones. As I add new reads to my best outdoor books list, I know I’ll still come back to these 7 as they continue to inspire and push me forward.

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