Roger Cox: My top 40 books about the outdoors (part one)

Ben Nevis PIC: Ian Rutherford

Ben Nevis PIC: Ian Rutherford

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This winter, I’ve signed up to be a Bookfella for the Scottish Book Trust. The purpose of a Bookfella is two-fold: to raise money for the SBT and to encourage more men to read for pleasure (apparently we’re not as good at this as women). I don’t have space to go into my ill-considered fundraising stunt here, but suffice to say it involves me making a royal fool of myself on top of a hill sometime between now and next April. In an attempt to get more men reading for pleasure, though, I’ve also agreed to list my top 40 outdoors books, both on Twitter and in this column, in the hope that it might inspire a few fellas to seek out some of my favourites. (Yes, I know, women also read books about the outdoors. Realistically, however, I don’t think it’s too controversial to suggest that this list will probably have more traction with male readers than – for example – a list of my top 40 poetry books.)

Anyway, this week, to mark the start of Book Week Scotland (21-27 November), I’m listing numbers 40-21; next Saturday I’ll be listing my top 20. I’ve also been counting down the whole list on Twitter, with links to reviews I’ve written over the years, and in some cases author interviews. So if you’re looking for more information about one of my more obscure choices, or if you’d just like to see some badly-taken photographs of book covers, it’s all there under the hashtag #40ODbks

Right then, here we go...

No. 40: Strands, by Jean Sprackland. The ultimate beachcombing book, in which the author digs into the history of some of her more curious finds.

No. 39: It’s A Fine Day For The Hill, by Adam Watson. Pioneering Scottish ski touring tales, from the era of wooden skis and leather bindings.

No. 38: Antarctic Destinies, by Stephanie Barczewski. The great Scott v Shackleton rivalry under the microscope, and how their reputations have evolved over time.

No. 37: Nature’s Architect, by Jim Crumley. Beaver fever in Perthshire and Argyll, as the author goes in search of elusive representatives of the Castor fiber clan.

No. 36: A Golden Age, by John Witzig. Otherworldly words and pictures from surfing’s “Country Soul” period in the 1960s and 1970s.

No. 35: The Lie of the Land, by Ian Vince. Britain’s geology made unexpectedly fascinating. Particularly good on the Caledonian Orogeny – the original “Act of Union”.

No. 34: Nightwalk, by Chris Yates. Magical dusk-till-dawn meanderings.

No. 33: Cold Water Souls, by Chris Nelson. Rubber gloves in some cold climates, as Nelson visits hardy surfing communities in Iceland, Japan and elsewhere.

No. 32: The Solitude of Thomas Cave, by Georgina Harding. Mesmerising novel about a 17th century whaler who spends a winter alone in the Arctic in order to win a bet.

No. 31: Doubling Back, by Linda Cracknell. Ten enlightening yomps down memory lane.

No. 30: Skisters, by Myrtle Simpson. A colourful history of Scottish skiing, written by somebody who’s witnessed much of it first-hand.

No. 29: Stealing the Wave, by Andy Martin. The inside track on big wave surfing’s fiercest rivalry – Ken Bradshaw vs Mark Foo.

No. 28: Being a Beast, by Charles Foster. Trying to live like a variety of different animals proves much

more than a masochistic publicity stunt.

No. 27: Across the Arctic Ocean, by Sir Wally Herbert and Huw Lewis-Jones. The last great saga of the “Heroic Age” of exploration.

No. 26: One Breath, by Adam Skolnick. Thought-provoking insights into the tight-knit world of professional freediving.

No. 25: A Philosophy of Walking, by Frederic Gros. What happens to the human brain when you put one foot in front of the other.

No. 24: No Map Could Show Them, by Helen Mort. In which the poet and climber takes on the male chauvinists of her sport’s bad old days and wins amusingly.

No. 23: Out There: A Voice From The Wild, by Chris Townsend. Compendium of visionary writing by the respected long-distance walker and environmentalist.

No. 22: The Natural Explorer, by Tristan Gooley. Draws the key distinction between adventurers and explorers; gently mocks the former group and suggests some possible ways forward for the latter.

No. 21: Surf Nation, by Alex Wade. The definitive surfing circumnavigation of the British Isles, taking in its colourful tribes .

For more on the Scottish Book Trust, visit http://scottishbooktrust.com/about/what-we-do

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