Outdoors books 2022: Essential reading for lovers of wide-open spaces
Time on Rock, by Anna Fleming (Canongate) Climbing writing is a crowded field, but thanks to its carefully chiselled prose and bright, flinty intelligence, this absolute gem of a book from Edinburgh-based writer Anna Fleming can hold its own against the most famous names in the pantheon. Not only does it chart Fleming’s own development as a climber, it also describes her growing awareness of and appreciation for the many different kinds of rock she encounters along the way.
The Surf Atlas: Iconic Waves and Surfing Hinterlands, edited by Robert Klanten and Rosie Flanagan (Gestalten) There’s not much point trying to publish a surfing guidebook these days, as the encyclopaedic Stormrider Guides have already conquered that particular niche. However, The Surf Atlas isn’t trying to be a functional guide; rather, it cherry-picks some of the most famous/notable/lustworthy surf destinations on the planet, introduces them with pithy mini-essays and shows them off in never-less-than-glorious photography.
An Eye to the Hills, by Cameron McNeish (Sandstone) The veteran outdoors journalist brings together a selection of his best writing. Includes perspicacious takes on such hot-button topics as land access and the development of skiing on Cairn Gorm, encounters with mountaineering greats including Alison Hargreaves and David “Heavy” Whalley, and – best of all – records of some memorable days in the hills.
Blue Scotland: The Ultimate Guide to Exploring Scotland’s Wild Waters, by Mollie Hughes (Birlinn) Taking an enlightened, multi-disciplinary approach to aquatic exploration, this book from adventurer Mollie Hughes showcases some of the best places in Scotland for paddleboarding, kayaking, surfing and wild swimming. Each entry gives a good overview of what activities are available and the skill level required.
In Search of One Last Song, by Patrick Galbraith (William Collins) In which a talented young writer goes in search of some of Britain’s rarest birds and the people doing their best to save them. Notable for the author’s vivid prose style, the improbably wide range of people he meets, and his refusal to offer easy answers.
Turn and Go! 50 Years of Surf Writings, by Steve Pezman (The Surfer’s Journal) Editor and publisher of Surfer Magazine in its Sixties and Seventies heyday, then founder of the still-going-strong Surfer’s Journal, in the course of his career Steve Pezman has seen surfing evolve from a niche pastime enjoyed by a few eccentrics in a handful of locations to a mainstream sport practiced in every corner of the globe by a tribe of millions. This collection of his best work charts that progression, and also shows how the creativity and open-mindedness of his journalism helped shape it.
Alexander Henderson: Art and Nature, edited by Suzanne Sauvage and Hélène Samson (Yale University Press) Born and raised in Scotland, Alexander Henderson emigrated to Canada in 1855 and, during his lifetime, became one of that country’s most celebrated landscape photographers. By the time of his death in 1913, however, he was all but forgotten. Published to coincide with a major exhibition of his work at the McCord Museum in Montreal, this paving-slab-sized coffee table book shows him to have had both an adventurous spirit and a sharp eye for composition.
Around the World in 50 Slopes, by Patrick Thorne (Wildfire) The phenomenally well-travelled ski journalist, now based in the Highlands, makes a highly entertaining lap of the planet, ticking off “the world’s most amazing ski runs” along the way and mixing in some fascinating ski trivia to boot.
The Surfing Collection, by Malcolm Findlay (Waterborne Books) Penned by a former Scottish surfing champion, this entertaining collection of short stories may be billed as fiction, but so many of the characters have names that will sound familiar to anyone with an interest in the Scottish surf scene that readers may well be left wondering exactly where fiction begins and reality ends.
Hindsight, by Jenna Watt (Birlinn) Thought-provoking exploration of the ethical issues surrounding deer culling in Scotland and how deer numbers impact on attempts at re-wilding. And if that sounds dry, don’t worry: it isn’t. Rather than simply discussing deer hunting in the abstract, the author opts to experience a stalk for herself, and so, woven through the book is an account of her tracking a hind around the Corrour Estate on the edge of Rannoch Moor.