The Deepest South of All: True Stories from Natchez, Mississippi by Richard GrantWhat it is: a mix of history and travelogue that presents a fascinating portrait of Natchez, Mississippi, tracing the city's past and present and its remarkable contradictions.
Read it for: intriguing stories about locals, including a 19th-century enslaved West African prince and modern-day feuding garden club members.
Why you might like it: vibrant writing; eye-opening history; the examination of racism through the lens of one town.
Blue Sky Kingdom: An Epic Family Journey to the Heart of the Himalaya by Bruce KirkbyFeaturing: Canadian TV journalist Bruce Kirkby, his introverted wife Christine, their highly intelligent autistic seven-year-old son Bodi, and their free-spirited three-year-old son Taj.
What happened: From British Columbia, they slow traveled (no planes!) for three months, making their way to South Korea, India, China, and Nepal, and then stayed at a Buddhist monastery for three months.
For fans of: rich, uplifting family travelogues; the Travel Channel's Big Crazy Family Adventure, which covers the first part of their trip.
Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness by Edward AbbeyWhat it is: a classic account, first published in 1968, of author Edward Abbey's experiences, observations, and reflections as a seasonal park ranger in 1950s Arches National Monument in Utah, including a trip by boat down Glen Canyon.
Want a taste? "The ravens cry out in husky voices, blue-black wings flapping against the golden sky."
Read this next: for a newer contemplative look at the desert, try Ben Ehrenreich's Desert Notebooks; for another lyrical look at national parks, pick up Terry Tempest Williams' The Hour of the Land.
Leave Only Footprints: My Acadia-to-Zion Journey through Every National Park by Conor KnightonThe impetus: his fiancée unexpectedly called things off (and then got engaged to her co-worker), leaving him at a crossroads.
What it is: a thematically arranged (Animals, God, Ice, Love, People, etc.), personal look at 59 U.S. national parks over the course of a year.
Did you know? As part of a video series on the National Park Service's 100th anniversary in 2016, the author, a CBS Sunday Morning correspondent, also did TV segments at several of the locations he visited.
Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World by M.R. O'ConnorWhat it's about: After getting lost in New Mexico due to a GPS fail, M.R. O'Connor became fascinated with older methods of navigation, so she met with scientists and traveled to the Arctic, Australia, and Oceania to learn about traditional wayfinding.
Read it for: the vivid descriptions; the multidisciplinary approach to the topic; the intriguing look at spatial cognition and memory.
Reviewers say: "her narrative is a marvel of storytelling on its own merits, erudite but lightly worn" (Kirkus Reviews).
Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary OliverWhat's inside: a lyrical collection of essays by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver, who died in 2019, that describes her lifelong wanderings in nature and how it inspired her creatively.
Why you might like it: Oliver contemplates artistic labor, observation, and great thinkers and writers of the past.
Want a taste? "I could not be a poet without the natural world. Someone else could. But not me. For me the door to the woods is the door to the temple."
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