Short Reading List of Angling and other Environmental Literature. Recommendations?

As the semester comes to a close, I am providing my “Religion, Nature, and Environment” students (the theme is fly fishing literature) with a bibliography of selected readings.  If you feel that there are any important texts that must be included in a reading list on the topics mentioned, please let me know. Of course, the wonderful texts we’ve already read in class are not included here.  Note that I will add titles, as I think of them and as they are recommended to me.


Bibliography of Selected Angling, Environmental, and other Outdoor Literature (to serve as supplements to assigned readings).

RELI 438, Spring 2013

Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854.

Essays produced during transcendentalist Thoreau’s two-year stay at Walden Pond, in MA.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Wind, Sand, and Stars, 1939.

Early reflections by acclaimed aviator, best known for writing The Little Prince.

Beryl Markham, West with the Night, 1942.

Amazing memoir by aviation pioneer, who spent her childhood and young adult years in Africa.

Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac, and Sketches Here and There, 1949.

Foundational book in American conservationism.

Heinrich Harrar, Seven Years in Tibet, 1952.

Austrian Mountaineer and Himalayan explorer (and then member of the Nazi Ahnenerbe) described his escape from Allied  internment in India, and subsequent years spent in Lhasa with the Dalai Lama (book was made into film starring Brad Pitt).

Henry Bugbee, The Inward Morning: A Philosophical Exploration in Journal Form, 1958.

Lyrical wilderness philosophy, in the existentialist vein, from University of Montana professor and angler.

Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude. Farrar, Straus & Cudahy. 1958.

One of many books on contemplation by Trappist monk and nature mystic.

Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, 1962.

Book that helped launch the modern environmentalist movement.

John McDonald, Quill Gordon, 1972.

Historical essays on fly fishing literature by economist and Fortune magazine contributor.

Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape, 1986.

National Book Award winner by prolific author of environmental literature.

Arnold Gingrich, The Fishing in Print, 1974.

Detailed, bibliographic tour of angling literature through the centuries, by founding editor of Esquire magazine and early promoter of Hemingway and others.

Robert Traver (John Voelker), Trout Magic, 1974.

Entertaining essays by circuit-court judge and famed author of Anatomy of a Murder.

Peter Mattheissen, The Snow Leopard, 1978.

Chronicles personal and professional Himalayan quest by founder of The Paris Review literary magazine.

Gaston Bachelard, Water and Dreams: an Essay on the Imagination of Matter,  1983 (orig. published in French, 1942).

Influential French philosopher and historian of science considers the epistemological significance (or significations) of water.  The text is part of a larger series.

Russell Chatham, Dark Waters: Essays, Stories, and Articles, 1988.

Successful artist and angler reflects upon past experiences and friendships with such figures as writer Richard Brautigan.

Harry Middleton, The Earth is Enough, 1989.

Moving memoir of a childhood spent with eccentric, fly fishing grandfather and uncle by the later nature writer, which now has a cult following.

Doug Peacock, The Grizzly Years: In Search of the American Wilderness, 1990.

Vietnam-era Special Forces medic retreats to the Glacier National Park area to find himself again and becomes grizzly expert along the way.  Peacock is the model for one of environmental writer Edward Abbey’s.

Pete Fromm, Indian Creek Chronicles: A Winter in the Wilderness, 1993.

Author leaves college to work alone in Idaho’s Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness.

Lyla Foggia, Reel Women: The World of Women who Fish, 1997.

Addresses various female figures in the world of fishing, from Juliana Berners to living individuals.

John Krakauer, Into Thin Air, 1997.

Book based upon tragic 1996 deaths on Mount Everest.  Krakauer was there as a journalist for Outside magazine.  He also authored Into the Wild.

Craig Nova, Brook Trout and the Writing Life, 1999.

Describes the place of fish and family in Nova’s early years as a writer.

Thomas McGuane, Some Horses: Essays, 2000.

Reflections upon individual horses loved and admired by McGuane.

Kathy Scott, Moose in the Water/Bamboo on the Bench : a Journal and a Journey, 2000.

Reflective essays upon craft[wo]manship and nature.

Thomas McGuane, The Longest Silence, 2001.

An acclaimed series of essays on angling by one of America’s best know Western writers.

Jamling T. Norgay, Touching My Father’s Soul: A Sherpa’s Journey to the Top of Everest, 2002.

Book by son of Tenzing Norgay, Sherpa who was first to summit Mt. Everest, alongside Sir Edmund Hillary.

 Yvon Chouinard, Let My People Go Surfing, 2005.

Patagonia’s founder explains how he came to understand that sustainable business can be profitable.

Steven Kotler, West of Jesus: Surfing, Science, and the Origins of Belief, 2007.

Book explores the phenomenon of “soul surfing,” and other forms of outdoor recreation often described as religious, from a biological perspective.

Wayne K. Sheldrake, Instant Karma: The Heart and Soul of a Ski Bum (Ghost Road Press, 2007).

Religiously oriented memoir of an avid skier’s early years.

Paul Schullery, Royal Coachman, 1999.

Essays on fly fishing history in the U.S.

Maximillian Werner, Black River Dreams, 2009.

Reflective, religiously oriented essays on angling by creative-writing professor.

Anders Halverson, An Entirely Synthetic Fish, 2010.

Highly acclaimed book on the role of non-native fish in changing the American landscape.

Erin Block.  The View from Coal Creek, 2011.

The writer describes her angling centered life in Colorado.

Eric Eisenkramer and Michael Attas, Fly-Fishing, the Sacred Art: Casting a Fly as a Spiritual Practice, 2012.

Co-authored by a Reform Rabbi and an Episcopal Priest/MD.



18 Responses to “Short Reading List of Angling and other Environmental Literature. Recommendations?”

  1. Mike Sepelak Says:

    Well, I’m glad you held back and only published the short list.

    Good stuff!


  2. rivertoprambles Says:

    Thanks! Lists are difficult, intriguing, and always a start.


  3. Kenov Says:

    The long list will have to wait for you guys to publish your books.


  4. Emily Zeiders Says:

    Hey! I’ve actually read some of these! I look forward to the long list.


  5. Kenov Says:

    If we are both in the southeast next year, I may try to talk you into visiting class, Emily.


  6. Darrol Groth Says:

    I would also suggest a “sleeper” but early conservation book advocating catch and release, etc. In Defense of Worms by Frederic van de Water. Delightful book. Darrol Groth


    • Kenov Says:

      Hi Darrol,

      Thanks for the suggestion. I recognize the title, but I haven’t read it. I’m very interested in the topic (and it’s especially relevant to my class); I’ll check it out.


  7. B.c. Says:

    Uh-h, this looks like trouble. I’m pleased to have run across this blog – forwarded by a fishing buddy, naturally. Between the bluegrass and the books and the tackle and the theology, it sounds like the makings of a fishing road trip conversation I’d very much enjoy. You drive, I’ll drink the moonshine.

    A few years ago I started an email thread with my more bookish fishing buddies to compare lists of favorite fly fishing books. It went from amiable to virtually violent with shocking rapidity, and it’s been great fun ever since. You already have a fair number of our picks listed here, but we’d probably argue for a few additions…

    L. Roderick Haig-Brown
    This was our first big argument. All but one of us loves Haig-Brown; the outlier thinks he’s “too snobbish, too English”. That’s precisely why the rest of us like him, but we couldn’t agree on which of his books is best. The contestants were: A River Never Sleeps, To Know a River, and Measure of the Year. Nobody won.

    Vincent Marinaro, In the Ring of the Rise
    At the beginning we set a strict no-tactical rule, but we made an exception for Marinaro. We all read him very young, and we were duly moved to fish – and to study, to ponder, to read, to appreciate. Marinaro made us better students of the river and the fish, and that counts. Ditto for A Modern Dry Fly Code. The only other technical books that we’d consider putting into the same ‘epiphany’ category would be LaFontaine’s, and those aren’t as nearly so readable.

    David James Duncan, The River Why
    This moves into lighter fare, but we all found some bit of ourselves reflected in this fine and layered book. None of us have a copy any more because we’ve all given them away multiple times.

    Now we get to the most contentious entries. We all agreed that we enjoy John Gierach, but that he’s written the same book about 11 times now. That hasn’t stopped us from reading all of them, but we didn’t think he should make the cut into our ‘FF LIT’ category. But which authors and books should?

    Ted Leeson, The Habit of Rivers
    Nick Lyons, Spring Creek
    Seth Norman, The Fly Fisher’s Guide to Crimes of Passion
    W.D. Wetherell, One River More
    Howell Raines, Flyfishing Through the Mid-Life Crisis
    MR Montgomery, Many Rivers to Cross

    We all had our favorites, and all of us hated at least two of everybody else’s favorites. Good fun, right?

    With regard to your list, we’ve all read Paul Schullery’s Royal Coachman, but it didn’t make it into the combat zone mentioned above. FYI, that one was released in 1999, not 2007. You’ve got universal agreement on The Longest Silence. What a book….

    Moving away from angling into general nature essays….

    Rick Bass, Wild to the Heart
    A bunch of us read Rick Bass religiously in the 90s, and we still like his early stuff best.

    Jon Krakauer, Eiger Dreams: Ventures Among Men and Mountains
    I went to school at CU in Boulder where a copy of Into the Wild was handed to you at registration, along with your official issue Birkenstocks and Mountain Smith butt pack. Most of us read most of Krakauer’s books, including Into Thin Air, which you’ve included in your list. I thought Thin Air was a little mainstream and commercial, which I suppose is ironic since that’s arguably *his* point about pay-to-play Everest expeditions. But the Krakauer book I keep coming back to has always been Eiger Dreams.

    Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk
    I read Dillard around the same time as I discovered Barry Lopez, and I ended up loving both of them for different reasons.

    Jim Harrison, Legends of the Fall
    Yes, they made a movie out of it, but hey, we still like the book. You’ll note that we haven’t mentioned that other book that got made into a movie….

    Good stuff. Cheers….and tight lines.


  8. Kenov Says:

    Dillard’s absence is glaring, for sure. Thanks for pointing that out. Haig-Brown too, but I was having trouble deciding which one to pick (though I’m more interested in getting the authors on the list than the titles). I’m am a huge Marinaro fan, but I didn’t think he’ appeal to general readers.

    Like you and your friends, I’m a bit ambivalent about Gierach. I suppose, though, that there is no disputing his importance. And I really did enjoy him back in the day.

    Harrison should probably be on the list, but I wasn’t sure which one to include. I have told my students about him, however.

    A River Why and A River Runs Through It are among the assigned readings. I think if you look on the “courses” page, I have the bibliography listed there.

    I think, though, that maybe I’ll make a larger, independent list, and perhaps I’ll break it into subcategories.

    As for my own favorite fishing works…I’m not sure I can can even come up with a top five. I supposed that the list would include A River Runs Through It (hey, I’m the son of a Presbyterian minister who grew up fishing the Blackfoot drainage), The Compleat Angler (I really do love it), The Well-Tempered Angler (probably for sentimental reasons), Fishing Days, Angling Nights, and ….. I guess that’s where it gets tricky. It might be easier just to come up with a list of important books with broad appeal.

    Thanks for the Schullery date correction too. I was trying to provide original publication dates, but I was in a rush.


  9. B.c. Says:

    Marinaro: agreed that he’s a bit technical for newbies. but if someone has been out a few times and has caught the spark, his books are an ideal fan to create a bonfire of enthusiasm for the finer points of the art.

    Gierach: what can I say? I can’t help but love his stuff. His books are a guilty pleasure, like my spy novel addiction. That, and because of my Colorado roots, he’s sorta like the grumpy old neighbor who was funny and annoying at the same time, but of whom you’ve grown rather fond since moving away.

    I found your class reading lists after posting my comments, and I was pleased to see The River Why given an appropriate place of honor. As for the other River book / movie, I’d be obliged to love it as well were I in your shoes. But I’m not, and I have a sordid love / hate relationship with it. I honestly didn’t like the book. A few bits of it are truly transcendent, but most of it seemed plodding to me.

    I enjoyed the movie. Who didn’t? My dad worked in the industry, and the movie inspired extraordinary expansion in the market – not to mention the technological innovations that came about in large part because of all the new blood. I can’t complain about those things.

    But at the same time, I didn’t like some of the consequences. Perhaps it didn’t spawn quite enough Marinaro fans? You probably know what I mean, so I’ll quit there.

    I look forward to seeing your compiled lists. Cheers!


    • Kenov Says:

      I think the students liked A River Why. Some people I talk to find it a bit dense, but I really like it. One of my colleagues is actually a friend of Duncan’s and is id’d as one of the people upon which Titus is based.

      I asked Duncan to come and discuss his book, but he had a big deadline this spring. He said he could come out next school year though. Since his interests are so broad, a visit from him should appeal to a lot of people.

      It was interesting reading all of the 29th anniversary press about ARRTI this last year in Montana. I think most people look back upon it fondly, though that may not have been the case just a year or two after the movie. I remember that my own home water got a lot of pressure for a few years, as it was written about in a couple of magazines shortly after the movie. It’s not so bad now, though; I usually don’t see anybody. Of course, the main branch of the Blackfoot is another story….


  10. cofisher49 Says:

    I feel like I’m roaming among the literary elite. I’ve got several on your list and now looking for some of the others.


    • Kenov Says:

      I don’t know about that. After all, it’s just about catching fish (and enjoying do so), in the end. There are some good reads there though. Handy during endless Colorado winters.


    • B.c. Says:

      Yup, I’m with Kenov: it’s all just fishin’, man. Sure, a few of the boys go in for the Latin, but for the most part I think fly fishing books are written and read not to impress or even inform. No, they’re written for the same reason we fish: to capture something profound but elusive, usually inside ourselves. The written word is a crude and imperfect medium, but it does have this virtue: a book doesn’t practice catch and release. A good fishing story preserves the small spark so it can be revisited and shared.


  11. Kenov Says:

    Very true, B.c. I find I often fish for memories. That is, I hope that each fishing trip will be marked by some experience that will give me pleasure,through its remembrance, long into the future. After a while, though, even the most memorable fishing experience loses a bit of its luster. Not so with books.


  12. Trout Opening Day on a non-trouting stream | The Fly Fishin' Christian Says:

    […] First, I wanted to pass along this reading list that popped up on my WordPress feed today:… […]


  13. Scott Says:

    Don’t know how I’ve missed McGuane’s “Some Horses” before! Checked it out from the library and am _thoroughly_ enjoying it. Such a great writer. Thanks for all the wonderful rec’s!


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