9 Books About Abandoning Everything to Go Live in the Woods

Escape civilization, at least for a little while.

abandoning everything to live in the woods
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Things are tough right now. Bills are going up, congress is falling apart, and that whole pandemic thing never really went away. Doesn’t it all make you want to just abandon reality, live out your Walden fantasy, and move into the wilderness? It couldn’t possibly be any more wild than what we’re living through right now, right? 

Give me that hermit life now. Sorry, adult responsibilities. For everyone else ready to throw in the towel and pack up their tent, here are eight books to prepare you for the trek. 



By Henry David Thoreau

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Perhaps no book captures this feeling more than Henry David Thoreau's Walden, who, in 1845, built a small cabin by hand and lived self-sufficiently for the next two years. This memoir of his time has since become one of the most famous memoirs ever written—and for good reason.

Diana of the Dunes

Diana of the Dunes

By Janet Zenke Edwards

In the fall of 1915, Alice Mabel Gray traded her life in Chicago for a solitary journey in the remote sand hills of northwest Indiana along Lake Michigan. She eschewed creature comforts in favor of living in a fisherman's shack and found a new kind of freedom as a woman at a time when the suffrage movement was gaining power. 

Eventually, she became notorious for her rejection of normalcy (which included regular skinny-dipping sessions) and the media and public nicknamed her "Diana of the Dunes." When asked why she chose the dunes over the city, she simply said, "I want to live my own life—a free life." Janet Zenke Edwards’ book delves into her life before the dunes, her time in the wild, her husband Paul Wilson, and why she enthralled so many people of the past and present.

The Harvester

The Harvester

By Gene Stratton-Porter

American writer and silent film-era producer Gene Stratton-Porter was a nature photographer and naturalist who was dedicated to the conservation of Limberlost Swamp and other wetlands in her native Indiana. Her 1911 novel The Harvester is set in this area and follows David Langston, a hero inspired by Thoreau, who harvests and in turn sells medicinal herbs. 

Visions of a dream girl consume him, and when he meets the beautiful but frail Ruth, he's convinced he's finally found the woman who will be his perfect partner in life and work.

The Call of the Wild

The Call of the Wild

By Jack London

Few books of the 20th century have defined the myth of man (or dog) living free from society and becoming at one with nature as heavily as Jack London's masterpiece The Call of the Wild. London spent almost a year in the Yukon, which inspired the story, initially serialized in The Saturday Evening Post in the summer of 1903. 

Buck, a powerful 140-pound St. Bernard–Scotch Shepherd mix, is stolen from his home and sold into service as a sled dog in Alaska. Life away from his comfortable existence on a California ranch soon gives way to the primitive thrall of nature, and Buck is forced to fight to survive.

Toots in Solitude

Toots in Solitude

By John Yount

Soon after his fortieth birthday, Macon “Toots” Henslee left his home, his job, and his marriage to live in a tree house. Without explanation, he gave up everything to run to the woods. His wife thinks he's lost his mind, and the locals wonder if something terrible has happened to him. Toots, however, is all too happy to cast off the shackles of his new life and enjoy the view from his perch atop a Tennessee riverbank. 

Nine years later, Toots is out fishing one morning when he catches sight of a nervous young woman hiding behind a tree. Aspiring country singer Sally Ann Shaw has a briefcase full of stolen drug money and needs somewhere to hide. A hermit’s tree house is the perfect hiding place, but in such close quarters, Toots and Sally Ann have more to fear than the gangsters hot on their trail.

On Your Own in the Wilderness

On Your Own in the Wilderness

By Bradford Angier

Bradford Angier grew up romanticizing the life of Henry David Thoreau and decided to move to Hudson's Hope, a small town in northeastern British Columbia, Canada, to live off the land with his wife Vena. They moved into an empty prospector's cabin, taught themselves how to find food and stay alive, then spent decades away from civilization living off the land. 

The Angiers wrote various books offering sound advice on how to stay alive in the woods and what was needed to not only survive in the wild but thrive. He co-wrote On Your Own in the Wilderness with Colonel Townsend Whelan, an American hunter and soldier who also loved the great outdoors and living off the grid.

History of Wolves

History of Wolves

By Emily Fridlund

Fourteen-year-old Madeline lives with her parents in the beautiful woods of north Minnesota. They are part of a commune that is on its last legs, a remnant of the counterculture from decades prior. Isolated at home and an outsider at school, Madeline finds herself drawn to her new history teacher, Mr. Grierson. When Mr. Grierson is charged with possessing child pornography, the implications of his arrest deeply affect Madeline as she wrestles with her own fledgling desires and craving to belong. 

Things grow even more tumultuous when a new family moves in across the lake and Madeline becomes the babysitter for their little boy, Paul. Soon, she is forced to confront the dangers of adolescence and the threat of both the outside world and the community that's supposed to protect her.


A Walk in the Woods

By Bill Bryson

American–British journalist and author Bill Bryson is beloved for his detailed and entertaining books that combine history, travelogue, and jokes. In the spring and summer of 1996, Bryson and his friend Stephen Katz decided to walk the Appalachian Trail. His journey was detailed in 1998's A Walk in the Woods

As he ventures through one of the most picturesque regions of America, Bryson details the history and ecology of the trail as well as his encounters with the other hardy folks who are hiking this legendary path. If you’re going to run away to the woods, try and convince Bill Bryson to accompany you. 

The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible

By Barbara Kingsolver

If the wild life is starting to sound too good to be true, trust the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Barbara Kingsolver to bring you back down to earth. The Poisonwood Bible, which was shortlisted for the Pulitzer in 1999 and listed as an Oprah's Book Club pick, follows Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his wife and four daughters on a futile mission to the middle of the Belgian Congo in 1959. 

He believes they'll be able to live an Eden-like existence in the jungle, but it doesn't take long for reality to sink in. As Nathan tries to convert the locals to Christianity, using his poorly translated Bible, his wife and children try to find a semblance of self in a place where they are hopelessly isolated and out of touch with reality.

Featured image via Dominik Jirovský / Unsplash