Summer is here and this is definitely the year to celebrate the great outdoors! Why the big fuss? It’s all about embracing nature and how it nurtures and nourishes our souls. We’ve gathered together 11 books in which the natural world takes a pivotal role, not just as a backdrop but as a catalyst or character in and of itself.

Let the hands that write also be the hands that travel, garden, farm, climb mountains, and draw strength from these adventures, while finding solace.

Keep Me Afloat (Lake Union Publishing 2020)
by Jennifer Gold 

Five years ago, marine biologist Abby Fisher made a mistake that cost her everything. Rather than face the consequences, she flees home to start over and build her dream career. But when her marine life research program runs out of funding, she’s adrift once again and decides to return to the safe harbor of her family, friends, oceans and whales. Except nothing at home is how she remembered.

Her friendships are strained, her normally affectionate parents seem distant, and her once-great love story is now just a painful memory. What’s worse, she keeps running into the people she hurt years ago — and they aren’t ready to forgive her. Abby is determined to atone for her mistakes, but she can’t seem to move beyond her guilt for a chance of future happiness. Can Abby learn to sail through the storm, or will she remain lost at sea?

The Middle of Somewhere (Berkley 2015)
by Sonja Yoerg

With her thirtieth birthday looming, Liz Kroft is heading for the hills. The troubled young widow hikes from Yosemite Valley deep into the wilderness on the John Muir Trail to elude her shameful past, with her emotional baggage weighing her down more than her backpack. A three-week trek promises the solitude she craves—at least until her boyfriend, Dante, decides to tag along. His broad moral streak makes the prospect of confessing her sins more difficult, but as much as she fears his judgment, she fears losing him more.

They set off together alone under blue skies, but it’s not long before storms threaten and two strange brothers appear along the trail. Amid the jagged, towering peaks, Liz must decide whether to admit her mistakes and confront her fears, or face the trail, the brothers and her future alone.

Hard Cider by Barbara Stark-Nemon
She Writes Press, September 2018

Abbie Rose Stone’s acquired wisdom runs deep, and so do her scars. She has successfully navigated the shoals of a long marriage, infertility, challenging children, and a career. Now it’s her turn to realize her dream: producing hard apple cider along the northern shores of Lake Michigan that she loves. She manages to resist new versions of the old pull of family dynamics that threaten to derail her plan—but nothing can protect her from the shock a lovely young stranger delivers when she exposes a long-held secret. In the wake of this revelation, Abbie must overcome circumstances that severely test her self-determination, her loyalties, and her understanding of what constitutes true family.

Love & Stones (Grassland Press 2020)
by Sallianne Hines

Cathryn McNeil wants to believe in happily-ever-after, Jane Austen style. But a twice-divorced children’s therapist whose heart is buried in a graveyard of loss is an unlikely heroine.

Stuck in a small prairie town, she’s resigned to her secluded life until she meets polo player Jack Stone at a funeral. Amidst powerful weather and sweeping vistas of the northern plains and the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Cathryn and Jack are drawn together by a mutual love of horses and the land. A family secret interwoven with thunderstorms, wildfires, and rockslides catapults them into a life-changing journey as they come to terms with love and loss, and reinvent their own roles.

Wildflower (Catherine Greenfeder 2011)
by Catherine Greenfeder

Johanna Wade, a minister’s daughter in her early twenties, leaves the comfort of her home in Boston in 1848 to join her absentee father, Reverend Wade, in Missouri and become part of his missionary party. While Johanna and the other pioneers make their way through the wilderness from the jumping off point in Independence, Missouri to the Willamette Valley of Oregon, she grieves the death of her fiance. He was a poet, and carries his love letters and poems with her on the journey westward as a reminder of him. Along the way she meets the trail guide, a former trapper and mountain man, Ryan Majors and is both amused and attracted to his rough-hewn qualities.

Doubtful  (Silky Stone Press 2013)
by Ann Warner

For Dr. Van Peters, Doubtful Sound, on the South Island of New Zealand, is a place to regroup after a false accusation all but ends her scientific career. She is healing and adapting to a simpler lifestyle as she assists a local scientist in his plant studies when journalist David Christianson arrives to disturb her tentative peace. David has chosen Doubtful as a place of respite after a personal tragedy and is followed by an unwelcome notoriety. Neither Van nor David is looking for love or even friendship. Both want only to make it through another day. But when the two are kidnapped and then abandoned in a remote area of the Sound, their only chance of survival will be the courage and resilience with which they face an unforgiving environment.

The Point of Vanishing (Milford House Press 2021)
by Maryka Biaggio

On a December night in 1939 famous author Barbara Follett fought with her husband and stormed out of their Boston home, never to be heard from again. 

Homeschooled by her parents, Barbara’s shining intellect manifested itself at an early age. She soaked up her mother’s lessons and thrived under her adored father’s encouragement. At age twelve, she published the novel The House Without Windows, an adventure fantasy about a girl who lives in the forest. When she was fourteen her charming account of a sailing journey, The Voyage of the Norman D, was released. But soon after, her father deserted the family. Inconsolable, Barbara and her mother island-hopped in the Caribbean and South Seas before retreating to the East Coast. With the country in the grips of the Great Depression, Barbara took a soul-numbing job in New York to support them. Dispirited by the grind of the City, Barbara flees with a young man to trek the Appalachian trail. They married and settled in Boston. But as tension between her and her husband mounted, Barbara struggled to escape her tragic past. In a move reminiscent of her character in The House Without Windows, Barbara escapes to the wilds.

Ephemeral Summer (CreateSpace 2014)
by Sheila Myers

After the death of her parents, Emalee is sent to live with her aunt who spends her summers on an idyllic lake in Upstate New York. To cope with her loss, Emalee becomes emotionally detached from everyone around her. As she enters adulthood, Emalee struggles to maintain this façade while trying to navigate relationships with the men in her life. First there is Peter, who is an artist and close friend who lacks the ambition to make his art known to anyone but himself. There is also Stuart, who is a quiet, intelligent philosopher with whom she falls in love, only to get caught up in a bizarre love triangle with his cousin, Danielle. When Danielle ends up dead from a presumed drowning, Emalee flees, and doesn’t look back until years later, when she returns to confront her feelings for Stuart and unrequited love.

The Garden of Happy Endings (Bantam 2012) 
by Barbara O’Neal

After tragedy shatters her small community in Seattle, the Reverend Elsa Montgomery has a crisis of faith. Returning to her hometown of Pueblo, Colorado, she seeks work in a local soup kitchen. Preparing nourishing meals for folks in need, she keeps her hands busy while her heart searches for understanding. Meanwhile, her sister, Tamsin, finds her perfect life shattered when she learns that her financier husband is a criminal.
But when the going gets tough, the tough get growing. A community garden in the poorest, roughest part of town becomes a lifeline. Creating a place of hope and sustenance opens Elsa and Tamsin to the renewing power of rich earth, sunshine, and the warm cleansing rain of tears. While Elsa finds her heart blooming in the care of a rugged landscaper, Tamsin discovers the joy of losing herself in the act of giving—and both women discover that with time and care, happy endings flourish. 

Digging In (Lake Union Publishing 2018) 
by Loretta Nyhan

Paige Moresco found her true love in eighth grade — and lost him two years ago. Since his death, she’s been sleepwalking through life, barely holding on for the sake of her teenage son. Her house is a wreck, the grass is overrun with weeds, and she’s at risk of losing her job. As Paige stares at her neglected lawn, she knows she’s hit rock bottom. So she does something entirely unexpected: she begins to dig.

As the hole gets bigger, Paige decides to turn her entire yard into a vegetable garden. The neighbors in her tidy gated community are more than a little alarmed. Paige knows nothing about gardening, and she’s boldly flouting neighborhood-association bylaws. But with the help of new friends, a charming local cop and the transformative power of the soil, Paige starts to see potential in the chaos of her life. Something big is beginning to take root — both in her garden and in herself. 

Will Rise from Ashes (The Wild Rose Press, Inc 2019)
by Jean M. Grant

Young widow AJ Sinclair has persevered through much heartache. Has she met her match when the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts, leaving her separated from her youngest son and her brother? Tens of thousands are dead or missing in a swath of massive destruction. She and her nine-year-old autistic son, Will, embark on a risky road trip from Maine to the epicenter to find her family. She can’t lose another loved one. 

Along the way, they meet Reid Gregory, who travels his own road to perdition looking for his sister. Drawn together by AJ’s fear of driving and Reid’s military and local expertise, their journey to Colorado is fraught with the chaotic aftermath of the eruption. AJ’s anxiety and faith in humanity are put to the test as she heals her past, accepts her family’s present and embraces uncertainty as Will and Reid show her a world she had almost forgotten.


A Summer Book List to Get You Excited for Exploring the Outdoors