Aleteia

3 Great novels for reading outdoors 

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You can’t go wrong with books from these authors, which will calm your mind and spirit in the warm summer months.

There’s something about getting outside that is healing for everyone, no matter who you are or where you live. Stepping out your front door and walking down the street opens up your perspective, even if the only bit of nature you can see is the sky or a lone tree or row of flowers.

If getting outside is enough to help you get a little saner, what about reading about nature? Reading a good book opens our eyes to new perspectives too, so mix that pastime with a book celebrating creation, and you’ve got a winning combination!

There are three authors I have found who fit this bill. Not only are their books beautifully written novels, with deep insight into human nature alongside mother nature, but they have Christian values to boot. These three authors are able to convey the beauty of nature alongside the beauty of humanity page after page. 

Wendell Berry

Berry’s writing style is so gentle and lovely that it takes you by surprise when he perfectly articulates the painful moments and transitions of life as well. He writes about family and living on and with the land. Try his book Hannah Coulter as a way to step into his world. Whether he writes about Hannah’s childhood and the loss of her mother, or her first love, both grief and contented joy in marriage, having children, or just the routine of an ordinary day, each moment is so lovely and aptly described that the few tears you might shed along the way seem right and just. Hannah acknowledges God as master of life and creation as well, which adds authenticity to the experience. Berry’s writing and the story keep you moving gently through the little moments he narrates. 

Marilynne Robinson

Robinson’s books are like long poems about life and family. She seamlessly weaves life outdoors into her characters’ indoor lives. The billowing of the wind in a sheet hung out to dry outside, or the way a widow remembers her husband picking wildflowers and dipping his handkerchief in a puddle to give those flowers water on their way home, are two of the many tiny moments that make up the rhythm of the whole book, and the whole of people’s lives. Gilead is the best known of Robinson’s novels, all of which take place in the same small town, with recurring and interrelated characters, but each of which can be read independently. Her writing style is the least story-driven out of the three authors listed here, and the most poetic. But the movement and beauty of her simple and masterful diction is not easy to forget. So, while you won’t find a riveting page turner, you will find a book to go back to and settle in with.    

James Herriot

Herriot writes about life as a country veterinarian in England around the 1930s. Start with All Creatures Great and Small — it’s an easier read and older kids will enjoy it as much as adults. It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t enjoy Herriot’s writing, full of charming and funny anecdotes about the animals and people in the British countryside. His style is probably the easiest of the three listed here to get into, so try him first if you don’t read many novels. In the craziness of these times, if you want a fun read to help your mood stay light right before you sleep, this is definitely it.  

Whether you enjoy one of these authors in your air-conditioned and bug-free bedroom, or on a porch swing outside, it will open your eyes to life and anything growing around you. Let that happen, and you’re in for an end-of summer treat.

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