Ah, summer. The time of year when temperatures rise, and nature simultaneously asserts itself as a source of enjoyment (Sunshine! Flowers!) and a force to be reckoned with (Sunburn! Bug bites!).
If battling the heat and summer classes have got you down, take a break and enjoy something from this reading list inspired by the age-old theme of People Versus Nature. Some of them are very suspenseful, and some are not – you can choose according to how adventurous you’re feeling. And all of them, of course, are enjoyable from within the air-conditioned luxury of the library. Stop in and pick one up!
The characters in Gilligan’s Island may be shipwrecked, but they really don’t have it that bad. It seems there is no problem they can’t solve using bamboo and coconuts. Enjoy all three seasons of their exploits, and if their craftiness inspires you, check out this book on Eco-Crafts; maybe you, too, can make something useful or fun from the things in your environment.
One step up from Gilligan’s Island is the classic adventure story of Robinson Crusoe. The main character still gets clever with his surroundings, but the stakes are higher, since cannibals and wild animals are everywhere. Don’t worry about him too much, though – in the end he gets rescued. For a contemporary spin on the shipwrecked loner theme, try the film Cast Away. It has a sadder ending, but 100% more anthropomorphic volleyballs.
If you’re ready to step away from the confines of fiction, pick up this autobiography of Bear Grylls, TV survival artist extraordinaire. What will this man not do to survive? He has, for instance, “ utilised the corpse of a sheep as a sleeping bag and flotation device.” I expect big things from a person like that. If things go really wrong, however, his support crew is never too far away, so he’ll make it out alright.
Cheryl Strayed might not have ever done anything ingenious with a dead sheep, but she did walk the entirety of the 1,100-mile Pacific Crest Trail, alone, with no previous backpacking experience and no TV crew to help her. The experience helped Strayed cope with the disintegration of her personal life and come out ahead of many personal challenges.
Sometimes those who face the forces of nature don’t come out on top. Into the Wild is the story of an American hitchhiker who disappeared from civilization and attempted to live off the Alaskan wilderness, and who was eventually found dead in an abandoned bus. His motivations for undertaking such a dangerous expedition, and how basic preparation could have perhaps prevented his demise, have inspired much discussion, and even a movie version.
If reading these tales of humanity versus wilderness leaves you hankering for your own outdoor adventure, make sure you adequately prepare, so you can spend your time enjoying nature instead of struggling to live. Check out a book on outdoor skills, such as Hiking in Illinois or the Wilderness Survival Handbook, and get information about local destinations and regulations via Champaign Park District or the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Your favorite underground library will still be here to offer you shade and comfy chairs when you get back!