On this page you can find many of the books that I have read along with a short summary of what I most liked about them. Links to fuller reviews may appear in due course. Where possible, all books are linked to Amazon.co.uk: if any purchases are made after clicking through one of my links, Amazon will provide a little referral payment to Twentyclicks. It costs you nothing extra, all purchasers are anonymous to me, and it is greatly appreciated support. Happy reading!
Outdoors / Travel
Walden: or, life in the woods (Henry Thoreau): (free for Kindle) 2 years living in a cabin in the woods on the edge of town. A poetic introspection on nature, society, and self-reliance. The joyous, detailed observations of the easily overlooked are my favourite bits.
Go thou my incense upward from this hearth, and ask the gods to pardon this clear flame
Walking (Henry Thoreau): (free for Kindle) often compiled with his other shorter essays, a robust argument for the very best way to travel. Out the door and over the fields, Thoreau could encourage even an old hobbit to muddy his feet towards a new vista.
Knulp (Hermann Hesse): a delightful short read from the Nobel Prize winning Hesse. Knulp is the tale of a humble vagrant who reconnects with friends in the villages he passes through. They welcome him as an enviable free spirit, but even observing his hosts troubles he struggles to reconcile his love of the simple road with the desire for human connection.
In & off: memoirs of a mystic journey (Jack Haas): a mystical, mad, humourous and at times debaucherous autobiographical tale of moving from the city to the wilds of the NW coast (US/Canada) in search of a deeper connection to oneself and nature. While Haas’ writing is heavy on the spiritual and metaphysical, it is so rhythmic and supercharged that many a lover of nature will find joy in the pages.
Roots & wings: adventures of a spirit on earth (Jack Haas): the follow up to In & Off. Haas continues his inner journey by way of various travels around the globe… Kerouac on speed…and mushrooms.
this crazy, beautiful, impossible world
Leaves of grass (Walt Whitman): not an easy read, but Whitman’s groundbreaking freeform poetry is a celebration of body and nature.
Heart of darkness (Joseph Conrad): (free for Kindle) Marlow recounts an unsettling tale of his time captaining a boat up the oppressive Congo river for an ivory trading company, and the psychological powers of the strange Mr Kurtz. A commentary on the darkness of Colonialism.
The Hobbit (J.R.R.Tolkein): the introduction to the Lord of the Rings trilogy is worth a read for extra context, dragons, and the adventures of roads less travelled. I found the movies disappointing on this one.
The lord of the rings (J.R.R.Tolkein): an elite group of misfits join together to save the world… you heard it here first. Can love, respect, integrity, brotherhood, growth, hope, wisdom and just a little bit of pity circumvent the corruption of power?…set in the most fantastical terrains.
Learning to breathe (Andy Cave): from the coal mines to Changabang, the gripping and witty autobiography of Andy Cave’s climb to become one of the world’s leading alpinists and mountaineers. A fresh take on a climbing book.
Jupiter’s travels (Ted Simon): 54 countries, 63000 miles, 4 years… on a Triumph motorcycle in the late 70s. Essential reading for any bike or travel fan.
Long way round (Ewan McGregor & Charley Boorman): yeah, yeah, yeah… whatever! However they did it, it’s the tale of two mates conceiving of and undertaking a great adventure. London to New York on motorcycles, via Siberia.
On the road (Jack Kerouac): the seminal Beat-generation road story uses an absorbing, rhythmic, string-of-consciousness prose to take us across America while skirting the fringe of the Golden Generation.
The Dharma bums (Jack Kerouac): Kerouac hits the West coast mountains with Japhy and Morley in search of solitude and Zen… but the wild-life of San Francisco proves quite distracting. Gets a slight nod ahead of On the road from me.
You can’t fall off a mountain.
Valley of the casbahs (Jeffrey Taylor): Berbers, camels, and unfortunately tasty goat… a tale of mountain and desert travels in Morocco, depicting the shifting relationships with the environment and the people. Read long ago, but I found it a good introduction to Morocco before I travelled there in 2007.
Travels with a donkey in the Cevennes (Robert Louis Stevenson): (free for Kindle) the tale of a trek through the Cevennes region of Southern France with a home-made sleeping sac and a stubborn donkey. The route is immortalised (as much as possible) as the GR70. I trekked it in 2006 and it was most pleasant… doesn’t seem to have changed much!
Book of the bivvy (Ronald Turnbull): half instruction manual, half ode to the wonders of the bivvy bag, and just a little bit of persuasion for the uninitiated. It’s the ultimate way to sleep outdoors… go on, you know you want to!
Ultralight cycle touring guide (James Moss): specific details about kit will inevitably date quickly when discussing ultralight, but James has managed to put together a really nice instructive guide with clear examples for the reader to consider and compare. The principles stand true regardless of the specific items mentioned… besides, we all have our favourites and preferences.
Mind of the raven: investigations and adventures with wolf-birds (Bernd Heinrich): a fascinating insight into the lives of these captivating corvids, and the scientific process of the biologists who study them. A mountain of work over the years compiled into an informative yet personal story.
Feet in the clouds: a story of fell running and obsession (Richard Askwith): a marvellous glimpse into the hardcore, and thoroughly old-school world of fell running. Such a pure and unpretentious sport unravelled for the reader by an ‘outsider’ who is drawn to the discipline and one of its iconic challenges – the Bob Graham Round. As a young pup myself, I find the rote memorisation of peaks, bearings, and timings both outdated and highly admirable!
Fitness / Skills
Mastering mountain bike skills (Brian Lopes and Lee McCormack): I always like to get a ground-up understanding of anything new. While having a blast with more experienced riders is a great way to to build confidence and be stretched out of your comfort zone, it’s worth understanding what is meant to be going on and not miss a simple trick. Nicely laid out with descriptive photos.
The Obree way: training manual for cyclists (Graeme Obree): the outsider, the genius, Graeme Obree presents a clear handbook packed with advice based on his years of competitive cycling. A great foundation for anyone looking to improve their cycling. The information is cost effective, strikes of common sense, and is highly readable compared to other highly technical training books.
Motorcycle roadcraft: the police rider’s handbook (Police Foundation): (this is the version to get… new edition is getting some very bad reviews) an advanced driving manual for two wheelers… because you want to enjoy the open road on a motorbike, and stay alive. Split into many sections, and best absorbed as such. Slow in, fast out!
Relentless forward progress: a guide to running ultramarathons (Bryon Powell): an excellent guide for trail runners, let alone ultrarunners. Sound advice on technique, kit, nutrition, training, racing, and any other skills and knowledge needed. Probably the best running manual I have read.
Survival of the fittest: understanding health and peak physical performance (Dr Mike Stroud): mixing tales of his huge endurance undertakings, including crossing Antarctica with Sir Ranulph Fiennes, with anthropology and medical research to detail the mechanisms and adaptations that enable the human body to perform in the harshest conditions.
The four hour body (Tim Ferriss): a beast of a compendium. Contains details of a myriad of personal body experiments undertaken by the author in consultation with experts around the world. Whatever your health or fitness goals there is likely to be a proven method outlined within… the remainder provide fascinating insight into what the body is capable of and Tim’s dedicated process of learning and testing.
You are your own gym: the bible of bodyweight exercises (Mark Lauren): this Special Ops trainer gives a realistic introduction to diet and fitness then outlines a multitude of exercises that can be completed anywhere to give a total body strength and endurance workout. As much as I love a good deadlift, gyms cost money and I hate waiting for the squat rack to free up. This is a great reference, with plenty of variations to spice things up along with useful 10 week programmes. A women focussed version is also available that concentrates on strength:
because women tend to lack strength more than men, for social and genetic reasons, strength training is even more important for most females. Therefore, Body By You provides a highly structured training program that focuses primarily on building a solid foundation of strength, which makes this program equally useful to females and males.
APP: Having forgot to pack the book for Bali, and underestimating how much I would fall out of training I was delighted to discover there is also a YAYOG app (iOS, Android, Windows): photos & instructions for each exercise as well as excellent 10 week training programs with preset timers and ability to save your results. There is a free expansion pack of video demonstrations and warm-up/cool down, plus paid video workouts. I am more than happy with the basic app, and at only £1.99 it is cheaper than even one gym session!
Thoughts / Psychology
Self-reliance & other essays
Civil disobedience & other essays
Small is beautiful
A guide for the perplexed
My voice will go with you
Flow: the psychology of optimal experience
The freedom handbook: an incomplete guide to a more complete life
A little nostalgia for freedom
Vagabonding: an uncommon guide to the art of long-term world travel
Everything that remains
King, warrior, magician, lover
Women who run with wolves
The art of loving
A new earth: create a better life
Games people play
What do you say after you say hello?
Tao / Stoicism
The Tao of Pooh
Chronicles of Tao
Tao Te Ching
Everyday Tao Te Ching
A fools guide to effing the ineffable
What is Tai Chi?
On the shortness of life
Small is beautiful (E.F.Schumacher): economics meets philosophy in this classic treatise. Schumacher examines our needs and motives, and uses case studies to question aspects of mainstream global economic policy that neglect the human element. A tender rationale.
Small giants (Bo Burlington): a look at numerous case studies of successful businesses who have shunned the prevailing economic notion that continuous growth is either necessary or desired. Yay, Clif Bars!
Getting real ():
How to get filthy rich in rising Asia (): a curious and fun book, unusually written in the second person. A self-aware self-help guide narrates and directs the life of an ambitious village boy who gets dealt the right cards and plays the right hands. Tragedy and hope go hand in hand.
Screw it, let’s do it (Richard Branson): a short book by the blond billionaire brit detailing his successful attitude and the rise of Virgin.
Influence (): didn’t strike me as particularly well written, but I soon got drawn in by the revealing content. The keystones of influencing other humans are examined from their beneficial origins to how they are exploited by marketers and sales people, and how they might save your life. Use the knowledge for good or evil, but forewarned is forearmed! I suspect the author employs the tactics discussed throughout the book.
The four hour work week (Tim Ferriss): how to get the biggest results from the most selective inputs. While many of us struggle to get our heads around the craziest aspects of this book, there really is a tonne to think about and implement for anyone, whatever their goals or job. Define your goals, focus your efforts, and factor in some fun while you’re at it.
An optimists tour of the future (Mark Stevenson): an uplifting read that takes us through some cutting edge technology that will shape our lives… for the better. Counters a bit of despair for the human race.