When bringing books on river trips, good reads must be compact, compelling, and most of all– paperback.
Related: The Top 10 Books About Skiing
Quality river literature should give each paddler a fresh new perspective on the water passing beneath their inflatable PVC raft with a plot that’s “ALL FORWARD!” So in order to weed out the flat-line reads that will stay at the bottom of the drybag, we’ve wracked our brains as to what river books will last through 4 high alcohol content beers and keep its readers entertained for at least 20 pages/night. Here we go…
Comrades On The Colca – Eugene Buchanan
Page Count — 254
Mummies, ancient Incan treasure, and a race to explore one of Earth’s last uncharted canyons. Sounds like a good campfire story to me. Eugene Buchanan’s work relies heavily on the brotherly bonds and breaking points between expedition partners and this story is no different. It’s always fun applying character traits to other people in your rafting party isn’t it?
Buy here: Comrades On The Colca
Big Two Hearted River | The Nick Adams Stories – Ernest Hemingway
Page Count — 272
In this two-part, short story, Nick Adams is back home dealing with the haunting memories of World War I. In order to properly evaluate his own soul and its place in the world, Nick sets out on a fishing trip. There’s a swamp, a railroad track, and the all important river that leads to subtle but startling discoveries about life, death, and nature’s healing touch.
Buy here: The Nick Adams Stories
The River At Night – Erica Ferencik
Page Count — 304
In many ways, “The River At Night” is the female take on James Dickey’s “Deliverance”– albeit without the porky overtones. Ferencik’s novel delves into the strengths and weaknesses of people and their individual histories that connect them all together.
Buy here: The River at Night
The Emerald Mile – Kevin Fedarko
Page Count — 448
The Emerald Mile chronicles Kenton Grua’s record breaking journey down the Grand Canyon with two other river guides. The three men took advantage of a rare flood stage event to put down the fastest trip ever down through canyon. The account is both terrifying and inspiring and fellow rafters will be stoked if you read excerpts aloud.
Buy here: The Emerald Mile
Whitewater Rescue Field Guide – Boreal River Rescue
Page Count — 30
This one isn’t a novel or non-fiction story that’s meant to entertain. Instead, this guide should be read annually before stashing it in your PFD pocket.
Buy here: Whitewater Rescue Field Guide
The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
Page Count — 224
There’s perhaps no better novel about rivers than Mark Twain’s masterpiece– Huckleberry Finn. It’s classic, timeless, and if you haven’t read Twain’s story of slavery and salvation since 6th grade, it’s probably time to revisit the American classic.
Buy here: Huckleberry Finn
Down The River – Edward Abbey
Page Count — 242
Edward Abbey’s collection of essays and musings on everything from politics to conservation are favorites when it comes to south-western literature. Each piece is relatively short and packs a serious existential punch.
Buy here: Down the River