Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
September Essential Reading: The Great Outdoors

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As we mamas enjoy the last of summer activities, we reflect on essential books (and genres) that can take us out of doors no matter what the season.

Then take the list outside, too! Download the list here and take it to your favorite mama-friendly bookstore or library!

Columnist and Columns Editor Stephanie Hunt shares, "Barbara Kingsolver's gem-like essays in Small Wonder are no small wonder. The beauty of her prose is an appropriate match for her provocative insights and environmental sensitivity.

"And I have to give a nod to the consummate man of letters and of the earth -- poet, farmer, philosopher Wendell Berry. Try his poetry (A Timbered Choir and Sabbaths are good starting places.) or any of his nonfiction books, especially The Unsettling of America, one of the best accounts of the environmental crisis as a crisis of character and community."

Literary Reflections Assitant Editor Sarah Raleigh Kilts adds, "I read Rachel Carson's classic environmentalist tome, Silent Spring, almost twenty years ago -- yet her eloquent call to action remains fresh in my mind. I also highly recommend the more recent A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson -- this memoir of his trek of the Appalachian Trail is hysterical and sobering -- a must read!"

Christina Speed, E-Zine Co-Editor is "wading through The Rising of the Lark by Ann Moray, published in 1964. Recommended to me by a dear friend, it is a story that pulls at my heartstrings because the main character, Catriona, is so much like myself: she began childhood as a spirited child and then entered into adolescence quietly restrained by her governess. The setting is the highlands of Scotland: raw and gorgeous. Moray allows the location to fill my senses by including the rich smells and sounds in her vivid description."

For Columnist and Creative Nonfiction Editor Susan Ito, "the ESSENTIAL nature reading is Annie Dillard's A Pilgrim At Tinker Creek. Breathtakingly beautiful, awesome and inspired writing."

Annie Dillard is also a favorite of 12-Step Mama, "especially her essay collection Teaching a Stone to Talk.

"Another of my favorite nature-study titles last year was Richard Louv's Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, an investigation into the lack of nature study and play allowed children nowadays. Whether you agree or no, it's a good read."

Caroline Grant, Senior Editor and Columnist writes, "One of my favorites is Gretel Ehrlich's gorgeous essay collection, The Solace of Open Spaces, about her life as a Wyoming cattle rancher. Her prose is spare, almost electric; of being struck by lightning, she writes, 'It felt as though sequins had been poured down my legs.' She writes about the cowboys and hermits she meets, the animals she herds, and most evocatively, the land she rides. 'If anything is endemic to Wyoming,' she writes, 'it is wind. This big room of space is swept out daily, leaving a bone yard of fossils, agates, and carcasses in every stage of decay. Though it was water that initially shaped the state, wind is the meticulous gardener, raising dust and pruning the sage.'"

Though it is fiction, Kathy Moran, Literary Reflections Editor, chooses Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. "The reader follows Inman, a wounded Confederate deserter, across the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina to his home on Cold Mountain. While some in my book club became impatient with the lengthy description of flora and fauna, I found it contributed to the reality of Inman's slow progression as he traverses the countryside, making me feel that I walked beside him. It is a beautifully written book; one I have returned to several times."


Kathy Moran, former Literary Reflections Editor, has two grown boys and three granddaughters. A retired secondary language arts teacher and literary magazine adviser, Kathy currently works as a teacher consultant for the Greater Kansas City Writing Project and editor of their newsletter Composing Ourselves. Kathy’s reflections can be found at Marmee’s Corner.


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