For thousands of years, canoeing has been used by countless cultures around the world. The word “canoe” comes from the Carib Indian word for a canoe, kenu. Until about the mid-19th century, the canoe was heavily utilized in trade and transportation. In this day in age, the use of the canoe has started straying away from strictly survival purposes.
Canoeing has become an activity of leisure, particularly during the summer months. Whether you’re taking a casual trip down the lake or trekking to a distant land, there is much to do while the weather is warm. For a more relaxed trip, how about taking a book or two on the ride? Here are five books about canoeing to set the mood for your journey!
The River by Peter Heller
Here’s a dark mystery that will trouble the waters. Peter Heller’s 2019 thriller novel The River follows Wynn and Jack, two college friends who decide to go on a canoe trip across the Maskwa River in northern Canada. However, their dreams of relaxation and discovery are quickly diminished when a wildfire makes its way across the forest.
Heller adds more twists to this tale when Wynn and Jack hear a man and woman arguing on the riverbank. After failing to find and warn the couple, a day passes, and the two are surprised to find a man on the river. They suspect that this is the man they’d heard from before, but the woman is nowhere in sight. If you’re looking for a story on friendship, survival, and violence, this is the thriller for you!
Northwind by Gary Paulsen
This survival story may make you a little more proactive in your trip preparations. Gary Paulsen throws his young protagonist straight into the throws with his 2022 novel Northwind. When a deadly plague reaches his small fish camp, an orphan named Leif is forced to flee northward in his cedar canoe. Having grown up in an unforgiving world, constantly on a search for a place to call home, Leif decides that he can only move forward from there.
Moreover, he must use his skills and ingenuity to survive the brutal Nordic coast. However, this journey of survival becomes one of self-discovery as Leif finds beauty around every terrifying corner. The story also features Norse mythology, along with the mention of spirits and ghosts. For a tale of self-discovery and oneness with nature, this novel is a solid choice.
Beyond the Trees: A Journey Alone Across Canada’s Arctic by Adam Shoalts
This thrilling memoir may sound too good to be true for some readers. Still, Adam Shoalts tests his own limits in his 2019 novel Beyond the Trees: A Journey Alone Across Canada’s Arctic. The timeline follows his journey from Eagle Plains, Yukon Territory, to Baker Lake, Nunavut. Through it all, Shoalts encountered obstacles of all sorts, including ice floes, wild rivers, dense fog, and intense storms. In the midst of it all, Shoalts must time his journey with the steady approach of winter.
For Shoalts, the journey itself is the reward. This solo journey was his own way of connecting to the natural world while it still exists in all its glory. With the variety of terrains that he encounters, canoeing isn’t the only aspect of his journey. This novel would inspire readers looking for a little adventure of their own as well as a subtle guide to facing the wild.
Canoeing with the Cree by Eric Sevareid
Let’s journey to the past in this 1935 memoir, Canoeing with the Cree. It follows the summer-long expedition of two teenage paddlers, Eric Sevareid and Walter C. Port, as they travel from Minneapolis to Hudson Bay in their 18-foot canvas canoe. In his memoir, Severeid included pictures, maps, and thoughtful descriptions of the people they met along the way. This inclusion of vivid imagery makes it the reader’s journey just as much as Sevareid’s.
This was far from being an isolated story with just Eric and Walter. Whenever they would stop for supplies, Sevareid had plenty of rich stories to tell about the locals of those areas. While they had little experience on the water as well as a deadline to get to Hudson Bay, this was far from a fearful journey. With no motor, map, or radio at their disposal, the two only had determination keeping them afloat. This novel would intrigue readers with an interest in historical accounts detailing remarkable feats.
The Barrens by Ellie Johnson and Kurt Johnson
This father-daughter duo is bringing love and loss to the Canadian Arctic. Kurt Johnson and Ellie Johnson bring readers into the lives of two fictional young women, Lee and Holly. During one summer adventure, they decide to go canoeing along the Thelon River that runs 450 miles through the uninhabited Barren Lands of subarctic Canada. Holly, who is a more experienced paddler, wants to share the experience with her friend and lover, Lee, believing it will draw them closer.
However, their search for a deeper connection experiences a rift when Holly’s daring personality leads to her death. It’s left up to Lee, the inexperienced paddler, to continue the grueling and dangerous trip alone to return her, and her lover’s body, to civilization. Throughout the story, Lee uses her memories of Holly, as well as her estranged eco-anarchist father, to push through danger and grief. Readers will enjoy this adventurous father-daughter collaboration on a young woman coming of age and experiencing tragic love.
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