Some Great Outdoors Books for Year-End Gifts

Thanksgiving has come and gone, which means the year-end holidays aren't far off. Still searching for gifts? Consider the following great reads for friends and family.

* Why Do Bluebirds Hate Me?

Mike O'Connor's book is a hoot, one that will keep whoever picks it up entertained. Now, this book is definitely not about national parks, but the wisdom the author offers can be carried into the parks. And the way the author tackles birds and birding, you can read it for five minutes, or an hour, and come away with something beyond laughs.

* Canyons And Ice, The Wilderness Travels Of Dick Griffth

The decades of explorations Dick Griffith has made, from running rivers to exploring the frozen north of Alaska, make for an entertaining read. For more than six decades, Mr. Griffith has been exploring wild and rugged corners of the world, making this the perfect book for your favorite adventurer.

* Yellowstone, Land Of Wonders: Promenade In North America's National Park

This travelogue carry you back to Yellowstone National Park in the summer of 1883, when the Belgian-born writer spent 10 days in the park. Not only does he open your eyes to how the Yellowstone was explored before the National Park Service came to life, but the insights he offers to 19th century tourism is amazing...as well as shocking.

* Minus 148 Degrees: First Winter Ascent Of Mount McKinley

If you've ever wondered about climbing Mount McKinley, but either didn't have the moxie, money, or time, this is a great armchair read for you. The climb was an audacious gambit, one that had never been attempted before, and which almost ended from the get-go.

* My Nature Book: A Journal And Activity Book For Kids

Kids deserve books of their own, too, and this one is a great title to keep kids entertained, and learning, while you're heading to a national park vacation or through the woods to grandma's house for Christmas. With My Nature Book: A Journal and Activity Book for Kids in hand, your kids can prepare for their vacation while heading there, and then document it in the same book.

* The Seventymile Kid: The Lost Legacy Of Harry Karstens And The First Ascent Of Mount McKinley

This title is right up there with Minus 148. In fact, you should read this first, as it details the very first ascent of Mount McKinley in turn-of-the-century Alaska, a harsh, demanding, and yet exhilarating place.

* Cairns: Messengers In Stone

This wonderful book is the perfect gift for the hiker in your family. It details the surprisingly rich history of rock piles as direction finders. Cairns is a great book, whether you enjoy connecting the rock piles like dots on your hike, are curious about the various architectural styles of cairns, are fascinated by geology, or simply intrigued by rock pile lore the world over.

* To Conserve Unimpaired, The Evolution Of The National Park Idea

With all the political uproar we've had around the national parks this fall, there is no better time to sit down with a copy of To Conserve Unimpaired, The Evolution of the National Park Idea. There is an evolution under way in the park system, one that should spur debates from coast to coast about whether it's the desired evolution. This book helps you navigate those debates.

Those are my top picks for this book-gift-giving season, though there are more options for you to consider in our Fireside Reads section.