Who better to recommend the best outdoor books than Maine people who work, play and, in some cases, live deep in Maine’s remote forestland? So for a holiday gift guide, we reached out to several wilderness explorers from across the state and asked for their favorite outdoor book.

As it turns out, each of those we contacted recommended stories about simpler times published more than 25 years ago. Most recommended books that were first published half a century ago or more.

“Buck Fever” by Mike Sajna, 1990

“As a kid, I would read Mike Sajna’s book every year before the deer hunting season and perhaps during the offseason as well, so it has a lot of sentimental value for me. I grew up hunting in a deer camp in Wisconsin with typically eight to 10 other hunters from the family, and the deer camp experience really solidified my appreciation for the hunting tradition and time spent outdoors. Sajna’s description of the camp experience – from the drive to camp, to sharing stories, meals at camp, the quiet excitement of opening morning, and ultimately taking a deer – is very relatable and helped to provide a sample of deer camp during the pre- and offseason. Our hunting camp was in Waupaca, Wisconsin, and I hunted there from ages 12 to 22. I have hunted in Maine each of the five years that I’ve been here, though it’s just my wife and I hunting together now.”

~ Nathan Bieber, Maine state deer biologist



Paul Doiron, author of the Mike Bowditch Mysteries series, researches his books in the Maine outdoors. Photo courtesy of Paul Doiron

“Dersu the Trapper” by V.K. Arseniev, 1941

“As a novelist who writes about the Maine outdoors, I’m fortunate that my work is also my play. Every excursion I make – to climb Mountain Number Five, to paddle the Scarborough Marsh, to bird Machias Seal Island – is research for a future book or story. The reason I started writing my first novel in my series about Maine game warden Mike Bowditch was because I had never seen the forested interior of Maine depicted accurately in a work of fiction. My goal continues to be bringing the woods and waters of my home state to readers who can’t get here themselves. I am a massive fan of the little-known classic Dersu the Trapper: a mostly true account by the Russian adventurer and naturalist V.K. Arseniev of his explorations of the wild mountains between China and Siberia in the company of his inimitable native guide, Dersu Uzala. I was introduced to Dersu through the recommendation of my friend, the novelist, Bill Roorbach (an outdoorsman himself), who said it was as thrilling as any thriller and far better written. Bill was right – as usual.”

~ Paul Doiron, Maine Guide and author of the Mike Bowditch Mysteries series


Wendy Weiger, manager of the AT Visitor Center in Monson, has followed many of the water and woods routes Henry David Thoreau traveled. Photo courtesy of Wendy Weiger

“The Maine Woods” by Henry David Thoreau, 1864

“Whenever I’m outdoors, either on my own or guiding others, I try to practice mindfulness, immersing myself in the present moment and experiencing my surroundings through all my senses. Over the years, I’ve roamed throughout the Maine Woods on foot and by canoe; Baxter State Park is a particular favorite of mine. Many books have shaped my approach to the natural world, and I can’t say that one particular outdoor book stands out as my sole favorite. However, Henry David Thoreau’s ‘The Maine Woods’ is certainly high on my list. The essays offer a wealth of information and insight. They range from meticulous accounting of flora and fauna, to vividly told tales of adventure and misadventure, philosophical musings, and a farsighted plea to establish national parks. Thoreau’s interactions with Penobscot guides Joe Aitteon and Joe Polis provide a unique window into Penobscot culture. Thoreau even offers a list of food and gear for those planning their own treks (don’t forget to bring your check shirt and plenty of pork and sugar). Amazingly, the routes Thoreau traveled are, for the most part, still open to us today.”


~ Wendy Weiger, Appalachian Trail Visitor Center manager


Anna Lewis of Allagash Antlers in Fort Kent. Photo courtesy of Allagash Antlers

“My Life in the Maine Woods” by Annette Jackson, 1954

“I had the opportunity to read Jackson’s book last spring while living at the Round Pond ranger cabin on the Allagash Waterway. My husband worked on the Allagash for four years and I was tickled to find a book written by a woman who spent so much time on the river that had become so important to me. Reading Jackson’s stories and experiences during her time on the Allagash, while making my own memories in the same areas, made the book even more beautiful. Jackson details her time spent living at Umsaskis Lake on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway as a game warden’s wife. Her simple story telling gives an authentic picture to what being a true outdoorswoman in northern Maine was like back in the 1930s. She raised her family completely immersed in nature and had a true love for the area which she resided in.”

~ Anna Lewis, co-owner of Allagash Antlers



“Never Sniff a Gift Fish” by Patrick F. McManus, 1983

“I realized last summer that I have accumulated a list of stories about almost every place I show folks during the season. Many of those include some funny twist or mistake that either I made or a client made. A few are serious, but most are just fun. So, the connection to the outdoors is built using humor. Because of that connection, I recommend books by Patrick McManus. Favorites are “Never Sniff a Gift Fish” and “They Shoot Canoes Don’t They?” Both have more than once brought tears of laughter for me. Easy reads with lots of fun inside. Interesting aside: I used to attend the L.L. Bean Hunting Event at the end of September along with Pat and we had lunch together a few times. I found him to be much funnier in writing than in person.”

~ Don Kleiner, Master Maine Guide


“Nine Mile Bridge” Helen Hamlin, 1945

“I have a significant collection of books about the Maine woods and outdoors that I accumulated over the years. My favorite is “Nine Mile Bridge” by Helen Hamlin because I spent a good part of my career on the St. John River and can relate to her and her husband Curly’s experiences. They lived (in the 1930s) year round at a logging camp near the Canadian border back when there weren’t as many roads. People traveled up and down the river. The only road from northern Maine to Canada went through Nine Miles. The log drives brought all the woods out. They’d have to lug (drinking) water and use an outhouse. It’s a simple read, perfect for a snowy day like today. It’s an authentic diary. It was a pretty romantic time in the North Woods in the 1940s.”


~ Al Cowperthwaite, former director of the North Maine Woods


Laura Minich Zitske, director of Maine Audubon’s Coastal Birds Project, works along southern Maine’s beaches protecting nesting birds, but hikes, skis and birds around the state in her free time. Maine Audubon photo

“Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” by Annie Dillard, 1974

“I get to work on southern Maine’s beaches protecting our beach-nesting birds like the endangered piping plover and least tern. Sometimes this means weaving through crowds and talking with people on a sweltering Old Orchard Beach, and sometimes this means looking for piping plover tracks in spring snow at Popham, bundled up against icy winds. … As a biologist, I don’t always feel I have the perfect words to capture the magic of being outside. It is a treat to read lyrical and romantic descriptions. Dillard inspires all of us to just sit and wait and watch the natural world unfold around us, something we all need to do more of.”

~ Laura Minich Zitske, Maine Audubon’s Coastal Birds Project director

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