This post is part of my Books That Feel Like This… series, showcasing books that feel like whatever you want more of in life.
Whether it’s spending a summer in Italy, staying in a cabin in the woods, or feeling like you’re in a Studio Ghibli movie, I hope you can find your next best book recommendation here.
Despite now living in one of the flattest parts of Europe (sorry, Denmark), the mountains will always be close to my heart.
In my mid-twenties, I spent four incredible years living in the Swiss Alps. You might know about this from my book Mountain Song: A Journey to Finding Quiet in the Swiss Alps, but if not, here’s a quick description of what it was like…
For most of my time in Switzerland, I lived alone on a floor of this beautiful house in the Bernese Oberland region, next to the ruins of a castle originally built in the 13th century (you can just about see it in this photo):
The house was full of wood, quirky features, and mysterious trinkets I was constantly uncovering – huge crystals, embellished pipes, old letters. (How could I not write a book while living here?)
Throughout the seasons, I watched the awe-inspiring view from my dining room change. Snow and greenery would come and go, and with spring’s thaw, water would thunder down the Reichenbach Falls (of Sherlock Holmes fame). Each day, the light on the Wetterhorn and Wellhorn mountains – with the Rosenlaui glacier between them – would look slightly different.
Most days at home, you’d find me on the balcony – I spent so much time here reading, writing, and thinking about life. Perhaps needless to say, I think back to these years a lot.
If you also dream of escaping to the mountains, in this post I’m sharing some of the books that remind me of this time.
Read on for my favourite books about living by the mountains, including both fiction and non-fiction about simple lives with plenty of space for contemplation, creativity, and time in nature.
Pick your favourites and enjoy with a hot drink, a cozy blanket, and plenty of time to daydream…
The best books about living by the mountains
A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler
Without a doubt, A Whole Life is one of my all-time favourite books about living by the mountains. This beautifully written book will move you to tears – and then make you want to turn back to the beginning and read it again.
It’s a story of the simple life of Andreas Egger, a man who knows every path and peak of his mountain valley in the Austrian Alps.
Read this for a stunning and heartbreaking book about what life is really made of; both the little things and the biggest moments. I first read A Whole Life in just a couple of sittings on a snow day in Switzerland, but I’ve since re-read it and tried to savour it for longer. I hope you love it too.
Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
Have you ever read a book that somehow reflects who you are? Prodigal Summer is that book for me. Barbara Kingsolver’s story of a summer in bloom by the Appalachians feels so incredibly familiar – each time I read it, it feels like coming home.
Kingsolver weaves together the stories of three people living in the shadows of the same mountains: a young widower trying to keep her farm afloat, a forest ranger escaping her divorce in the woods, and a grumpy old man trying to nurture chestnuts back to life.
Each character must discover who they really are, find the courage to start afresh, and have faith in new beginnings. If I could have written any book in the world, it would be this. It’s so wildly alive and immersive.
The Sun is a Compass by Caroline Van Hemert
I adore reading inspiring and beautifully written adventure memoirs, and The Sun is a Compass is one of my all-time favourites.
This is Caroline Van Hemert’s memoir of the 4,000-mile, human-powered journey she undertook with her partner, Pat, when she was unsure whether to stay in academia or pursue other callings.
Although much of the book is about their adventure, Caroline also writes about the life they’ve built by the mountains and the beautiful cabin that Pat built in the woods.
It’s one of a few books that really speak to my love for adventure and the world’s wild places, while reminding me of the power of following your courage and curiosity. It’s perfect to read when you’re feeling lost and directionless in life.
The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert
If you daydream about escaping into the woods to live in a cabin by a stream, you should absolutely read The Last American Man.
I downloaded the Kindle edition to read while hiking off-grid in Greenland a few years ago, and couldn’t work out if the book was fiction or non-fiction. It’s fantastic.
As one of Elizabeth Gilbert’s lesser-known books, this is the bestselling author’s biography of Eustace Conway who in 1977, at the age of seventeen, left his family’s comfortable suburban home to move to the Appalachian Mountains.
Marvellously toeing the line between man and myth, this is the story of a man who proudly lived in the wilderness, wore skins from animals he trapped, and tried to convince Americans to give up their materialistic lifestyles and return with him back to nature.
The Bear by Andrew Krivak
Even though it’s a deeply moving book about loss, The Bear reads like an absolute dream. It’s a story of the last two humans on earth, a father and daughter living in an Edenic future close to nature.
Over just two hundred pages, this quiet and meditative book will have you daydreaming of lone mountains, whispering forests, handfuls of foraged herbs, and bears with poignant life lessons if we only stop to listen.
For more like this, check out The Wall by Marlen Haushofer, the beautiful yet rather terrifying story of a woman surviving off the land in the Austrian Alps in a world in which everyone else has vanished.
Heidi by Johanna Spyri
When five-year-old orphan Heidi is sent to live with her grandfather in the Alps, she plays in the sunshine, grows up among the goats and birds, and is surrounded by awe-inspiring mountains.
But one day, Heidi is collected by her aunt to go and live with a new family in town. Can she find a way back up the mountain, where she knows she belongs? If you’re looking for a beautiful gift edition, I love the little Puffin in Bloom hardcover.
For more about living by the mountains, you might also like my book Mountain Song and the writing I share over on Live Wildly. (Good starting points are these books about simple living and these books like Walden.)
And for more books with quiet and peaceful vibes, enjoy browsing the other collections in my Books That Feel Like This… series <3 Enjoy!