Bear-Essential Reading

Books about bruins.

In all its splendid forms the bear is one of the most revered creatures of the wild. And it’s not as if outdoor enthusiasts have much of a choice in that matter: not respecting these often vicious carnivores can land a hiker into a predicament from which no amount of bear-spray can offer salvation. If you care to marvel at these venerated beasts from a safer distance and perhaps learn how to keep them at such a range, you might want to check out a few of the following books.

David Smith’s Backcountry Bear Basics: The Definitive Guide to Avoiding Unpleasant Encounters is an essential read for anyone not well-versed in bear safety that is planning an excursion into the woods. It not only provides a thorough compendium of how to travel safely through bear country by avoiding potentially dangerous encounters, it also sheds truth on some commonly accepted yet erroneous bear myths.

Bears I Have Known by Bob Murphy provides a much more personal account of the titular animal. As a park ranger for over 50 years, the author has built up a wide array of first-hand accounts with bears that readers will find harrowing at times and tremendously entertaining throughout.

In the Company of Wild Bears: A Celebration of Backcountry Grizzlies and Black Bears by Howard Smith is a good hybrid of the styles presented in the previous two books. The author combines personal anecdotes of bear encounters with informative sidebars that educate and engage readers. Ultimately the book pays respect not only to this wondrous beast but—in a larger sense—to the great outdoors in general. After all, it’s not just a better understanding of bear safety but a developed knowledge of all the potential perils of backcountry adventuring that keeps us on the trail. In the wilderness, ignorance and bliss do not hike side-by-side.