Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:
For those who go in search of the isolation, silence and adventure of wild places it is--perhaps ironically--to the man-made shelters that they need to head; the outposts: bothies, bivouacs, cabins and huts. Part of their allure is their simplicity: enough architecture to shelter from the weather but not so much as to distract from the immediate environment around.
From the Cairngorms of Scotland to the fire-watching huts of Washington State, from Iceland's Houses of Joy to the desert of New Mexico, and from the frozen beauty of Svalbard to the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, Richards visits the outposts and witnesses the landscapes, and asks: why are we drawn to wilderness? And how do wild places become a space for inspiration and creativity?
Reviews provided by Syndetics
Richards heard the call to adventure from the bleached polar-bear pelvis in his father's study, where it stayed for years after he brought it home from an Arctic expedition. Here Richards takes readers to special refuges where adventurers can rest in remote, sometimes nearly unreachable wild places. His itinerary includes a reportedly haunted Icelandic house of joy ; a temple completed in the ninth century and impossibly perched atop a sheer cliff face in Japan; a writers' treetop complex in Switzerland. As is so often the case, it is the people that truly make those the places special, such as the artist who turned a shed into a boat and back again; the fire lookout who welcomes Kerouac pilgrims to his mountaintop watchtower; the scientist who carefully stewards an experimental Mars base in the Utah desert. As much a literary journey as a geographic one, full of travails as well as triumphs, Richards' account proves with graceful prose that what's most important is not where you travel, but how.--Bridget Thoreson Copyright 2019 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
Literate journeys to some of the world's less-traveled places, seen through an unusual lens.British travel writer Richards (Climbing Days, 2016, etc.) comes by his wanderlust naturally. Before he was born, his father spent time in the remotest reaches of Svalbard, the Arctic island chain, from which he brought home a polar bear's pelvis. As he writes in an arresting opening, the object fascinated Richards, but more so the thought of living in a shelter such as the one his father called Hotel California, which a bear would probably tear apart in a minute. "An unremarkable garden shed, the only thing that makes it a shed of note is the fact it's there, stood on Svalbard," he writes before embarking on a fascinating series of journeys. There are the literarily famous sheds, of course, such as Thoreau's cabin at Walden Pond and the one Jack Kerouac scaled a mighty Cascade peak to groove in, guided by Gary Snyder. Richards climbed the same mountain, having eaten a burger the night before with the admonishment that the joint would be dead, "D.E.D. Ded," in a quarter-hour, "the most American thing ever said." The author also traveled to Iceland to visit "houses of joy," which serve as "refuge stations for travellers crossing the hinter/highlands," joy-giving spots that offer shelter from the storm, "modern bunkhouses on ancient foundations." Some of the sheds, huts, and shelters Richards chronicles are works of art, literally, such as a Danish construction called Shedboatshed: "I liked it the moment I saw it as a shed at Tate Britain and took an even greater pleasure in it once I'd learnt its backstory." Others are invested with meaning, such as the Japanese mountain stronghold called Nageire-d, "the Oz of shrines." The author was also able to travel to Svalbard to have a look for himself.Readers who prize outdoor experiencesand tiny houses and the simple lifewill find this book a source of much pleasure, bears and all. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.