Books, Videos, and Movies

10 Paddling Books to Read in 2010

Canoeist and kayakers should start off the new year and a new decade by resolving to read a few books. In the past I’ve done round-up reviews of boat building books and paddling books, but it’s about time for a new round-up. These 10 stand out as the paddling books you should read in 2010.

Kayaking Books

Sea Kayak Rescue, 2nd: The Definitive Guide to Modern Reentry and Recovery Techniques (How to Paddle Series): First published in 2001 and updated in 2007, this guide presents the most up-to-date rescue, reentry, and recovery techniques for sea kayakers. The book is well-written, easy-to-understand, and laid out in a progression that instructors could easily follow when teaching sea kayak rescue. Photographs accompany each description, which helps you visualize the rescues. If you’re a sea kayaking guide or instructor, you should own this book. If you’re an avid sea kayaker venturing more that 20 feet away from shore or on open water, you should definately check it out.

Sea Kayaker’s Pocket Guide: This book is one of the better reference books for sea kayaking that I’ve seen. Almost every topic is covered in a quick and easy-to-understand way. It falls short in the paddle stroke areas, but covers everything else, like weather, packing, repair (including drysuit gasket field repair), and navigation perfectly. Some great tips that I got out of it include rounding the edges of duct tape used for repairs will prevent the tape from snagging and peeling off, and marking the location of your skeg’s jam loop on the kayak’s seam will help your partner to quickly find it and unjam your skeg. Something to have sitting around for a quick reference when needed.

Canoeing Books

Canoe Trip: North to Athabasca: I loved David Curran’s Canoe Trip: Alone in the Maine Wilderness, and he follows up that book with this one. The previous book focused on solo trips in the Maine wilderness and what he learned, how he failed, and what he enjoyed. He takes those themes into an adventure into the Canadian wilderness, and this time he brings a partner.

The Canoe: A Living Tradition: A history of canoes, a tome of everything canoe, the perfect canoe book. It’s hard to describe this coffee table book about canoes, other than to say, if you canoe, and you see this book, you should buy it.

Boat Building Books

Canoe and Kayak Building the Light and Easy Way: How to Build Tough, Super-Safe Boats in Kevlar, Carbon, or Fiberglass: Not only does this book include the plans for one of the ugliest canoes in existence, it also contains information on a unique way to build one-off chined fiberglass boats. I can see this building method used to quickly produce fiberglass Greenland-style kayaks, and if I was building another semi-replica of Ken Taylor’s 1959 Illorsuit kayak, I’d be temped to build it with this method.

Umiak: An Illustrated Guide: I feel a little bad linking to this book, because the lowest price for a used book in 2010 was around $200 on Amazon. I bought it on a whim at a kayak store’s going-out-of-business sale for $5! This book covers some of the history of the Umiak, a skin-on-frame rowboat, as a craft of exploration and as a work-boat. It then launches into how to build one. The book makes me want to build one.


Lightweight Backpacking and Camping: A Field Guide to Wilderness Equipment, Technique, and Style (Backpacking Light): A book of distilled wisdom from the web-pages of Backpacking Light Magazine. Paddlers will find the sections on Protection from the Elements, Eating, Drinking, and Hygiene, and First Aid enlightening. The Lightweight Solution section includes chapters on Superultralight travel, which is traveling with less than five pounds of gear, and Advanced Tarp Camping, which covers using a tarp as your only shelter. A few sections, like the Risk Management chapter, are disappointing, but overall, this is worth reading for the wealth of knowledge, experience and difference of opinions offered within.


National Geographic: The Ultimate Field Guide to Landscape Photography (National Geographic Photography Field Guides): I like this book, because it teaches the basics of landscape photography. For a paddler looking to learn how to capture the landscapes seen on a paddling trip, this book teaches you everything that you need to know. The guide itself is small in format, so it’s easy to carry along on a trip to keep you focused on capturing pictures. The digital section is rather small, so I’d ignore it, but the rest is pure gold.

David duChemin’s Craft and Vision ebooks: These inexpensive ($5) ebooks cover a range of photography subjects. The two I like the most are Drawing The Eye and Chasing the Look. Drawing the Eye introduces the concept of visual weight, which is a topic that is rarely covered elsewhere. Chasing the Look includes 10 simple concepts–some I teach in my photography classes–to use to improve your photography. I’ve seen these techniques work for the students in my photography classes. I’m interested in the new Growing The VisionMonger, so if you buy it, let me know how it is.

Just Because You Should Try It

Haiku: A Poet’s Guide: Haiku is a simple poetry form that is hard to master. It’s based on nature and almost anyone can learn it. Lee Gurga’s guide is one of the best on the market. It covers the basics of the craft. For paddlers, haiku offers you a way to increase your enjoyment of nature, and it will spice up your journal. You should just try it.

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