Set In: The Woods

The forest, in all its shadows, is a rather primeval setting. In fact, a number of us could probably rattle off a few frightening fairy tales or legends that take place in the woods – “Hansel and Gretel” or “Red Riding Hood” come quickly to mind. But how many of us could name a more contemporary work? Still, this setting, whether we picture sinister activities or nature in its original state (or camping with the family, which can be sinister in its own sweet way) is just unfamiliar enough to create dramatic tension.

See the forest and the trees with one of the following trips into woods…



Cold Tracks – Lee Wallingford

  • Ex-Seattle cop Frank Carver’s new job patrolling Oregon’s Neskanie National forest begins to get complicated when he and local ranger Ginny Trask start investigating the death of an immigrant who has possible criminal connections.

The Darkest Part of the Woods – Ramsey Campbell

  • The lives and destinies of the Price family become intertwined with the ancient forest of Goodmanswood, from Lennox Price who discovers a hallucinogenic moss, to his grandson’s sexual encounter in the heart of the forest.

Forests of the Night – James W. Hall

  • Policewoman Charlotte Monroe intercepts a threat by one of the FBI’s most wanted men, intended for her husband, a situation that turns deadly when her troubled teenage daughter runs away with the outlaw to the Great Smoky Mountains.

The Glister: A Novel – John Burnside

  • Ever since George Lister’s chemical plant shut down, the neighboring woods have become the home to strange, sickly plants, and when a young boy named Leonard and his friends realize that boys from their school are vanishing after venturing into the poisoned woods, they alone are willing to confront the forces of evil that are destroying their once-happy town.

Green Mansions: A Romance of the Tropical Forest – W. H. Hudson

  • An illustrated facsimile edition of a definitive work by the naturalist author of A Shepherd’s Life bridges the period between Romanticism and the ecological movement and traces an ill-fated relationship between a refuge-seeking European and a mysterious aboriginal in Venezuela.

Into the Forest – Jean Hegland

  • Two sisters survive a near-future apocalypse and retreat into a forest where they relearn what it means to be human.

The Inverted Forest – John Dalton

  • Along with the other new counselors, Wyatt arrives expecting to care for children. To their astonishment, they learn that for the first two weeks of the camping season they will be responsible for 104 severely developmentally disabled adults, all of them wards of the state. In preventing a terrible tragedy, Wyatt commits an act whose repercussions will alter his own life and the lives of the other Kindermann Forest staff members for years to come.

My Abandonment – Peter Rock

  • Thirteen-year old Caroline has been raised and home-schooled by her father in a wild nature preserves on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon. They follow a rigid code that enables them to survive in the wilderness. Once a week, they go to the city to buy groceries, attend church and otherwise merge with the civilized world. Yet one small mistake allows the authorities to discover them and their forced relocation is only a brief respite in their flight from a world that doesn’t understand them.

The True Story of Hansel and Gretel – Louise Murphy

  • A retelling of the classic fairy tale, set in Nazi-occupied Poland, follows two Jewish children, left by their father and stepmother to seek refuge in a dense forest, as they wander the woods until being taken in by Magda, an eccentric old woman.

Wild Rain – Christine Feehan

  • Finding a safe haven in the rain forest from a relentless killer, Rachael, armed with a new identity, finds her peace shattered by Rio, an exotic native of the forest who harbors a dark secret.



American Canopy: Trees, Forests and the Making of a Nation – Eric Rutkow

  • In the bestselling tradition of Michael Pollan’s “Second Nature,” this fascinating and unique historical work tells the remarkable story of the relationship between Americans and trees across the entire span of our nation’s history.

The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America – Timothy Egan

  • Narrates the struggles of the overmatched rangers against the implacable fire of August, 1910, and Teddy Roosevelt’s pioneering conservation efforts that helped turn public opinion permanently in favor of the forests, though it changed the mission of theforest service with consequences felt in the fires of today.

The Bielski Brothers: The True Story of Three Men Who Defied the Nazis, Saved 1200 Jews, and Built a Village in the Forest – Peter Duffy

  • Discusses how the Bielski brothers banded together after the execution of their parents by Nazi soldiers, explaining how they and other Jews lived in the forest of Belarus, fighting the Nazis and saving many Jews along the way.

Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City – Greg Grandin

  • The story of the auto magnate’s attempt to recreate small-town America, along with a rubber plantation, in the heart of the Amazon details the clash between Ford and the jungle and its inhabitants, as the tycoon attempted to force his will on the naturalworld.

The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature – David George Haskell

  • Reveals what can be understood about the natural world through the author’s year-long observation of a one-square-meter patch of old-growth Tennessee forest, explaining the scientific ties binding all life and how the ecosystem has cycled for millions of years.

The Man Who Planted Trees: Lost Groves, the Future of Our Forests, and an Urgent Plan to Save Our Planet – Jim Robbins

  • Describes the efforts of a former alcoholic nurseryman, whose near-death experience prompted him to attempt to find the best specimens of the U.S.’s 872 known species of trees and use them to propagate their offspring around the world.

The Pine Barrens – John McPhee

  • Describes the natural vegetation and rustic peoples of the New Jersey Pine Barrens, an area of wilderness in the center of urban sprawl.

Walden, or Life in the Woods – Henry David Thoreau

  • In 1845 Thoreau built himself a shanty in the woods by Walden Pond, where he lived from 1845-1847. Walden is a treatise on the subjects of self-sufficiency, individualism, relationship with nature, and rejection of material ambition. His residence at the pond was interrupted by a day’s imprisonment for refusal to pay a poll tax to a government that supported the Mexican War. this action was in accord with his belief in passive resistance, a means of protest he explained in his essay “Civil Disobedience” (1849).

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail – Bill Bryson

  • Traces the author’s adventurous trek along the Appalachian Trail past its natural pleasures, human eccentrics, and offbeat comforts.

Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees – Roger Deakin

  • Accompanying famed British nature writer Deakin through the woods of Britain, Europe, Kazakhstan, and Australia in search of what lies behind man’s profound and enduring connection with trees. Deakin lives in forest shacks, goes “coppicing” in Suffolk, swims beneath the walnut trees of the Haut-Languedoc, and hunts bushplums with Aboriginal women in the outback. Along the way, he ferrets out the mysteries of woods, detailing the life stories of the timber beams composing his Elizabethan house and searching for the origin of the apple.


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