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Backpacking with the Saints: The Risk Taking Character of Wilderness Reading


The lives of the saints are full of stories about the life-changing experience of reading classic texts in provocative, wilderness places. The author of this essay points to his own practice of taking classics of Christian spirituality on wilderness backpacking trips as a metaphor of the risks involved in spiritual reading generally. Drawing on Augustine’s understanding of the dynamic relationship between the reading of a text and the place in which one reads it, he examines the reading process in light of the “two-books” tradition (reading scripture and nature together), offering three vignettes from his own experience of wilderness reading.