Woodswoman (1976) and Beyond Black Bear Lake (1987)
As a teenager I fantasized about being Woodswoman–I was going to have a pickup truck and a German Shepherd named Wolfgang, and go live in the woods in a self-built cabin. LaBastille’s first memoir of living solo and spartan in the Adirondacks gives enough detail to make the romance believable and enough magic to make the practicalities enchanting. It’s still an enthralling read, although part of that is the nostalgia factor–the book is a little more disjointed than I remembered, and I’m not quite as infatuated with Anne-as-person as I was back then–but these are minor quibbles. The abundance of photos is a plus, and a rarity this early (they’re studded throughout the text, too, not bunched in that annoying center section you have to keep flipping back and forth to reference). I owned and re-read Woodswoman many times. I must have read Beyond Black Bear Lake at some point, because its description of acid rain killing Adirondack lakes has stuck with me (I thought it was in Woodswoman, but in that book Black Bear Lake is still pristine, and ecological concerns are distant). Same with the need to put dye packets in septic tanks to make sure they’re not contaminating the lake. In this follow-up, LaBastille builds “Thoreau II” to get even further away from civilization, so it’s got the same satisfactory construction narrative as the first book. There’s also a new romance and a new dog–it really is Woodswoman mark II. I may not think quite as much of LaBastille’s writing style as I once did, but I still deeply admire her and her lifestyle. These are classics of outdoors literature.