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Frye: Good books for summer reading

| Saturday, July 13, 2013, 11:27 p.m.

You can't beat being outdoors. Let's get that out of the way up front.

Whether that means being crouched on the bank of a small mountain stream searching for brookies, paddling across a misty lake while casting poppers for bass at sunset or sitting in a treestand on a frosty fall morning, listening for the crunch of hooves in crispy leaves, it's all good.

But we can't always get out there. On those days, a good book about the outdoors is a nice fall-back option.

One you might want to put on your summer reading list is “The Horse in My Garage and Other Stories” by the incomparable Patrick F. McManus (Skyhorse Publishing).

If you're of a certain age, you remember reading McManus' hilarious short stories in the back pages of Outdoors Life magazine. Dozens of those tales have been collected into books over the years.

This latest offering is a look at some of McManus' earliest works, including the first story he ever had published. If all aren't McManus at his creative peak, and there's a little repetition, it's still fun reading.

“It's Only Slow Food Until You Try to Eat It: Misadventures of a Suburban Hunter-Gatherer” (Atlantic Monthly Press) by Bill Heavey has moments of humor in it, too. It's not entirely about hunting and fishing.

Instead, Heavey — who writes a monthly column for Field & Stream — writes about getting back to nature in the sense of collecting and eating his own food, whether that's something he grew in the backyard, pulled out of the surf or swamp or collected from a caribou.

Don't expect expert advice on self-sufficiency; there's no word here on how to prepare for the Zombie apocalypse. Heavey almost celebrates his lack of expertise.

But it's that everyman quality that makes his stories alternately funny and touching.

On a more serious note is “Deerland: America's Hunt For Ecological Balance and the Essence of Wildness” (Lyons Press). Written by Al Cambrone, it's a look at deer and how they impact our daily lives.

Cambrone didn't grow up hunting; he became a member of the sporting fraternity as an adult. But that helps him bring a different perspective.

Readers might not agree with everything they read — the line, not Cambrone's, about how the controversy surrounding deer management in Pennsylvania has died down is a hoot — but it might make you think about how others see deer and deer hunters.

Finally, “The Total Fishing Manual: 317 Essential Fishing Skills” (WeldonOden) by Joe Cermele and the editors of Field & Stream is not the kind of book you read front to back. It's a collection of tips rather than a story.

But if you want to know how to tie a trucker's hitch to secure a canoe to your car roof, put together a drift rig for catching northern pike or make a tool for throwing chum a long way, this book can tell you how to do it.

You'll find yourself thumbing through here, maybe recognizing some tricks while picking up new ones, too.

If nothing else, this book — like the others — encourages you to get back outside. And that's unbeatable.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bfrye@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

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