Top Adventure Books
Need inspiration to adventure more? The Adventure Book Club has you covered.
Here are 13 books that are guaranteed to get you out of the house.
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail
by Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson’s novel is a hilarious depiction of his attempt to complete more than 2,000 miles of the Appalachian Trail through 14 states, despite being burdened by a heavy backpack and an out-of-shape friend. His descriptions are laugh-out-loud funny, but they’re often balanced with more serious historical, ecological, and social musings about hiking the trail. Bryson’s charming narration throughout the novel showcases his wit and dry sense of humor. For further reading, consider his A Short History of Nearly Everything—it’s the science book you wish you’d had in high school.
Between a Rock and a Hard Place
by Aron Ralston
This book details how Ralston’s life changed dramatically after heading off into Utah’s slot canyons alone, without notifying anyone of his plans. This true story is a grimacing account of Ralston’s gut-wrenching decision to amputate his own arm in order to survive. Pictures of his harrowing ordeal are included in the book, and be warned: they definitely aren’t for the faint of heart. Think the movie, “127 Hours,” was tough to watch? Try reading about it in full, gritty detail.
Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness
by Edward Abbey
Hands down, an adventure classic. Edward Abbey’s description of his time as a park ranger at Arches National Monument is a sobering and downright engaging portrayal of the harshness and beauty of the desert landscape, with social criticism of our effect on the natural world. Printed in 1968, the book is widely regarded as an iconic piece of environmental writing, peppered with fierce commentary about human impact and vestiges of rugged individualism. Abbey says it best: “Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread.”
Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle
by Dervla Murphy
Published in 1965, Murphy’s book is an awe-inspiring cycling travelogue across Europe, through Iran and Afghanistan, over the Himalayas, onward to Pakistan and finally, India—a journey she completed alone. A female solo cyclist ahead of her time, Murphy carried a pistol with her while riding her faithful steed, affectionately called, “Roz,” to fend off rapists and thieves. During her travels, she marvels at the kindness of the people she encounters, as well as the magnificence of the scenery along her route. Murphy’s humanitarian efforts continue after the conclusion of this book in her follow-up novel, Tibetan Foothold, in which she recounts her volunteer assignment with refugees in Dharamsala. If I could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would I choose? My pick would be Murphy, without a doubt.
Into the Wild
by Jon Krakauer
In this book, Jon Krakauer examines the life and death of Christopher Johnson McCandless, a young man who abandoned his worldly possessions and hitchhiked into the Alaskan interior in search of a simpler life. He ended up paying the ultimate price for it, with his decomposed body being found by a moose hunter just four months later. His story often divides readers; some may view his actions as supremely naïve and entitled, while others may argue that his desire to find meaning in life, outside of possessions and money, is a worthy pursuit. Krakauer is a sincere storyteller and a master at analyzing the complex human narrative. A heartbreaking and engrossing read, McCandless’ final realization is particularly poignant: “Happiness only real when shared.”
My Side of the Mountain
by Jean Craighead George
A fictional foil to Into the Wild, My Side of the Mountain is a classic childhood story, in which an adolescent boy, Sam Gribley, runs away from his New York City home for the wilderness of the Catskill Mountains. While there, he befriends and trains a peregrine falcon named Frightful—quite possibly the best name for a pet ever, in my humble opinion—to catch food. Sam’s camaraderie with Frightful and other woodland creatures is adorably romanticized, yet the boy also grapples with feelings of loneliness and exasperation, emotions to which we can all relate.
On the Road
by Jack Kerouac
The road trip story to end all road trip stories. Kerouac’s seminal novel gave a voice to the Beat Generation, defying the traditional thinking of the 1950s with this bluesy and boozy tale of narrator Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarity. Together, the pair traverses the country and desperately seeks out the rawest, realest experiences. Fueled by sex and drugs, they passionately search for a way to escape their “senseless emptiness.” This exchange sums it up:
“Sal, we gotta go and never stop going till we get there.”
“Where we going, man?”
“I don’t know but we gotta go.”
South: The Story of Shackleton’s 1914-1917 Expedition
by Ernest Henry Shackleton
There will never be a greater badass than Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton, whose book recounts his impossible expedition to the South Pole, survival in Antarctica, treacherous sea crossing, and dangerous mountaineering through the wilds of South Georgia Island on a mission to save Every. Last. One. Of. His. Men. Read this book and bask in all that is adventure. Enough said.
The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History through the Heart of the Grand Canyon
by Kevin Fedarko
What could be more thrilling than riding the entire length of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon in a dreadfully small wooden boat dubbed, “The Emerald Mile?” Now add massive floods. Game on. Kenton Grua’s aim to smash the speed record for the fastest boat ride ever from Lee’s Ferry to Lake Mead is chronicled in this epic read. With the record now broken an astonishing two times in 2016 alone (a mere three days apart), this book serves as an excellent reminder that adventure is still out there.
The New American Roadtrip Mixtape
by Brendan Leonard
You have it all figured out and then? The rug gets completely pulled out from underneath of you. We’ve all been there. Whether it’s being dumped, getting fired, or losing a friend, there’s nothing like a come-to-Jesus moment to make you wonder what in the hell it is you’re doing with your life. Brendan Leonard’s book tackles life-changing questions and then some in The New American Roadtrip Mixtape, an homage to Kerouac’s road trip existentialism. A dirtbag suddenly saddled with not knowing his next step, Leonard climbs, camps, hikes, and drives toward self-actualization, treating the reader to hilarious and emotional vignettes along the way. His latest book, Sixty Meters to Anywhere, further explains the genesis of his relationship with his biggest love, the great outdoors.
Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback
by Robyn Davidson
The title says it all. Author Robyn Davidson discusses her 1977 trek from the Australian outback to the continent’s western coast via camelback. The first part of the book is set in Alice Springs, an isolated town in the Northwest Territory, where she resolves to learn more about these hump-backed ungulates. She applies for a travel grant from National Geographic and sets off across the unforgiving desert, where she endures oppressive heat, poisonous flora and fauna, and an annoying photographer sent by the magazine to document her journey. She is determined and headstrong, encapsulated perfectly when she writes, “I experienced that sinking feeling you get when you know you have conned yourself into doing something difficult and there’s no going back.”
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
by Cheryl Strayed
In this autobiographical novel, Strayed hikes the Pacific Crest Trail as a means of confronting her mother’s death, a failed marriage, and a battle with addiction. Woefully unprepared, this twenty-something is often put to the test and miraculously lives to tell her tale, thanks to trail magic, as well as a lot of grit and determination. This is an empowering read for anyone who may be going through challenging times, as Strayed demonstrates that she can bravely flaunt her character flaws and, in the end, manage to rise above them to attain her goal.
Wind, Sand, and Stars
by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The Under30Experiences community may recognize Antoine de Saint-Exupéry as the author of the beloved childhood novel, The Little Prince. However, in real life, de Saint-Exupéry was a French aristocrat, writer, and aviator with the airmail carrier, Aéropostale. Written in 1939, de Saint-Exupéry describes stunning landscapes during his travels, including the frosty mountains of the Andes and the meteorite-strewn Saharan sand dunes of Benghazi—a truly awe-inspiring reminder that the world we know today was widely uncharted, unexplored territory less than a century ago. His story of survival even in the most extreme circumstances makes this novel a true page-turner and a welcome addition to any bookshelf.
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