Take your imagination on an adventure with these books
When the day is done and you want to put your feet up in front of the fire, kick back in your camping chair under the stars, or lay out on the beach – there’s nothing finer than a good adventure story to whisk your mind away with tales of exploration and discovery. So we’ve compiled a list of some recommended books to take you on the trip of a lifetime.
Factual accounts, or fictional journeys when it comes to adventure and exploration both worlds offer a similar amount of awe and excitement, and the stories featured below are ideal to lose yourself whether home or away and we hope we’ve found something for everyone. In no particular order:
1. Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer
The story of Chris McCandless a gifted and bright student with the world at his feet, who chose to turn his back on everything and head into the wild to survive alone and rebel against everything society deemed he should be. He gave $25,000 of savings to charity, burned the money in his wallet and hitched his way across America. His gruelling journey takes him to Alaska to survive in the wild which leads him to question everything he is, and everything he believed he wanted. The story is told from a neutral point of view aims not to preach too hard on either side of the tale. If you’ve caught the 2007 film adaptation, then it’s really worth reading the book and letting your mind paint McCandless journey.
2. A Walk In The Woods – Bill Bryson
If you’re looking for a lighter take on a life changing journey, then ‘A walk in the woods’ might be for you. Acclaimed travel writer Bill Bryson takes on a once in a lifetime trip to complete the Appalachian with his slightly less than enthusiastic friend. At 2200 miles along the East Coast of the United States over rugged trails, mountains and remote locations, a simple walk in the woods this certainly ain’t. The account is funny, endearing, shocking and heart warming and takes in the testing nature of the trail, along with many of the rather strange people the duo met along the way. Please don’t be put off by the recent film adaptation, this is much better (Sorry Robert Redford).
3. The Tent, The Bucket & Me – Emma Kennedy
A hilarious account of those windy, rainy family camping holidays of your childhood. If you love to go camping, you’ll probably be able to relate to everything mentioned in this book, if you’ve never been camping – you probably never would after reading this (Camping has changed a lot since the 70s…honest!). It’s a real nostalgia hit that will leave you laughing away to yourself, no wonder BBC made it into a TV series called ‘The Kennedys’.
4. The Beach – Alex Garland
It’s another book that was adapted into a rather famous film, but the Beach is a novel that offers a bit of magic. The story of a backpacker in his 20’s looking for the spiritual awakening he simply isn’t getting from his life at home. He’s in search of paradise, but does such a place exist on earth? Is there still a utopia that hasn’t been mass marketed to tourists where he could find his awakening? A map the backpacker comes across in Thailand would suggest it does exist, if he can find it.
5. The Call of the Wild – Jack London
A real classic from the author that also brought us ‘White Fang’ (well worth a read also), the Call of the Wild is an adventure told from the perspective of Buck, a half St Bernard and Scottish Shepherd dog. As the gold rush kicks in, large dogs become very valuable in North America, and a servant of Buck’s owner kidknaps the dog and sells him to a group who are buying and selling dogs for the trade. Buck’s life changes forever as he’s forced to deal with cruel masters, heavy loads and the frozen North. The story follows Buck in his new life as he answers the call of the wild.
6. Touching the Void – Joe Simpson
A factual account of one of the most awe-inspiring mountaineering stories that you could wish to read. Simpson and his climbing partner Simon Yates reach the summit of the previously unclimbed West Face of Siula Grande in terrible weather, and yet that feat is just the start of the story. The length of the expedition meant that the pair were running out of supplies, and a nasty fall meant that Simpson had broken his leg. When met with the very real decision to cut the rope holding your friend to save your own life, you get some idea of how tense and edge of the seat this story is. A real classic, and well worth a read – just don’t expect it to be a relaxing ride.
7. Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found – Cheryl Strayed
Less a descriptive adventure tale and more an account of finding yourself when you feel completely lost. The book follows Cheryl with a broken marriage, and the rapid loss of her mother to cancer, she needed something to occupy her mind, and so set out on the 1100 mile hike along the west coast of the United States. With no previous long-distance hiking experience, it’s a slow moving memoir, but one that is really quite emotional to read.
8. Into Thin Air – Jon Krakauer
Krakauer is a well known writer (many of his books are worth a read in this genre) and avid climber, in the 90’s he was challenged by Outside Magazine to head to Everest with an acclaimed guide. The journey however, wouldn’t not be a successful one, and despite the combined experience of the guides and members of the expedition, people were starting to die. The book covers the expedition in great detail and reflects on other Everest missions as comparison. This very personal account raises questions for the reader while exploring the genuine anguish of the writer who lived the experience.
9. The Fell Walker – Michael Wood
One for the fiction fans, the adventures here aren’t of wonder or discovery, but the drive to solve a mystery set in the Lake District. A real favourite for many who love a thriller, or the Lake District (Knowing the places mentioned seems to make it all that bit more real and interesting) and comes personally recommended by a few GO colleagues. If you’re looking for a ‘whodunnit’ – then give this one a try, if you can find it.
10. Are We Nearly There Yet? A family’s 8,000 mile car journey around Britain – Ben Hatch
A couple find an advert looking for a family to write a guidebook about travelling around the UK. As glamorous as the thought sounded, taking in brooding sunsets, driving along stunning coastal roads, as any couple with young children will often tell you – any holiday offers it’s own challenges. Follow this funny and heart-warming tale of the family as they drive around Britain discovering new things.
11. The Ascent of Rum Doodle – W E Bowman
First written in the 50’s, Rum Doodle still holds it’s own today as an outrageous parody of the mountaineering story genre. Follow a team of British explorers as they attempt to climb ‘Rum Doodle’ a 40,000+ metre mountain in the Himalayas. You only have to scan the reviews of this book to realise that most who read it, hold it dear to them. Classic British comedy.
12. 500 Mile Walkies – Mark Wallington
One for the dog walkers, a hilarious tale of one man and his (rather flatulent) dog named ‘Boogie’ as they take on the coastal path from Cornwall to Dorset. There are a number of books in the ‘Boogie’ series, but 500 mile walkies is one of our favourites.
13. Two Feet, Four Paws – Spud Talbot-Ponsonby
Another in the dog walking adventure genre, Two Feet, Four Paws follows Spud and her dog as they trek around the coastline of Britain to raise money for the Shelter charity. The story documents the people they meet, the places they see and the heartwarming nature of one woman and her dog and the sheer mental and physical challenge that they undertook to complete the journey.
14. The White Spider – Heinrich Harrer
A real classic among mountaineers, ‘The White Spider’ documents the legendary first ascent of the north face of ‘The Eiger’. Heinrich Harrer was part of the team who tackled this unthinkable feat in 1938. The book is vivid in detail and delves into what runs through the mind of a climber at the most challenging physical and mental moments during such a mission.
15. Out There: A Voice From The Wild – Chris Townsend
A modern book (It won best outdoor book of the year in 2016 at the Outdoor Photographers and Writers guild) but Chris Townsend has over 40 years of experience in the outdoors, and this book tracks back across that experience and touches on the people that inspired him in the outdoors. This isn’t just about him though, it’s about the British wild, about what it means to us, or what it should mean to us. A thoughtful book that covers a wide variety of outdoor hobbies and stories.
16. Psychovertical – Andy Kirkpatrick
As with any mountaineering or climbing story, it always works best when the author has the experience, Andy Kirkpatrick is a renowned climber and it shows in his highly descriptive accounts in Psychovertical. The book covers Andy’s fractured upbringing which ultimately lead to his pursuit of extreme climbs as it interlinks personal stories with highly descriptive accounts of his climbs. Heartwarming, funny, thrilling and descriptive, this story will take you on a journey through the challenges faced.
17. All Quiet on the Orient Express – Magnus Mills
Have you ever been somewhere and wondered just how it survived out of season? Or wondered what somewhere would be like without the tourists? In this book a busy Lake District campsite is coming to the end of it’s season, and only one camper remains, who planned to stay just a little longer. Odd jobs were requested of the camper, more and more in fact as they began to mount up until he realised he was living in the small village out of season. Follow his journey in this strange, funny and yet oddly dark tale.
18. The Villain: The Life of Don Whillans – Jim Perrin
The biography of Don Whillans, as told by his friend. Don Whillans is not only known for being an outstanding climber and mountaineer, he’s known for his attitude. How he was, and what he was like gave him superstar status among climbers and throughout the stories told in this honest biography, you can see why.
19. Born to Run: The Hidden Tribe, the Ultra-Runners, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen – Christopher McDougall
A tribe of Mexican Indians are said to be some of the greatest distance runners in the world, one of which won a 100 mile race at the age of 57, wearing a toga and sandals. The author and a group of renowned ultra-runners set out to find the tribe to find out their secrets, and to challenge them to the greatest race the world would never see. McDougall examines what it takes to be a great runner, interviewing colleges, running brands, and more. A fantastic read for any runner.
20. Only Planet: A flight free adventure around the world
In a world where we need everything faster, and to be everywhere sooner, it’s hard to imagine old tales like ‘around the world in 80 days’, but in this book the author and his partner decided to travel around the world without using planes. Getting back in touch with ‘slow’ transport and seeing what they discovered along the way. An entertaining account of a a joyful and more often than not, quite challenging journey in the modern day.
21. Alive – Piers Paul Read
The famous story of the ultimate will to survive after a plane crashed in the Andes. This book has stood the test of time as a real classic. A compelling story about the human spirit, the book goes into a lot more detail and some may find it quite gruesome in places (eating human flesh, for example).
22. Grandma Gatewoods Walk – Ben Montgomery
The story of the 67 year old Grandma, who one day told her family she was off out for a walk, she took a change of clothes and a little bit of money. The next time her family heard from her, she was 800 miles into the 2000+ mile Appalachian trail. Emma Gatewood would become the first person, man or woman to walk the trail twice, or even three times. The attention she brought to the trail in the 50’s may have actually saved it from disappearing as she complained about the more unruly sections and prompted more regular maintenance. A fantastic account of a celebrated American hiker.
23. No Picnic on Mount Kenya – Felice Benuzzi
Trapped in a prisoner of war camp in Africa, frustrated Italian Mountaineer Felice Benuzzi found himself transfixed on Mount Kenya, from where he was. He had an idea. He broke out of the P.O.W. camp, and with improvised homemade equipment and hardly any food, Benuzzi trekked and climbed the North Face of Mount Kenya without a map (he did however have a picture of the mountain on a tin can), only to head back down and break back into the camp that he escaped. A fantastic story from the 50’s about human spirit and what can be achieved.
24. The Outrun – Amy Liptrot
The Outrun is the starkly honest memoir of Amy Liptorot who at the age of 30 had returned home to Orkney after time in rehab for alcohol addiction. The addiction has caused her to lose jobs, partners, her health and more, a move back home felt like a failure, but she needed to find herself again. The book covers how her return to Orkney and getting back to nature helped her recovery and to rebuild herself. Tales of wild swimming, a search for the Northern Lights, the wildlife of Orkney and how it all helped to overcome.
25. A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush – Eric Newby
In the 50’s, can you imagine receiving a message from a friend reading ‘CAN YOU TRAVEL NURISTAN JUNE?’ and actually going through with it? This story follows a trip by two enthusiastic but inexperienced travellers from Mayfair to Afghanistan. They had no real experience to climb the mountains of the Hindu Kush, but thought a weekend in Wales and some tips from a local waitress would suffice. Razor sharp wit on display throughout this thoroughly entertaining read.
Of course, this is just scratching the surface of the outdoor adventure genre, and there are probably two or three books by some of the authors on this list that you should probably check out. However these are a few that GO staff and a few of our customers have recommended.
Have you read any? Have we missed some of your favourites? Let us know in the comments below.