When we can’t actually get away from work or school to travel and explore, we satisfy our wanderlust with the adventures of others. I, for one, love reading outdoor adventure books. If it takes place on a river or mountain, perfect. If it’s a true story or memoir, even better.
Continue reading for, what I believe, to be the Best Outdoor Adventure Books.
Currently Reading: Kings of the Yukon: A River Journey in Search of the Chinook
By Adam Weymouth
This is the outdoor adventure book I have on the go right now. On the surface it’s a story about paddling (Adam is in a canoe, there are rapids) but the story goes so much deeper than that. This is the journey of the Chinook Salmon and the communities along the Yukon River whose lives at been forever altered by the salmon’s near disappearance. So far it’s been a great book – probably the only book about fish I’ve ever looked forward to reading.
By Cheryl Stayed
In Wild, Cheryl’s life has just about hit rock bottom. Her family had been torn apart, her marriage was over, and she was dangerously close to a heroin addition. Then, with no experience and very little guidance, she made the impromptu decision to hike the Pacific Crest Trail for four months alone. If you don’t know anything about camping, this book will give you some confidence that it’s never too late to fall in love with hiking. If you do know camping, you’ll appreciate Cheryl’s descriptions of pain and perseverance on the trail. What’s beautiful about Wild is that it goes beyond just another trip report. In the book, Cheryl tackles her demons throughout the hike and overcomes many of the barriers that had existed in her mind.
It’s possible you’ve already seen the movie Into the Wild, but I’d still urge you to read the book. If you haven’t read or seen it and you have no idea what it’s about, here is a quick summary. Into the Wild is the story of Chris McCandless. Fed up with the commercialism and lack of authenticity in society, he donates all of his possessions, abandons his family and hitchhikes his way to Alaska. Both the movie and book are emotionally moving, however the book provides more context. Plus, Jon Krakauer draws a parallel between the reckless decisions both he and Chris made in their young lives, and how luck worked out in one person’s favour, but not the other. This novel essentially set the standard for outdoor adventure books.
By Blair Braverman
This book will surprise you in many ways. Blair Braverman is a tough girl obsessed with the North. She lived in Norway and Alaska, working with sled dogs and guiding on glaciers. The story is exciting in nature, but also confronts the fear of living in extreme environments, sexism in adventure guiding, owning your story and your to body, among other things. Also Blair is a total badass and it’s an entertaining read. As far as outdoor adventure books go, this one is a total knock-out.
By Adam Shoalts
In this book, Adam Shoalts sets out the paddle an unnamed river in the Hudson Bay Lowlands that has no record of ever being paddled. Without a map, anything can lie beyond the river bend (say, a 20 ft. waterfall…) and I can only imagine the courage it takes to paddle not knowing what you’re in for. I’d recommend this book to anyone who loves canoeing, but even if you don’t you may find it sparks a desire in you to go paddling (or never get in a boat again).
By Jon Krakauer
Here is another book by Jon Kraukauer, and is the epitome of outdoor adventure books. Into Thin Air is an exhilarating and heartbreaking account of the Mount Everest disaster.
By Alex Honnold with David Walters
Alex Honnold is a legend in the climbing community, and the outdoor adventure world overall. In this book, we get to see the world through Honnold’s eyes and the thoughts he had while alone on a sheer rock face.
By Bill Bryson
I love the way Bill Bryson writes. In A Walk in the Woods,, Bill Bryson and his recovering alcoholic friend set out to walk the entire length of the Appalachian Trail. Neither are experienced hikers, so you can imagine the blunders encountered along the way. This book will have you laughing out loud, thinking of your own hiking memories and continuously turning the pages.
By Eric Viesturs
This story takes you to the peaks of the world’s tallest mountains. Eric Viesturs was the sixth person to ever each of the 14 8,000 meter-plus mountains and in this memoir he details everything from his early obsession with the mountains to the logistics of mountaineering and finally, the incredible feat that is climbing the tallest mountains in the world.
Next on the List: Braving It: A Father, a Daughter, and an Unforgettable Journey into the Alaskan Wild
By James Campbell
In Braving It, James Campbell and his daughter make three trips to the Alaska wilderness. That’s all I know about it so far. I’ve ordered the book and soon I’ll be able to tell you all about it (or subtly remove it from the list if it doesn’t meet my standards – but it’s a book about Alaska – how could it not?)
What’s your favourite outdoor adventure book?
This is an evolving list. Comment below your favourite outdoor adventure books and I’ll do my best to give it a read and add it to the list!