Get inspired with these must-read outdoor adventure books – hand-picked by yours truly. (I’m a voracious reader, so please hit me up with some more recommendations in the comments!)
Land of Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road by Kate Harris
While pursuing a highly successful academic career, Kate Harris decides to quit the laboratory and cycle the length of the Silk Road with her childhood friend, Mel Yule. Their courageous journey takes them to some of the lesser-known pockets of the world – including the heavily guarded Tibetan Plateau. At once a travel memoir and a poetic contemplation of the world in which we live.
Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing
While sailing to the South Pole in 1914, Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance became trapped in ice in the Weddell Sea. What followed is often touted as one of the greatest adventure stories of the modern age. Lansing draws on the crew’s diaries and personal accounts to narrate the ultimate tale of derring-do. The result is an incredibly well-researched book with an irresistible pace. A real page-turner.
A Woman in the Polar Night by Christiane Ritter
In 1934, Austrian housewife Christiane Ritter spends a year with her hunter-trapper husband on the Arctic island of Spitsbergen. This vivid memoir is matter-of-fact yet magical account of her time there. Despite being her only book, Ritter is a natural wordsmith and peppers the narrative with her own illustrations. An ode to the bleak beauty of the Arctic, and a reminder of the extraordinary abilities of ordinary women.
A Voyage for Madmen by Peter Nichols
When the first race to circumnavigate the globe non-stop was launched in 1968, nine men set sail in pursuit of glory. Only one made it back. In A Voyage for Madmen, Nichols weaves together each man’s story. A gripping account of the courageous, tragic, and downright bizarre events that took place. (Which have, incidentally, been turned into a feature length film starring Colin Firth titled The Mercy).
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
After losing her mother to cancer, getting a divorce and battling heroin addiction, Cheryl Strayed was in need of salvation. So despite having next-to-no backcountry experience, she decides to hike over 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. This brutally honest memoir ranges from painfully sad to laugh out loud funny, and will have any seasoned hikers shaking their heads in wonder. Highly visceral and elegantly written.
Touching the Void by Joe Simpson
Touching the Void is the harrowing tale Joe Simpson’s miraculous survival story. While climbing in the Peruvian Andes, Simpson hurtles off a vertical face. His climbing partner, Simon Yates, cuts the rope and returns to camp, assuming his friend is dead. In fact, Simpson survived, but must crawl his way out of a crevasse and back down the mountain while frostbitten, starved and seriously injured. A modern classic of mountaineering literature.
The Pants of Perspective by Anna McNuff
In need of adventure, Anna McNuff lands on the unlikely idea of running the entire length of New Zealand’s Te Araroa Trail – all 2,000 miles of it, completely unsupported. She recounts her journey with humour, detailing the people and landscapes she encounters along the way with upbeat enthusiasm. A feel-good read that will give you itchy feet, and make you wonder what you could be capable of.
A History of Canada in 10 Maps by Adam Shoalts
Explorer Adam Shoalts tells the history of what we now know as ‘Canada’ in 10 maps, beginning with the early Viking settlements in Newfoundland. A fascinating insight into the Canadian wilderness of yesteryear, where indigenous peoples and European explorers blazed a trail for those to come. Combining adventure, discovery, conquest and violence, you don’t have to be a history nerd to enjoy this brilliant book.
The Salt Path by Raynor Winn
After being beset by one tragedy after another, Raynor Winn and her husband Moth decide to walk the 630-mile South West Coast Path in England. Winn delivers a raw account of their physical and psychological struggles, along with an important lesson on the meaning of homelessness. A testament to the resilience of the human spirit, and how the act of walking can be a tonic, even in the hardest of times.
Paddling North by Audrey Sutherland
At the age of 60, Audrey Sutherland quits her job to paddle her inflatable canoe around Alaska’s inside passage – entirely on her own. Her straightforward prose is more-ish, and is infused with factual details, observations about the natural world, and wise musings. Featuring illustrations and some of Sutherland’s recipes, this book is a real treasure. Sutherland is a true inspiration, and her motto of ‘go simple, go solo, go now’ is hard to resist.