So I thought I would share some of my favorite adventure stories that I have read over the years. I did not want to focus on the obvious ones like Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air,” “Into the Wild,” or John Muir’s “My First Summer in the Sierra.” Instead, I wanted to give you books that you may have overlooked.
I read this book when I was in elementary school and parts of which I still think about today. The story is about a young boy who runs away from home and chooses to live in a hollowed out tree. What makes this book so great is that the character uses practical survival techniques to live off the land. Not only does the book describe them but also includes diagrams for various traps and shelters. The boy goes so far as to capture a hawk and train it to hunt for him like a falconer. It is a fun quick read and if you have children you should share it with them.
This book has nothing to do with the terrible horror movie about mutant rednecks in the swamps of Louisiana. This is a young adult book about being forced to survive in the wilderness due to an accident. The story follows the character Brian who is going to visit his dad in Northern Canada. While flying in a small airplane, the pilot has a heart attack and the plane crashes into a wilderness lake. Brian is forced to survive with nothing but a hatchet. Over the course of the summer, he slowly learns the skills needed to survive. This story is great because the character has no real survival training and has to figure it out alone. I found this book to be completely riveting as a child and think it is a great story about self-reliance, resiliency, and problem-solving.
Departing from the young adult literature, this is the true story of British mountaineer Andy Cave. I read this while backpacking through the Dolomites and found the book to be an inspiring story but with a sad ending (someone always dies in the end of mountaineering books). Cave tells of growing up in a coal-mining town in England and finding his escape in the surrounding hills. He parallels learning to breathe a mile underground with learning to breathe at the summits of great peaks. He is also one of the few people that can say they benefited from Prime Minister Margret Thatcher’s austerity measures, as he was able to escape a career as a miner thanks to the UK Miner’s Strike of 1984-85. With no work, he hitchhiked to Switzerland where he trained to become a mountain guide. The book culminates with his experience on the team that made the first ascent of the North Face of Changabang Mountain and the ensuing disaster that befell them.
Colonel Percy Fawcett was every bit the stereotype of a colonial explorer. He was unwavering and dedicated to his mission. Unfortunately, his last mission cost him his life and the life of his son as he continued to search the Amazon for a legendary city. The book tells the story of Fawcett’s life and how hearing rumor of a legendary lost city drove him to sacrifice everything in an attempt to discover it. Grann parallels Fawcett’s story with a recent growing body of archeological evidence that maybe this city was real. Finally, the author attempts to discover what fate finally befell Fawcett and his party by exploring various tribes’ oral traditions. In the end, you will be impressed by the sheer tenacity of the man even if he was driven by madness.
Note: Interestingly when I looked up the book to check the details I found that it is about be released as a film starring Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, and Sienna Miller.
When the world’s greatest mountaineer decides to go looking for the famed Abominable Snowman you get curious as to why and what he found. Messner intrigued after a strange encounter while trekking through the Himalayas one night, begins a quest from Bhutan to China in an attempt to solve the mystery. He not only looks at the scientific evidence but also the cultural folklore where this creature was born. Influenced by anthropological practices he works to understand the word Yeti and what it means to those native to the region. He then pairs with biologists to look at what animals in the region could possibly explain most people’s strange encounters with the creature. The book is at time clunky in its writing, I do not know if this is because of the translation or poor editing but overall I found this book interesting. What I liked most about it was that after his strange encounter he did not just leap to the conclusion it must be a Yeti, but instead looked for a rational answer. When I got to meet Messner in Italy while herding his yaks to high pasture (thanks Junod for signing my weird midweek pass), this is the book I brought along for him to sign.
So there are my suggestions, what suggestions do you have? What books really got you excited about wilderness and adventure? Please share you comments and questions below.