Wilferd Peterson said ” A man practices the Art of Adventure when he breaks the chain of routine and renews his life through reading new books, traveling to new places, making new friends, taking up new hobbies and adopting new viewpoints.”
We love a good book, especially a good adventure book. There are literally 1,000’s of adventure books and while we have not read them all we have read a great many. So based on our own reading experience and that of our readers we have put together what we consider to be 10 of the most intriguing, thrilling, informative, interesting, fascinating, astonishing and compelling (yes all those adjectives) non-fiction adventure books ever into a list. You will not be disappointed with any of the books below if you decide to read them. Read one, read them all, you will be better for it.
Art of Adventure’s TOP 10 Best Adventure Books
1. Into Thin Air by John Krakauer – is the definitive account of the deadliest season in the history of Everest by the acclaimed Outside magazine journalist and author of the bestselling Into the Wild. Taking the reader step by step from Katmandu to the mountain’s deadly pinnacle, Krakauer has his readers shaking on the edge of their seat. Beyond the terrors of this account, however, he also peers deeply into the myth of the world’s tallest mountain. What it is about Everest that has compelled so many people–including himself–to throw caution to the wind, ignore the concerns of loved ones, and willingly subject themselves to such risk, hardship, and expense? *
2. Endurance by Alfred Lansing – The astonishing saga of polar explorer Ernest Shackleton’s survival for over a year on the ice-bound Antarctic seas, as Time magazine put it, “defined heroism.” Alfred Lansing’s scrupulously researched and brilliantly narrated book — with over 200,000 copies sold — has long been acknowledged as the definitive account of the Endurance’s fateful trip. To write their authoritative story, Lansing consulted with ten of the surviving members and gained access to diaries and personal accounts by eight others. The resulting book has all the immediacy of a first-hand account, expanded with maps and illustrations especially for this edition.*
3. In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick – The ordeal of the whale ship Essex was an event as mythic in the nineteenth century as the sinking of the Titanic was in the twentieth. In 1819, the Essex left Nantucket for the South Pacific with twenty crew members aboard. In the middle of the South Pacific the ship was rammed and sunk by an angry sperm whale. The crew drifted for more than ninety days in three tiny whaleboats, succumbing to weather, hunger, disease, and ultimately turning to drastic measures in the fight for survival. Nathaniel Philbrick uses little-known documents-includinga long-lost account written by the ship’s cabin boy-and penetrating details about whaling and the Nantucket community to reveal the chilling events surrounding this epic maritime disaster. *
4. Into the Wild by John Krakauer – In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter. How McCandless came to die is the unforgettable story of Into the Wild.*
5. Undaunted Courage by Stephen E. Ambrose – In this sweeping adventure story, Stephen E. Ambrose, the bestselling author ofD-Day, presents the definitive account of one of the most momentous journeys in American history. Ambrose follows the Lewis and Clark Expedition from Thomas Jefferson’s hope of finding a waterway to the Pacific, through the heart-stopping moments of the actual trip, to Lewis’s lonely demise on the Natchez Trace. Along the way, Ambrose shows us the American West as Lewis saw it — wild, awesome, and pristinely beautiful. Undaunted Courage is a stunningly told action tale that will delight readers for generations.*
6. Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides – On January 28, 1945, 121 hand-selected U.S. troops slipped behind enemy lines in the Philippines. Their mission: March thirty rugged miles to rescue 513 POWs languishing in a hellish camp, among them the last survivors of the infamous Bataan Death March. A recent prison massacre by Japanese soldiers elsewhere in the Philippines made the stakes impossibly high and left little time to plan the complex operation.
In Ghost Soldiers Hampton Sides vividly re-creates this daring raid, offering a minute-by-minute narration that unfolds alongside intimate portraits of the prisoners and their lives in the camp. Sides shows how the POWs banded together to survive, defying the Japanese authorities even as they endured starvation, tropical diseases, and torture. Ghost Soldiers is the mesmerizing story of a remarkable mission.*
7. River of Doubt by Candace Millard – At once an incredible adventure narrative and a penetrating biographical portrait, The River of Doubt is the true story of Theodore Roosevelt’s harrowing exploration of one of the most dangerous rivers on earth.*
8. Touching the Void by Joe Simpson – Joe Simpson and his climbing partner, Simon Yates, had just reached the top of a 21,000-foot peak in the Andes when disaster struck. Simpson plunged off the vertical face of an ice ledge, breaking his leg. In the hours that followed, darkness fell and a blizzard raged as Yates tried to lower his friend to safety. Finally, Yates was forced to cut the rope, moments before he would have been pulled to his own death.
The next three days were an impossibly grueling ordeal for both men. Yates, certain that Simpson was dead, returned to base camp consumed with grief and guilt over abandoning him. Miraculously, Simpson had survived the fall but, crippled, starving, and severely frostbitten, was trapped in a deep crevasse.
How both men overcame the torments of those harrowing days is an epic tale of fear, suffering, and survival; a poignant testament to unshakable courage and friendship.*
9.Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl – Kon-Tiki is the record of an astonishing adventure—a journey of 4,300 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean by raft. Intrigued by Polynesian folklore, biologist Thor Heyerdahl suspected that the South Sea Islands had been settled by an ancient race from thousands of miles to the east, led by a mythical hero, Kon-Tiki. He decided to prove his theory by duplicating the legendary voyage.
On April 28, 1947, Heyerdahl & five other adventurers sailed from Peru on a balsa log raft. After three months on the open sea, encountering raging storms, whales, & sharks, they sighted land—the Polynesian island of Puka Puka.*
10. Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson – For John Chatterton and Richie Kohler, deep wreck diving was more than a sport. Testing themselves they pushed themselves to their limits and beyond, brushing against death more than once in the rusting hulks of sunken ships.But in the fall of 1991, not even these courageous divers were prepared for what they found; a World War II German U-boat, its ruined interior a macabre wasteland of twisted metal, tangled wires, and human bones–all buried under decades of accumulated sediment. No identifying marks were visible on the submarine or the few artifacts brought to the surface. No historian, expert, or government had a clue as to which U-boat the men had found. In fact, the official records all agreed that there simply could not be a sunken U-boat and crew at that location. The story of Shadow Divers often seems too amazing to be true, but it all happened, two hundred thirty feet down, in the deep blue sea.*
So there you have it, Art of Adventure’s Top 10 Best Adventure Books. Which ones do you agree with? Did we miss some of your favorites? Let us know, but remember this, take our advice and read them. You won’t be disappointed.
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*Book summaries courtesy of Amazon.com