Are you looking for a great book to inspire your next trip? Well, then look no further. We have compiled a list of our favorite books about adventure and exploration. If these books don’t inspire you to start exploring this world, then nothing will.
Do you have a favorite book that inspired you to travel? If so, please let us know. We are always looking for some good books to read on long flights. Many of these books have gone on to become critically acclaimed movies as well. If you haven’t done so already, please check out our list of the top outdoor adventure movies to watch this winter.
Into the Wild
Author: John Krakauer
Into the Wild is the tragic story of a young man who gave up everything he owned to escape into a simple life in the wilderness. I could relate to the passion that McCandless had for the beauty of nature, and his quest to shed all of the burdens of society. However, I also understood what he was feeling when he came to realize that seeing all the beauty in the world means nothing without someone to share it with.
Krakauer does a fantastic job of telling the story of Christopher McCandless, using personal experiences and stories of other adventurers to help paint a picture of this journey. I would definitely recommend this book to others.
Into thin Air
Author: John Krakauer
Into Thin Air is the harrowing story of the 1996 disaster on Mount Everest that saw eight climbers lose their lives and many others get stranded when a freak storm struck the mountain. Being the highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest holds a certain mystique with adventurers. For many, it is the ultimate conquest.
In his usual way, Krakauer does a fantastic job of using personal experience with alpine climbing to paint a vivid picture of the horrible tragedy. If you like climbing adventures, this is one of the best books out there in that niche. The personal accounts in the book really make this feel like a personal story, which I really love.
Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage
Author: Alfred Lansing
This brilliant novel by author Alfred Lansing chronicles the failed attempt of Ernest Shackleton to cross the Antarctic continent in 1914. In what has become known as the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, Shackleton and his crew set sail aboard the vessel Endurance before becoming trapped in the ice.
This is an epic tale that has been retold in various mediums over the decades, but there was so much about this story that I wasn’t aware of before reading this book.
If you have always been fascinated by Shackelton’s adventure, this is a book that I would strongly recommend reading. His adventure is one of the biggest reasons why I want to travel to Antarctica.
Author: Martin Dugard
Into Africa is one of the best books I have ever read. I started this book on my way to Tanzania, and I couldn’t put it down once I started reading it. In the book, author Martin Dugard tells the story of how American journalist Henry Morton Stanley came to find legendary British explorer Dr. David Livingstone in the heart of Africa.
What I really enjoyed about the story is the way that Dugard weaved back and forth between telling the tale of Stanley’s career and Dr. Livingstone’s explorations, culminating in Stanley ultimately being asked to go and find the stranded explorer. It is a riveting book that anyone who loves adventure and exploration should read. But fair warning, this book might lead to a strong desire to visit Africa yourself.
Down the Great Unknown
Author: Edward Dolnick
Down the Great Unknown tells the story of John Wesley Powell’s 1869 journey to chart the Colorado River thru the Grand Canyon. Back in that time, the Western United States was still an area with large stretches of land that were unmapped. The Grand Canyon was among the most unknown and uncharted of these areas.
I have always had a great affinity for the American West, and especially Southern Utah and Northern Arizona, so this book is one of my favorites. If you like stories about adventure and exploration, then this is a great book for you.
Edward Dolnick does a masterful job of telling a story about American history that few Americans know.
Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Author: Aron Ralston
This book tells the extraordinary tale of Aron Ralston’s battle to survive after a rockfall pinned him to a canyon wall in Canyonlands National Park in Utah. For six long days, Aron struggled to stay alive and wait for rescue.
This book inspired the major motion picture 127 Hours, which we recommended in our list of Top Adventure Movies to watch this winter. If you plan to see the movie, we would recommend reading the book first.
Ultimately, it was a miraculous act of bravery and determination that allowed him to free himself and seek help. It truly shows how strong we human beings can be in the worst of times.
A Walk in the Woods
Author: Bill Bryson
A Walk in the Woods is another of many books on this list that inspired critically acclaimed movies. The book is an autobiographical account of author Bill Bryson’s journey to walk the Appalachian Trail.
Bryson, a travel writer by trade, returns home to New Hampshire after living overseas in England for many years. However, instead of enjoying his retirement, he dives head deep into this adventure after attending a funeral and feeling his own mortality.
The thing is, the only person he could find to accompany him was his old friend, who just happens to be a down-on-his-luck screwball. The result is a crazy adventure of a lifetime.
Author: Piers Paul Read
On October 12, 1972, a young rugby team’s plane crashed into the isolated peaks of the Andes Mountains. Miraculously, many would survive the crash. However, they would soon find that their ordeal was just beginning. This book tells the gripping tale of their survival.
For 10 agonizing weeks, they fought hunger, hypothermia, and the harsh weather of the Andes mountains. Isolated without a chance of help, only sixteen of the forty-five original passengers and crew aboard the plane would live to tell the tale.
In one of the most epic adventure stories of the twentieth century, the survivors would have to go to unspeakable lengths to survive. And their story will not soon be forgotten.
My Journey to Lhasa
Author: Alexandra David-Néel
My Journey to Lhasa is an amazing story of author Alexandra David-Neel’s visit to the city of Lhasa, Tibet in 1924. In a time where outsiders were forbidden to enter the city, Alexandra disguises herself as a Tibetan pilgrim in order to elude the Tibetan authorities.
Accompanied by her Tibetan-born adopted son, she is able to travel about the region for close to a year and even lives in the city of Lhasa for two years. Follow along with Alexandra as she travels thru a world she is unfamiliar with, in a land that was at the time mysterious to the Western world.
It is a fascinating tale and a captivating read that I highly recommend.
Author: Thor Heyerdahl
Follow along as Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl crosses the Pacific Ocean in a balsawood raft in 1947 to prove that South Americans back in pre-Columbian times could have crossed the ocean to settle Polynesia. The book follows Heyerdahl, along with his five-man crew, as they collect loans and donations to finance their trip, then set off on his epic adventure.
It was an amazing adventure, and this book is an amazing read.
This critically acclaimed book has been translated into over 70 different languages and has sold 50 million copies around the world. If you are ever in Norway, Heyerdahl’s vessel, the Kon-Tiki, is still displayed in the Kon-Tiki museum there.
Running the Amazon
Author: Joe Kane
Following his inner urge to test his own limits, Joe Kane set off on the adventure of a lifetime. This book tells the personal account of Joe Kane’s 4,200-mile expedition to kayak the length of the world’s longest river.
Beginning in the high altitude of the Peruvian Andes, we Joe and his team overcome sickness, fierce rapids, drug traffickers, armed guerrillas, and their own fears on this epic quest to navigate the Amazon River.
I absolutely love adventure, and this book certainly has more than its share in it. The endurance and perseverance of Joe and his team continue to inspire me.
Author: Robyn Davidson
This book inspired another one of my favorite outdoor adventure movies. Tracks is the personal account of author Robyn Davidson’s quest back in the 1970s to cross the Australian Outback with only camels and her dog.
For Robyn, this adventure was personal. Her father was an adventurer, and she wanted to follow in his footsteps. They kept telling her that she couldn’t, or shouldn’t go thru with it, but she pressed on. Well, her father would have been very proud, as she persevered and had one heck of an adventure.
Follow along as Robyn fights thru adversity while crossing one of this planet’s most unforgiving landscapes.
The Long Way
Author: Bernard Moitessier
This is the incredible story of Bernard Moitessier’s participation in the first Golden Globe Race. Tasked to sail solo around the world, while rounding the three great capes of the world (the Cape of Good Hope, Leeuwin, and Cape Horn),
Moitessier had to overcome tremendous obstacles to complete his journey.
Severe storms, failing equipment, fatigue, and solitude all took their tolls on him. It wasn’t until after ending his 37,455-mile journey in Tahiti that he cemented his place in history.
This is a great read. Anyone who likes tales of perseverance, courage, and adventure will love this book.
Touching the Void
Author: Joe Simpson
This is my favorite mountaineering story of all-time. The story is almost too crazy to be true. The story involves two young climbers, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, and their quest to be the first people to summit the Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. When both make it to the top successfully, it appears as though they are going to complete their quest without incident.
However, like it often does, tragedy struck on their decent. When Joe Simpson breaks his legs in a fall and must be lowered down the mountain, circumstances lead Simon Yates to a horrible decision he must make about his partner’s life and his own.
Even if you have seen the movie, this book is an absolute must-read.
Into the Heart of Borneo
Author: Redmond O’Hanlon
This book tells the story of the author’s 1983 journey to the center of Borneo through the Malaysian state of Sarawak. No expedition had attempted this journey since 1926 because of the thick jungle and unforgiving terrain. Not phased by this, Redmond, along with fellow journalist and poet James Fenton and native guides, set out on their grand adventure.
Redmond does a fantastic job of weaving this tale, and even makes numerous references to previous expeditions into Borneo to give the reader some historical perspective. Personally, I really enjoyed the humor that Redmond was able to bring to the telling of an otherwise dangerous and perilous adventure.
Get My Ultimate Travel Guide
Sign-up to receive the latest updates from my travel blog and start receiving premium content that you will not find on this blog, starting with my Ultimate Travel Guide. This comprehensive guide outlines the process that I use to book all of my trips and includes tips and tricks for streamlining the travel planning process and saving you money on travel.
Love your selection. I have read many of these.