reat Adventure Books
Whenever I read an adventure book, you can guarantee I will finish it off by putting into plan a trip of my own. Admittedly, by this I sometimes mean an extra long run that evening, but regardless, great inspiring stories have the ability to get you off your backside and more determined to achieve....they are also simply great books to read.
Below are some of my favourites in no particular order.
Mad, Bad and Dangerous to know by Sir Ranulph Fiennes. First published in 2008.
An autobiography of a man often referred to as the 'Greatest Living Explorer'. Quite a statement I know, but Ranulph Fiennes has had an incredible existence to date. He has taken on pretty much anything and everything from climbing the bell tower at his school to serving in the British Special Forces. From arctic explorer to attempting to combat his vertigo by climbing the North Face of the Eiger (apparently it didn't work). His book is full of interesting, nerve wracking and inspiring periods of his life, and written articulately too.
High Adventure by Sir Edmund Hillary. First published in 1955.
A report of the first successful accent of Mount Everest by one of the men to achieve it. Not a difficult read, but provides an insight into what was involved and what it meant to discover and push through a route to the top of the worlds highest peak. The only watch out, don't read this book and then think the achievement was a gentleman's walk in the park, Edmund Hillary writes it with positivity, a required characteristic of every explorer.
Soldiers & Sherpas: A Taste for Adventure by Brummie Stokes.First published in 1988.
Brummie Stokes, an accomplished mountaineer and explorer, and going by the title of his book an ex-soldier. This book is a really fascinating read, it goes in depth into what is involved in preparing for and taking on a significant mountain expedition, specifically the North East Ridge of Everest (then unclimbed). What this book also illustrates is that no matter what your background is, if you want to climb mountains, you can. Very inspirational.
No Way Down by Graham Bowley. First published in 2010.
The first book in this list written by someone who is not a mountaineer or explorer but a journalist. However, the tragedy that engulfed the worlds second highest summit, K2, in 2008 brings home the real dangers of remote and high altitude mountains. It often takes someone who doesn't want to go higher and harder to tell these stories without the rose tinted glasses. Of course the danger is sensationalising a story for the audience but I don't believe Graham Bowley's account does this. He also highlights the heroics achieved in the face of adversity by individuals. A great, but harrowing read, and highlights why K2 has the reputation of being the toughest of the 8000m peaks.
The Crossing by James Cracknell and Ben Fogle. First published in 2006.
On the surface, two very different characters, one 2 x Olympic gold medal rower driven and determined no matter of the cost, the other a TV presenter with reputation for soft and gentle nature programmes. It was actually Ben Fogle who invited James Cracknell to row with him across the Atlantic. This book relives their experience of the Atlantic Rowing Race. Two incredible men and the trials and tribulations of an epic journey.
The Long Walk by Slavomir Rawicz. First published in 1956.
A tale of survival and the search for freedom. Slavomir Rawicz, a Polish Army Officer imprisoned by Stalin's Red Army retells his account of what he went through leading up to and following his escape from a labour camp deep within Siberia. If you are familiar with the story you have probably heard all to the speculation as to its accuracy. Regardless, it is one incredible adventure and highlights what drive and determination to survive can produce in terms of human capabilities.
Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston. First published in 2004.
Not your everyday tale of survival. This book, recently made into the film '127 Hours', is as mind blowing as they come. Aron Ralston provides an hour by hour account of what he experienced mentally and physically after a series of unfortunate incidents led to him being trapped in a metre wide canyon, and ultimately how he escaped. The book intersperses his account with other life experiences painting a picture of Aron as his story goes on. Not for the faint hearted.
My Life and Travels by Wilfred Thesiger. First published in 2002.
Wilfred Thesiger is considered as the last of the 'Gentleman Explorers', he spent the vast majority of his life living as a Nomad traveling around the Arabian Peninsular. This anthology of his life pulls together his experiences previously described in books including the 1959 Arabian Sands (seen as a travel writing classic). Wilfred Thesiger provides real insight into the culture of the nomadic tribes and other peoples living in and around Arabia.
Touching the Void by Joe Simpson. First published in 1988.
No list of adventure books would be complete without 'Touching the Void'. This account of survival caused significant controversy at the time, for reasons you can judge for yourself once you have read the book. But no one can deny that the experience Joe Simpson and his climbing partner Simon Yates endured after Joe broke his leg on the summit ridge of Siula Grande, in the Peruvian Andes, is incredibly courageous and inspiring. It's the sort of story you read and think if they went through that, I can deal with a little uncomfort. If you've not read this, you should put it at the top of your list.
The White Spider by Heinrich Harrer. First published in 1960.
Considered a mountaineering classic. The White Spider is a narrative of the history of attempts and accents of the North Face of the Eiger. Written by one of the team who made the first successful accent, Heinrich Harrer (also author of 7 Years in Tibet that was made into a film where Brad Pitt played the part of Heinrich Harrer) discusses the merits of each climb and the motivations of the climbers. He goes into detail about each climb and how they ended. Almost written as an academic account, but one that will have you hooked.