When my life was uber boring and I was confined to four walls, no windows, and a desk during the majority of my waking hours I sought solace in these books. They inspired me, encouraged me, and motivated me into action. Funny how now after an entire summer of traveling I have barely finished a book, but heck I will take experiencing adventures rather than reading about them any day. If you find yourself lacking in adventure pick up one of these stellar reads.
At the age of 20, Everett Ruess went into the desert near Escalante, Utah with two burrows and never returned. The Mystery of Everett Ruess chronicles Everett’s adventures and his search for beauty in the Southern Utah canyons through a collection of letters to his friends and family. The book discusses the mystery around his disappearance and entertains various theories about how he may have disappeared.
The Mountain Gazette has been amusing and offending readers for years with tales of naked bike riding, outrageous drinking, dirtbag living, and pretty much anything connected to mountain life like skiing, climbing, hot tubbing, and road tripping. The Mountain Gazette Anthology is a collection of the best stories from the old and new gazette including such authors as Edward Abbey, Katie Lee, Charles Bowden, John Nichols, and plenty you haven’t ever heard of.
The Monkey Wrench Gang is Edward Abbey’s classic tale about a gang of environmentally minded misfits that use the art of sabotage to protect the American Southwest. Abbey’s characters find their beloved desert threatened by dam builders and strip miners and together declare war on the mighty machines of “progress” in this hilarious piece of fiction.
Into the Wild traces the journeys of Christopher McCandless from recent college grad with a bright, comfortable future to death by starvation in an abandoned bus in the middle of the Alaska wilderness. This book attempts to answer the question “why?” by examining the forces that lead people to abandon society’s expectations and lead a life of simplicity. I partly blame Jon Krakauer for my vagabonding tendencies, having read this book as a soon-to-be college grad – it seriously derailed my plans and led me to the life I now live.
Joe Simpson is best known for his epic tale of survival in the Andes in Touching the Void, but in The Beckoning Silence we see Simpson questioning his mountaineering pursuits. In a series of adventures around the globe, Simpson explores the forces that lead him to a life of extreme risk that is constantly touched with tragedy.
I think you either love Paul Theroux or you can’t stand him and I happen to be a lover. I absolutely adored the Happy Isles of Oceania mostly because I got to learn a ton about the history and culture of pretty much all the Pacific Islands – lands I really knew very little about. In the Happy Isles. Theroux explores the history of cannibalism in Vanuatu, confronts the Woop Woop in Australia, and sees the natives riot in Tahiti because their shipment of cheeseballs was late.
Road Fever chronicles Tim Cahill’s road-trip from Terra del Fuego (southern most tip of South America) to Prudhoe Bay in Alaska in a world record-breaking 23 days. The book is hilarious, witty, and unbelievable at times since this trip was done in the late 80’s when all sorts of crazy stuff was going on down in the Americas.
John McPhee’s is simply brilliant. He has a way of describing complex geological and ecological principles in a narrative, conversational style that makes even the least science-inclined person understand the complicated forces of nature. In Coming into the Country, McPhee takes us on an unforgettable journey into Alaska where he weaves in history, culture, adventure, legends, and tales of ordinary people all into one incredible book.
It is no secret that I am thoroughly obsessed with the Nevada desert and this book played a role in furthering my obsession. In The Void, the Grid & the Sign, William L. Fox takes the reader on a remarkable journey through the dramatic void of the Great Basin making sense of the landscape through art, architecture, and history. Fox advocates the need for such voids, “big empty spaces into which we can travel in order to see ourselves.”
I am a big fan of compilations and this one is great if you are new to outdoor literature or if you missed the first 20 years of Outside Magazine like I did. With stories by Jon Krakauer, Jim Harrison, Tim Cahill, Barry Lopez, and more – the Best of Outside will introduce you to a host of incredible writers, and entertain you for hours with the best outdoor adventure travel stories around.