Here is a list of books that offer inspiration, deep reflection and strong provocation. It will seize your imagination and rattle sedentary lives.
1. Wind, Sand, and Stars, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Like his most famous creation, The Little Prince, Saint-Exupéry disappeared into the sky. He was a pioneering pilot for Aéropostale in the 1920s, carrying mail over the deadly Sahara on the Toulouse-Dakar route, encountering cyclones, marauding Moors, and lonely nights: “So in the heart of the desert, on the naked rind of the planet, in an isolation like that of the beginnings of the world, we built a village of men. Sitting in the flickering light of the candles on this kerchief of sand, on this village square, we waited out the night.” This book is Humane, poetic and no other writer has distilled the sheer spirit of adventure so beautifully.
2. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
It’s a story about following your dreams. A young shepherd boy from Spain to Egypt as he follows his heart, goes with the flow, learns to love, and learns the meaning of life. The book is filled with wonderful and inspirational quotes, such as, “If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man… Life will be a party for you, a grand festival, because life is the moment we’re living right now.”
3. The Explorers: A Story of Fearless Outcasts, Blundering Geniuses, and Impossible Success, Martin Dugard
In the mid 19th Century, bombastic Richard Francis Burton and bookish John Hanning Speke emerged from their renowned expedition in search of the source of the Nile River with differing conclusion n. Their ensuing feud would create an international sensation, overshadowing the courage and perseverance they showed in overcoming the remarkable adversity that confronted their perilous journey.
4. My Journey to Lhasa, Alexandra David-Neel
A professor of Eastern religion and Tibetan language, Alexandra was indisputably a fearless traveler, a rogue’s rogue who, in 1923, disguised as an illiterate pilgrim, became the first Western woman to reach Tibet’s forbidden city.
Alexandra and a young Sikkimese monk stuck together in an escapade that involves everything from fooling the locals with their disguises to crossing 19,000-foot passes at night.
5. Denali’s Howl: The Deadliest Climbing Disaster on America’s Wildest Peak, Andy Hall
Seven members of a mountaineering team died on Mount McKinley in 1967 after being hammered by an epic, weeklong storm. Their remains are buried beneath the Alaskan snow to this day. Few people were closer to the tragedy as it unfolded than Andy Hall, the 5 year-old son of the park superintendent at the time.
6. Running the Amazon, Joe Kane
He’s the only American among nine men and one woman attempting the first descent of the Amazon. It’s that combination of interpersonal struggle and poignant scenes of life on the river that elevates Running the Amazon above the deluge of first-descent books. That and the fact that Kane had 4,200 miles of material to work with.
7. Love With a Chance of Drowning
The description of the scenery, the people and the authors experience will make you want to follow her steps in overcoming her fear of the ocean to sail across the Pacific with her boyfriend.
8. A Walk in The Woods, Bill Bryson
In his lazy pal Stephen Katz, Bryson couldn’t have picked a less prepared partner for an attempt on the Appalachian Trail nor a better comic foil. “For two days, Katz barely spoke to me. On the second night, at nine o’clock, an unlikely noise came from his tent the punctured-air click of a beverage can being opened and he said in a pugnacious tone, ‘Do you know what that was, Bryson? Cream soda. You know what else? I’m drinking it right now. And I’m not giving you any. And you know what else? It’s delicious.'”
9. In a Sunburned Country, Bill Bryson
A journey through Australia, from east to west, through tiny little mining towns, forgotten coastal cities, and off-the-beaten-path forests. This will inspire you to come to Australia.
10. Tracks, Robyn Davidson
At 27, this Australian girl arrived in Alice Springs with 6 dollars, trained 2 wild camels, and set off for the Indian Ocean with the semiferal dromedaries, two tame ones, and her dog. Reaching the ocean after 1,700 miles, she “rode down that stunningly, gloriously fantastic pleistocene coastline with the fat sun bulging on to a flat horizon and all I could muster was a sense of it all having finished too abruptly, so that I couldn’t get tabs on the fact that it was over.”
11. The Worst Journey in the World, Apsley Cherry-Garrard
A first-person account of this infamous sufferfest is a chilling testimonial to what happens when things really go south.”The horrors of that return journey are blurred to my memory and I know they were blurred to my body at the time. I think this applies to all of us, for we were much weakened and callous. The day we got down to the penguins I had not cared whether I fell into a crevasse or not.”
12. In Patagonia, Bruce Chatwin
A personal quest to find the origins of boyhood fascination, “a piece of brontosaurus” supposedly recovered from a thawed glacier in Punta Arenas by Chatwin’s seafaring cousin. Chatwin’s haunting images stay with us, reminding that we are in a messed-up, astonishing world.
13. Sailing Alone Around the World, Captain Joshua Slocum
A century later, Slocum’s account of the first-ever solo circumnavigation of the earth, and then some, on his 37-foot sloop.
Few contemporary sailing accounts come close to matching Slocum’s logs…
14. A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, Eric Newby
He’s the backpacker without a cause, the sort who gives himself over to the journey a quite ambitious trek through Afghanistan’s rugged Nuristan region certain that only by blundering forward can the purpose of the excursion be revealed. Newby reminds us that even a valid passport is inessential to traveling. All you really need is to be into it!
15. Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer
Into the Wild reminds us that the very qualities of being in the wilderness that thrill and restore us or lead us.