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If you like reading books about travel and adventure here is my list of recommendations
As a traveller, I find that there is plenty of downtimes to fill, especially as we move from place to place. This is a great time to catch up with my reading (or blogging). In recent times I have grown addicted to reading about exploration and adventure. I am not a brave or adventurous person, but I like to experience vicariously through others who chose or are thrown into testing and dangerous situations that I hope never to find myself in a similar position.
Below are listed some books I have read and enjoyed covering adventures all around the world – hopefully, if you have a similar interest in these types of stories you might be inspired to check some of these out for yourself.
1. BLOOD RIVER – TIM BUTCHER
Tim Butcher is a professional speaker, author and journalist. Earlier in his career, he worked as a war journalist covering conflicts in Europe, South America and Africa. During this time he developed a yearning to undertake a challenging project to follow the same route by explorer and journalist Henry Morton Stanley.
Butcher does a great job of storytelling his journey the difficulties he faced and the fascinating people he met along his way. He also provides some illuminating background into the history of this troubled country; from the days of colonialism to the troubled times after independence.
2. TOUCHING THE VOID – JOE SIMPSON
‘Touching the Void”, a book I have read several times, follows two climbers, Joe Simpson (the author of the book) and Simon Yates (whose personal narrative is also documented) who decided to the 6,344-metre (20814-foot) Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andres in 1985. It is a challenging peak, the first successful ascent was in 1936, but Simpson and Yates decided to take on the previously unclimbed West Face. Their route took them up ice walls with precipitous drops and along ridges with dangerous cornices, spending their night’s camping in snow caves to avoid freezing cold temperatures. They successfully reached the summit, their real problems started on the way down and the closing in of the weather.
3. RUNNING THE AMAZON – JOE KANE
Despite his lack of experience of water adventure, in 1995 Joe Kane joined a group of adventurers intent on being the first American to travel the full 4,200-mile length of what may be the world’s most treacherous river: the Amazon. The team he joined was an experienced multinational team of river explorers that planned to navigate the river from its source high up in the Peruvian Andes to the point where it flows out into the Atlantic Ocean – a feat that had never been accomplished. His role was to chronicle the adventure.
4. THE RIVER OF DOUBT, THEODORE ROOSEVELT’S DARKEST JOURNEY – CANDICE MILLARD
“The River of Doubt” by Candice Millard sets out to tell the story of Roosevelt and his partners in the adventure as they cross thick jungles and mountains overland before setting out on their river journey. She starts by giving a background to what brought Roosevelt to this endeavour and the other key players in the yarn. Needless to say, things didn’t go to plan from the outset which had unexpected impacts as the story unfolds. She also does a great job of describing the arduous nature of the expedition and paints a wonderful image of the Amazon Jungle; its flora, fauna and indigenous peoples.
5. KON-TIKI, ACROSS THE PACIFIC IN A RAFT – THOR HEYERDAHL
The famous Norweigan explorer Thor Heyerdahl has a theory that the islands of the Pacific Ocean could have been first settled by pre-Colombian explorers from South America rather than the common belief that these settlers came from the North and West. In 1947 he and a crew of four set-offs from Peru on a simple balsa wood raft named Kontiki on a 5000-mile journey to prove this theory.
Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific in a Raft is Heyerdahl’s personal account on the adventure, from its early concepts, building the raft and a detailed retelling of the journey.
6. NO PICNIC ON MOUNT KENYA: A DARING ESCAPE, A PERILOUS CLIMB- FELICE BENUZZI
Confined to an endless cycle of boredom and frustration, one prisoner, Felice Benuzzi, realizes he can bear it no longer. When the clouds covering Mount Kenya part one morning to reveal its towering peaks for the first time, Benuzzi is transfixed. The tedium of camp life is broken by the beginnings of a sudden idea, an outrageous, dangerous, brilliant idea – to escape and climb the mountain.
This true and amazing story is told in a detail by Benuzzi in his book in an amusing and entertaining way. An easy read.
7. INTO THIN AIR: A PERSONAL ACCOUNT OF THE MOUNT EVEREST DISASTER- JOHN KRAKAUER
In the 1990s John Krakauer was a contributor to Outside Magazine, a renown adventure publication when in 1996 they asked him to join a guided team to ascend Mount Everest. Krakauer was in a team led by Rob Hall. At the same time, another team was attempting the ascent led by Scott Fischer. Both men successfully guided clients to the summit but experienced severe difficulty during the descent as a massive storm hit the mountain. Sadly, several people, including the head guides lost their lives. This book tells the story from the perspective of John Krakauer.
8. ALIVE: THE STORY OF THE ANDES SURVIVORS – PIERS PAUL READ
This is the incredible story of a group of mostly young and inexperienced men who find themselves stranded in one of the most inhospitable places on the planet with very limited resources on which to live and how they found the spirit and desire to survive despite the odds stacked against them.
The author, Piers Paul Reid, wrote this book just a couple of years after the tragedy and was able to talk to those who were involved while their memories were still fresh. He goes into great detail (a warning for those who are little squeamish) and tells the stories of those stranded in the mountains and their frantic families who seek answers not knowing whether their loved ones were alive or dead. This is an amazing story of survival and heroism in a time when the technology was not around to aid the search for the crash site. It is one of the most incredible adventure stories I have ever read about.
9. ENDURANCE: SHACKLETON’S INCREDIBLE VOYAGE – ALFRED LANSING
This book captures a remarkable story of bravery, grit and determination. In August 1914 the 28 man crew of the British Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914–16) left England under Shackleton’s leadership aboard the Endurance. Things did not turn out as planned and the tale becomes not one of achievement and success in the traditional sense but an incredible journey into the unknown and a battle for their lives.
10. TRACKS – ROBYN DAVIDSON
When Robyn Davidson arrived in Alice Springs in 1975 she had a crazy plan travel across the Australian desert with four camels. She knew the journey would be hard but just getting ready to go proved tougher than she expected.
Davidson got a job as a barmaid at the local pub, where she was labelled the town’s “next rape case”. Soon thereafter, Davidson goes to meet the first camel-man, Sallay Mahomet. Sallay is confident working with the animals, but he sees how unprepared Davidson is for her trek and refuses to work with her.
After nearly two years of gruelling work, Davidson has her four camels and enough knowledge of these amazing beasts to contemplate her dream of travelling 1700 miles across the deserts of Australia.
11. THE STOWAWAY: A YOUNG MAN’S EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURE TO ANTARCTICA – LAURIE GWEN SHAPIRO
Young New Yorker Billy Gawronski dreamt of escaping his humdrum life, not wishing to join the family business and joining his hero, explorer Richard Byrd on a high-adventure in Antarctica. He had no qualifications so his only option was to stow away on the expedition’s vessels.
This is a truly aspirational story of a young person fulfilling their dreams. Laurie Shapiro fills the book with information about the characters and events that shaped this period in history. She almost tries too hard to fill the tome with historical facts but I will let her off as I love to gorge on such chronicles. The book is very easy to digest so it is a great one to pick up and read on your travels.
12. THE LAST WILD MEN OF BORNEO: A TRUE STORY OF DEATH AND TREASURE – CHAD HOFFMAN
In The Last Wild Men of Borneo, author Carl Hoffman tells the stories of two Westerners who spent their lives in Borneo during the 1970s and 1980s, when it was still largely wild and unexplored. Their personal journies are very different, but they both become embroiled in the changing nature of this beautiful land where orangutans roamed the jungles and tribes of native Borneans lived their lives as the had done for hundreds of years, unexposed to the outside world.