An Adventurer’s Bookshelf: Adventure Books and Inspirational Books for Life

One of the greatest disappearing acts of life is into the literary realm of adventure books and inspirational books. Want an escape to worlds beyond? Grab a book. It’s an enormously satisfying way to live adventurously.

Ever wonder what adventurers read for a vanishing act when they can’t literally hit the road? In our case, it’s a busman’s holiday. We read about what other adventurers have done and books that inspire us in building our Greatness Puzzle.

If you are looking to be inspired to adventure or create a vision for your life, here are a few suggestions from Sharkman and Mantagirl’s collection.

Sharkman’s Favorite Adventure Books and Inspirational Books

1. Song of the Dodo ~ David Quammen. “Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinction”. Quammen takes you on adventures in a quest for scientific knowledge about evolution and extinction.

2. Deep Survival ~ Laurence Gonzales. “Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why”. Gonzales explains through gripping tales of survival the “science” behind survival “out there.”

3. Annapurna ~ Maurice Herzog. An unforgettable account of the heroic effort to climb the world’s first 8000 meter peak which happens to be one of the world’s deadliest mountains. Sharkman loved the the great historical background on climbing.

4. Endurance ~ Alfred Lansing. “Shakleton’s Incredible Voyage”. Sharkman calls it the most epic feat in all of adventure.

5. A Sand County Almanac ~ Aldo Leopold. Full of beauty, vigor and bite, this is a classic work for those interested in protecting the natural world.

6. Undaunted Courage ~ Stephen Ambrose. A highly detailed but narrative telling of the Lewis and Clark expedition. One of the greatest expedition/adventures in history and an amazing glimpse into what the American West was like before settlement.

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Mantagirl’s Favorite Adventure Books and Inspirational Books

 1. I Married Adventure ~ Osa Johnson. “The Lives of Martin and Osa Johnson”. This book was written in the 40’s and documents Osa’s worldwide voyages of adventure with her husband. Quite a feat for a woman in the early 1900’s. I adored this book.

2. The Solace of Open Spaces ~ Gretel Ehrlich. Gretel inspired me when I was just 18 years old with this book. She writes of the western US and her tales of working on a sheep ranch. It moved me to go west as a young girl. Beautiful narrative.

3. Pillars of the Earth ~ Ken Follett. While technically not an adventure book, the intrigue for Mantagirl of “Pillars” is the immense vision. The book follows generations of stone masons building the great cathedrals of Europe. Hard to imagine today, someone having a vision so grand that they know they will never see the culmination of it in their lifetime. It inspires to get out and live big.

4. The Ascent of Rum Doodle ~ W.E. Bowman. I adore this book. A quick read, completely satirical look at mountain climbing. Outrageously funny and completely wacky. It makes great fun of adventure.

5. No Shortcuts to the Top ~ Ed Viesturs. “Climbing the World’s 14 Highest Peaks”. While Ed will not win any contests for literary skill (unlike his mountaineering skills!), this book was a great introduction for me to the risks and uncertainty of mountaineering just before I left for Tibet. I pretty much read it straight through.

6. 1421 ~ Gavin Menzies. “The Year China Discovered America”. The history of the great Chinese treasure fleets. It will turn your idea of history and discovery upside down. I continue to be amazed at what the world accomplished in terms of exploration hundreds of years ago.  Gets a little long at the end.

7. The Alchemist ~ Paulo Coehlo. A seminal work of fictional adventure and life. The Alchemist explains that “no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dream.” A must have for the library.

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Sharkman and Mantagirl’s Collective Favorite Adventure Books

 1. Desert Solitaire ~ Edward Abbey. Abbey’s passion for the environment grabs you as he shares his experiences and views living in the desert southwest as a seasonal park ranger – who becomes so much more.

2. Over the Edge of the World ~ Lawrence Bergreen. “Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe.” Wow, what a story of discovering the straits that bear his name. A must read for adventurers.

3. Blue Latitudes ~ Tony Horwitz. “Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before.” A wild ride across hemispheres and centuries to recapture the Captain’s adventures.

4. The Art of Racing in the Rain ~ Garth Stein. Lesson’s of life told by Enzo the dog. It’s about believing that you are everything and everything is you. Hard to describe. You just have to read it.

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What adventure books inspire you?  Tell us below.

Want to help support The Adventure Couple? If you would like to purchase any of these books, you can do so through The Adventure Couple’s Amazon Store.  An easy click away, it supports this website and costs you nothing.


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One Response to An Adventurer’s Bookshelf: Adventure Books and Inspirational Books for Life

  1. Andy April 25, 2012 at 11:22 am #

    Many years ago, I read Paul Theroux’ “The Great Railway Bazaar”… 6 months later, I quite my job and headed out the door – not for the Trans-Siberian Express, but for travel nonetheless (mostly the South Pacific). While in New Zealand, I read “Riding the Iron Rooster”, and when I got to Sydney, promptly went to the Chinese embassy and applied for a visa to China.

    That was 20 years ago (I celebrated my 30th birthday at the Franz Josef Glacier on the South Island of New Zealand, New Years in the mining town of Mt Isa in Australia)… I haven’t done as extensive a trip since, but one of these days, I am going to get to that Trans-Mongolian railway (you have to read both of those Paul Theroux books!). Thanks for the inspiration, Paul!


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