The best books on adventure

Reading travel books can be be a great way to learn and to enjoy yourself, but also a way of inspiration. Here is a brief list of some of my favourite books which have adventure at its core.

Travels with Charley – John Steinbeck

Steinbeck is one of the most infamous American authors to have ever lived. His writing is centred on America and the people of America during the Dust Bowl. His desire to truly understand America led to this travelogue. In 1960, Steinbeck said bye to his wife and set off in his truck with his dog to drive around the America. All around America he drove. His emphasis on people is what makes this book special. Steinbeck truly desired to know people from all walks of life. You get a glimpse into these people and his interactions with them. His love of his wife is a common thread throughout this book as he deals with missing her and his home.

“We do not take a trip, a trip takes us”

A Walk in the Woods – Bill Bryson

The story of when Bill Bryson at the age of 44 attempted to hike the Appalachian trail. The Appalachian trail is probably the most well-known long-distance hiking trail in the world. It is part of the Triple Crown trails and stretches 3540km from Georgia to Maine. Yes, it’s a tale of adventure but also one of friendship. Bryson hikes the trail with his estranged childhood friend Katz. The two together embark on this journey which involves a lot of walking, bears, murder, and storms. The duo is bound to make you laugh as they navigate their way north but also to inspire you to not let age affect your dreams.

“Life takes on a neat simplicity, too. Time ceases to have any meaning. When it is dark, you go to bed, and when it is light again you get up, and everything in between is just in between. It’s quite wonderful, really.”

Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer

This may be my favourite on this list. An unconventional coming of age tale of an unrelentless idealistic dreamer. This book is Krakauer’s attempt to reconstruct the story of Christopher McCandless. McCandless was from a well-off family in America, and he graduated from Emory College in 1990. He then gave all his money to charity, left his family and hit the road. The book details his adventures as a leather tramp hitchhiking around America. His end goal is to get to Alaska where he can go and live in the wild. Many will call him insane or certainly unstable. A lover of Tolstoy, he rejected the idea of the American dream and excess. He chose instead to live a simple, free life with his backpack and a diet of berries and rice. It’s a story of an uncompromising youthful dreamer and the effect of his dreams on others.

“The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”

Walden – Henry David Thoreau

Walden is a treatise on transcendentalism, a celebration of freedom and at the same time a beautifully written memoir. Thoreau built himself a small cabin by Walden Pond and lived there for over 2 years. In this book Thoreau recounts his time living in his cabin and expounds the beauty of simple living and his love of nature. From this book one can almost take a philosophy and maxims to live by.

“Here is life, an experiment to a great extent untried by me; but it does not avail me that they have tried it”

My First Summer in the Sierra – John Muir

John Muir is a renowned conservationist and author. Here is his journal record of his time living with a shepherd and his herd in Yosemite Valley. Living in the Sierra, he goes off on adventures any chance he gets to explore the mountains that surround him. His appreciation and love of nature is powerful. His descriptions of the beauty he sees make this book an escapist’s dream.

“The charms of these mountains are beyond all common reason, unexplainable and mysterious as life itself.”

Don Quixote – Miguel de Cervantes

Debatably the first modern novel ever written, it is the story of Quixote who envisions himself as a knight-errant who goes on adventures to save those in despair. Whilst a dense book with much going on, the figure of Don Quixote I see as an inspiration to see adventure in the mundane. To go around the world and not to treat anything as uninteresting. To be a constant thrill-seeker, to be enthralled by the ordinary and to see adventure where most would not.

“If you will not be ruled, but will needs run wondering over hill and dale, like a stray soul between Heaven and Hell”

On the Road, The Sea is my Brother and Dharma Bums – Jack Kerouac

Kerouac is likely my favourite author, a true lover of life even in its misery. These books show his spontaneity, his love of nature, of solitude and his passion for living. Across his books, his travels are central. From driving across America and into Mexico, to living the solitary existence of a fire lookout on Desolation peak to hiking up mountains. His freedom for the moment and his vision of people packing up their rucksacks and taking to the hills in a backpack revolution. This vision has inspired me and many others to take to nature and revel in it. His writing evokes this philosophy which is largely dependent on hitting the road and rolling with whatever that entails at any cost.

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars”

On the Road

“I shall be free at all times, at all costs: the spirit flourishes only in the free”

The Sea is my Brother

“The whole thing is a world full of rucksack wanderers, Dharma Bums refusing to subscribe to the general demand that they consume production and therefore have to work for the privilege of consuming… all of them imprisoned in a system of work, produce, consume, work, produce, consume, I see a vision of a great rucksack revolution.”

Dharma Bums


Featured Image: image by Dariusz Sankowski on Unsplash




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