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Where ever you live and whatever your job, the chances are you’ve got a bit of extra spare time on your hands right now. Noone’s going out in the evenings and we’re not travelling. While in some countries you’re still free to go outside, everything seems a bit doom and gloom and that’s where this list of best outdoor adventure books can help. I know, it doesn’t seem like much but we could all do with a bit of escapism. Netflix is great and all but there are only so many times you can rewatch all 10 series of Friends (but I don’t think I’ve found that limit yet!).
So, if you’re wondering how to fill your evenings now you can’t go out order one of these books (either from Amazon or see if your local bookstore will deliver), or use your library’s online services and feel like you’re on a great adventure without leaving the couch. If you’re looking to save money, Kindle Unlimited is a great option which includes unlimited reading, audiobooks and magazine subscriptions. The first month is free so it’s totally worth checking out and getting these books for adventurers downloaded.
Best outdoor adventure books you need to read
Grab a cuppa or a ‘quarantini‘ if you’re feeling fancy and get stuck in to this list of the best adventure books! These feature real adventure stories from adventure writers that will transport you a million miles away, from the best modern adventure novels to historical adventure books there’s something for all adventurers.
The Sun is a Compass: A 4,000 Mile Journey into the Alaskan Wilds, Caroline Van Hemert
As adventure novels go, man, this book is one hell of an adventure. This non-fiction adventure book follows the adventurous author, Caroline, and her partner’s incredible (and scary-sounding) adventures. The biggest of these is the great adventure they plan where the pair go travelling through 4,000 miles of wilderness to the tip of Alaska. If it’s Alaska adventure books you’re after, pick this one.
The couple has to fight off bears, overcome near starvation and more. Along the way she contemplates how to fit a love of adventure into a life of work she loves in science and building a family. One of the best true adventure books I’ve read.
The Great Railway Bazaar, Paul Theroux
Less of an outdoor adventure book but an adventure none the less, The Great Railway Bazaar is one of those class adventure books. Make sure to add this famous adventure book to your list of books to read while social distancing.
I read this while we were travelling on the Trans-Siberian Railway last summer which I’m sure added to my enjoyment. However, where ever you read this I’m sure you’ll be able to picture yourself on some of the trains described on the pages. You’ll travel on some of the world’s best train journeys from Lonon to Japan and back again with funny observations, and interesting tales along the way. It’s easy to see why it’s one of the best adventure books of all time.
What I was doing while you were breeding, Kristin Newman
If you’ve ever felt like you’re the only one in your group of friends who is not buying a house, married or pregnant (oh, hi!), then this book’s for you. This hilarious travel adventure book follows Kristin Newman as she travels the world and meets men all over the world who offer her emotion connection without having to give up her freedom.
There are encounters with Israeli bartenders, Finnish poker players, sexy Bedouins, and Argentinean priests which make it one of the greatest adventure romance books.
Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt Everest Disaster, Jon Krakauer
I can’t believe I’d never read this adventure travel classic until the end of last year. It’s widely considered one of the best adventure novels and it was a consistent bestseller. It’s one of those adventure books for adults that everyone should know about.
It’s not the most upbeat of novels but it is a fascinating read and a really interesting insight into one of the most disastrous years on Mt Everest. If you’re looking for the best action adventure books to read, try this one!
Welcome to the Goddam Ice Cube, Blair Braverman
Of all the great adventure books on the list, this is one of the ones I read most recently. Having followed Blair on Twitter for a while (yes, for the photos of her cute sleddog team), I was excited to read this book. I had no idea about the difficulties of trying to break into the sledging world as a woman. Whilst this is a hard read at times, I really came to admire her strength and loved the insight into life in the ice cube.
How to Shit in the Woods,
This book has been the guide to how to do that as an outdoors person in an environmentally friendly way. It’s widely seen as one of the best wilderness adventure books for what it can teach you.
With more and more people getting outside into the backcountry every year this has never been more important to read. After all, do you really want to go out camping and find toilet paper or worse next to where the tents are supposed to go? Or end up with polluted water systems.
I learnt so much from reading this book and it’s perfect reading to prepare you for any outdoor adventures you’re planning (they’re still great for when you’re stuck at home at the moment!).
Pants of Perspective, Anna McNuff
I follow Anna McNuff and her adventures on Instagram and was excited to read this, her first book. It follows her adventure as she runs the length of New Zealand on the 3,000km Te Araroa Trail.
Anna is hilarious and this book offers the perfect escapism while we’re housebound. You’ll feel like you’re hiking in New Zealand right alongside her and honestly, I think I’ve just convinced myself to go re-read this book.
She also has a second book out about cycling across the USA (see below) which is just as enjoyable!
50 Shades of the USA, Anna McNuff
Anna’s 2nd book tells the story of the time she decided to cycle 11,000 miles through each state of the USA after becoming disillusioned with corporate life. It’s funny, heartwarming and will give you a better insight into America from the eyes of an outsider. Having travelled across the USA myself (albeit in a van!), it was interesting to see what someone else thoughts were and recognises places I, too, had been to.
Adventureman, Jamie McDonald
Adventureman is written by Anna McNuff’s boyfriend and tells the story of his adventure as he ran across Canada raising money for children’s hospitals after he spent a lot of his own childhood in one.
I saw Jamie and Anna talk during their book tour leg in Vancouver a couple of years ago and was dying to read their books afterwards.
This book also takes you through Jamie’s life up to the point he runs across Canada and it’s truly one of the best adventure stories as he overcomes personal difficulties. In 2019 he ran across the USA which I’m also looking forward to reading.
Find a Way, Diana Nyad
I listened to a podcast interview with Diana Nyad and her attempts to swim across from Cuba to Florida. It’s not an easy swim and one that she’d attempted before and failed due to very near death by jellyfish and poor weather. But, on September 2, 2013, at the age of sixty-four, Nyad emerged onto the sands of Key West after swimming 111 miles in fifty-three hours.
The book takes you on a journey through Nyad’s life both personally and in relation to swimming. It’s one of the best non fiction adventure books I’ve read and it’ll have you truly believing anything’s possible.
As I walked out one midsummer morning, Laurie Lee
I’m a big fan of Alastair Humphrey’s books about his big adventures. While I waited for his book about his time spent travelling across Spain playing the violin I thought I’d read the book which inspired his journey.
I found it a little hard to get in to at first but once the journey starts and Lee beings walking across Spain it’ll awaken your sense of adventure. One of the classic and best travel adventure books to read!
Get it here (probably lots of secondhand copies in bookstores too, that’s where I got mine!)
Pretty much everything written by Bill Bryson
When we were travelling across the US in our van I read a lot of books by Bill Bryson. I’d read The Road to Little Dribbling when it first came out and loved it. If you want a humorous look into the UK from the eyes on a foreigner read it for sure! Whilst in the US I thought I’d read some of the books by Bryson based in the States.
f you opt for Notes From A Big Country then be aware that some of the materials from the other books is repeated in one. That’s as he used it in his columns when writing for The Mail on Sunday. Having said that, Notes From A Big Country acts as a great introduction if you’re new to Bryson – you’ll quickly see why he’s one of the most well known and popular travel writers. His observations are always hilarious and on point!
Born to Run, Christopher McDougall
I absolutely LOVED this book. The first time I read it I was trying to get into running for an upcoming half marathon. That probably helped my enjoyment but I think even if you hate running you won’t be able to help but find this book interesting.
The book takes a look at the mysterious Tarahumara tribe who live in the Mexican canyons. They’re reputed to be the best distance runners in the world; in 1993, one of them, aged 57, came first in a prestigious 100-mile race wearing a toga and sandals!
The book makes you question everything you thought you knew about running as you learn about the tribe. By the end it even had me wanting to try out an ultra marathon, and now, 3 years later I’ve actually signed up to a marathon! The marathon is cancelled now, but I’m still out running.
All adventure books by Alastair Humphreys
Alastair Humphreys has a style of writing that I love. It’s funny, entertaining and will probably make you cry at points too. You really feel like you’re living the highs and the lows that come with his adventures.
My first read of his was Moods of Future Joys from his adventure book series documenting cycling around the world. Humphreys heads from England to the tip of Africa through Egypt and Sudan. This means it’s perfect if you’re looking for an African adventure book to read. The second, Thunder and Sunshine, covers the rest of the trip and is just as enjoyable (if not more so) than the first.
I’ve also loved There are Other Rivers which is in a different style than the above books. This one tells the story of when Alastair Humphreys walked across India following the course of a holy river. He walked alone and spent nights under the stars or in the homes of strangers. India is a fascinating country and this book gives you a very interesting insight into the people that live there and the nature that surrounds them.
While I’ve yet to read it, My Midsummer Morning, where Alastair recreated the journey of Laurie Lee mentioned above, is sure to be another great read. One I’m adding to my list while we’re at home!