Monday, May 20, 2013

An Adventure Dozen...

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It all began with Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Journey. That audiobook started me on a journey of seeking books chronicling the courage of men and women the world around. Although some of the best stories took place in the extremities of the world such as both Poles, mountain tops and deep caves, books like Letters of a Woman Homesteader or Alaska Nellie captured my attention and didn't let go.  These were pioneering women who not only battled the elements, wildlife, but men's bruised egos jealous of their accomplishments. So from the frozen Greenland tundra to the Land Down Under, from the desert to the ocean, from a South American mountain peak and the skies over Africa to a cannibal-inhabited valley, here are a dozen of my favorite adventure memoirs. NOTE: These are not listed in any special order.

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This book started it all. Once I read Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage , true life adventure memoirs had me hooked! Reading about Shackleton and his crew's bravery inspired me.

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Mountain climbing disaster books get repetitious after a while. Similar stories, different mountains....but I loved this one for Joe Simpson's humility and courage while another bonus is the quality of writing. Most thrill seekers don't write as well as Simpson does in Touching the Void.

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Take one motherless daughter, a frequently absent father, surround her with the wilds and beauty of Kenya, teach her how to survive indigenously and voila! you discovered Beryl Markham. There's nothing this lady couldn't do! Rescue pilot, adventure, a true female adrenaline junkie. West with the Night is a fun read.

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One of my all-time favorite books. This is a turn-of-the-20th-century account of retired sea captain Joshua Slocum's Sailing Alone Around the World. Slocum meets South American headhunters, Mrs. Robert Louis Stevenson at her island habitat, weathers perilous storms....A delightful read!

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Lost in Shangri-la   What to do when a plane crashes in a mountain-encased valley in an area of New Guinea where evidence of cannibals abounds? Its WWII and the base camp is busy fighting a war in the Pacific when a pleasure trip to Shangri-la turns positively hellish.

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Frozen in Time by Mitchell Zuckoff 
Greenland. What a misnomer for the part of this ice-covered country where WWII planes get disoriented in snowstorms crashing into glaciers and frozen tundra. However, its makes terrific reading material with its Arctic heroes, daredevils, dog sled teams and its never-before (and probably never-since) rescue attempts.

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In a Sunburned Country    No one writes a humorous travel memoir like Bill Bryson. I read this years ago and still remember parts of it like I read it yesterday. It also is to blame for my desire to visit Australia.

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Kon-tiki     Okay, so Thor Heyerdahl's migration theories have been conclusively disproven...Who cares! I loved this book for its crazy derring-do. You have to be nuts to cross a healthy stretch of ocean on a log raft, right?

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Skeletons on the Zahara offers shipwreck, capture by desert nomads, survival and sometimes not. One of those books that stay with you a long, long time and impress you with the power of man's will to live.

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Alaska Nellie       My all-time favorite memoir. Spunky Nellie Neal pursues adventure in Alaska. Tougher than most of the men on the road crew that stops at her roadhouse to eat. More courageous than most of the men living in wilderness isolation when faced with a charging bear. No one is quite like Nellie!

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Letters of a Woman Homesteader   How many women could homestead in the newly-opened Western territory and survive, let alone thrive? I loved reading every one of these letters. Another spunky lady driven to conquer the land and who finds love in the process.

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A Schoolteacher in Old Alaska      Hannah Breece is a spinster schoolteacher who doesn't allow her marital status to label her. Instead she seeks adventure while doing what she loves, educating children and adults eager to learn. Inspirational.

(in no special order)

1.  National Geographic's Top 100 Adventure Books
2.    Amazon's Top True Adventure Books
3.    Outside Magazine's Top 25 Books for the Well-read Explorer 
4.    Library Thing's Top 100 Adventure Books 
5.    Goodreads Trailblazing Women Adventurers List
6.    Good Non-fiction Books for Teens (Downer's Grove Library) 
7.    Kirkus Best Non-fiction Books for Children  
8.    The Essential Adventure Library for Men 
9.    More Magazine's Ten Outdoor Adventure Books Not to Miss 
10.  WSJ's Recommended Outdoor Adventure Books 
11.  National Outdoor Book Awards 2012 Winners List 
12.  Telegraph's Nature Books to Nurture a Sense of Adventure (kids) 

* The May Edition of New Books Reviews


  1. Ugh...I think my TBR is about to get even longer...all of the above books look so exciting!

  2. Oh my gosh!!! I am salivating over the dozen books you've described. And what reader doesn't love a list or more?! There goes the TBR. Ha!

  3. I love the lists at the end. My TBR hates them.
    Seeing how you like female travellers, have you read Freya Stark as well?

  4. Uh oh. Lol! This is a good problem, right? Please don't expect much sympathy from me, as all three of you are responsible for my mile-long tbr.

    @SR Re: Freya Stark, I struggled reading Valley of Assassins and just couldn't do it. That was a book I so wanted to like.