Ten books for Adventure Inspiration
Sometimes you need a push. Something that will make you stand up and say “right, I’m off out for a bit”. Something that will change your ideas and make your feet itch.
So many of my adventures, big and small, have begun with a book. Reading about somebody else’s story, their highs and lows and that swing from triumph to disaster and back helps me reflect on my own trips, and pushes me to start planning the next one.
This list is just a starter, and I know that you could probably think of one or two (or ten!) other titles that could be added to the list. If you have a book to share then please add it to the comments below!
Fire Season (Philip Connors)
‘I’ve watched deer and elk frolic in the meadow below me, and pine trees explode in a blue ball of smoke. If there’s a better job anywhere on the planet, I’d like to know what it is.’
Philip Connors spent the best part of a decade as a US Forest Service fire lookout, alone in millions of acres of American wilderness. This book is part diary and part examination of what the modern wilderness is, and how we interact with it.
Waterlog: A Swimmer’s Journey Through Briatin (Roger Deakin)
Roger Deakin set out in 1996 to swim through the British Isles. The result a uniquely personal view of an island race and a people with a deep affinity for water. From the sea, from rock pools, from rivers and streams, tarns, lakes, lochs, ponds, lidos, swimming pools and spas, from fens, dykes, moats, aqueducts, waterfalls, flooded quarries, even canals, Deakin gains a fascinating perspective on modern Britain.
One Man’s Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey (Sam Keith / Richard Proenneke)
To live in a pristine land unchanged by man…to roam a wilderness through which few other humans have passed…to choose an idyllic site, fell trees, and build a log cabin…to be a self-sufficient craftsman…to be content with your own thoughts and company…Thousands have such dreams. Few realise them. This is the inspiring true tale of one man’s journey to leave the rat race and live a simpler life in the wilderness. Using journals, photographs, and a first-hand knowledge of his subject, Sam Keith has woven a tribute to a man who carved his dreams out of the Alaskan wilderness.
Skywalker: Close Encounters on the Appalachian Trail (Bill Walker)
Bill Walker, a former commodities trader in Chicago and London, and an avid ‘streetwalker’, had developed a virtual obsession to thru-hike the AT, which runs for fourteen states from Georgia to Maine. In the early spring of 2005 he set off, determined to hike this Georgia-to-northern Maine wilderness trail before the arrival of winter. Immediately, he realized he had plunged into a whole new world. The AT has some ferociously difficult terrain, winding through dramatically diverse geography, and covers the very highest peaks in the East. Walker’s near 7-foot height earned him the trail name, Skywalker, and drew raves from fellow hikers.
Fiva: An Adventure That Went Wrong (Roger Phillips)
The epic true account from Gordon Stainforth of a near-death experience on a mountain in Norway in 1969. In the summer of 1969, as Apollo 11 was blasting off to the moon, two teenage twin brothers, with only three years’ mountaineering experience, set off to climb one of the highest rock faces in Europe. With just two bars of chocolate, some sandwiches, a four-sentence route description and an old sketch map, they left their tent early one morning with the full expectation of being back in time for tea. Within a few hours things had gone badly wrong, they were looking death in the face, and the English Home Counties seemed very far away…
The Good Life: Up the Yukon without a Paddle (Dorian Amos)
“We knew nothing about the wilderness, but in a way that was our greatest strength… We would probably fail daily and eventually have to give up, but true failing for us, would have been to not even try.” Told with warmth and humour, this is the compelling account of a young couple who give up a comfortable life in England to start a new one in the wilderness of the Yukon. They revel in the stark beauty of the landscape and rise to the challenges that confront them – crossing frozen rivers, mushing huskies, hunting caribou, facing bears, avoiding wolves and building their own log cabin from the materials around them.
The Wild Life: A Year of Living on Wild Food (John Lewis-Stempel)
Walking around his Herefordshire farm one October, John Lewis-Stempel saw a trout flash in the brook, mushrooms sprinkle the fields, a squirrel eat hazelnuts, and thought: Wouldn’t it be wonderful if one could live just on what Nature provided for free?
The Wild Life is John’s account of twelve months eating only food shot, caught or foraged from the fields, hedges, copse and brook of his forty-acre farm. Nothing from a shop and nothing raised from agriculture. Could it even be done?
The Great Escape: Adventures on the Wild West Coast (Monty Halls)
A diary of adventure in picturesque Sand Bay, The Great Escape: Adventures on the Wild West Coast takes readers on an extraordinary journey as writer and explorer Monty Halls follows his dream of becoming a crofter. With his gigantic (possibly insane) dog Reuben as his companion, Monty raises sheep, pigs and chickens, grows his own vegetables, explores the wildlife, meets the locals, and learns all about life on Scotland’s wild west coast.
The Tree House Diaries: How to live wild in the woods (Nick Weston)
Looking for an alternative way of living, Nick Weston left London to live in a treehouse and off the land in a secret location deep in the woods of mid-Sussex for six months. “Wild in the Woods” chronicles this amazing real life Boy’s Own adventure – from the original construction of his tree-house – complete with hot shower, compost loo and double bed – to the planting of his vegetable patch. Practical information on every project undertaken, details of his delicious recipes and photographs are displayed throughout.
The Living Mountain: A Celebration of the Cairngorm Mountains of Scotland (Nan Shepherd)
In this masterpiece of nature writing, Nan Shepherd describes her journeys into the Cairngorm mountains of Scotland. There she encounters a world that can be breathtakingly beautiful at times and shockingly harsh at others. Her intense, poetic prose explores and records the rocks, rivers, creatures and hidden aspects of this remarkable landscape.
Shepherd spent a lifetime in search of the ‘essential nature’ of the Cairngorms; her quest led her to write this classic meditation on the magnificence of mountains, and on our imaginative relationship with the wild world around us. Composed during the Second World War, the manuscript of The Living Mountain lay untouched for more than thirty years before it was finally published.