Reading is one of my favorite past-times. Along with science fiction, fantasy, and thrillers, I’m especially fond of good adventure stories because reading about an adventure usually inspires me to do something fun and challenging too.
Why Read Adventure Books?
Adventure books often showcase traits we admire – courage, resourcefulness, determination, endurance and strength. They also inspire us, give us hope, and teach us about life.
Sometimes when I find myself in a pinch, I think back on the incredible stories I’ve read and quickly realize that the obstacle I’m facing isn’t such a problem after all.
About The List
Please note that this is not an exhaustive list and I’m certain there will be books you’ve read that are missing. This is just a glimpse of the hundreds of books available on the subject.
Without further ado, here are 24 must-read adventure books for you to enjoy, divided by fiction/non-fiction but listed in no particular order.
24 Adventure Books
11 Fiction Adventures
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen – One of my childhood favorites. If you haven’t read the book already, you may have watched the movie – A Cry In The Wild (this film could use a re-make). It’s the story of a boy, whose parents have divorced, on a small plane to visit his father. Unfortunately, the pilot has a heart attack and dies. Eventually the plane runs out of gas and crashes into a lake in the remote Canadian wilderness. Thirteen-year old Brian has little in the way of supplies, other than the hatchet his mom gave him for the trip. With little experience, Brian has to fend for himself. It’s a pretty awesome story that always made me secretly hope something like that would happen to me. [Buy Hatchet on Amazon]
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George – Sam is very disappointed when he finds out his Dad won’t be taking him to the woods to conduct algae experiments. So, he packs up and runs away to live in the woods alone and conduct his experiments. Sam leaves a nice note for his parents, telling them he will be gone for 1-year and please, not to look for him. Sam lives in a hollowed out tree and catches a peregrine falcon, among other things. This was another one of my childhood favorites. There was a film by the same name made in 1969 and like Hatchet could definitely use an update. [Buy My Side of the Mountain on Amazon]
Treasure Island by Robert Lewis Stevenson – Oh the search for gold! Ever fraught with danger and deceit. Jim Hawkins is a well-meaning young lad caught between John Long Silver and his plan to find the gold marked on a pirate map. This is the classic tale of high seas adventure – pirates, mutiny, gold, death and survival! Treasure Island has it all. [FREE* Treasure Island on Amazon]
Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss – Run aground on a reef and abandoned by the crew of their ship, the family makes it to an island and learns to survive. They build a tree-house, where they live, complete with a library. The father, wife and four sons make a rather comfortable life on the island as they explore. Eventually they come across a family hiding from pirates! [FREE* The Swiss Family Robinson or, Adventures on a Desert Islandon Amazon]
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien – Bilbo Baggins is tricked into embarking on a grand adventure with Gandalf and a group of dwarves. In the Misty Mountains, goblins chase the group underground where Bilbo gets lost and stumbles upon Gollum and the Ring. Tolkien’s classic tale has thievery, goblins, dragon slaying, giant eagles and a war – the Battle of Five Armies. Pretty much everything a fantasy adventure needs! [Buy The Hobbit on Amazon]
The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle – Deep in the South American jungles, atop a plateau, is a hidden world of dinosaurs and ape-men. Professor George Edward Challenger has found the plateau but no one believes him. So, Challenger invites journalist Edward Malone, Professor Summerlee, and Sir John Roxton to validate his claim. It’s a rather fantastic adventure classic! This story has inspired many a clone including the sequel to Jurassic Park, creatively titled The Lost World. [FREE* The Lost World on Amazon]
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas – Perhaps one of the most beloved of childhood adventure stories. The Three Musketeers is a stories that has endured the ages and sees itself remade every few years. Unfortunately, the majority of the films are worth avoiding. The book however, is worth cherishing. Three master swordsmen, plus D’Artagnan, fight for justice in a troubled world. It’s an exciting adventure that has them traveling Europe to defeat Milady and Cardinal Richelieu. [FREE* The Three Musketeers on Amazon]
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas – Ah, the story of Edmund Dantes. Filled with intrigue, a love story, and adventure enough for anyone. Dantes is on the verge of suicide after being imprisoned at Chateau D’If when he meets the Mad Priest. Edmund eventually makes himself over as the Count of Monte Cristo and exacts his revenge on his enemies. It’s a thrilling story. The 2002 film with Jim Caveziel and Guy Pierce is a pretty decent adaptation. [Buy The Count of Monte Cristo (Penguin Classics) on Amazon]
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie – A mischievous young man with a gang of Lost Boys, battles pirates and the evil Captain Hook. Fairies, Native Americans, mermaids, and pirates all feature in this fun story about Neverland, a magical world where kids never age. You’ve likely seen a movie based on the book. Now it’s time to read the original. [Buy The Complete Adventures of Peter Pan on Amazon]
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe – Did you know the original title of the book was this abomination: The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself (via Wikipedia). Lucky for us the book has been re-titled, Robinson Crusoe. This is the tale of a sailor who is shipwrecked, then enslaved by pirates, and 2-years later escapes. And that is just the start of Crusoe’s wild adventures. [FREE* Robinson Crusoe on Amazon]
Lord of the Flies by William Golding – It’s wartime and a plane full of kids crashes on a deserted island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. Two of the boys, Ralph and Piggy, find a conch shell which they use to rally all the survivors. A power struggle develops between Ralph and a kid named Jack. Eventually, things deteriorate and they destroy their island which ironically saves them. A thoughtful look at survival, human relations, and power. [Buy Lord of the Flies on Amazon]
13 Non-Fiction Adventures
Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer – Tasked with writing an article about the commercialism on Everest, Krakauer decides instead to climb the mountain. The expedition Krakauer was on became known as the 1996 Mount Everest Disaster when 8-climbers died. Although the book has faced strong criticism for oversights it’s still a good look at what can go wrong when you’re tangling with Mother Nature. [Buy Into Thin Air on Amazon]
Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea by Steven Callahan – Adrift is an incredible story about Steven’s sailing trip gone horribly wrong. During bad weather Callahan’s ship is damaged and begins to sink. He’s able to inflate his emergency raft and then return to his sinking ship to recover supplies. It’s a surprisingly gripping story that takes you through his ups and downs with deft skill. [Buy Adrift on Amazon]
Skeletons on the Zahara: A True Story of Survival by Dean King – King, a maritime historian, recounts the tale of Captain James Riley and Archibald Robbins who were aboard the ill-fated ship Commerce. After wrecking off the coast of Africa in the early 1800’s they evaded capture by plundering Arab nomads, a failed attempt to sail in a longboat, before they were forced into slavery by Arab tribesmen. To truly understand the sailor’s accounts, King embarked on a National Geographic sponsored expedition to retrace their journey through the desert! How badass is that? [Buy Skeletons on the Zahara on Amazon]
The Ledge: An Adventure Story Of Friendship And Survival On Mount Rainier by Jim Davidson and Kevin Vaughan – Mount Rainier is a relatively small mountain, but is the tallest in my home state. Despite it’s modest height, Mount Rainier is one of the most dangerous mountains in America with around 3 people dying there every year. This story is about one of those deaths, Mike Price, and the survival of his partner Jim Davidson. On the way down the mountain they fell into a crevase. Price died and Davidson climbed his way out. Good detail and descriptions. [Buy The Ledge on Amazon]
Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose – If you’re an American you’ve heard of Lewis and Clark. But how much do you really know about their epic journey across North America? The book delves into the men, wild America, and their world famous journey. This is a story that’ll entertain and inform. [Buy Undaunted Courage on Amazon]
Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger – Wilfred travels across the Arabian Empty Quarter (or Rub’ al Khali) to get a closer look at the lives of the Bedu people. The book also reflects on the growth of industry following World World II and it’s impact on the Bedu way of life. Thesiger survives flies, sandstorms, and a severe shortage of water. [Buy Arabian Sands on Amazon]
Tracks by Robyn Davidson – Tracks is a great story about a serious trip across the deserts of Australia, with a healthy dose of humor. I’ve always been fascinated by Australia so Tracks naturally of interest to me. Robyn embarked on her 9-month journey with her dog and four camels. Although she never intended to write about the experience she agreed to write a piece for National Geographic and was then spurred by reader interest into writing the book. Which is a big win for us! [Buy Tracks on Amazon]
My Journey to Lhasa by Alexandra David-Neel – In 1923, a Frenchwoman by the name of Madame Alexandra David–Neel wrote about her journey to Lhasa, the Forbidden City. She was able to enter the city by speaking Tibetan and disguising herself! Her story is considered an exceptional travelogue and I have to agree. She was even received by the Dalai Lama [Buy My Journey to Lhasa on Amazon]
Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Journey by Alfred Lansing – This is probably one of the most incredible stories of survival, courage, and sheer persistence that I’ve ever read. Sir Ernest Shackleton led the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition which came into serious trouble early on. Their ship, Endurance, was crushed by ice leaving the men stranded on ice pack. Amazingly, they survived for a year floating on the ice. Then Shackleton was able to have several boats launched and they made their way to Elephant Island. But that’s only part of their extreme journey. The story is detailed and informative. If you’re into adventure this is a must-read book. [Buy Endurance on Amazon]
Touching the Void by Joe Simpson – Imagine breaking your leg, then being stuck dangling from a cliff, having your friend cut the rope and falling 150-feet into a crevasse, then lowering yourself deeper into the crevasse to (hopefully) find a way out, then hopping and crawling 5-miles to camp. Yeah. That’s the Touching the Void. Astonishing luck (falling 150-feet already injured) and strength of will. [Buy Touching the Void on Amazon]
The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard – Apsley and the expedition he was on headed to Antarctica to collect penguin eggs for scientific research. Unfortunately, not all of the men would return. They hope to contribute to the understanding of the evolution of penguins but sadly the eggs were not greeted with much enthusiasm. Apsley may have been under-qualified for his position on the ship but his account of the expedition is rather interesting and full of useful insight. [FREE* The Worst Journey in the World Antarctic 1910-1913 on Amazon]
Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum – Slocum was the first person to sail around the world alone. He did so in a rebuilt sloop named Spray. He had to worry about pirates and natives, not to mention bad weather, and rocks. He even spread tacks on deck to thwart natives in Tierra Del Fuego. It’s an inspiring story about an important accomplishment. [Buy Sailing Alone Around the World on Amazon]
Between a Rock and a Hard Place By Aron Ralston – The story of Aron Ralston is a great cautionary tale about being responsible – notifying someone where you’re going and carrying the 10 essentials. But it’s also an inspiring story of courage and determination. After being trapped in Blue John Canyon by a boulder that pinned his arm against the canyon wall, he cut off his arm to free himself and escape. The movie titled 127 Hours was a solid adaptation that focused on the event itself. The book alternates between being trapped and Ralston’s past experiences. [Buy Between a Rock and a Hard Place on Amazon]
Two Honorable Mentions
- Bonjour 40: A Paris Travel Log by Karen A. Chase – The surprisingly humorous and touching story of Karen who at the age of 40 decided to live in Paris, France for one month.
- Memoirs of a Gas Station: A Delightfully Awkward Journey Across the Alaskan Tundra by Sam Neumann – I lived in Anchorage, Alaska and spent 3-months in King Salmon, Alaska so it was easy to relate to a lot of the stuff Sam discusses in Memoirs. From the moody retired tourists to the weather and frequent drinking, Sam shares Alaska with a lot of humor. I was laughing out loud so often I had people staring at me.
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Have you read any of these books? Were you inspired to take action by an adventure book? Let us know in the comments below.
Thanks for visiting! Until next time, take a hike!