25 Best Adventure Books of All Time to Ignite Your Wanderlust
Today we have another great guest post from travel blogger, Kristi, who shares with us 25 of the best adventure books of all time to ignite your wanderlust. I love this topic, and if you guys have been following along with me for a while, you know that I started an adventure book club back in 2018 on Facebook where each month we got together to read our favorite hand-picked adventure stories.
I love reading, and I have always considered it an essential part of my personal growth and expanding my mind to be open to new ideas and concepts, so I love this thorough list that Kristi has put together for us today. I also have started a similar list for outdoor adventure books (more specifically) and my favorite outdoor training book resources, which you can read more about here on the blog.
To learn more about Kristi, check out her full bio at the bottom!
23 Best Adventure Books of All Time
There’s one thing that always goes great with a road trip, thru hike or lazy Sunday morning and that’s a good book. Travel books can make you feel like you’ve visited an interesting new place without stepping outside your front door or they can inspire you to start planning an adventure of your own. This list of 25 adventure books will take you around the world; climbing tall peaks, exploring remote backroads of the USA, sailing the high seas and even cycling your way down the silk road.
US Road Trips, Wilderness Treks and Outdoor Philosophy
Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog and an Extraordinary Friendship by Tom Ryan
Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom by Ken Ilgunas
Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
Blue Highways: A Journey into America by William Least Heat-Moon
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
Tip of the Iceberg: My 3,000-Mile Journey Around Wild Alaska, the Last Great American Frontier by Mark Adams
Wilderness and the American Mind by Roderick Nash
The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss
After losing a close friend Tom Ryan decides to honor her memory by climbing New Hampshire’s four-thousand foot peaks….twice...with his miniature schnauzer, Atticus M. Finch. New Hampshire has forty-eight such peaks and Ryan decided to summit the entire group in one winter, raising money for charity along the way. Following Atticus is an enchanting adventure story about a man learning to understand loss and friendship and his pup.
2. Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom by Ken Ilgunas
Saddled with $32,000 in college debt, Ken Ilgunas spent three years living frugally in the northern US. His debts paid and accepted to a Master’s program at Duke University he decided to continue his debt-free mission by using what money he has to purchase a used Econoline van. This would serve as his home for the next two years. Walden on Wheels is a story about a man with an innovative idea that ends giving him a new point of view and changing his life.
3. Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
In this time of shrinking public lands, Edward Abbey is a must read. Abbey’s 1968 prose beautifully describes the American Southwest. He waxes poetic about Utah canyon country, Arches National Park and the Colorado Plateau. This book is part tale and part manifesto. It galvanized environmentalists on release some 50 years ago and its ideas still hold strong today.
4. Blue Highways: A Journey into America by William Least Heat-Moon
Is it possible to travel across the United States without using a federal highway? Turns out you can, and William Least Heat-Moon did. Like many adventure stories this one begins with a life that is falling apart. There’s nothing like an epic journey to clear the mind and calm the soul, which is exactly what happens with Heat-Moon gets to know rural America.
5. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
A must read if you are even contemplating hiking the Appalachian Trail. Bryson manages to weave together historical and ecological research with entertaining antics as he and his friend Katz slowly make their way through forests, mountains and a few lake crossings. Expect several laugh out loud moments followed by even more giggling.
Following the route of Edward H. Harriman’s 1899 “floating university”, Mark Adams sets out on a three thousand mile journey around Alaska. The original 1899 voyage through Alaska’s waterways included scientists and writers of the day, among them eco-warrier John Muir. Over one hundred years later Adams’ journey highlights the wilderness wonderland that is Alaska. He grapples with the effects of climate change and our continued efforts to preserve nature.
7. Wilderness and the American Mind by Roderick Nash
Written in 1967 Nash’s Wilderness reflects on how American ideas about outdoor spaces have changed over time. As he explores colonialism, industrialization and increased forestry he describes changes in the way Americans interacted with the wilderness, moving from fearful to fearless.
8. The 4-Hour Work Week by Timmothy Ferriss
While not a traditional adventure book, The 4-Hour Work Week inspires the reader to think broadly about work and how it affects your life. Ferriss redefines working, advocating for frequent “mini-retirements” rather and a continuous slog. If you are looking to change your working life and free up more time to check destinations off your travel bucket list this book just might help you along your way.
GRAB MY ULTIMATE OUTDOOR ADVENTURE STARTER KIT
I created an awesome Outdoor Adventure Starter Kit for you (for FREE). It's filled with 14 pages of hiking, backpacking and rock climbing tips, techniques and inspiration to help you hone your outdoor adventure skills and become the ultimate outdoor badass. You can get immediate access to it below.
Books About Foreign Lands & Exotic Places
The Ridiculous Race: 26,000 Miles, 2 Guides, 1 Globe, No Airplanes by Steve Hely and Vali Chandrasekaran
The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner
Lands of Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road by Kate Harris
In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin
Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin
Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes and the Greatest Race the World Has Ever Seen by Christopher McDougall
Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World by Rita Golden Gelman
Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer
Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure by Sarah Macdonald
Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolf Potts
A Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost by Rachel Friedman
A Tourist in the Arab Spring by Tom Chesshyre
A Year Without Make-Up: Tales of a 20-Something Traveler by Stephanie Yoder
Getting Stoned with Savages: A Trip Through the Islands of Fiji and Vanuatu by J. Maarten Troost
Shadow of the Silk Road by Colin Thubron
Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before James Cook Explored the Pacific by Tony Horwitz
Driving Hungry: A Memoir by Layne Mosler
9. The Ridiculous Race: 26,000 Miles, 2 Guides, 1 Globe, No Airplanes by Steve Hely and Vali Chandrasekaran
The title says it all. Two friends challenge each other to race around the globe. The one stipulation, no airplanes. Steve and Vali, two Hollywood writers set out to circle the globe in opposite directions, pranking each other along the way.
10. The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner
Weiner allows you to stow away in his suitcase as he travels around the world in search of happiness. A self-professed curmudgeon, he visits everywhere from Iceland to India searching to answer the question: What makes people happy? It turns out that it might not be quite what or where you would expect. If you’re looking for a laugh and an affordable trip around the world you’re just one paperback purchase away.
11. Lands of Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road by Kate Harris
After realizing that all of the earth had been mapped by explorers of old Kate decided to think bigger and study Mars. Before beginning her studies at MIT she and her best friend decided to bike the Silk Road. As they travel through scorching sun and freezing cold Kate describes the history of the places they ride through and recounts stories of their journey.
12. In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin
Think of this book as part literature and part history. Chatwin’s stories of his time in Argentina scream of colonialism with most of his descriptions focused on European immigrants rather than natives. With each description he uncovers a bit of the area’s remarkable history, pulling you into the story.
13. Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin
At twenty-two, Charles Darwin set off on a five year journey that would transform him into the acclaimed scientist he is today. Inside Voyage of the Beagle you will find Darwin’s historical record of his trip from Argentina all the way to Australia. It is a true journey that culminated in his well known work, The Origin of Species.
14. Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes and the Greatest Race the World Has Ever Seen by Christopher McDougall
You will enjoy this book whether you are an avid runner or a walker to the core. McDougall started this journey with a simple question, “Why does my foot hurt?”. The answer leads him to the Tarahumara tribe in Mexico, a group of people who run hundreds of miles all with a smile on their faces. Part science class and part history lesson, McDougall tells the story of ultra-running while weaving in the history of this superhuman tribe.
15. Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World by Rita Golden Gelman
Late in life and nearing divorce Rita decides to pack it all in, sell her belongings and become a nomad. As she travels through South America she connects with and learns from other cultures, encouraging readers to live their dreams no matter their age.
16. Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer
After reaching the summit of Mount Everest in May 1996 a storm began to take shape and move towards the group. While it didn’t seem out of the ordinary at first the party quickly realized the deadly nature of the storm at hand. In the end it took five lives and left Jon Krakauer wracked with guilt. Krakauer’s storytelling is excellent and the book leaves you wondering about man’s often misguided attempts at twarting nature.
17. Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure by Sarah Macdonald
After backpacking around India in her twenties, Sarah Macdonald left vowing to never come back. Years later she finds herself back in the country, following the love of her life to New Delhi. Just as she’s settling in she gets knocked down by double pneumonia, which causes her to contemplate her own mortality and lack of spiritual center. To remedy this she seeks out advice from everyone from a Sikh to a Bollywood star. Holy Cow is a laugh out loud chronicle of Sarah’s journey to find inner peace.
18. Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolf Potts
If you’re interested in figuring out how to travel full time, part time or for shorter extended periods of time Rolf Potts is likely to have the information you need. Vagabonding teaches you how to not only finance your travel, but how to work and volunteer overseas, create a travel plan and discover your own independence.
19. A Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost by Rachel Friedman
In an effort to postpone making life decisions Rachel Friedman escapes to Ireland, a place she has never visited. There she meets an avid adventurer who inspires her to extend her trip to one year, traveling to Australia and South Africa. The more time she spends abroad the more empowered and ready to take on new adventures.
20. A Tourist in the Arab Spring by Tom Chesshyre
While many would shy away from a trip to Tunisia, Libya or Egypt following the Arab Spring, Chesshyre decided to be the first tourist post uprising. In doing so he discovers the the impacts of revolution and describes how the people are coping with major change.
21. A Year Without Make-Up: Tales of a 20-Something Traveler by Stephanie Yoder
Fed up with her boring day job, Stephanie Yoder quits and sets out on a year long journey through Asia. Her travels inspire you to be brave and try new things. She honestly describes what she likes and dislikes about each place and offers plenty of tips on embarking on your first backpacking trip.
22. Getting Stoned with Savages: A Trip Through the Islands of Fiji and Vanuatu by J. Maarten Troost
Feeling uncomfortable in twenty-first-century America, Troost and his wife travel to far flung Vanuatu, a cluster of islands in the Pacific. He comedically describes is many struggles on the island including; earthquakes, typhoons and clothing optional living.
23. Shadow of the Silk Road by Colin Thubron
Traveling through China, Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey the silk road is a seven thousand mile land route that was followed by traders and armies for hundreds of years. Thubron’s journey by bus, camel, car and truck follows the ancient trade route. Along the way he learns about cultural change, politics, religion and the ancient world.
Part biography part adventure story, Blue Latitudes follows the life and journey of legendary explorer James Cook. Horwitz boards a replica of Cook’s ship and sets sail across the Pacific. He teaches the reader about the life and history of Cook while enjoying the modern adventures of Horwitz and his Aussie travel companion, Roger.
25. Driving Hungry: A Memoir by Layne Mosler
If you’re hungry put this book down. After a bad night in Buenos Aires Layne Mosler asks her taxi driver to take her to his favorite restaurant. This leads to a perfect steak dinner and many more taxi rides to recommended restaurants. Tens of taxi rides later she becomes a driver herself, moves to Berlin and finds another taxi driver to share her food loving passion with.
Well I hope you enjoyed this great list of good adventure books from Kristi. Let me know in the comments below if you’ve read any of them or if you have any more to add to the list!
Looking for more great reading resources? Check out my list of outdoor adventure books and books on training for the outdoors.
Allison - She Dreams of Alpine
Did you enjoy this post about gift ideas for camper owners? If so, pease take a moment to share it on Pinterest or other social media!