When it’s snowy, rainy and cold outside, and you can’t have any outdoor adventures, what can you do? Bring the adventure inside! One of my favorite winter activities when there is three feet of snow outside, is to read a good book. There is nothing like reading with your family in the evenings and letting your imagination take you on outdoor adventures when you are cooped inside. And, in a world of electronics and other distractions, these books will inspire imagination and encourage adventure in children, as well as adults. Many of these are classics and you may have read them as a child. Why not share these with the next generation?
When I was a child, my mom read to us every night. We didn’t have television (I still don’t), and it was a way for us to have quality family time. And when we would finish a book and if it had been made into a movie, once a month my mom borrowed a black and white television with a VHS player and we’d watch it. I wanted to be the characters in those books, just like Sam Gribley from “My Side of The Mountain” wanted to be like his grandfather, I wanted to BE Sam (still do and that’s why I live on a mountain). When I played in my tree house as a child, I pretended I was on an island and I was part of “The Swiss Family Robinson”.
Here is a list of twenty-one of my favorite adventure and outdoor-inspiring books. These are just a few of my favorites including some classics but also some newer ones as well. Some of these books are so good that I apparently have two paper copies because they are that good, such as “My Side of The Mountain”, “The Hatchet”, “The Little House in The Big Woods” and “Sign of The Beaver”. I may even have digital copies too, but that would mean I have a serious problem! It was hard to narrow down this list to just twenty-one because there are so many wonderful books out there, but these are my top picks. I have also annotated which of these books have been made into television series or movies, as well as if they are part of a book series. This list also included recommendations for ages 2 on up. Enjoy!!
“We’re Going On a Bear Hunt” by Michael Rosen (ages 2-5) A beautifully illustrated book for small children, this book is about a family that goes on a bear hunt. Their bear hunt takes them over and under multiple obstacles and leads to lots of giggles when you pretend to go over and under like characters in the book. *made into an animated movie
“Blueberries for Sal” by Robert McCLoskey (ages 2-7) With eye-catching illustrations, this sweet book is about a little boy and his mother will become a treasured favorite. Sal and his mother go picking blueberries and encounter a mother bear and a baby bear.
“The Daring Book for Girls“ by Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz (ages 9 and up) This is a how-to and activity guide for girls. With retro inspired illustrations, fun facts about important women, directions on how to play jacks or turn the perfect cartwheel and much, much more, this beautiful book is a great way to inspire girls to adventure.
“The Dangerous Book for Boys” by Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden (ages 9 and up) This is a how-to and activity guide for boys, little and grown up too. The illustration are retro-inspired and this book includes directions on tying knots, building a tree house, recognizing constellations and a whole lot more and is a great way to inspire boys to adventure. *made into an Amazon exclusive television series
“The Boxcar Children” by Gertrude Chandler Warner (ages 7-10) Four orphaned siblings run away and live in an old boxcar so that they can stay together. With funny Benny, shy Violet, motherly Jessie and care-taker Henry, this story is about the adventures the children have and their resourcefulness and how they find their grandfather. *made into an animated film **book one of a series
“The Little House in The Big Woods” By Laura Ingalls Wilder (ages 8 and up) Based on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s true life experiences growing up in Wisconsin, this book is about Laura and her family living in the wild frontier. This book has stories of bears, old-time traditions and warms the heart with tales of a loving family. *made into a television series **book one of a series
“Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen (age 11 and up) Thirteen year-old Bryan is in a small airplane crash that leaves the pilot dead and Bryan all alone in the Canadian Wilderness. Bryan learns to survive on his own and uses the hatchet his mother gave him as a present before he left, to survive the harsh circumstances. *made into a movie based on the book **book one of a series
“My Side of The Mountain” by Jean Craighead George (ages 8-12) Sam Gribley runs away from a crowded city apartment to live in the Catskills and live off the land like his great-grandfather did. Sam lives in a tree, has a falcon for company and has many adventures in his quest to survive on his own. *made into a movie *book one of a series*
“The Sign of The Beaver” by Elizabeth George Speare (ages 8-12) When 13 year-old Matt si stranded alone in his family’s cabin in the woods defenseless, he meets a Native American boy who teaches him the skills to survive. This is a wonderful book about survival and friendship. *made into a movie
“Island of The Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’Dell (ages 8-12) Karana is a young girl that lives on her own on an island. Karana learns to survive on her own against several obstacles including a pack of wild dogs that killed her brother. *made into a movie
“Robinson Crusoe” by Daniel Defoe (ages 12-15) In the classic book, Robinson Crusoe is left on a deserted island. He learns to survive on his own and befriends a native named Friday. *made into a movie
“The Swiss Family Robinson” by Johann Wyss (ages 12-15) This book is about a family who are on their way by ship to start a new life in a new country but are shipwrecked on an island. This book tells of their tale of survival and adventures along the way. *made into a movie
“The Call of The Wild” by Jack London (ages 8 and up) Set during the 1890’s wild Alaskan Klondike Gold Rush, this book is about a sledding dog named Buck who was kidnapped and must survive the wild frontier. Buck learns to adjust and survive to cruel treatment, and living in the wild. *made into a movie
“White Fang” by Jack London (ages 8 and up) This book is considered a companion novel to “Call of the Wild”, and is about a wolf named White Fang. The story is about a wolf who becomes domesticated during the wild Alaskan Klondike Gold Rush. *made into a movie
“The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” by Mark Twain (ages 8 and up) This classiv American tale is about an young man named Tom who is living in 19th century in Missouri and is always getting into trouble. Tom is precocious and clever and has multiple adventures including sharing medicine with his aunt’s cat, forming a pirate gang and almost attending his own funeral. *made into multiple movies and television series
“The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain (ages 12 and up) Considered an American classic and the companion novel to “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”, this story is about young Huck and his life on the Mississippi. Huck runs away from a confining, “civilized” life as well as escapes his abusive father and tries to make it on his own. *made into multiples movies and television series
“Where The Red Fern Grows” by Wilson Rawls (ages 10 and up) Billy really wants a pair of Redbone Bloodhounds for hunting and saves up his money to buy a pair. Billy trains the dogs to hunt raccoons and this book is about his triumphs but also about tragedy. *made into a movie
“Summer of The Monkeys” by Wilson Rawls (ages 10 and up) Fourteen year-old Jay lives in the Ozark Mountains in Oklahoma. One summer a monkeys from a traveling circus escape into the woods and Jay spends the whole summer catching them so that he can help his family financially. *made into a movie
“Atlas Obscura Explorers Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid” by Dylan Thuras and Rosemary Mosco (ages 8 and up) In true Atlas Obscura fashion, this book is a keeper. With full-colored pages and facts about places all over the world, this book will definitely inspire young readers to explore, adventure and travel.
“Rascal” by Sterling North (ages 8 and up) Based on the author’s life, when Sterling is a child he brings home a baby raccoon and names him Rascal. They have many adventures together until one day Sterling is forced to cage him because he is too mischievous.
“The Great Alone” by Kristin Hannah (age 13 and up) This book is a beautiful coming-of-age story about Leni, who’s Vietnam POW father keeps running until they move to Alaska and live off the grid. Leni just wants to belong and struggles with multiple family problems and and has to depend only on herself to make it through the winter. A wonderful coming-of-age story for girls or anyone who loves the wilds of Alaska.
Which of these books have you read? Have you also watched any of the movies? Many of these books inspired me as a kid to get outside and be adventurous. I hope that this list will inspire others to get out more. As always, be outside with no limits.