Books are one of the things that inspire me to get outdoors more and to go on adventures. My first “outdoor adventure” book was “My Side of the Mountain” when I was about 8 or 9. My mother would read to me at night and to this day, I want to be Sam. But, it isn’t really realistic, so instead, I go on adventures with my family and read a lot about other’s adventures. I want to share with you some of the best outdoor adventure books of all time.
Since COVID last year, I have read more than ever. But it is also something that I like to do when I am camping or backpacking. It is one of the only times that I can find the time to actually read, though I do enjoy a good audiobook while I am writing or cooking. I hope you can find something on this list that you will enjoy.
There are a few fiction and non-fiction, and if you are looking for more books, you can also check out Books for Outdoor and Nature Lovers. These are some of the greatest books about outdoor adventures that you can read right now.
Best Non-fiction Outdoor Adventure Books
These are my favorite non-fiction adventure books. I recently added a few more to this list that I have discovered this year. I made an effort to read more last year and I have stuck with it.
1. “Turn Around Time”
“Turn Around Time” by David Guterson – Turn around time for hikers and mountaineers, is when it is time to turn around and head back in the direction you cam so that you can get back safely. Guterson’s poetry reflects the imagery and lyrical beauty of the Pacific Northwest. This is a perfect book to read at the edge of a lake or deep in the woods. You don’t have to love poetry or hiking in order to enjoy this book.
2. “Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube”
“Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube” by Blair Braverman – Braverman recounts moving from California to Norway and Alaska. This girl braves the elements, gets buried in an ice cave, and has many other harrowing adventures as she learns about dog sledding and becoming a strong and adventurous woman. Laugh and cry along with her as she tells her story. This book was the number one seller with our readers.
3. “The Source of All Things”
“The Source of All Things” by Tracy Ross – Ross was a victim of violence and at age 16, moves to Michigan. She starts to reclaim and heal her life from the woods of Michigan, into the woods of Alaska and the desert of Utah, as nature comforts and teaches her life can be better.
4. “The Names of the Stars”
“The Names of the Stars” by Pete Fromm – Pete Fromm is one of my favorite authors. When he was in his early twenties, he ended up babysitting salmon eggs up the Magruder Corridor in the Bitterroot Selway Wilderness for seven months in the mountains all alone. He wrote his first book about it in the “Indian Creek Chronicles”. Twenty-five years later, he was asked to babysit eggs again, this time in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, amongst the grizzly bears. In this book, he is no longer a young man, but a father of two, and Fromm reflects on fatherhood, his love of the wilderness, mortality, and more.
5. “Into Thin Air”
“Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer – This is the true and personal account of Krakauer’s journey to Everest and surviving the deadliest season in 1996. Krakauer explores why people want to climb Mount Everest even though it is extremely dangerous and what happened in 1996. You question humanity several times while reading this book. This is one of my favorite books about Mt. Everest. I recently re-read this and I honestly think it is one of the best outdoor books of all time. I would also suggest listening to the audio book.
6. “Ranger Confidential: Living, Working and Dying in the National Parks”
“Ranger Confidential: Living, Working and Dying in the National Parks” by Andrea Lankford – Have you ever wondered what it is like to be a ranger in the National Parks? For 12 years, Langford was a ranger in some of the most amazing parks. Some stories are funny, some stories are sad, and some even leave you scratching your head.
7. “Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod”
“Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod” by Gary Paulsen – Gary Paulsen isn’t just the guy who wrote “The Hatchet”. He has had some adventures too. For 17 days, he and his team run with self dogs on the famous 1180 sled race, braving frostbite, storms, severe cold, and mishaps in the cold and wild wilderness.
8. “Rising: Becoming the First North American Woman on Everest”
“Rising: Becoming the First North American Woman on Everest” by Sharon Wood – Sharon Wood was the first North American female who climbed Everest in 1986. For over 70 days, she overcame not only the elements but also the barriers of being a woman in a man’s world. It’s an amazing and inspiring story. I am a little obsessed with books about Everest expeditions.
9. “Expeditions Unpacked: What the Great Explorers Took Into the Unknown”
“Expeditions Unpacked: What the Great Explorers Took Into the Unknown” by Ed Stafford – On any adventure or trip, we all pack the things that we need. Does any of it make a difference? In this book, Stafford curates 25 great expeditions, by taking a closer look and researching what they took with them. Did it make a difference? With photos, diagrams, and illustrations, Stafford dives into these famous expeditions with a new approach.
10. “Walking the Nile”
“Walking the Nile” by Levison Wood – He started in Rwanda and walked over 4,000 miles and through six countries, following the Nile from its beginning to the end when it flows into the Mediterranean. This is the multiple “through-hike” and an epic adventure, as Wood encounters war, hunger, and the elements on his journey.
11. “John Muir and the Ice That Started a Fire: How a Visionary and the Glaciers of Alaska Changed America”
“John Muir and the Ice That Started a Fire: How a Visionary and the Glaciers of Alaska Changed America” by Kim Heacox – John Muir was a revolutionary in conservation, working to preserve the natural wonders around him. He has inspired so many with his poetic writings and his dreams. This biography is not just about Muir, but also about the stunning Alaska glaciers. Beautifully written and inspiring.
12. “Lost on Purpose: Adventures of a 21st Century Mountain Man”
“Lost on Purpose: Adventures of a 21st Century Mountain Man” by Patrick Taylor – A former hi-tech executive, Patrick Taylor leaves his life to become what he called “a modern mountain man”. In this personal narrative, explore the backcountries and trails, including the largest wilderness area in the lower forty-eight and the trail of Lewis and Clark by foot.
13. “The Woman on the Mountain”
“The Woman on the Mountain” by Sharyn Munro – I like to think of Sharyn Munro as a modern-day Sam Gribley. She chooses to live in the dangerous bush on a mountain in Australia, being self-sufficient with only the wildlife as a company. Discover her journey and the “why” behind why she chooses this life.
14. “Found: A Life in Mountain Rescue”
“Found: A Life in Mountain Rescue” by Bree Loewen – Last summer I watched Search and Rescue flying overhead, looking for a missing young man in the mountains. I couldn’t imagine what it takes to do a job like this, until I read this book. What fascinating stories about a job that saves live in the back country and mountains, and the gumption and quick thinking it takes to do it.
15. “The Last Season (P.S)”
“The Last Season (P.S)” by Eric Blehm – If you love books about adventure, this one is for you. A lot of adventure, and a bit of mystery, this book is about the amazing life and disappearance of backcountry ranger Randy Morgenson in the high Sierra Nevada. It is one of the best adventure books that I have read.
16. “Lady Long Rider”
“Lady Long Rider: Alone Across America on Horseback” by Bernice Ende – If you are looking for a great book about a female adventurer, this is the one to read. In her best-selling memoir, Bernice Ende tells her story of how she became a lone long rider at the age of 50, traveling on her own over 29,000 miles on horseback with just her and her dog. Ende was recently inducted into the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame for 2021. Sadly, Bernice passed away in New Mexico October 2, 2021.
17. “A Sand County Almanac”
“A Sand County Almanac: And Sketches Here and There” by Aldo Leopold – Originally published in 1949, this collection of nature essays will inspire anyone who loves the outdoors. Written over the span of forty years, Leopold’s descriptive writings have become renowned across the world, with over 2 million copies sold. Leopold was a conservationist and his writings inspire conservation and awareness of nature.
18. “Heroes of the Bob Marshall Wilderness”
“Heroes of the Bob Marshall Wilderness” by John Fraley – If you are an avid backpacker or wilderness lover, you have probably heard of the Bob Marshall Wilderness, also known as “The Bob” by Montana locals. Montana has a colorful history and so does “The Bob”. Fraley explores some of the common and not-so-common stories of this vast wilderness, including White-River Sue, the black-clad backpacker, heroes, and a rooster. If you ever have the chance to explore “The Bob”, check out the China Wall.
19. “To Shake the Sleeping Self”
“To Shake the Sleeping Self: A Journey from Oregon to Patagonia, and a Quest for a Life with No Regret” by Jedidiah Jenkins – People every day go on journeys to discover themselves, either by exploring the wilds or living in the woods or some other adventure into the unknown. Jedediah Jenkins cycled from Oregon to Patagonia, traversing borders and mountains and exploring cultures along the way, all while discovering who he was and who he was meant to be. This has been one of the best books I have read this year. You might also like Jenkins’ newest book “Like Streams to the Ocean”.
20. “The Edge of the Map”
“The Edge of the Map” by Johanna Garton – I have always been enthralled by adventurous people who have had the opportunity to climb Everest. It takes guts and moxie. Christine Boskoff was truly inspiring, by climbing six of the highest peaks in the world, being a female climbing guide in a man’s world, and breaking barriers. Her untimely death and disappearance in the remote Chinese peaks was a tragedy and Garton has shared Boskoff’s story with the world in such a beautiful and inspiring way. This book was recommended by a reader and I could not put it down.
21. “Outlandish: Walking Europe’s Unlikely Landscapes”
“Outlandish: Walking Europe’s Unlikely Landscapes” by Nick Hunt – This is my favorite new outdoor adventure book published in 2021. It was released on October 26th 2021 and I stayed up all night read it. If you love adventure, travel and nature, then you really need to read this book. Hunt explores the outlandish landscapes that are closer than you think like Europe’s only true desert in Spain and a patch of Arctic tundra in Scotland. It is beautifully written and will excite and inspire you to go on adventures.
22. The Buddha and the Bee”
“The Buddha and the Bee: Biking through America’s Forgotten Roadways on a Journey of Discovery” by Cory Mortensen – Bikepacking would be an adventure, especially if you rode solo like Mortensen across the country. After reading this book, I wanted to go jump on a bike. Instead, I’ll be giving my bikepacking sister this book for the upcoming holiday season. Mortenson starts his adventure in Michigan, crosses the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains, ending hi journey in California. He encounters many interesting characters along the way and an adventure of a lifetime. The reason I read this book was because of the Amazon description, it makes you want to read more.
23. “The Hunt for Mount Everest”
“The Hunt for Mount Everest” by Craig Storti – Most books about Mt. Everest are personal narratives about climbing the mountain. But this book is more about what happened before anyone climbed and the history of the mountain before 1921. Everybody knows about Mallory, Irvine, Hillary and Norgay, but what about before that? I am an Everest book junkie and this one was added to the top of my list.
24. “Kon Tiki”
“Kon Tiki” by Thor Heyerdahl – Crossing the Pacific on a boat or raft would be a great adventure, though very dangerous. In 1947, Heyerdahl and five others set out to cross the Pacific Ocean on journey of over 4,300 nautical miles. It was all about proving a theory about where the original settlers of Polynesia came from. In his personal memoir, he tells about his journey, including horrible storms and killer whales, all in the pursuit of proving a theory.
“Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” by Cheryl Strayed – This has become one of the favorite books to read for outdoor lovers. I actually watched the movie before I read the book, but I love the book better. “Wild” is about one woman who discovers her true self and healing, hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s definitely a trek on my bucket list, along with the Appalachian Trail and the Continental Divide Trail. I added those to my bucket list after I read “Wild”. If you haven’t read this entertaining read, you should, because it’s a good book.
Best Fiction Outdoor Adventure Books
“Jimmy Bluefeather” by Kim Heacox – Think of this book as the 21st century meeting the classic adventure of American literature. Old Keb Westing is old and slowing down. He is the last canoe carver in his village. When his grandson loses his basketball dream, his grandfather takes him on once the last journey, from finishing the canoe to going on an expedition in Alaska. What a wonderful coming of age story.
“The Joe Pickett Series” by C. J. Boxx – If you love the outdoors, mysteries, and thrillers, then this is the series for you. Joe Pickett is a game warden in Wyoming. Follow him and his family over the years as he encounters adversity, politics, and danger, all while protecting Wyoming’s wildlife. This is an easy series to read and you’ll be hooked from the first book. These books are really well researched and bring to light many controversies today regarding forest and wildlife management. They are a fun read for camping or just hanging out at the lake.
The Glacier Mystery Series by Christine Carbo – If you are a National Park fan that loves mysteries, then this is the series for you. Meet Monty Harris, a Glacier Park police officer. From the very first book, you’ll be drawn in by the dangerous line between man and nature. This is one of my favorite Audible series. I cannot wait for book five to come out.
“Yukon Audit: A C.E. Brody Novel” – I do not know what it is about adventure books, but lately I have really been into outdoor thrillers. This is a great mystery and will have you on the edge of your seat. Brody loves his plane, his dog, and his cabin in the Yukon and a mysterious woman makes his life complicated, leading to crime and action in the great outdoors.
Are there any outdoor or adventure books that have inspires you? Are there any titles that should be added to this list? Let me know what you think in the comments below.