11 Classic Adventure Books to Add to Your Reading List

Adventure Books

During the Adventure Travel World Summit in Salta, Argentina earlier this month, Jean-Claude Razel, founder of Alaya Expedições in Brazil, delivered a great presentation highlighting some of his favorite adventure books. While all classics, some were new to me and books that I will definitely add to my reading list for winter. I share the list with you below, including a few of my own recommendations thrown in here and there.

Mountaineering/Exploration Genre

Annapurna by Maurice Herzog: In 1950, Herzog led an expedition of French climbers to the summit of a 8,075-meter Annapurna — the first 8,000 meter peak to be climbed. In this book, Herzog offers up his account of the heroic climb and of its harrowing aftermath, including a nightmare descent of frostbite, snow blindness, and near death.

The Epic of Mount Everest by Francis Edward Younghusband: This vintage book contains Younghusband’s account of the early British mountaineering expeditions to Everest. He was Chairman of the Mount Everest Committee which was set up to coordinate the initial 1921 British Reconnaissance Expedition to Mount Everest and the subsequent 1922 and 1924 expeditions. Younghusband actively encouraged George Mallory to attempt the first ascent of Mount Everest, and they followed the same initial route as his earlier Tibet Mission.

Conquistadors of the Useless by Lionel Terray:  A French climber, Terray made first ascents in the Alps, Alaska, the Andes and the Himalaya. This is his personal story of how he became a mountaineer, and may just inspire you to do the same.

The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin: This is Darwin’s journal from his five-year journey around the world aboard the Beagle, in which he studied animals, plants, geology, and much more. From the tip of South America and the Galapagos Islands to Australia and Tahiti, Darwin set out to study geology, but ended up finding the information that would lead to his theory of evolution by natural selection.

Annapurna: A Woman’s Place by Arlene Blum: No reading list about Annapurna is complete without Arlene Blum’s account of the first female ascent of the mountain. This is the book that inspired me to become a mountaineer and I had the chance to finally meet Blum not long ago.

The White Spider by Henrich Harrer: The history of climbing the north face of the Eiger will forever hold my fascination and this book is one of the best. In it, Harrer dramatically recreates not only the harrowing, successful ascent he and his partners made in 1938, but also the previous, tragic attempts.

Escape Literature

7 Years in Tibet by Heinrich Harrer: Another book by Harrer, this time recounting his adventures as one of the first Europeans ever to enter Tibet and encounter the Dalai Lama.

Journey to Lhasa by Alexandra David-Neel: The first woman to have been received by the Dalai Lama, David-Neel recounts her 1923 expedition to Tibet, where in order to successfully reach Lhasa, she used her fluency of Tibetan dialects and culture, disguised herself as a beggar with yak hair extensions and inked skin and tackled some of the roughest terrain and climate in the World.

Freedom in Exile by the Dalai Lama: In his autobiography, the Dalai Lama reveals the inner strength that allowed him to master both the mysteries of Tibetan Buddhism and the brutal realities of Chinese Communism.

The Long Walk by Slavomir Rawicz: In 1941, Rawicz and six fellow prisoners escaped a Soviet labor camp in Yakutsk. They matched over thousands of miles by foot, out of Siberia, through China, the Gobi Desert, Tibet, and over the Himalayas to British India in the search for freedom.

Magellan by Stefan Zweig: One of the most famous navigators in history – Magellan was the first man to sail from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, and led the first voyage to circumnavigate the globe, although he was killed en route in a battle in the Philippines.
In this biography, Zweig brings to life the Age of Discovery by telling the tale of one of the era’s most daring adventurers.

What are some of your favorite adventure classics?

  1. I read Freedom in Exile on every solo backpack trip I do. I bought my copy in Kathmandu which makes it that much more special.

    1. That’s awesome! Such a great book. A couple more suggestions from Twitter yesterday: The Snow Leopard, Gorilla Monsoon, and another one of my favorites: A Short Walk In The Hindu Kush.

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