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This page aims to be an ever growing library of adventure travel books.
The library is categorised into sub-niches where possible to make for easier browsing.
Use this list as a go-to for inspiration when you are stuck wondering what to read next. If you’ve got a long flight, a 16 hour bus ride or you just want to scratch the travel itch. Bookmark this page and be sure to check back regularly.
I’ll update the library as I read through more and please do get in touch with your own suggestions! Let’s work together to make the most comprehensive library of adventure travel books on the internet.
Check out the ebook section for practical guides on Getting Paid To Travel!
The Old Classic Travel Books
On The Road – Jack Kerouac
Starting with the über classic. This is Jack Kerouac’s account of his time dirt-bagging and bumming around North America in the 1940s. Him and his friend hit the road on a quest for adventure, freedom and self-discovery. Jack’s funky use of language makes this a great read all this time later.
The Innocents Abroad – Mark Twain
Published in 1869 and going on to be one of Mark Twain’s best selling books, and one of the best selling travel books of all time. ‘The Innocents Abroad‘ follows Twain and a group of American travellers on a five month voyage. The chartered ship takes them around Europe and The Holy Land and is full of humorous musings on the experience.
The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia – Paul Theroux
Theroux’s weird and wonderful adventure takes him from London, through Europe, across the Middle East and into India. Finally he reaches South East Asia before looping back on the Trans-Siberian Railway. The entertaining chronicle allows you to dive into the mind of an ambitious traveller, as he comes across unique cultures and ponders what brought us all to where we are now.
The Modern Classic Adventure Travel Books
Into The Wild – Jon Krakaur
This book arose from an article in Outside Magazine in 1993. The article, written by Krakaur, tells the tale of Chris McCandless aka Alexander Supertramp. McCandless quit his job, sold all of his things and walked / hitchhiked / paddled to Alaska. Once there, he lived in a school bus and foraged for his food.
He truly does venture ‘Into The Wild’, where he distances himself from modern society in search of true freedom. This article was made into a book (linked below) and has since been printed in 30 different languages across 173 additions. The book was later adapted into a movie which I’d also highly recommend watching to scratch the travel itch.
The Beach – Alex Garland
This book went on to inspire a generation of young backpackers, all looking to stumble onto their own version of ‘The Beach’. I know this – because I was one of them!
‘The Beach’ is the typical story of yearning for a real travel experience. Away from the tourists, away from the crowds. Just searching for that white sandy paradise to escape from the world. The story follows Richard, whose circumstances find him in possession of a map to find just that. The beach in question is in Thailand and has a community of international travellers hoping to set up their own hippy commune of hedonism.
The book eventually became a movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
The Life of Pi – Yann Martel
Pi is the son of an Indian zookeeper, with a fascination for religion and spirituality. Their circumstances led the family to the decision of immigrating to America. They left their lives behind but took their zoo animals with them, in the hopes of selling them when they reached the states.
Whilst sailing to America, a wild storm raged and bought down the ship. Pi managed to escape on a lifeboat, where he was joined by full-size, 450lb adult Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.
Shantaram – Gregory David Roberts
Shantaram is one of my all time favourite adventure travel books. It is long, it is vivid and it is captivating.
Shantaram follows Lin, an escaped Australian convict who has fled to Bombay. Lin’s plan to lay low doesn’t go so well, as he soon finds himself dealing with the criminal underbelly of India when he gets involved with the Bombay mafia.
The tale explores both the slums and the luxury hotels, the poorest aspects of society to the most privileged. This is a book I really could not put down.
Books About Mountain Climbing
Beyond Possible: My Life in the Death Zone – Nimsdai Purja
If you’ve been following me on social media or are on my email list (if you’re not – get on it!) then you’ve already seen me go on about how much I love this book.
This is the truly unbelievable story of Nims, documenting the build up then attempt of climbing the worlds 14 highest mountains. The previous record stood at +7 years. Nims was aiming to do it in just over 6 months.
Nimsdai has led a remarkable life and he is only just getting started. The book dives into his upbringing in a small mountain town in Nepal. His ambition was to become a Gurkha soldier. Once he ticked that off he then wanted to join the British SAS – an elite fighting squad held in high regard around the world.
His ambition drove him up Mt Everest, where he managed to summit with a hangover, climb a couple of the surrounding peaks and unintentionally set a world record. It was at this moment that he realised he had a gift for operating in the ‘death zone’, which is anywhere above 8,000m. At this altitude, most peoples brains begin to starve of oxygen and the body shuts down.
Anyway, I could go on and on about this guy but I won’t. Just believe me that you really should read this book.
Nims made history again recently when he headed up a team of Sherpa on an attempt of climbing K2 in the winter. Their mission was successful and it was revealed that Nims did not use any supplementary oxygen – another worlds first within the worlds first.
Into Thin Air – Jack Krakauer
A second mention for Jack Krakauer in the Adventure Book Library.
Into Thin Air is a harrowing account of the 1996 disaster on Everest that took the lives of five climbers. This is Krakauer’s personal story of what happened on the day, as well as the events that led up to the incident. The book is a real deep dive into the thoughts and emotions that are left with you when such a tragic accident occurs in the outdoors. It is an honest insight into mistakes that were made and where things went wrong.
The book went on to inspire a movie of the same name.
Touching the Void – Joe Simpson
Joe Simpson and his climbing partner, Simon Yates, were on a climbing trip in the Andes. They had just summited a 21,000ft peak when things went terribly wrong. Joe Simpson slide off the edge of an ice ledge and broke his leg.
Darkness soon feel and a blizzard began to rage. Yates had to make the excruciating decision to cut his friend loose of the rope otherwise he may be dragged off himself. Some how, Simpson survived the fall and crawled through cliffs and canyons to get back to basecamp.
This is an adventure travel book gripped in fear and torment. It is not a happy story, but it is miraculous and well worth a read to know about what the human spirit is capable of.
Adventure Books About Expeditions
Unsung Hero: Tom Crean, Antarctic Survivor – Michael Smith
Tom Crean is a name that few have heard of. Yet he spent more time in the Antarctic than both Scott and Shackleton, and outlived them both. Crean was the man that you wanted, needed, in your crew for a polar expedition.
He held the teams together with both his wit and unflappable endurance. When things turned south, he was the man who volunteered to do the jobs no one wanted to do. He led the teams that were given the daunting task of heading out into the uncharted wilderness to look for help. He was also part of the rescue team that found Shackleton’s frozen body.
This adventure book takes a look at Tom Crean and highlights some of his incredible acts of courage and bravery.
Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage – Alfred Lansing
Earnest Shackleton and his crew sailed to the Antarctic region on the ship Endurance. They had planned to cross the continent on foot.
After battling through sea ice, the ship eventually became frozen amongst it. They were unable to sail and were now at the mercy of the ice flow. They drifted with the ice for 10 months, before the ship was crushed and they were forced to venture out on foot. The nearest outpost of civilisation was 850 miles away and they had no choice but to try and get there.
Alfred Lansing narrates the incredible story of resilience.
Amazon Woman – Darcy Gaechter
This is Darcy Gaechter’s mission to be the first female to kayak the Amazon river, from source to sea.
The kayak expedition is no smooth sailing, as the 148 day journey has some stretches of class 5 white water lasting for 25 consecutive days. What happened off of the water was just as dangerous, as Darcy and her two partners encounter narco traffickers, wildlife poachers and the Ashaninka indigenous people who believe she is there to steal the organs of their children.
Fearless: One Woman, One Kayak, One Continent – Joe Glickman
At age 46, Freya Hoffmeister embarked on a solo, unsupported kayak expedition to circumnavigate the entire coast of Australia.
Whilst doing this, she kept readers and followers on the edge of their seats at home via her blog. This is where journalist Joe Glickman was able to keep a log of the trip and eventually turn it into this book. Close calls with crocs and great white sharks throughout, Freya’s achievements stood out amongst the paddling world as truly remarkable.
Travel Books for Surfers
Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life – William Finnegan
Charting the sport of surfing for what it really is. An addictive obsession that is more a way of life than it is a hobby.
Finnegan’s life has been entwined with surfing. He has travelled extensively; the South Pacific, Asia, Africa, Australia and growing up in Hawaii. Barbarian Days follows his journey through a somewhat social commentary in the form of an autobiography.
Dropping acid whilst riding waves in Honolulu, being in a gang during his school years and an insightful look at travelling interactions across South East Asia.
Let My People Go Surfing – Yvon Chouinard
This isn’t actually about surfing. But with a title like that you would mock me for putting it in any other category, so here we are…
Instead, this is the story of Yvon Chouinard, legendary climber, environmentalist, businessman and the founder of clothing brand Patagonia.
Yvon tells stories from his younger years, heading out on epic expeditions before forming the paradigm shifting company Patagonia. Patagonia have proven that large businesses can uphold good ethics and create positive change in the world. This is particularly huge for a clothing company – where fast fashion has long been an issue.
Kook: What Surfing Taught Me About Love, Life, and Catching the Perfect Wave – Peter Heller
‘Kook’ is surfer speak for beginner. In this surf book, Peter Heller embarks on a journey of discover as he challenges himself to go from surfing noob to ripping barrels in one year.
Heller travels from Southern California, down through Mexico with his girlfriend. This is a romance novel, but not in the traditional sense. This is the love story of Peter and surfing, as he becomes more and more enticed by the waves, the subculture and the fascinating people he meets along the way.
Bad Karma – Paul Wilson
In the late 70’s, Paul Wilson was invited on a surf trip to Mexico with two local legends. The problem was, he didn’t have much money to pay for the trip, so decided to rob a supermarket to fund it (get the name now?).
Karma caught up with him pretty soon, as he discovered one of those joining him on the trip was a convicted killer on the run, and their trip was to the middle of cartel land, where a young El Chapo makes an appearance.
The story turns into more of a survival theme than surfing, as we join Paul Wilson on a wild adventure of misfortune.
True Survival Adventure Travel Books
The Twenty-Ninth Day: Surviving a Grizzly Attack in the Canadian Tundra – Alex Messenger
Don’t judge a book by its cover. But you can judge this book by its title.
This is a true survival epic. Messenger and his friends were on a 600 mile canoe trip when he was just 17. They blasted rapids and cruised through the stunning Canadian wilderness. It all turned south when Alex was hiking alone and was set upon by a grizzly bear. It was now up to Messenger and his friends to get him out of the wilderness and to safety.
438 Days – Jonathon Franklin
This may be the longest time span of a survival story I have ever heard. Salvador Alvarenga and his friend went out for a fishing trip off the coast of Mexico. Whilst out, a huge storm rolled in and swiftly blew them off course. Gale force winds blasted their small ship as they struggled to find the safety of a port.
Fourteen months later, Alvarenga washed up on the beach of an almost deserted island, 7,000 miles away from where he departed.
This book was put together from a collection of interviews with Alvarenga, search and rescue teams, as well as accounts from the islanders who found him.
Alone: Lost Overboard in the Indian Ocean – Brett Archibald
Brett Archibald was on a surf-charter boat doing a night crossing of the Mentawai Strait off of Sumatra, Indonesia. He was feeling sea sick so had gone on deck, leaning over the side. At some point he blacked out. Brett came to in the water, whirling around in the waves with the lights from his boat disappearing in the distance. Nobody had seen him fall.
In fact, it would be 8 hours until the rest of the boat passengers realised he was missing.
This is the unbelievable true survival story of Bretts miraculous rescue, after 28 hours floating alone at sea.
Jungle – Yossi Ghinsberg
Yet another terrifying true account. Four friends headed into the Amazon rainforest on an adventure that soon turned into a nightmare.
They became lost, disorientated and after weeks of wandering, they decided to split into pairs. Yossi then managed to get split once again and found himself alone in the jungle. With no survival training, a map, a compass or even a knife, he was truly at the mercy of mother nature.
This adventure travel book is a real tale of survival.
Entertaining Adventure Travel Books & Stories
Adventures for a Lifetime – Ed Stafford
A selection of handpicked adventure stories to add to your bucket list.
A week in the Rockies, tracking big cats in Botswana, skiing in the south pole or living with Shaolin Monks in China.
Ed Stafford is a British explorer, famous for being the first person to walk the length of the Amazon river. Who better to tell us some campfire adventure stories than this guy?!
Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel – Rolf Potts
This is far more than light entertainment. This book will provide you with the fundamental skills to head out on your own wild adventures around the world.
Rolf Potts covers:
- financing your travels
- choosing a destination
- adjusting to life on the road
- working and volunteering overseas
- handling travel adversity
Potts offers practical advice that could help you add a few extra weeks, months or even years on to your next trip.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail – Cheryl Strayed
Firstly, ‘Strayed’ is the perfect name to accompany this book.
Cheryl Strayed strayed from her life in the hopes of healing what had broken. Her mother passed and her marriage had fell apart, with nothing left to lose, she decided to walk the Pacific Crest Trail. She did this with no experience or training, and decided to go solo.
This is her story of walking 1,000 miles of the PCT, through the Mojave Desert in California, through Oregon to Washington State.
Marching Powder – Thomas McFadden
Thomas McFadden ran a successful tour agency. What made his tours so special? He was a convicted drug trafficker serving time in Bolivia’s infamous San Pedro prison.
Tourists would pay to see the prison and for a little bit extra, could bride the guards and spend the night doing cocaine with some of South America’s most notorious narco criminals.
This book is the bizarre story of what went on in the prison and a great insight to life behind bars in Bolivia.
The Accidental Adventurer – Ben Fogle
Ben Fogle is a household name in the U.K., who rose to fame after rowing the Atlantic Ocean. His life has been filled with many wild adventures, including walking to the South Pole, meeting remote tribes in Papua New Guinea and running the Sahara Desert.
His book details his path from geeky, shy, homesick kid, to wilderness adventure travel extraordinaire.
Don’t Go There – Adam Fletcher
A hilarious travel memoir filled with British humour (the best type). Adam Fletcher journeys to the places everyone else tries to escape from.
North Korea, Chernobyl and white out blizzards. Weird destinations and even weirder people.
Jupiters Travels: Four Years Around the World on a Triumph – Ted Simon
Ted Simon spent 4 years driving 78,000 miles through 48 countries. And he did this in the 70’s, when doing such things was far less common.
This book has inspired generations of travellers, including most notable Ewan McGregor.
Adventure Travel Books That You Should Definitely Read That I Can’t Think of a Category For
Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea and Human Life – George Monbiot
George Monbiot is a writer and environmentalist who strives to heal the human relationship with nature. For as long as humans have been on the planet, we have altered and toyed with our natural surroundings. Ever changing and manipulating it to serve us.
As we all know, this is having a catastrophic affect on the planet. George uses this book to show us what can happen if we let nature be. If we allow it to run its course. By taking us to places around the world where ‘rewilding’ has already happened, we can learn of the incredible healing powers of Mother Nature.
Feral also gives us a glimpse of what the planet was like before we starting shaping it. What animals and plants roaming the British countryside before we turned all wild spaces into farm land? And what could happen if we begin to rebuild these wild spaces.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – Hunter S. Thompson
This über cult classic is a wild ride from start to finish. Fear and Loathing follows Raoul Duke and Dr Gozo on a drug fuelled weekend in Vegas, where they were supposed to be reporting for a magazine. Beginning the journey on mescaline and quickly amping up with some LSD, things start to turn very weird very quick.
An entertaining adventure that has since been adapting into a movie starring Johnny Depp.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind – Yuval Noah Harari
The title says ‘brief’, yet it is only brief in the sense that the story of humankind is so long.
Dr. Harari maps out the journey of man, with a look at how homo-sapiens became the only species of human (there were others), how our cognition has developed and what that could mean for the future.
By looking at how humanity has treated other life forms, we can also try to understand how other lifeforms may treat homo-sapiens as we move forward into the new age where Data over takes religion.
Science is progressing our species at an astonishing rate. We clone animals and allow artificial intelligence to become a regular part of our lives – what could this mean for the future of homo-sapiens?
The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
This is my all time favourite book series.
The Hitch Hikers Guide takes us on a highly improbable (but not impossible) journey for Arthur Dent. His day starts with the news that his house is about to be demolished. The day only gets worse when his best friend informs him that planet Earth is also about to be demolished to make way for a new hyperspace express route.
Armed with only a towel and a book, they make their way through the universe trying to get to grips with reality.