Five Adventure Books for Summer Reading

Books offer us different worlds and make us engage in alternative realities. If you're not traveling anywhere this year, but you're still longing for adventure, try taking a journey by reading some of these five adventure books, one fiction, four non-fiction. Their worlds will take you miles away, without making you actually move.

Moby Dick, by Herman Melville (1851)

Moby Dick has one of the most recognizable first sentences in world literature: Call me Ishmael. This greatest fiction adventure book of all time is a story about victory and defeat, about life and the meaning of life, about the eternal struggle of trying to be the best. It could change your perspective on a deeper level and make you question all the great enigmas that have bugged humanity since its beginnings. Still, the book doesn’t make you engage in a tiring way. Reading about the true calling of Ishmael and Ahab will bring many biblical references into focus for you; and Moby Dick, that magnificent whale, will make you think about nature’s force, oceans and seas, and all the monsters they hide. Let the author take you on forbidden seas; you definitely shouldn’t miss this one.

As for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts.

You can read it online here.

The Worst Journey in the World, by Apsley Cherry-Garrard (1922)

If you’re a fan of the Discovery channel and you get fascinated by human achievements, you should definitely try reading this book. This is an actual memoir from the British Antarctic expedition that took place in 1910-1913. The author was a member of the expedition, and it’s truly exciting to read the book in the first person singular. You can actually smell the sea and feel the cold, and it feels like all the obstacles and problems that the crew faced in these extreme conditions are close at hand. But you’re safe and sound, in your cozy bed. The book has also been adapted into a BBC documentary drama and recieved great reviews.

And I tell you, if you have the desire for knowledge and the power to give it physical expression, go out and explore.

You can read it online here.

The Right Stuff, by Tom Wolfe (1979)

Amazing space and all its mysteries: makes you gasp with amazement, doesn’t it? Have you ever wondered how life picks the pioneers of progress, and what it takes to take a significant step for humanity? If you have, this book was written for you. The author did actual research, interviewing the group of seven astronauts selected by NASA as test pilots. Their wives were also interviewed. Wolf wanted to know what motivated every single crew member to become part of such dangerous missions. He wanted to unlock the secret formula: what physical and mental characteristics, ambitions, etc. can make a man take such a step. An extremely engaging piece to take you out of this world!

In time, the Navy would compile statistics showing that for a career Navy pilot, i.e., one who intended to keep flying for twenty years… there was a 23 percent probability that he would die in an aircraft accident. This did not even include combat deaths, since the military did not classify death in combat as accidental.

The book isn’t available for free online, but you can find it on Amazon for a reasonable price.

Out of Africa, by Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke (1937)

Travel books and memoirs are particularly interesting because of the images they evoke. In this book, the author opens up important questions about colonialism and cultural hegemony. Who has the right to call one culture civilized, and what makes one culture more right than the other one? By living in Africa, the author managed to get to know native cultures and subcultures, and the differences between one and another. She also tried to understand the contrast between African and European ethical values. It is a story about living on a farm in Africa and curiosity about what is unknown or perhaps unknowable to a human, as well as questioning our own identities when cultures collide. You know you are truly alive when you’re living among lions.

The book isn’t available for free online, but you can find it on Amazon for a reasonable price.

Annapurna, by Maurice Herzog (1952)

One of the most exciting books to read! Annapurna, the peak in the Himalayas, was conquered for the first time by Maurice Herzog and his crew. They started climbing without oxygen, heading to an altitude of 8000m! They didn’t have precise maps; they struggled with bad weather and exhaustion. The battle they were involved in will make your heart pound faster. Herzog lost all his fingers due to frostbite and hypothermia; he was barely alive when he was rescued. The whole book was dictated, since he couldn’t write himself.

Annapurna, to which we had gone emptyhanded, was a treasure on which we should live the rest of our days. With this realization we turn the page: a new life begins. There are other Annapurnas in the lives of men.

It’s a great story about the need to defeat the prior you and answer the call inside of you. Extra info if this topic interests you: in the 1980s, Arlene Blum wrote a book called Annapurna: A Woman’s Place, in which she discussed the problems of gender roles and prejudices regarding mountain climbing.

 The book isn’t available for free online, but you can find it on Amazon for a reasonable price.

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