Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Everest Disaster
by Jon Krakauer
Krakauer comes under a lot of fire for his books but they’re a damn fine read. If you read one book about climbing this should be it. Even for the non-mountaineers amongst us it is a superb blend of adventure and insanity in the Himalayas as a diverse group of amateurs attempt Everest.
What follows is a cavalcade of increasingly poor, and ultimately tragic, decisions. Into Thin Air and Into the Wild are two of his finest works and both books are stunningly compelling and definitely belong on every adventurers bookshelf.
Touching The Void
by Joe Simpson
If you read two books about mountaineering Touching the Void should be the other one. Another superb tale of survival and insanity, this time about a pair of British mountaineers, full of the invincibility of young men, in the Andes.
What follows is a series of trials of the mind, soul and body the likes of which, hopefully, none of us will have to experience. By the end you will find yourself having to make a call on which is side you come down on when and if you find yourself pinned to the side of a storm-thrashed Andean mountain. Good luck.
Simpson has written other books but this is his most compelling and finest to date.
Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life
by William Finnegan
The New Yorker magazine writer and surfer Finnegan’s beautiful prose make Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life arguably the best book written about the pursuit of surfing.
In a sport full of posers and noise Finnegan and his friends surf quiet hidden corners of the big wave world charging in isolation across the history of modern surfing from his early days of Hawaii to the exploration of cold water waves such as Mavericks and the secret island of Madeira.
His life’s journey, through the early years as a grom in Hawaii, are idyllic but for me it is the sailing in the South Pacific and the exploration of Fiji and Samoa that excites. His tales make me wish I was born in a different time and place, a quieter era when there were a few more blank spaces on the map.
If Finnegan’s work doesn’t give you itchy feet make you want to dust down your boardies and head to the tropics then his cold water insanity probably will.
Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman – Including 10 More Years of Business Unusual
by Yvon Chouinard
A quiet environmentalist, climber and surfer had a different idea about business and so what started on the rock faces of Yellowstone Park evolved into the billion dollar eco-driven Patagonia.
Chouinard felt there was a different way, a kinder way, a more people and environmentally centric way of running in modern business and Let my people go surfing is part history and part manifesto. Anyone considering starting an apparel, or any other type of company in the modern adventure field, needs to start here.
Into the Heart of Borneo
by Redmond O’Hanlon
If you like your adventure with a less than superhero protagonist then Redmond O’Hanlon is your man. He has travelled and hiked through the Congo, the Amazon and here, in Borneo slowly physically and mentally unravelling with hilarious effect.
His teams abandon him, tribesman attempt to kidnap him, parasites desire to lay their eggs in him and, as his delirium really ramps up, the wildlife engage him in questionable philosophical debate.
O’Hanlon is a master storyteller who, unlike the others on the list will leave you thinking that, at least in part, bloody hell if he can do it why can’t I? But whether you should do it is a different matter altogether.
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