Books for Those with an Adventurous Spirit

shelved under Nature and Beach Reads

I appreciate adventure, and good writing. And, I like to wind down with books that allow me to escape into something real. I like to choose titles about things that, however far-fetched, I can imagine myself doing — climbing Everest, visiting the South Pole, riding the California Zephyr.


Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon

by Thomas M. Myers, Michael P. Ghiglieri

The summary on the cover is an apt description of this book, which I purchased during a visit to Grand Canyon: "Gripping accounts of all known fatal mishaps in the most famous of the World's Seven Natural Wonders." Sounds morbid, huh? Maybe it is — a little — but the book makes the point of educating the public about the very real risks of death in Grand Canyon. The book analyzes recurring patterns of fatalities for the commonalities in their contributing factors. Over the Edge provides a historical look at the various ways people have died — falling, in floods, in the Colorado River, freak errors and accidents, suicides and murders. I don't think I'll hike to the bottom of the canyon, ever, but I sure feel better about riding a mule down.


To the Edge: A Man, Death Valley, and the Mystery of Endurance

by Kirk Johnson

A nurse from the Syracuse area was training to run the 2007 Badwater Ultramarathon, the 135-mile run across Death Valley in the middle of July. I was writing about him, and planning to provide updates about his progress on my blog during his race. He suggested I read this book. I thought it would be way more information than I needed to know to write my stories, but I checked the book out from the library anyway — and couldn't put it down. It's written by a New York Time reporter who turned into an endurance runner. He too had written about Badwater. Then he actually went on to run it — and write about his experience.


Zephyr: Tracking a Dream Across America

by Henry Kisor

I've always had a love and fascination of trains, and when I met a man who shared that interest, we traveled by train every chance we got — and even got engaged on Amtrak's Silver Meteor. I always wanted to travel the famed California Zephyr but hadn't gotten around to it when I heard of Henry Kisor's book. Kisor was the book editor and literary columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. He was also a rail fan, who rode the 2,416-mile Zephyr route from Chicago to San Francisco 15 times in researching material for "Zephyr." He writes with authority, from the point of view of a passenger, but also with an insight of the employees. I was in the midst of reading the book when my own newspaper sent me to cover a train crash (no fatalities, but lots of injuries) in Upstate New York. I mentioned Kisor's book to the Amtrak spokesman at the scene, and his tense face broke into a smile. He loved the book, too.


Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster

by Jon Krakauer

This one's the classic adventure book, about the May 1999 disaster on Mount Everest we've all heard about. But even if you think you've read all the news reports, give Jon Krakauer a chance to put you on the mountain with him. The publishers describe it as a cautionary tale, but it's far more than that. Krakauer lets us get to know the people on the mountain in a way the news reports did not.


Ice Bound : A Doctor's Incredible Battle for Survival at the South Pole

by Jerri Nielsen, Maryanne Vollers

This is a true story you just couldn't make up. A 46-year-old woman doctor from Ohio signs on to spend a year providing medical care at the most remote place on Earth, the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station on Antarctica, where they live in total darkness for six months of the year with temperatures down to 100 degrees below zero. That, alone, would be an adventure. But a few months into her stay, Dr. Nielsen discovered a lump in her breast. Guided by emails to doctors in the United States, she performed a biopsy on herself and started chemotherapy against the aggressive cancer, before a daring rescue by the Air National Guard.


Between a Rock and a Hard Place

by Aron Ralston

So you're out hiking by yourself, climbing a few rocks, in a remote Utah canyonlands, and a boulder shifts, pinning your arm. That's what happened to 27-year-old Aron Ralston. He wound up trapped there for six days, before finally cutting off part of his arm to free himself. In Between a Rock and a Hard Place, he recalls, almost minute by minute, what he thought and what he did during those six days.



by Piers Paul Read

Newsweek calls this book "a classic in the literature of survival," and I agree. The incident upon which the book is based — a plane crash into the remote, snow-peaked Andes — happened Oct. 12, 1972. The plane carried 45 people, including a team of young rugby players. Only 16 made it off the mountain alive, after a 10-week ordeal that included cannibalism. Knowing that, you may fear you'll be too queasy to read, but the author handles this respectfully, just the way it was handled in the aftermath of the crash. You can't read this without asking yourself what would you do, in the same situation?

This book also appears on True Tales of Survival