When the snow starts to fall, I grab an adventure book. I’m not sure why wintry weather makes me think adventure. Maybe it has to do with dreaming of being in a warm place, like in “The Lost City of Z,” or the opportunity to have an adventure that I will never be able to experience like in “The Martian.” Oddly enough, most of my adventure reading tends to be about surviving in the wilderness, like the escaped prisoners do in “The Long Walk” or Douglas Mawson’s amazing fight to survive in the Antarctic in “Alone on the Ice.” Sometimes learning about another person’s life as they tackle their dreams, as in “Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube,” where the author describes what it’s like to be a woman learning to run sled dogs and survive in the Arctic allows me to vicariously have experiences and learn along with the author. History definitely holds many adventures, whether on the high seas in “Master and Commander,” or leaving home uncertain where you will end up, like Sarah Graves, in the book “The Indifferent Stars Above,” when her wagon train makes a fatal decision that will end with the deaths of nearly everyone in the Donner Party. Maybe it has to do with courage; being courageous enough to face these adventures head on and learning what hardship really means.
NONFICTION | Christopher McCandless abandoned his family, his money and his possessions in an attempt to live a life of adventure. Four months after an Alaskan truck driver picked up McCandless and dropped him at the trail head of one of Alaska’s many trails into the wilderness, McCandless’s body is found in an abandoned bus, where he was living. Jon Krakauer charts McCandless’s journey around North America to his eventual death from starvation.
NONFICTION | Percy Fawcett ventured into the Amazon rainforest in search of a mysterious city and were never seen again. Over the years, others have searched for the lost city and have never succeeded. Dave Grann retraces the footsteps of Fawcett and others in his attempt to discover the lost city for himself.
NONFICTION | In 2008, eleven mountain climbers died on K2, the world’s second largest mountain, while some of the Sherpas survived. Zuckerman charts the paths of these native mountaineers from their remote villages to climbing K2. Using a cultural perspective to investigate the ways that the Sherpa are working on mountains and how it impacts their livelihood and families.
NONFICTION | Blair Braverman fell in love with the Arctic. By the time she was 19, she had moved to Norway to learn how to run sled dogs and then to Alaska as a tour guide. Blair works to become a “tough girl,” one who doesn’t shy away from looking danger in the face. Through her adventures, Braverman experiences the triumphs and failures of a journey of self-discovery and independence in a beautiful but harsh landscape.
NONFICTION | Nine experienced skiers and hikers set out for Mount Ortorten in Northern Russia. Several days after they were due to return, they hadn’t been heard from and a rescue operation was mounted. Their camp was located and several mysterious clues showed that the hikers had experienced something that caused them to cut their way out of their tent and flee, without warm clothing or footwear, across the bitterly cold, snowy valley to a forest nearby. The Russian authorities declared that the hikers had died from an “unknown compelling force,” and the area was sealed off for years. Keith McCloskey provides background information on the hikers and explores possible answers in his search for what the hikers might have encountered on that night in January.
NONFICTION | Since the days of Cortes, there have been rumors of a fantastic city hidden in the rainforests of South America. Indigenous tribes have legends about their ancestors fleeing to this hidden city to escape the Spaniards. In 1940, Theodore Morde returned from the same rainforests with a huge cache of artifacts, claiming he had found the lost city, but Morde committed suicide before he could reveal the city’s whereabouts. In 2012, Douglas Preston set out with a group of scientists to investigate how new technology could reveal hidden city in the hopes of locating the City of the Monkey God.
NONFICTION | Thor Heyerdahl theorized that the South Sea islands were actually settled by people from South America, nearly 4,300 miles to the east. Deciding to prove his theory, Herydahl constructed a balsa wood raft and sailed from Peru. Heyerdahl arrived three months later at the Polynesian island of Puka Puka.
NONFICTION | Joe Simpson and Simon Yates had just summited a 21,000 foot peak in the Andes when Joe plunged off an ice cliff, breaking his leg. Fighting both darkness and a snowstorm, Yates attempted to lower his friend to safety, only to cut the rope when danger threatened his own life. The next three days were an ordeal for the two climbing partners: Simon believed his friend had died, while Joe was very much alive and trapped in a crevasse. Knowing that his friend had to leave him behind, Joe began the long trek to base camp, climbing and crawling with a broken leg and frostbitten extremities.
NONFICTION | Holder of the American record for the longest time spent in space, as well as a veteran of four space missions, Kelly describes what it’s like to live in one of the most hostile environments known to man. Sharing the challenges of space, including the mundane as well as the life threatening, Kelly describes the long term effects of space including the isolation from his loved ones, especially in times of tragedy.
NONFICTION | At 22, Cheryl Strayed believed that she had lost it all: her mother had passed away, her marriage was deteriorating and her family was scattered. After four years, Cheryl decided that she would walk the Pacific Crest Trail, starting the Mojave Desert and ending in Washington State. She would do it alone, with no training, just her desire. What starts as a challenge becomes a way of healing for her as she journeys along.
NONFICTION | Jon Krakauer joins a paid expedition to summit Mount Everest. Unfortunately, that particular season was one of the most deadly on the mountain, with Krakauer’s group, as well as other expeditions, summiting Everest, only to be caught in a deadly blizzard. After the tragedy, Krakauer autopsies the expedition, pointing out what went wrong and suggesting ways that other future tragedies on Everest caused by paid expeditions leading untrained climbers up the world’s tallest mountain could be prevented.
NONFICTION | Near the end of World War II, a group of servicemen and WACs took a pleasure flight over “Shangri-La,” a mysterious and beautiful area in the jungles of Dutch New Guinea. Their plane crashed leaving only a few, injured survivors to fight their way down the mountain and face natives that had never seen a white person before. In addition, they had to be wary of possible Japanese soldiers that they might stumble upon. Using recently declassified documents and personal mementos, films and photos, Zuckoff tells this tale of triumph for the first time.
NONFICTION | In 1815, the cargo ship, the Commerce, ran aground on the shores of North Africa. The 12 American sailors were stranded on the edge of the Sahara desert. After attempting to sail out, they are captured by Arabs and forced into slavery. From there the crew embarked on a harrowing journey across the Sahara desert. King, with funding from National Geographic, followed the trail of these sailors across Northern Africa.
NONFICTION | In 1941, the author and six companions escaped a Soviet labor camp in Yaktusk. The conditions in the camp were unbearable with daily executions, starvation, untreated wounds and illnesses, not to mention the extreme cold. Together the seven men traveled by foot from Siberia, into China through the Gobi Desert, into Tibet and finally over the Himalayas into British controlled India. Considered a triumph of human will and desire to be alive and free, this book will haunt the reader long after the book is over.
NONFICTION | In 1967, twelve young mountaineers started their ascent of Denali, also known as Mount McKinley, in Alaska. Only five would return after one of the most deadly snowstorms to ever hit the mountain. Andy Hall, the son of the park superintendent at that time, investigates the disaster, tracking down rescuers and survivors, lost documents and radio communications made during the ascent and storm. This book becomes a record of survival in the face of one of the most terrifying mega-storms in weather history.
NONFICTION | Growing up in North Korea, Hyeonseo was one of many people who were trapped by the repressive regime of the North Korean government. Living near the border with China, her family was aware of the outside world and how different it was from North Korea. When the 1990 famine hit, Hyeonseo began to realize that her government had brainwashed her and her family and decided that it was time to flee. Given the poverty and hunger that were rampant in North Korea, how could it be the “best country in the world?”
NONFICTION | In 1846, Sarah Graves, her husband and her family decide to travel west to California in search of a better life. After joining up with George Donner’s wagon train and suffering through the unmapped Hastings Cutoff that included a grueling trek through the muddy salt flats of the Salt Lake Desert, they found themselves stranded in the Sierra Nevada Mountains as the first of many winter storms buried the pioneers and what is left of their wagon train. As the winter progresses and the party loses hope of ever being rescued, 17 brave individuals including Sarah Graves, decide to walk through the snow and over the mountain to send back help. Eight members of the Forlorn Hope party died during the hike over the mountains and the survivors were eventually rescued. Unfortunately, weather and mountain conditions made it impossible to send back help to those left behind. A triumph and tragedy of epic proportions, this book describes the fear and hunger that those stranded pioneers felt.
NONFICTION | Douglas Mawson, the leader of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, managed to survive alone in Antarctica. After losing one of his teammates to a crevasse that also caused the loss of their team’s best sled dogs, rations and tents, Mawson and his other team member, Mertz, began the long trek back to their base camp, surviving on the remaining dogs and some supplies that they had cached. Mertz began to suffer from madness and frost bite, eventually falling into a coma and dying. When he finally arrived at his base camp, Mawson was barely recognizable. One of the greatest tales of survival in the harsh conditions of Antarctica.
FICTION | Jack Aubrey is the ship’s captain for a man-o-war during the Napoleonic wars. While on board, he becomes friends with the ship’s surgeon. From there it’s a swashbuckling look into life on board an active war ship. O’Brian’s details and his ability to make the reader believe they are along for the trip makes this an exciting story.
FICTION | The eccentric Maxwell Broadbent has disappeared along with his fortune and his artifacts. Fearing the worst, his three sons gather and view Broadbent’s final video. Broadbent hasn’t died, but has concealed himself and his treasure inside a pyramid and it’s up to his sons to find him. But his sons aren’t the only ones on his trail.
FICTION | After the cargo ship he was on sinks, Pi is the only human survivor. Fleeing the wreck in a lifeboat, Pi’s shipmates include animals from his father’s zoo: a Bengal tiger, a zebra, a hyena and an orangutan. How Pi manages to survive his trek across the ocean and return home is an adventure!
FICTION | When an old friend shows up and asks for help, Ex-Army Ranger Tucker Wayne and his former combat dog Kane decide to protect her. In doing so, Tucker and Kane are forced to solve a mystery with roots in World War 2 that leads to some of the most powerful figures in our country’s government.
FICTION | When the Soviet Union decides to seize the whole Persian Gulf in retaliation for a destroyed oil refinery, they come close to setting off another world war. Knowing that the United States has promised to protect all the oil producing countries, the Soviet Union decides the best way to deal with this is to destroy NATO and possibly start the next worldwide war.
FICTION | In 1853, four indentured servants escape their work camp in Russian Alaska. Traveling via canoe from New Archangel to Astoria, Oregon, they are forced to battle high winds, dangerous seas and attack from the hostile Tlingit before finally arriving in Oregon. Based on an actual incident.
FICTION | Weaving together the past and the present, this book starts with a modern day anthropologist and specialist in ancient technology discovering a secret in the heart of a clockwork doll. In eighteenth century Russia, the czar’s loyal mechinician creates two beautiful automatons, Peter and Elena. These automatons are destined to serve great empires and possess an uncanny ability.
FICTION | Late one night, while exploring her father’s library, the narrator stumbles upon a cache of old letters that lead her to a quest for the darkest part of humanity and the desire to destroy that evil. It is a quest for the truth behind the romanticized picture of Dracula and Vlad Tepes. Following the clues across Eastern Europe and through archives and libraries, she discovers more about this hidden evil, while trying to defend her quest from those who do not want the truth revealed.
FICTION | When a new technique allows the cloning of dinosaurs, an enterprising inventor turns entrepreneur and creates a park that will allow everyone to enjoy his new dinosaurs. Then the power goes out, letting the dinosaurs loose in the park, including the powerful and deadly T. Rex. Will anyone survive Jurassic Park?
FICTION | Odysseus just wants to go home after being gone 10 long years to fight the Trojan War. Unfortunately, he made the mistake of angering the god Poseidon, who will not allow the ocean and winds to bring Odysseus’s ships anywhere near his home. Surviving encounters with a cyclops, the witch Medea and the Island of the Lotus Eaters, Odysseus finally returns home to find himself in the midst of suitors wooing his wife, Penelope.
FICTION | When Mattie Rose was 14, a coward known as Tom Chaney, shot her father and robbed him of his horse, two gold pieces and $150. Now Mattie is out for revenge against the man who killed her father. Along for the ride is the meanest US Marshall, Rooster Cogburn and Texas Ranger LeBoeuf each with his own reasons for tracking down Tom Chaney.
FICTION | After being caught stealing from his employer, hacker Case can no longer enter cyberspace. With a ruined central nervous system and no money to pay for repairs, Case hustles his way through the Sprawl, one of the largest urban centers in the world. He’s approached by an ex-military officer, Armitage, with an offer; they will repair his nervous system for his services as a hacker. Not trusting Armitage, Case, Molly, an assassin with knives under her fingernails, and the uploaded consciousness of one of the world’s greatest hackers, continue to play along with Armitage, while trying to figure out exactly what he’s up to.
FICTION | In 2035, mankind has finally reached Mars. When an unexpected storm blows in, a terrible accident forces the crew to leave one of their number behind, believing he is dead. Waking up alone on Mars, Mark Watney must figure out how to survive on an alien planet with only a minimal amount of equipment, including materials he is able to scavenge from other unmanned expeditions. Filled with edge of the seat danger, as well as delving into the mundane facts of staying alive. Weir’s book is a great adventure into the unknown.
FICTION | During the Ethiopian war, many priests were imprisoned. Now only one remains locked up. His crime? Claiming to know the location of the Holy Grail. When three westerners discover this secret, they travel through the dense jungle to find the most sought after of all relics.
FICTION | When a cache of important Mayan artifacts describing the end of the world are stolen, archaeologist Lina Taylor teams up with a former customs official to find the missing pieces before the apocalypse starts.
FICTION | Set during the Viet Nam War, this book of linked stories tells of a platoon of soldiers fighting on the ground. Many of the stories and situations are based on O’Brien’s own experiences in the war. Written to help explain the experiences of returning soldiers, this book has become a staple of school reading lists.
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