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Extreme Classics: 100 Greatest Adventure Books

( National Geographic Adventure )



Worst Journey in the World
by Apsley Cherry-Garrard

As War and Peace is to novels, so is The Worst Journey in the World to the literature of polar travel: the one to beat. The author volunteered as a young man to go to the Antarctic with Robert Falcon Scott in 1910; that, and writing this book, are the only things of substance he ever did in life. They were enough. The expedition set up camp on the edge of the continent while Scott waited to go for the Pole in the spring. But first, Cherry-Garrard and two other men set out on a midwinter trek to collect emperor penguin eggs. It was a heartbreaker: three men hauling 700 pounds (318 kilograms) of gear through unrelieved darkness, with temperatures reaching 50, 60, and 70 degrees below zero (-46, -51, and -57 degrees Celsius); clothes frozen so hard it took two men to bend them. But Cherry-Garrard's greater achievement was to imbue everything he endured with humanity and even humor. And—as when he describes his later search for Scott and the doomed South Pole team—with tragedy as well. His book earns its preeminent place on this list by captivating us on every level: It is vivid; it is moving; it is unforgettable.
Call Number:
Electronic Resources
Publication Date:
1922

Rank:
1




West With the Night
by Beryl Markham

'A bloody wonderful book,' Ernest Hemingway called it, and so it is—Africa from the seat of an Avro biplane, winged prose, if you will, about the lion that mauled her, about the Masai and the Kikuyu, about flying over the Serengeti, searching for the downed plane of her lover. It appears that Markham's third husband, writer Raoul Schumacher, contributed much of the literary polish. But what of it? The book, and the life, still radiate excitement: 'I have lifted my plane from the Nairobi airport for perhaps a thousand flights and I have never felt her wheels glide from the earth into the air without knowing the uncertainty and the exhilaration of firstborn adventure.'
Call Number:
DT365.75.M3 M3
Publication Date:
1942

Rank:
8




Voyage of the Beagle
by Charles Darwin

The grand old man of modern biology was a gentleman of leisure, a crack shot, and no scientist when, at 22, he boarded the Beagle for its long survey voyage to South America and the Pacific. His record of the trip is rich in anthropology and science. (His shipmates called him 'the Fly-catcher.') The adventure comes in watching over Darwin's shoulder as he works out the first glimmerings of his theory of evolution.
Call Number:
QH11 .D2 Electronic Resource
Publication Date:
1839

Rank:
23




Spirit of St. Louis
by Charles Lindbergh

This is Lindbergh's account of perhaps the most famous air journey ever made, the first nonstop flight from New York to Paris. It's a spacious book, too, full of incident—bailouts over Illinois cornfields, Lindbergh's barnstorming days, family lore. More than the tale of a great adventure, it's a portrait of the adventurer.
Call Number:
TL540.L5 A85
Publication Date:
1953

Rank:
19




Travels in Arabia Deserta
by Charles M. Doughty

During his two years in the desert, Doughty traveled with camel caravans, lived in Bedouin tents, went hungry, and faced much danger. Then he wrote it all up in the most stylized, peculiar prose, which nevertheless gives us a fascinating picture of a type of Arab life that has been all but forgotten today.
Call Number:
DS207 .D73 1953
Publication Date:
1888

Rank:
51




Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada
by Clarence King

9780585274324Clarence King; Francis Peloubet FarquharMountaineering in the Sierra NevadaA bona fide classic, originally published in 1872, Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada is still exciting reading. It describes the perils and pleasures experienced by Clarence King (1842-1901) while conducting the first geological survey of California in the 1860s. His language was equal to the marvels he found, and here with unfading brilliance are his accounts of scaling such mountains as Tyndall, Shasta, and Whitney. The chapters on the Yosemite Valley and surrounding High Sierras were written while he was surveying the boundaries of a newly designated national park. There are also delightful vignettes of western characters, including a Sierra artist and a family of Pike County hog farmers. & - Description from Syndetics
Call Number:
F868 .S5 K542 1997 EB
Publication Date:
1872

Rank:
54




Desert Solitaire
by Edward Abbey

Abbey is our very own desert father, a hermit loading up on silence and austerity and the radical beauty of empty places. Early on he spent summers working as a ranger at Utah's Arches National Monument, and those summers were the source for this book of reverence for the wild—and outrage over its destruction. But really his whole life was an adventure and a protest against all the masks of progress. He wanted to recapture life on the outside—bare-boned, contemptuous of what we call civilization—and to do it without flinching. He helped ignite the environmental movement, teaching his followers to save the world by leaving it absolutely alone.
Call Number:
PS3551.B2 Z463 1988
Publication Date:
1968

Rank:
7




South
by Ernest Shackleton

Shackleton's story bears endless retelling (and it has been retold, in fine accounts by Alfred Lansing and, more recently, Caroline Alexander). Here we have it in the great British explorer's own words, quiet, understated, enormously compelling. We all know the story: the expedition to Antarctica in the Endurance, the ship breaking up in the ice, the incredible journey in an open boat across the world's stormiest seas. Though Shackleton's literary gifts may not equal those of Cherry-Garrard or Nansen, his book is a testament, plain and true, to what human beings can endure.
Call Number:
G850 1914.S53 S53 2009 EB
Publication Date:
1919

Rank:
15




Oregon Trail
by Francis Parkman

In 1846, the future historian of the American West went west himself, following the trail of the emigrant trains into the Rockies. 'A month ago,' he writes along the way, 'I should have thought it rather a startling affair to have an acquaintance ride out in the morning and lose his scalp before night, but here it seems the most natural thing in the world.' Generations of readers have loved this book; you will, too.
Call Number:
F592 .P284 2010 EB
Publication Date:
1849

Rank:
31




Out of Africa
by Isak Dinesen

9780679600213Isak Dinesen; Mark Hannon (Illustrator)Out of AfricaSelected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best nonfiction books of all time In this book, the author of Seven Gothic Tales gives a true account of her life on her plantation in Kenya. She tells with classic simplicity of the ways of the country and the natives: of the beauty of the Ngong Hills and coffee trees in blossom: of her guests, from the Prince of Wales to Knudsen, the old charcoal burner, who visited her: of primitive festivals: of big game that were her near neighbors--lions, rhinos, elephants, zebras, buffaloes--and of Lulu, the little gazelle who came to live with her, unbelievably ladylike and beautiful. The Random House colophon made its debut in February 1927 on the cover of a little pamphlet called "Announcement Number One." Bennett Cerf and Donald Klopfer, the company's founders, had acquired the Modern Library from publishers Boni and Liveright two years earlier. One day, their friend the illustrator Rockwell Kent stopped by their office. Cerf later recalled, "Rockwell was sitting at my desk facing Donald, and we were talking about doing a few books on the side, when suddenly I got an inspiration and said, 'I've got the name for our publishing house. We just said we were go-ing to publish a few books on the side at random. Let's call it Random House.' Donald liked the idea, and Rockwell Kent said, 'That's a great name. I'll draw your trademark.' So, sitting at my desk, he took a piece of paper and in five minutes drew Random House, which has been our colophon ever since." Throughout the years, the mission of Random House has remained consistent: to publish books of the highest quality, at random. We are proud to continue this tradition today. This edition is set from the first American edition of 1937 and commemorates the seventy-fifth anniversary of Random House. - Description from Syndetics
Call Number:
DT433 .D56 1985
Publication Date:
1937

Rank:
37




To Conquer the Air
by James Tobin

James Tobin, a journalist twice nominated for a Pulitzer, is also a historian, and it's criminal a writer should be so good in two fields. In this book, the most critically acclaimed of all the books to celebrate the Wright Brothers' 100-year anniversary, Tobin jumps smoothly between the Wrights and their competition—Smithsonian Secretary Samuel Pierpont Langley, Alexander Graham Bell in Canada, a collection of assorted Frenchmen—and back to the Wrights. He explains the technology of flying without losing the reader, dramatizes but does not overdramatize, and breathes life into the dead. Tobin has written a history of flight that ought to become the standard for his generation.
Call Number:
TL540.W7 T63 2003
Publication Date:
2003

Rank:
101




Running the Amazon
by Joe Kane

9780394553313Joe KaneRunning the AmazonThe voyage began in the lunar terrain of the Peruvian Andes, where coca leaf is the only remedy against altitude sickness. It continued down rapids so fierce they could swallow a raft in a split second. It ended six months and 4,200 miles later, where the Amazon runs gently into the Atlantic. Joe Kane's personal account of the first expedition to travel the entirety of the world's longest river is a riveting adventure in the tradition of Joseph Conrad, filled with death-defying encounters: with narco-traffickers and Sendero Luminoso guerrillas and nature at its most unforgiving. Not least of all, Running the Amazon shows a polyglot group of urbanized travelers confronting their wilder selves -- their fear and egotism, selflessness and courage. - Description from Syndetics
Call Number:
F2546 .K19 1989
Publication Date:
1989

Rank:
57




My First Summer in the Sierra
by John Muir

In the summer of 1869, young and fresh, Muir traveled through the Sierra Nevada with a shepherd and his flock. This book is his journal, and it, too, is young and fresh. Muir, who would become a legendary advocate for wilderness and the founder of the Sierra Club, always played down the dangers he faced. But this book is full, nevertheless, of bears. And charm. It reminds you of how much wildness we have lost.
Call Number:
QH31.M9 A3 1997
Publication Date:
1911

Rank:
42




Exploration of the Colorado River
by John Wesley Powell

Powell lost most of his right arm fighting for the Union, but that didn't stop him from leading the first descent of the Grand Canyon. The year was 1869, and he and his nine men started on the Green River in wooden boats. 'We have an unknown distance yet to run,' writes Powell, 'an unknown river yet to explore. What falls there are, we know not; what rocks beset the channel, we know not; what walls rise over the river, we know not. Ah, well!' Ah, well, indeed. The rapids were overpowering. They lost boats and supplies. They ran out of food. Near the end, three of the men lost their nerve and climbed out of the canyon; they were killed by Indians. The others stayed with Powell and survived. Powell himself was an unusual man—tough, driven, hard to please. He was also a thoughtful man, a friend of Native Americans, and a gifted geologist. It is this combination—deep curiosity allied with great courage—that makes the book a classic.
Call Number:
F788 .P886 1957
Publication Date:
1975

Rank:
4




Into Thin Air
by Jon Krakauer

Was it fate that put Krakauer—at once a crack climber, a seasoned journalist, and a sensitive conscience—on the world's highest mountain during that notorious 1996 season? Unpredictable weather, human folly, and a mind-set committed to client satisfaction killed 12 people on Everest that year, while the whole world watched. Krakauer showed us what it really meant: the traffic jams on the summit ridge; guides bending their own rules to get exhausted clients to the top. He showed us the consequences of disrespect for this formidable goddess, Chomolungma, as the Sherpas call her. And Krakauer is as hard on himself as he is on the rest. Whereas Annapurna is the record of a triumph, Into Thin Air is the postmortem of a debacle—less inspiring, but no less powerful. As the most widely read mountaineering work in recent history, it has profoundly shaped our idea of extreme adventure and who and what it is for.
Call Number:
GV199.44.E85 K725 1997
Publication Date:
1997

Rank:
9




Sailing Alone Around the World
by Joshua Slocum

At loose ends and in your 50s, what better way to pass the time than to sail alone around the world? The journey took three years and covered 46,000 miles (74,000 kilometer); Slocum was chased by pirates, survived major storms, suffered hallucinations. But he made it. He was the first to do it alone. Then he wrote this marvelous, salty book. In 1909, he put to sea again. This time, he disappeared.
Call Number:
G440 .S63 S56 2008 EB
Publication Date:
1900

Rank:
27




Travels
by Marco Polo

Polo dictated these tales to a scribe, a writer of romances named Rustichello, while the two men shared a cell in a Genoese prison. Just how much Rustichello added to the text nobody knows. Yet most of what Polo tells us about his overland journey to Asia checks out. He traveled during a relatively peaceful time, so this is not a book about taking physical risks. Nor is it as accessible to modern readers as many of the books on this list. Yet it is without question the founding adventure book of the modern world. Polo gave to the age of exploration that followed the marvels of the East, the strange customs, the fabulous riches, the tribes with gold teeth. It was a Book of Dreams, an incentive, a goad. Out of it came Columbus (whose own copy of the book was heavily annotated), Magellan, Vasco da Gama, and the rest of modern history.
Call Number:
G370 .P72 1958
Publication Date:
1298

Rank:
10




Roughing It
by Mark Twain

Twain lit out for the territory when the Civil War started and knocked around the West for six years. Roughing It is the record of that time, a great comic bonanza, hilarious when it isn't simply funny, full of the most outrageous characters and events. It is not an adventure book, it is an anti-adventure book, but no less indispensable.
Call Number:
PS1318 .A1 2010 EB
Publication Date:
1972

Rank:
13




Rank:
18




Annapurna
by Maurice Herzog

Abbey is our very own desert father, a hermit loading up on silence and austerity and the radical beauty of empty places. Early on he spent summers working as a ranger at Utah's Arches National Monument, and those summers were the source for this book of reverence for the wild—and outrage over its destruction. But really his whole life was an adventure and a protest against all the masks of progress. He wanted to recapture life on the outside—bare-boned, contemptuous of what we call civilization—and to do it without flinching. He helped ignite the environmental movement, teaching his followers to save the world by leaving it absolutely alone.
Call Number:
DS485.H6 H434
Publication Date:
1952

Rank:
6




Journals
by Meriwether Lewis & William Clark

Are there two American explorers more famous? Were there any braver? When they left St. Louis in 1804 to find a water route to the Pacific, no one knew how extensive the Rocky Mountains were or even exactly where they were, and the land beyond was terra incognita. Lewis and Clark's Journals are the closest thing we have to a national epic, and they are magnificent, full of the wonder of the Great West. Here are the first sightings of the vast prairie dog cities; here are huge bears that keep on coming at you with five or six bullets in them, Indian tribes with no knowledge of white men, the mountains stretching for a thousand miles; here are the long rapids, the deep snows, the ways of the Sioux, Crow, Assiniboin; here are buffalo by the millions. Here is the West in its true mythic proportions.
Call Number:
F592.4 .L49 2001 V.8 EB
Publication Date:
1814

Rank:
2




Alone
by Richard Byrd

9781597268912David M. GillilanInstream Flow Protection: Seeking a Balance in Western Water Use When Admiral Richard E. Byrd set out on his second Antarctic expedition in 1934, he was already an international hero for having piloted the first flights over the North and South Poles. His plan for this latest adventure was to spend six months alone near the bottom of the world, gathering weather data and indulging his desire "to taste peace and quiet long enough to know how good they really are." But early on things wterribly wrong. Isolated in the pervasive polar night with no hope of release until spring, Byrd began suffering inexplicable symptoms of mental and physical illness. By the time he discovered that carbon monoxide from a defective stovepipe was poisoning him, Byrd was already engaged in a monumental struggle to save his life and preserve his sanity. When Alone was first published in 1938, it became an enormous bestseller. This edition keeps alive Byrd's unforgettable narrative for new generations of readers. - Description from Syndetics
Call Number:
G875 .B9 A32 1984 EB
Publication Date:
1938

Rank:
49




Two Years Before the Mast
by Richard Henry Dana

Scion of a prominent Boston family, Dana dropped out of Harvard and, hoping to recover the strength of his eyes, weakened by measles, signed on with a merchant ship as a common sailor. His book about his time at sea is an American classic, vivid in its description of the sailor's life and all its dangers and delights.
Call Number:
G540 .D36 2008 EB
Publication Date:
1840

Rank:
14




Scott's Last Expedition: The Journals
by Robert Falcon Scott

Whatever else English explorers can do, they can almost always write. And when things are at their worst, they manage, somehow, to be most eloquent. That's the only word for Scott's Journals, with its entries running right to the end of his desperate race home from the South Pole. Scott's courage—and his mistakes—are known to everyone. Here it all is as he lived it, and as he died.
Call Number:
G850 1910.S4 S358 2006 EB
Publication Date:
1913

Rank:
38




Perfect storm : a true story of men against the sea
by Sebastian Junger

Waves ten stories high, hurricane-force winds, longline swordfish fishermen and their wives and girlfriends, bad omens, National Guard air-rescue teams, heroism, fear, and the bars of Gloucester, Massachusetts: Junger has a gift for gathering the elements, if you will, of his story, dramatizing them and impressing the hell out of you with the power of weather.
Call Number:
QC945 .J66 1999
Publication Date:
1997

Rank:
30




Seven Pillars of Wisdom
by T.E. Lawrence

A desert woman speaks to the British adventurer of his 'horrible blue eyes which looked, she said, like the sky shining through the eye-sockets of an empty skull.' Indeed. He must have been something—crazily intense in his white robes, as romantic a figure as any who has ever lived: Lawrence of Arabia. Who could resist such a book as this?
Call Number:
D568.4 .L4 1935B C2
Publication Date:
1926

Rank:
24




Kon-Tiki
by Thor Heyerdahl

This is Lindbergh's account of perhaps the most famous air journey ever made, the first nonstop flight from New York to Paris. It's a spacious book, too, full of incident—bailouts over Illinois cornfields, Lindbergh's barnstorming days, family lore. More than the tale of a great adventure, it's a portrait of the adventurer.
Call Number:
G530 .H463 1950a
Publication Date:
1950

Rank:
17




Right Stuff
by Tom Wolfe

With all the flash and fireworks of Wolfe's writing, it's easy to overlook that, at bottom, he's a great reporter. And this long and intimate look into the lives, minds, and deeds of the men who rode the first American rockets into space remains Wolfe's best book and the first true classic from the dawn of space exploration. The race with the Russians, the dauntless Chuck Yeager—Wolfe piles story upon story, and the pile glows.
Call Number:
TL789.8.U5 W64
Publication Date:
1979

Rank:
26




Arabian Sands
by Wilfred Thesiger

The southern Arabian desert, a quarter million square miles of sand (650,000 square kilometers), is now a place of oil wells and Land Rovers, but before the 1950s it was still known as the Empty Quarter, a place you entered only on camel and only as an Arab. Only a few white men had ever seen it, much less crossed it. From 1945 to 1950, the British Thesiger crossed it twice, living with the Bedouin, sharing their hard lives. His book is the classic of desert exploration, a door opening on a vanished feudal world. It is a book of touches, little things-why the Bedouin will never predict the weather ('since to do so would be to claim knowledge that belongs to God'), how they know when the rabbit is in its hole and can be caught. It is written with great respect for these people and with an understanding that acknowledges its limits. With humility, that is, which is appropriate. Fail the humility test, and the desert will surely kill you.
Call Number:
DS208 .T48
Publication Date:
1959

Rank:
5









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Award Description
Stories of real life adventure selected and ranked by the folks at National Geographic Adventure magazine.

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