If you’re in the market for a thrilling account of an expedition that keeps you on the edge of your seat, then an outdoor adventure book just might be what you need. These fourteen books feature exciting tales of climbing, skiing, hiking, and paddling that are sure to inspire your next adventure.

1. Escape From Lucania – David Roberts

Escape From Lucania - David Roberts

Escape From Lucania - David Roberts

A tale of mountain adventures in the Yukon wilderness

Follow along as Brad Washburn and Bob Bates fight for their survival after an expedition to Mount Lucania doesn't quite go as planned.

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Bradford Washburn and Bob Bates were two talented young members of the Harvard Mountaineering Club when they set off on an expedition in the Saint Elias Range during the summer of 1937 with two of their friends.

Their goal? Mount Lucania, the then-highest unclimbed peak in all of North America.

When they finally made it to the mountain, though, the duo discovered unseasonably soft ice conditions, which nearly caused their plane to crash. Their pilot, abandoning any hope of return, took off and left Washburn and Bates alone in the middle of one of the most remote mountain ranges on Earth.

Standing at the base of Lucania, without most of their supplies, their two other climbing partners, or any chance of rescue, Washburn and Bates realized that they would need to climb themselves to safety. In Escape From Lucania, David Roberts recounts the incredible story of the pair’s attempt to get home alive.

Along the way, Washburn and Bates make an attempt at Lucania’s summit and then have to traverse the uncharted Yukon to reach the nearest mining town. In his book, Roberts recounts the incredible story of the pair’s attempt to get home alive. This vividly painted tale is one of struggle, perseverance, and ingenuity in the face of true danger in the mountains.
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2. Into Thin Air – Jon Krakauer

Into Thin Air - Jon Krakauer

Into Thin Air - Jon Krakauer

The true story of a tragedy on the world’s highest peak

A gripping account of what actually happened during the huge storm that claimed 8 lives on Mount Everest.

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The spring of 1996 was set to be one of the busiest climbing seasons ever on Mount Everest. But, what was meant to be an opportunity to summit the world’s highest peak quickly turned into a disaster that would shape the course of mountaineering history forever.

In his book, Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer tells the story of the massive storm that swept over Everest in May 1996. Krakauer sets up his first-hand account of the disaster as if it were a Shakespearean tragedy, painstakingly describing the main players involved in the catastrophe that claimed 8 lives in just two days on the mountain.

Into Thin Air is a fantastic read for anyone looking to learn more about some of the most important events in the history of mountaineering on the world’s tallest peak. For another great account of the events, Anatoli Boukreev’s The Climb provides additional detail about the 1996 Mount Everest Disaster and sheds new light on Krakauer’s classic work.
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3. A Walk In The Woods: Rediscovering America On The Appalachian Trail – Bill Bryson

A Walk In The Woods: Rediscovering America On The Appalachian Trail - Bill Bryson

A Walk In The Woods: Rediscovering America On The Appalachian Trail - Bill Bryson

Laugh-out-loud tales of a trip down the Appalachian Trail

In this book, Bill Bryson’s attempt to thru-hike America’s oldest long distance trail doesn’t go as planned, but at least he has some laughs along the way.

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Outdoor adventure books don’t always have to be serious. In A Walk In The Woods, Bill Bryson takes readers on a hysterical trip along the Appalachian Trail (AT), which runs from Georgia to Maine.

The book starts when Bryson decides to hike the AT with his friend as a way to reintegrate himself with the United States after living abroad for twenty years. Along the way, he runs into a truly hilarious cast of characters and some stunning mountain landscapes.

But, despite the book’s lighthearted approach, Bryson empowers readers to think critically about the ever-changing patchwork of wilderness in the United States. A Walk In The Woods is a great read for anyone in need of a witty, yet down-to-earth account of life on a long-distance trail.
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4. K2: The Savage Mountain – Charles Houston

K2: The Savage Mountain - Charles Houston

K2: The Savage Mountain - Charles Houston

An account of a heroic rescue on a dangerous summit

After bad weather and even worse luck, Charles Houston recounts his team’s battle to get off the world’s most dangerous peak after a summit attempt gone wrong.

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The second highest peak on Earth, K2 has long been considered one of the most dangerous mountains ever climbed. In K2: The Savage Mountain, expedition leader, Charles Houston tells the story of his 1953 American Karakoram Expedition, which hoped to be the first to stand on the mountain’s lofty summit.

Thanks to an unfortunate mixture of illness and horrible weather, though, the team turned back before their summit push. But, on the descent, an unforeseen tragedy rocked the expedition, turning their hike to basecamp into a fight for their lives.

The story of how the team made it off the mountain is one of the best-known tales of climbing lore. A veritable classic of mountaineering literature, Houston’s account of the expedition is a must-read for any outdoor enthusiast.
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5. Continental Divide: A History Of American Mountaineering – Maurice Isserman

Continental Divide: A History Of American Mountaineering - Maurice Isserman

Continental Divide: A History Of American Mountaineering - Maurice Isserman

A who’s who of three centuries of American climbing history

Join a historical journey from the birth of American mountaineering to the modern day in this captivating narrative.

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Although not a tale of a single adventure but of many, Maurice Isserman’s Continental Divide is an excellent introduction to the history of mountaineering in North America. In his book, Isserman weaves together a cohesive story of how the world of mountaineering transformed over the years from its humble roots in the early 1700s.

Through painstaking research and excellent wordsmithing, Isserman illustrates the cultural importance of mountaineering in North America. He tells the tale of many lesser-known events in the world of climbing and shows how the history of mountaineering and that of North America are inextricably linked.
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6. The Tower – Kelly Cordes

The Tower - Kelly Cordes

The Tower - Kelly Cordes

Controversy, lies, and unanswered questions in the Patagonian alpine.

Climbers tend to steer clear of controversy, but in this book, Kelly Cordes searches for truth in the oft-debated history of Cerro Torre’s first ascent.

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Often considered to be one of the most aesthetic mountains on Earth, Cerro Torre is a geologic wonder of Patagonia. The mountain’s vertical cliffs and ice-capped summit draw some of the world’s most experienced climbers to its base.

For years, however, the iconic Cerro Torre went unclimbed. Until, that is, Cesare Maestri claimed that he and the late Toni Egger made the first ascent of the peak in 1959. As Egger had been killed by an avalanche on the mountain, though, there was no way for anyone to verify Maestri’s claims.

In the years since, countless climbers have tried to retrace Maestri’s claimed route, finding little or no evidence that the pair actually succeeded in 1959. In The Tower, Kelly Cordes presents the controversy behind Cerro Torre’s first ascent as a gripping and carefully crafted story.

Cordes’ book is a fact-based account that dives deep into one of the biggest debates in the mountaineering world. Leaving the book purposefully open-ended, Cordes allows readers to draw their own conclusions as they ponder why people choose to climb mountains as dangerous as Cerro Torre in the first place.
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7. The Big Open – Rick Ridgeway

The Big Open - Rick Ridgeway

The Big Open - Rick Ridgeway

A captivating account of life on the Chang Tang Plateau

One group of famous mountaineers’ attempt to cross the remote Chang Tang Plateau in Tibet in search of the world’s most elusive wildlife.

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Trekking 440km (275mi) across Tibet’s Chang Tang Plateau isn’t exactly everyone’s idea of a good time. But, for author Rick Ridgeway and his three companions – Jimmy Chin, Conrad Anker, and the late Galen Rowell – walking across one of the world’s most remote regions is just another adventure.

The team set off on an expedition to find the calving grounds of the chiru, a species of highly endangered antelope that’s often poached for their precious wool. Along the way, they lug 90kg (200lb) of food, gear, and water on their homemade rickshaws as they hike through often inhospitable terrain.

In The Big Open, Ridgeway, a famous mountaineer in his own right, crafts a compelling tale of life on the Chang Tang and the complex struggle against the illegal poaching in this distant corner of the world, making it a great read for any outdoor enthusiast.
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8. Rowing To Latitude – Jill Fredston

Rowing To Latitude - Jill Fredston

Rowing To Latitude - Jill Fredston

An honest perspective on a lifetime of adventure

A look back at decades of expeditions by boat through the remote and icy fjords of the Arctic as a metaphor for the struggles of life.

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The waters of the Arctic are cold, icy, and often treacherous. But, difficult conditions aren’t enough to keep Jill Fredston and her husband, Doug Fesler, away from the ocean. The duo are renowned avalanche scientists in Alaska during the winter but come summer, they spend months paddling in icy waters at the top of the world.

In Rowing To Latitude, Fredston writes of the countless trips that she and Fesler take every year in Alaska, Greenland, Svalbard, Canada, and Norway.

As they paddle through countless fjords, around massive icebergs, and near pods of whales, Fredston discusses provides an honest look at how paddling and rowing are a metaphor for life itself. The book is an enchanting and lyrical account of the challenges and joys of traveling in the Arctic, providing a fresh new perspective on outdoor adventure.
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9. High Infatuation – Steph Davis

High Infatuation - Steph Davis

High Infatuation - Steph Davis

Open, captivating, and inspiring tales of a life of climbing

Steph Davis’ memoir of the earliest years of her climbing career, and the sacrifices, adventures, and heartbreak that made her the climber she is today.

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Steph Davis’ rise to prominence as a cutting-edge climber wasn’t an easy road. After abandoning her career as a concert pianist and dropping out of law school, Steph opted for the dirtbag lifestyle, living out of her grandma’s Oldsmobile and waitressing in Moab, Utah to save up money for future adventures.

Davis’ book, High Infatuation, is one of the few truly honest accounts of finding oneself through the struggles of fear, independence, love, and adventure while climbing. Through her vividly written stories of expeditions to Patagonia and Yosemite alongside her late ex-husband Dean Potter, Steph Davis shows us the truth behind what motivates her to live the life she loves in the mountains.
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10. Endurance – Alfred Lansing

Endurance - Alfred Lansing

Endurance - Alfred Lansing

Heroism, grit, and survival at the bottom of the world

The true story of courage and endurance in the face of sure death after an expedition ship gets destroyed in the Antarctic pack ice.

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When Ernest Shackleton and his men boarded the Endurance in August of 1914 and set sail for Antarctica, they knew they were bound for an adventure. But, they never could’ve imagined the events that would follow.

After months at sea, however, the Endurance was stuck in the dense Antarctic pack ice by January of 1915. In the weeks that followed, the ship’s crew floated in the Southern Ocean, watching as their home was slowly crushed by the weight of the moving ice. Once the decision was made to abandon the ship, Shackleton and his twenty-seven men then set out on one of the most harrowing survival expeditions in Antarctic history.

Alfred Lansing’s Endurance is a true testament to the courage and dedication of Shackleton’s efforts to get his men home. In his excellently narrated book, Lansing describes life on the ice and Shackleton’s last-ditch attempt to save his crew by crossing nearly 1,400km (850 miles) over some of the harshest seas on Earth in an open sailboat.
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11. Psychovertical – Andy Kirkpatrick

Psychovertical - Andy Kirkpatrick

Psychovertical - Andy Kirkpatrick

One climber’s story of struggle and perseverance

A tale of growth, adventure, and finding oneself through the power of climbing on the world’s most challenging big wall routes.

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For many non-climbers, alpinism is a fringe activity for middle- and upper-class people with an adrenaline addiction. For Andy Kirkpatrick, though, climbing was the key to gaining control of his life.

A lower-class kid that was often left behind because of his struggles with dyslexia, Kirkpatrick tells the story of how climbing helped him find the self-confidence he needed to tackle some of the world’s most daunting climbs.

In Psychovertical, Kirkpatrick interweaves tales from his childhood with a pitch-by-pitch account of his solo ascent of the Reticent Wall on El Capitan. The result is a single, compelling story that’s great for climbers and non-climbers alike.
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12. Buried In The Sky – Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan

Buried In The Sky - Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan

Buried In The Sky - Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan

What really happened on K2’s deadliest day

When disaster struck on the world’s second highest mountain, two Sherpa did the nearly impossible as they risked themselves to save others in extreme conditions.

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In 2008, disaster struck on K2, the second-highest peak on Earth. But, while eleven climbers died, two Sherpa survived in what became the single deadliest day in the mountain’s history.

In Buried In The Sky, Zuckerman and Padoan offer a gripping perspective on the events of that tragic day on K2. The authors recount how delays, a crowded route, an accidental fall, altitude sickness, and a massive avalanche wreaked havoc on climbers ascending K2’s Abruzzi Ridge.

Throughout the book, Zuckerman and Padoan intricately weave together what happened high on the mountain that day into a single compelling tale. They also tell the often-overlooked story of how two Sherpa demonstrated extraordinary heroism in extreme conditions in an attempt to save other climbers on K2, nearly losing their own lives in the process.
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13. Higher Love – Kit DesLauriers

Higher Love - Kit DesLauriers

Higher Love - Kit DesLauriers

The story of the historic first ski descent of Mount Everest

Kit DesLaurier is no stranger to challenge, but her goal of skiing down each of the Seven Summits is an adventure unto itself.

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For most people, climbing the Seven Summits – the tallest peak on each continent – is challenging enough. For Kit DesLauriers, however, skiing down each of these mountains is the ultimate goal.

In Higher Love, DesLauriers tells the story of how she transitioned from being a competitive freeskier skier to a world-class ski mountaineer. Over the course of two years, DesLauriers set out to ski all Seven Summits, surviving the frigid temperatures of Antarctica and the high altitude of the Himalaya.

Deslauriers’ book provides a candid view of the path that led her to be the first person to ever ski from the summit of Mount Everest. It is an exciting tale of perseverance and risk in the face of truly life-threatening consequences on some of the tallest peaks on the planet.
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14. Climbing Free: My Life In The Vertical World – Lynn Hill

Climbing Free: My Life In The Vertical World - Lynn Hill

Climbing Free: My Life In The Vertical World - Lynn Hill

How one woman became the world’s best climber

Lynn Hill shocked the world when she became the first ever person to free climb El Capitan. This is her story.

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When Lynn Hill made her free ascent of the Nose on Yosemite’s El Capitan, she wasn’t just the first woman to do so. In fact, Hill was the first person ever to climb the granite monolith solely under their own power.

Climbing Free is legendary climber Lynn Hill’s genuine reflection on growing up and excelling in a male-dominated sport. From an early age, it was clear that Hill had a true gift for climbing, which led her to establish some of the world’s hardest routes that few others could ever hope to repeat.

In her book, Hill talks about the ups and downs of a life in climbing. She recounts her nearly fatal 80-foot fall and even gives us a glimpse into her life as a Holywood stunt double. But, above all, Climbing Free is an honest and open look at how a young woman became the best climber in the world when few others believed she could.
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Reach New Heights With A Great Book

There’s nothing more exciting than reading an inspiring tale about adventure in the outdoors. These fourteen books are some of our absolute favorites and we hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

If we helped you find your next compelling read, feel free to let us know in the comments below. Oh, and don’t forget to share this article so your friends can find a great outdoor adventure book to enjoy, too!

Gaby

Gaby

I am a mountaineering and climbing guide, as well as a professional outdoor educator. I split my time between working in the polar regions as an expedition guide, working as a climbing instructor, and pursuing my other passions of traveling, writing, and drinking copious amounts of coffee.

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