14 Of The Best Adventure Books For Outdoor Enthusiasts

Wanderlust stirs deep within our souls, screaming for adventure every moment of the day. But that just isn’t possible… for most.

Instead, we need to find another way to fuel the lust for adventure. 

The art of adventure has a different meaning for each of us. Some are content with experiencing others’ adventures from the comforts of their own homes, and some cannot seem to fill that desire to explore every corner of the earth.

No matter who you are, you can gain inspiration and thrill from tucking into a good old adventure book of extreme conquests and life-altering expeditions. 

So get cosy, grab your beverage of choice and discover some of the best adventure books of all time.

Standing on top of a Tor in Wilkinsons Valley watching the Sunset after climbing Hannels Spur

Three Cups Of Tea – Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin 

The moment I began this adventure book I couldn’t put it down. Greg Mortenson’s achievements and humble personality tug at your heart as you’re pulled deep into the story of his attempt at reaching K2 – the second highest mountain in the world – via the West Ridge route, before stumbling upon his path to build a school in the small village of Korphe.

David Oliver Relin does an incredible job at recounting Greg Mortenson’s achievements through many setbacks, keeping you hooked on every word to the very end. I would have to say this is one of the best adventure books I’ve read for inspiration much greater than a simple expedition.

Three Cups Of Tea

Three Cups Of Tea, best adventure book of all time

Lands Of Lost Borders – Kate Harris

An autobiography of a true explorer. Kate had wanted to discover the unknown, to be a true explorer, ever since she was a child. Her accomplishments are extensive and impressive. And her account of conquering the entire Silk Road by bike is truly inspirational.

She certainly doesn’t paint a pretty, unrealistic picture of her long journey. She includes all the ups and downs and roadblocks they encountered along the way. Kate has a way of writing that’s raw, beautiful, and funny. 

Lands Of Lost Borders

Lands of lost borders outdoor adventure book

To Shake The Sleeping Self – Jedidiah Jenkins

To shake the sleeping self is not quite your typical outdoor adventure book. Jedidiah was certainly not a typical adventurer when he set out to bike from Oregan to Patagonia. He was a simple city boy who desired change. 

This is a great read for those who find themselves putting adventurers on a pedestal and believing they cannot do the things they read about. You’ll come away from this book feeling empowered to make your own adventure in any way you want or can.

To Shake The Sleeping Self

One of the best adventure books, to shake the sleeping self

The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist doesn’t quite fit into the outdoor adventure books theme, but a book list wouldn’t be complete without it. This book will open your eyes to what treasure truly is, how to read omens along our path, and to follow your dreams.

There’s a reason this book has been widely translated and became an international bestseller. 

The Alchemist

The Alchemist Book Cover

The Art Of Happiness – Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler

Another book that doesn’t quite fit into the adventure category, but one I think every human can benefit from. The art of happiness is a beautiful guide to achieving great happiness. And how the whole world can benefit from your own happiness.

The Art Of Happiness

The Art Of Happiness book cover

A Walk In The Woods – Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson, a well-known travel writer, famous for his witty and hilarious words, sets out on an adventure to conquer the Appalachian trail… with next to no experience hiking, let alone thru-hiking.

Need I say more? 

Not only will you be laughing while slightly appalled at some of the situations he gets himself into, but this tale will show that anybody can embark on an expedition if they have enough ambition.

A Walk In The Woods

One of the best adventure books - A walk in the woods

The Sun Is A Compass – Caroline Van Hemers

An adventure book about finding yourself when life seems to become bleak and overwhelming. Stepping back into the raw and uninhabited nature of the world is the best remedy for understanding who we are and what we can achieve.

Caroline is a biologist from Alaska who takes on a mighty adventure with her husband, to find love in the natural world again. They travel from New York to the tip of Alaska (4,000 miles) strictly by ways of human power alone. 

Their story tells of wild adventure and close calls. Of forming a bond only grand experiences can build. Sometimes it takes a wild idea to really feel alive.

The Sun Is A Compass

An Alpine based outdoor adventure book - The Sun Is A Compass

Beyond The Trees – Adam Shoalts

A story of an adventure of gigantic proportions. Adam chooses to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary by taking a solo canoe trip far into the Arctic. 

Racing against time, he endures extreme hardship with no time to rest. This adventure shows how much planning needs to be included in such an expedition, and of how much mental strength one would need to succeed. 

Beyond The Trees

Contender for the best adventure books of all time - Beyond The Trees

Becoming Odyssa – Jennifer Pharr Davis

Jen writes with raw energy and emotion. There is no sugarcoating any part of the Appalachian Trail and her unpreparedness for what it would throw her way. She writes of hardship, tears, sweat, and wonder.

She writes of friendship and kindness greater than she imagined. But overall, Jen’s story speaks of commitment and perseverance. You can’t help but feel empowered to set out on your own adventure after reading her words. This is a truly inspiring book, written so captivatingly.

Becoming Odyssa

An outdoor adventure book - Becoming Odyssa

Braving It – James Campbell

Many parents will test their children with a weekend adventure… but few would do what James did.

James takes his 16-year-old daughter, Aidan, to the middle of Alaska to build a cabin with his cousin for the summer. 

They encounter bears, bugs, and blisters. Aidan endures hard work rarely known to teenagers, transforming her confidence and independence.

Braving It opened my eyes to different kinds of adventure. Of how important experience is for young teenagers. And of how beautiful an adventure like this can be for a father and daughter. 

They’re encounters kept me entertained right till the end… and to be truthful, a tear or two may have been shed!

Braving It

An inspiring adventure book - Braving It

Touching The Void – Joe Simpson

This classic book of near-death brings you crashing down to earth. It speaks truly of the dangers that are waiting for us, waiting for us to slip up. It’s easy for us to read of grand adventures, imagining ourselves in these impressive stories. But not so easy to imagine ourselves in the disaster that can happen. Would we have to strength to survive? 

Joe writes in a storytelling way, reviewing his thoughts and doings together in a way that keeps you hooked till the end. Joe and Simon’s story is one we all hope to never encounter, but one that is important to read if you’re ever planning to embark on a dangerous adventure.

Touching The Void

One of the greatest adventure books - Touching The Void

Full Tilt – Dervla Murphy

Dervla writes boldly and honestly. Her humour is fresh and original and her matter-of-fact way of deciding to do such an extreme adventure so young is inspiring! 

Full Tilt is a tale of Dervla’s adventure, bicycling from Ireland to India in 1963. To be a woman travelling alone at that time is dangerous enough, let alone embarking on a wild adventure in the middle of a frozen winter! And I can only imagine riding across countless countries without technology to keep me close to dear ones!!

This outdoor adventure book is a must-read, to learn of such bravery and determination. All the while in an entertaining and humorous way!

Full Tilt

One of the best adventure books - Full Tilt

Mad, Bad And Dangerous To Know – Ranulph Fiennes 

A veteran adventurer shares his life with us. Beginning with his time in the Military, we learn a lot about Ranulph Fiennes’ earlier years before he was given the chance to become an adventure writer. 

Throughout his lifetime, Ranulph has seen harsh environments and accomplished incredible feats. He was the first to reach both the north and south pole by surface travel and discovered the lost city of Ubar in Oman to name a few.

Fiennes writes in a captivating and entertaining way, leaving you feeling as if you’ve known him his whole life.

Mad, Bad And Dangerous To Know

A lifetime of adventure books - Mad Bad and Dangerous To Know

Paddling North: A Solo Adventure Along The Inside Passage – Audrey Sutherland, Yoshiko Yamamoto

Her philosophy – Go simple, go solo, go now – says it all. This is one of the best adventure books to help you realise that age is a number and not an excuse. To do what you desire most and leave the rest to sort itself out. 

Audrey writes of hardship and encounters too close for comfort. She writes in a dry and matter-of-fact way with beautiful descriptions of the insane beauty surrounding her. Her journal writing style –  bouncing between the tale of now, future, and random thoughts – holds your attention right to the end.

Paddling North

One of the best adventure books written by an elderly lady - Paddling North

And there you have it, my list of the absolute best outdoor adventure books… so far!

Adventure has a different meaning to each of us. The tales of others’ lives can bring us wonder and determination to set out on our own adventures. But don’t forget, your life could be just as exciting to someone else. And it’s never too late to do what you want. 

All you need is to begin.

What is your favourite book of adventure and inspiration? I would love to know.

Standing high in the alpine of Kosciuszko National Park after embarking on Australia's highest ascent hike, Hannels Spur