The best books about adventure, belief, and finding meaning from the meaningless

Who am I?

Some thirty years ago, on a frozen waterfall near an old logging town in Montana, my life changed forever. A friend took me climbing. Almost instantly, upon leaving the ground, the mountains became my singular passion. I lived in run-down shacks and worked dead-end jobs, freeing myself to travel and to climb. Along the way I stumbled into an editorial job with the American Alpine Journal, where I worked for twelve years, deepening my knowledge of mountains, including the incomparable Cerro Torre. I know that climbing is overtly pointless. What we gain from it, however—what it demands and what we give in return—has immeasurable power.


I wrote...

The Tower: A Chronicle of Climbing and Controversy on Cerro Torre

By Kelly Cordes,

Book cover of The Tower: A Chronicle of Climbing and Controversy on Cerro Torre

What is my book about?

At the wind-scoured southern tip of Argentina, between the vast ice cap and the rolling estepas of Patagonia, rises an otherworldly tower of ice and rock called Cerro Torre. It draws the finest alpinists from around the globe, and its futuristic yet fatal first ascent claim in 1959 unfolded in ways that nobody could have imagined. A gasoline-powered air compressor, nationalistic pride, evidence versus belief, questions of who decides what’s right and wrong on a mountain—even in cases of life and death—and the challenges of change all culminate in 2012, with a global climbing controversy. The story of Cerro Torre is a wild and unlikely chronicle of hubris, heroism, and epic journeys, all played out on the most beautiful mountain on earth.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Enduring Patagonia

Kelly Cordes Why did I love this book?

I love how this book captures the spirit and obsession of climbing in Patagonia; the characters, the landscape, the majesty of the peaks, and our struggles to climb them. Crouch took me there years before I ever went. His devotion to climbing and his depth of experiences, from the harrowing to the mundane (in the endless boredom of waiting for good weather he declares himself “the Muhammad Ali of killing time”) shine in his writing. The book speaks to the obsessed, by the obsessed. It’s a cult classic among Patagonia alpine climbers for good reason.

By Gregory Crouch,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Enduring Patagonia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Patagonia is a strange and terrifying place, a vast tract of land shared by Argentina and Chile where the violent weather spawned over the southern Pacific charges through the Andes with gale-force winds, roaring clouds, and stinging snow. Squarely athwart the latitudes known to sailors as the roaring forties and furious fifties, Patagonia is a land trapped between angry torrents of sea and sky, a place that has fascinated explorers and writers for centuries. Magellan discovered the strait that bears his name during the first circumnavigation. Charles Darwin traveled Patagonia's windy steppes and explored the fjords of Tierra del Fuego…


Book cover of Wind, Sand and Stars

Kelly Cordes Why did I love this book?

Saint-Exupery’s descriptions of what he sees and feels during enthralling activities amid stunning landscapes left me enchanted. The feelings he captures extend beyond the mere act of flying and into human relationships and our quest for meaning, written in beautiful, often philosophical prose. He approached flying as a metaphor for life and the human condition. Even if I will never fly, he made me care. 

By Antoine de Saint-Exupery,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Wind, Sand and Stars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

The National Book Award-winning autobiographical book about the wonder of flying from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of the beloved children's classic The Little Prince.

A National Geographic Top Ten Adventure Book of All Time

Recipient of the Grand Prix of the Académie Française, Wind, Sand and Stars captures the grandeur, danger, and isolation of flight. Its exciting account of air adventure, combined with lyrical prose and the spirit of a philosopher, makes it one of the most popular works ever written about flying.

Translated by Lewis Galantière.

"There are certain rare individuals...who by the mere fact of their existence put…


Book cover of Into the Wild

Kelly Cordes Why did I love this book?

Krakauer’s ability to weave historical facts and research with first-person insight made me feel the complexity of the young Christopher McCandless, a person perhaps not so different from us. Was he merely a fool? Or did he live brightly in staying true to his values? Krakauer’s reflections on his own youthful, idealistic journeys draw us in, making us view McCandless with far more complexity than someone we should easily dismiss. This book helped me consider the fine lines and the twists of fate that sometimes separate the passionate from the tragically obsessed.

By Jon Krakauer,

Why should I read it?

18 authors picked Into the Wild as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Krakauer’s page-turning bestseller explores a famed missing person mystery while unraveling the larger riddles it holds: the profound pull of the American wilderness on our imagination; the allure of high-risk activities to young men of a certain cast of mind; the complex, charged bond between fathers and sons.

"Terrifying... Eloquent... A heart-rending drama of human yearning." —New York Times

In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all…


Book cover of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Kelly Cordes Why did I love this book?

What sounded like an interesting book on history felt like a field guide to understanding humans, in all our truly senseless but seemingly normal behavior. I love how this book explains the way we got to where we are, for better and for worse, which may point to where we are going. I was captivated throughout, and the second chapter, “The Tree of Knowledge,” set the stage by simultaneously blowing my mind and explaining humankind through our unique capacity for imagination; our fictions. The stories we tell. The ideas and cultures and gods we create. They drive everything, from how we use money to how we approach mountains. We are strange, complex, and fascinating creatures.

By Yuval Noah Harari,

Why should I read it?

19 authors picked Sapiens as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens. How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations and human rights; to trust money, books and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come?

In Sapiens, Dr Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the…


Book cover of Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life

Kelly Cordes Why did I love this book?

I’m not alone in calling this one of the greatest climbing books ever written. Even though it’s about surfing. But that’s what makes Finnegan a master of the craft: He captures the essence of the pursuit, well beyond the pursuit itself. He writes as a lifer, as if he were born for this, a devoted participant who was in on discovering some of the greatest surf breaks on earth, at a time when the world seemed different. Except I know, by extrapolating from my love of climbing, that once you’re out there, the rest of the world falls away and you experience magic. 

By William Finnegan,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Barbarian Days as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

**Winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Autobiography**

Included in President Obama's 2016 Summer Reading List

"Without a doubt, the finest surf book I've ever read . . . " -The New York Times Magazine

Barbarian Days is William Finnegan's memoir of an obsession, a complex enchantment. Surfing only looks like a sport. To initiates, it is something else: a beautiful addiction, a demanding course of study, a morally dangerous pastime, a way of life.

Raised in California and Hawaii, Finnegan started surfing as a child. He has chased waves all over the world, wandering for years through the South…


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Terra Blanca - Insurrection: Gaia Prequel

By Zoe Routh,

Book cover of Terra Blanca - Insurrection: Gaia Prequel

Zoe Routh Author Of The Olympus Project

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Leadership futurist Adventurist Former bellydancer Historical and speculative fiction nut Marathoner

Zoe's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

A test of leadership, loyalty, and legacy. Rylie Addison faces the greatest leadership challenge of her life. As climate change ravages the world, leaving millions displaced, Rylie is handpicked by the enigmatic Maja Garcia of Gaia Enterprises to govern Terra Blanca, an unprecedented man-made island community for climate refugees.

As the stakes rise and the fragile foundations of Terra Blanca begin to crumble, Rylie is forced to confront her own beliefs and faces a leadership decision that could change the course of history. Can she find the strength to make the right choice, or will her actions lead to the downfall of the very people she has vowed to protect?

Terra Blanca - Insurrection: Gaia Prequel

By Zoe Routh,

What is this book about?

Rylie Addison faces the greatest leadership challenge of her life. As climate change ravages the world, leaving millions displaced, Rylie is handpicked by the enigmatic Maja Garcia of Gaia Enterprises to govern Terra Blanca, an unprecedented man-made island community for climate refugees.


Thrust into a new world of power and responsibility, Rylie must navigate the treacherous waters of team dynamics and power struggles as she fights to make Terra Blanca a beacon of hope amidst the chaos. But her mission takes a sinister turn when a secret agent infiltrates the community, hell-bent on testing the innovative governance and social structures…


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