The best books on extreme sports

The Books I Picked & Why

The Dogs of Winter

By Kem Nunn

The Dogs of Winter

Why this book?

I discovered this book when I had just started surfing, and it blew me away – so there could be great fiction about extreme sports! I loved the grittiness, the foreboding noir feel, and the unusual setting. It was part of the inspiration for Powder Burn, although they are very different books.


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Touching the Void: The True Story of One Man's Miraculous Survival

By Joe Simpson

Touching the Void: The True Story of One Man's Miraculous Survival

Why this book?

The original – and many of the best – books about extreme sports are mountaineering books, dating back to a time before the phrase was even coined. This is one of, if not the best of the genre. Joe Simpson’s account of his extraordinary fight for survival after a fall in the Peruvian Andes takes no prisoners. It’s brutal and raw and a wonderful piece of writing. 


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Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster

By Jon Krakauer

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster

Why this book?

A second mountaineering book for this list, but very different from Touching the Void. Jon Krakauer’s account of a disastrous storm on Mount Everest captured everything for me about why people do these sports and why they shouldn’t – but it also captured the importance of motivation and the conduct of the sport. The controversy about the events depicted and the whole nature of guided mountaineering to big Himalayan peaks still rolls on, this is the original work.


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Walking on Water

By Andy Martin

Walking on Water

Why this book?

I loved the book because the author’s love for the sport comes across so plainly. The stories from the spiritual home of surfing, Oahu’s North Shore, are wonderful. It’s an essential text for anyone getting into the sport, capturing its soul better than anything else I have read.


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Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life

By William Finnegan

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life

Why this book?

Another piece of biography, this time by a man who has taken on most of the world’s best waves. A man who has consistently surfed at breaks whose size and nature require complete commitment. Very few of the people that can do this can also write as well as Finnegan (the book won a Pulitzer), and the descriptions he brings back from the wave face ring with a sonorous truth. He captures the moment and the people beautifully, growing up in the 60s in LA and Hawaii, travelling cheap and light looking for waves in the 70s and 80s. If you surf, it will inspire you to get back out there, if you don’t it will inspire you to try it. Or put you off the idea for life.  


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