The best books about outdoor travel and adventure

The Books I Picked & Why

My Side of the Mountain

By Jean Craighead George

My Side of the Mountain

Why this book?

This adventure book was my absolute favorite growing up and has never lost its appeal. As a kid, I yearned to be like Sam Gribley, bravely living off the land in the embrace of wilderness. This moving story affirms the importance of wild places and demonstrates how creative self-reliance offers empowerment at any age. It has become a classic for the past three generations of my family.


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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?

I’ve attempted a climb on Denali, the highest peak in North America, and know first-hand the inherent risks of climbing. In Touching the Void, Joe Simpson writes about two ambitious climbers who manage to make a successful first ascent on a route in the Peruvian Andes. On the descent, an accident forces one climber into making a terrible choice.  Riveting, heart-stopping, and utterly wrenching, I honestly could not sleep for several nights after reading this book. This story will make you think about ambition, morality, and the price of the choices we make.


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The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey

By Candice Millard

The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey

Why this book?

I grew up in North Dakota, a state that celebrates Teddy Roosevelt as their own. This book is not only a great adventure story, it is a fascinating biographical portrait of Theodore Roosevelt. In a punishing expedition on an uncharted segment of the Amazon River, Roosevelt and his party undertook a trip so difficult, that on their return, many did not believe it to be true. The expedition nearly cost Roosevelt his life and, in the end, changed him forever.


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The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon

By Kevin Fedarko

The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon

Why this book?

This book is as fast-paced as the whitewater rapids Fedarko writes about. Massive flooding along the length of the Colorado River in 1983 threatened the most catastrophic dam failure in U.S. history. In a race against time, engineers must figure out how to relieve the pressure building up behind the Glen Canyon dam. Meanwhile, a couple of rafting nuts decide the raging waters are just the thing to slingshot them to a record run through the Grand Canyon. With a lively history of the Grand Canyon river running woven throughout and profiles of colorful characters, I simply could not put this book down.


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Coming Into the Country

By John McPhee

Coming Into the Country

Why this book?

I discovered this book long after I moved to Alaska. I was immediately in the grip of a master storyteller as McPhee chronicles his travels across the state. McPhee captures the chaos during the 1970s when every traditional way of life was upended by the construction of the Alaska oil pipeline. McPhee manages to render into words the utter vastness of the landscape and he mentions a friend of mine, Ray Bane, who was on the frontline of efforts to preserve the wilderness that many saw only as a resource to be exploited. Bane risked his life for his passion and I eventually had the privilege of writing his biography, Our Perfect Wild.


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