The best books about outdoor travel and adventure

Who am I?

I live in Alaska where the heartbeat of the wilderness informs my life and my work. I’ve worked as a wrangler and cook in the Brooks Range, climbed in the Alaska Range, and explored the Chugach and Talkeetna Mountains – often in the company of good dogs and an honest horse. As a former journalist, I’m always intrigued by what motivates people to embark on the journeys of their lives. Was it the crossroads of circumstance? A drive for self-challenge? Or a way to escape – or change – the world? I live and write on a small farm in Palmer, Alaska with my husband, Bill, and our menagerie of critters.

I wrote...

Canyons and Ice: The Wilderness Travels of Dick Griffith

By Kaylene Johnson,

Book cover of Canyons and Ice: The Wilderness Travels of Dick Griffith

What is my book about?

Canyons and Ice is an epic tale about an adventurer, who has arguably trekked more solo miles across Alaska and the Canadian Arctic than anyone alive. Frostbite, bear encounters, and even ghosts could not keep Griffith from his own personal quest for self-challenge. Astonishingly, most of his Northern travels took place after the age of 60. He finished his trek across the Northwest Passage at the age of 72 and ran his final Alaska Wilderness Classic race at the age of 81.

The book is an adventure story but also a reflection on what motivates a person to travel the hinterlands of silence across some of the most remote and rugged places on earth. PBS made a documentary based on the book that includes Griffith’s most recent, groundbreaking descent of the Grand Canyon at the age of 89.

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The books I picked & why

My Side of the Mountain

By Jean Craighead George,

Book cover of My Side of the Mountain

Why did I love 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.

By Jean Craighead George,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked My Side of the Mountain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Should appeal to all rugged individualists who dream of escape to the forest."-The New York Times Book Review

Sam Gribley is terribly unhappy living in New York City with his family, so he runs away to the Catskill Mountains to live in the woods-all by himself. With only a penknife, a ball of cord, forty dollars, and some flint and steel, he intends to survive on his own. Sam learns about courage, danger, and independence during his year in the wilderness, a year that changes his life forever.

"An extraordinary book . . . It will be read year after…

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

Why did I love 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.

By Joe Simpson,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Touching the Void as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Extensive reading is essential for improving fluency
and there is a real need in the ELT classroom for motivating, contemporary
graded material that will instantly appeal to students

Based on the internationally acclaimed book by Joe Simpson, Touching
the Void is the compelling true story of a mountaineering
expedition which goes dreadfully wrong.



Perfect also for native English speaking children who are struggling
with their reading

Full colour photos and film stills bring story
to life and aid comprehension

Fact File section explores the making of the film, climbing Everest
and other related…

Book cover of The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey

Why did I love 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.

By Candice Millard,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The River of Doubt as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1912, shortly after losing his bid to spend a third term as American President to Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt with his son Kermit, a Brazilian guide and a band of camaradas set off deep into the Amazon jungle and a very uncertain fate. Although Roosevelt did eventually return from THE RIVER OF DOUBT, he and his companions faced treacherous cataracts as well as the dangerous indigenous population of the Amazon. He became severely ill on the journey, nearly dying in the jungle from a blood infection and malaria. A mere five years later Roosevelt did die of related issues.…

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

Why did I love 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.

By Kevin Fedarko,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Emerald Mile as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From one of Outside magazine’s “Literary All-Stars” comes the thrilling true tale of the fastest boat ride ever, down the entire length of the Colorado River and through the Grand Canyon, during the legendary flood of 1983.

In the spring of 1983, massive flooding along the length of the Colorado River confronted a team of engineers at the Glen Canyon Dam with an unprecedented emergency that may have resulted in the most catastrophic dam failure in history. In the midst of this crisis, the decision to launch a small wooden dory named “The Emerald Mile” at the head of the…

Book cover of Coming Into the Country

Why did I love 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.

By John McPhee,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Coming into the Country is an unforgettable account of Alaska and Alaskans. It is a rich tapestry of vivid characters, observed landscapes, and descriptive narrative, in three principal segments that deal, respectively, with a total wilderness, with urban Alaska, and with life in the remoteness of the bush.

Readers of McPhee's earlier books will not be unprepared for his surprising shifts of scene and ordering of events, brilliantly combined into an organic whole. In the course of this volume we are made acquainted with the lore and techniques of placer mining, the habits and legends of the barren-ground grizzly, the…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in survival, Teddy Roosevelt, and Alaska?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about survival, Teddy Roosevelt, and Alaska.

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