The best books about wild people doing wild things in wild places

Who am I?

I’ve always wanted to write, and I’ve always wanted to play outside. Bringing the two together started in childhood, climbing redwoods and scribbling fantasies, and grew from there, eventually morphing into a career as an award-winning writer of outdoor adventure guidebooks and essays about national parks. Of course, writing requires reading, and to hone my craft I’ve devoured a library of outdoor literature, journeying with John Muir in Yosemite, Mallory and Irvine on Everest, and Cheryl Strayed on the Pacific Crest Trail. If someone’s doing a wild thing in a wild place, I want to read all about it—and then I want to head outside and get a little wild myself.

I wrote...

Search and Rescue Alaska

By Tracy Salcedo,

Book cover of Search and Rescue Alaska

What is my book about?

In a place as vast and extreme as Alaska, no one takes safety for granted. Whether adventurer or homesteader, tourist or native, people look out for themselves and for each other. But sometimes it just goes bad, and no amount of resourcefulness or resiliency can make it right. That’s when search and rescue teams kick into gear, launching operations that have generated amazing tales of heroism, tenacity, and human kindness.

The essays collected in Search and Rescue Alaska describe rescues on Denali, North America’s highest peak, a World War II self-rescue that ended with a remarkable recovery more than half a century later, the travails of Klondike-bound gold-seekers caught in an avalanche on the infamous Chilkoot Trail, and more. These stories will both entertain and kindle a new appreciation for the skilled and selfless pilots, troopers, military personnel, and rangers on call for search and rescue in Alaska.

The books I picked & why

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My Life of High Adventure

By Grant Pearson, Philip Newill,

Book cover of My Life of High Adventure

Why this book?

Grant Pearson was the superintendent of Mount McKinley National Park, now Denali National Park and Preserve, in the mid-twentieth century, and was part of the Lindley-Liek Expedition, which made the remarkable second ascent of the peak in 1932 – one that included a search and recovery. He tells that story, as well as many others, in this humble, humorous, and illuminating autobiography. His passion for Denali’s wilderness, and for adventuring, is compelling.

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

By Jon Krakauer,

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

Why this book?

Let’s face it: This is a must-read for anyone who ventures into wild places. Krakauer delves deep into the personalities and circumstances that led to tragedy on Mount Everest in 1996 and illuminates motivations that any mountaineer would be wise to be conscious of. To this day, no matter what I’m climbing—a staircase in a cheap hotel or a steep trail to a ridgetop—I always hold close to one of the lasting lessons on this book: Bad things happen on the descent.

Grandma Gatewood's Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail

By Ben Montgomery,

Book cover of Grandma Gatewood's Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail

Why this book?

If I’m lucky, someday I’ll get to do something like what Grandma Gatewood did, and Ben Montgomery does a great job of telling us all about it. Emma Gatewood dropped everything once her children were grown and she could shuck her domestic responsibilities and set off alone to walk the Appalachian Trail. No training, no fancy gear, no special food: She just went for a walk, and then did it again, and again, transforming herself into trailblazing conservationist along the way.

The Great Alone

By Kristin Hannah,

Book cover of The Great Alone

Why this book?

Wild has many definitions, and while the setting for this disturbing story, in a remote Alaskan village, might seem like this book’s main qualification, The Great Alone explores the wilderness of the mind as well — or rather, how a wild man can create a more terrifying reality than the most demanding landscape. That beautiful, harsh landscape shapes the story’s heroes as well, forcing them to find their strength, build that strength, and lend each other strength when the going gets rough … which it does, in a big Alaskan way.

Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West

By Stephen E. Ambrose,

Book cover of Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West

Why this book?

Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and the Corps of Discovery set off into the wilderness with an astonishing mission: To explore and map the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase and to traverse the continent to the Pacific Ocean. Ambrose weaves this story from the journals Lewis, Clark, and others in the Corps left behind, documenting the boldness of the endeavor (hunts and navigation and encounters with grizzlies), the human interactions (with Native Americans and within the Corps itself), and the quiet beauty of the American West, its flora and fauna, and its dynamic waterways.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Thomas Jefferson, veterans, and Mount Everest?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Thomas Jefferson, veterans, and Mount Everest.

Thomas Jefferson Explore 23 books about Thomas Jefferson
Veterans Explore 36 books about veterans
Mount Everest Explore 8 books about Mount Everest

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like A Woman of No Importance, Untamed, and A Beautiful Work In Progress if you like this list.