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

The Books I Picked & Why

My Life of High Adventure

By Grant Pearson, Philip Newill

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.


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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?

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.


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

By Ben Montgomery

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.


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The Great Alone

By Kristin Hannah

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.


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

By Stephen E. Ambrose

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.


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