The best adventure books

49 authors have picked their favorite books about adventure and why they recommend each book.

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Clear Waters Rising

By Nick Crane,

Book cover of Clear Waters Rising: A Mountain Walk Across Europe

I followed Nick’s adventures from a young age, and he’s partially responsible for my wanderlust. I learned I didn’t have to conform to society’s expectations, that is was OK to follow my dreams, and to pursue what I wanted from life, not what others wanted for me. Nick’s book takes him on an epic hike across Europe, including walking through winter. He is a master storyteller. 


Who am I?

Keith Foskett has hiked around 15,000 miles on classic hiking trails including the Pacific Crest Trail, El Camino de Santiago, and the Appalachian Trail. He has written four books, and contributes to various outdoor publications. Having once been described as an anomaly (it was apparently a compliment), he now divides his time between walking, cycling, and delving into the merits of woollen underwear.


I wrote...

The Journey in Between: Thru-Hiking El Camino de Santiago

By Keith Foskett,

Book cover of The Journey in Between: Thru-Hiking El Camino de Santiago

What is my book about?

Keith Foskett was the definition of restless. Drifting aimlessly, he knew a piece was missing from his life. But when a stranger in a Greek bar tells him about a world-famous pilgrim's trail, the chance encounter sets Foskett's life in a new 1,000-mile direction. On El Camino de Santiago, the hiker copes with extreme temperatures, fake faith healers, and kleptomaniacs. Threatened with arrest for 'not sleeping' and suffering with excruciating blisters, Foskett pushes himself to new limits. Can he find what he's looking for and reach the finish in Santiago de Compostela?

Book Scavenger

By Jennifer Chambliss Bertman,

Book cover of Book Scavenger

I love how this book has a game theme but isn’t limited to a specific location. Instead, the main characters travel throughout San Francisco to compete in Book Scavenger (a game where books are hidden in cities all over the country and clues to find them are revealed through puzzles). The reader can play along and there is a deeper mystery to solve—who attacked the game’s creator and can the culprit be caught before another attack is made?


Who am I?

Kim Long loves to write stories with a sense of adventure, a dash of magic, and a hint of science. Her debut, Lexi Magill and the Teleportation Tournament, was a 2021-2022 Texas Bluebonnet Master List Selection. She loves board games, scavenger hunts, and puzzles, so books with aspects of those elements have always appealed to her. Every book recommended below has at least one of those elements, and the great news is that it's also the first in its series, so if you fall in love with the first book, there’s a good chance you’ll love the others, too!


I wrote...

Lexi Magill and the Teleportation Tournament

By Kim Long,

Book cover of Lexi Magill and the Teleportation Tournament

What is my book about?

Twelve-year-old physics whiz Lexi Magill won't let anything stop her from winning Wisconsin's Teleportation Tournament—the annual competition where teams teleport around the world to solve STEAM-based puzzles. She needs the prize money to re-enroll in the science academy her parents can no longer afford. 

Castles, museums, and labyrinths await as Lexi and her team attempt to stay on course and outwit their competition. The perfect adventure for middle grade readers who like scavenger hunts and puzzle-solving.

Swallows and Amazons

By Arthur Ransome,

Book cover of Swallows and Amazons

I am not a sailor by any standard, and have never lived by a lake, but this didn’t stop me from relating to this pre-war British classic about a family of four children who spend their summer in high adventure, all fuelled by lively imaginations and a good deal of convincing knowledge about sailing and camping. They navigate by the stars, sleep out, devise contests with fellow sailors, join forces against an imagined foe. I loved how it reminded me of the magic of my childhood. Being one of four children who were largely left to our own devices, we also created whole worlds with Ivy kingdoms, tea tree jungles, enemies, cubbies, and campouts, all of which unleashed a lasting reverence for the mysterious wonder of the natural world.


Who am I?

I credit my overactive imagination to a childhood in which our parents left us to run wild. There I developed a very alive and personal relationship to the living world which I've continued to both plunder and nourish in order to write novels. In these times of ecological devastation, it’s telling that so many children’s lives have migrated towards the virtual. I believe it’s the interpenetration of our own imagination into what is mysterious, enduring and alive in the natural world that shows us why we must strive to hold it sacred. I encourage all kids to get off their screens and to go outside. There you will find life’s unbridled magic.


I wrote...

Molly & Pim and the Millions of Stars

By Martine Murray,

Book cover of Molly & Pim and the Millions of Stars

What is my book about?

All Molly wants is to be normal like her friend Ellen Palmer. Ellen, with her neat braids and a tidy house and a mother and father who are home for dinner every night. But Molly's mom spends her mornings tramping through the woods, looking for ingredients for her potions. Their rooster, the Gentleman, runs wild in their yard, angering their grumpy neighbors, the Grimshaws. So Molly's mom makes a potion that will grow a tree between their houses.

When Molly's mom accidentally drinks the potion and turns into the tree, Molly is determined to get her back. But the Grimshaws plan to cut down the tree branches that reach onto their property. Molly sets out to save her mother and discovers the wonder that lies in the ordinary.

Flight 714 (The Adventures of Tintin)

By Hergé,

Book cover of Flight 714 (The Adventures of Tintin)

I couldn’t resist adding a Tintin graphic novel to my list since Herge’s adventure series is widely beloved — and this one is a particular favorite. The story opens when the miserly millionaire, Laszlo Carreidas, "the millionaire who never laughs," invites Tintin, Captain Haddock, and Professor Calculus to accompany him on his private jet to Sydney instead of taking commercial Flight 714. It all seems rather jolly — until the millionaire’s jet is hijacked and diverted to a volcanic island in Java. As always, Herge nails the geographical details, plot twists, cheeky humor — and the idiosyncrasies of human nature, like grizzled Captain Haddock’s constant frustration with absentminded Professor Calculus. As a kid, these books opened entire worlds to me — I couldn’t wait to grow up and embark on my own adventures!

Who am I?

Squat toilets, profuse sweating, jumbo centipedes, ear nibbling—these are just some of the delights I’ve encountered in my global travels, which inspired my YA comedic adventure novels, Never Sorry Ever Jolly and Carpe Diem, which was published in the U.S., Germany, the Netherlands, and China. Carpe Diem was also nominated for numerous YA awards, chosen as a Book Sense/Indie Bound Pick, received a starred review from the School Library Journal, and according to The Washington Post: “This is self-confessed travel junkie Autumn Cornwell's first novel—and she's hit one out of the park.” Basically, I live my life as an adventure then write about it!


I wrote...

Carpe Diem

By Autumn Cornwell,

Book cover of Carpe Diem

What is my book about?

"I've got my entire life planned out for the next ten years -- including my PhD and Pulitzer Prize," claims overachiever teen Vassar Spore, whose overachiever parents named her after an elite women's college. Vassar’s summer plans include AP and AAP (Advanced Advanced Placement) classes — that is, until her long-lost bohemian grandmother suddenly resurfaces and blackmails her parents into allowing Vassar to backpack through Southeast Asia with her.

What starts out as “family bonding” turns into a series of misadventures from Malaysia to Cambodia to the remote jungles of Laos. Tensions mount as Grandma Gerd’s fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants mode of travel drives control freak Vassar absolutely bonkers. She sweats, falls in love, hones her outdoor survival skills -- and uncovers a family secret that turns her whole world upside-down. Vassar Spore can plan on one thing: she'll never be the same again.

Freedom Fire

By Daniel José Older,

Book cover of Freedom Fire

This middle-grade novel introduces us to a real place—the Colored Orphan Asylum in New York City—and invites us to imagine the historical children who lived there as freedom fighters. Those fights for freedom, it turns out, take place on the back of dinosaurs! While the surprising addition of dinosaur battles might seem like a diversion from the hard work of learning about slavery’s painful history, in Older’s hands, the dinos offer young readers a way to meditate on power and its abuses. Viewed in the context of a Black radical tradition that insists on alternate timescapes, Freedom Fire’s dinosaurs do not function as a bit of whimsical unreality that overwrites difficult historical truths. Instead, their discordant presence actually offers a space for readers—children and educators both—to better inhabit the surreal, disorienting history of enslavement and freedom in the United States.


Who am I?

I am an associate professor of English at the University of Connecticut. I’ve spent most of my career thinking about the role children have played in American culture. Adults, past and present, often overlook the intelligence and resilience of children who have managed to change both their immediate circumstances, and the world around them. I seek out these children and do my best to honor their stories. I’ve written or edited four other books on race and childhood, and have a podcast on children in history.


I wrote...

Educated for Freedom: The Incredible Story of Two Fugitive Schoolboys Who Grew Up to Change a Nation

By Anna Mae Duane,

Book cover of Educated for Freedom: The Incredible Story of Two Fugitive Schoolboys Who Grew Up to Change a Nation

What is my book about?

I’ve taught nineteenth-century African American literature classes for years. Much of what shows up on college courses dedicated to this subject are narratives of slavery and suffering. While slave narratives are undoubtedly necessary reading, my students asked for other stories to read as well: chronicles of Black aspiration, resilience, and professional success. My book, Educated for Freedom is one such story. 

In the 1820s, few Americans could imagine a viable future for black children. Even abolitionists saw just two options for African American youth: permanent subjection or exile. Educated for Freedom tells the story of James McCune Smith and Henry Highland Garnet, two black children who came of age and into freedom as their country struggled to grow from a slave nation into a free country.

Journey

By Aaron Becker,

Book cover of Journey

This wordless story begins with a little girl desperate for a playmate from her distracted family. Finally, she resigns herself to her room where she finds a red crayon. With the crayon she draws a door to an enchanted world. There’s a forest, a castle, and an airship all within this richly illustrated adventure.


Who am I?

I've spent decades teaching art to preschool and elementary school-aged kids in New York, California, Arizona, and here in Mexico where I live now. Children’s minds make connections that adults rarely do, especially in their art. Watching their imaginations at work have helped me keep my mind fresh when it comes to my own writing and art. Stories and books like these in my list connect to a child’s sense of wonder. Something that so many people lose as the world wears them down. I’m thrilled to share authors and artists here who have held onto that magic and I look forward to more books from all of them.


I wrote...

Dragon Stones

By Carolyn Watson Dubisch,

Book cover of Dragon Stones

What is my book about?

A dull visit to their Aunt’s house turns into a magical and thrilling adventure when Lizzy and her brother Ron venture into the nearby forest. An inviting path leads to a shrouded lake in the woods… Perfect for skipping stones, but who or what keeps throwing them back?

Watership Down

By Richard Adams,

Book cover of Watership Down

I had a pet rabbit that died when I was a kid. Ever since then, I’ve had an affinity for small hopping mammals. So, when an animated film about rabbits popped on my TV screen, I was hooked. But the book the movie is based on, Watership Down, is so much deeper than your average children’s yarn. It’s one of those books that forces you to ask, “how did something like this get published?” While seemingly meant for children, Richard Adams tackles heavy-handed material like war, death, and love—and he does it all through the eyes of rabbits. I have to admit that the end of the book—this unassuming book about animals and their struggles—had me tearing up, and that’s a rare thing for me.


Who am I?

Since before I could write my name, I’ve felt the need to put pen to paper. As a child, I needed a cassette tape recorder to get my fiction out there. I am pretty sure I have a small universe swelling like a tumor in my brain, and if I don’t disseminate the words that make up that world, it’ll grow and grow until it kills me. But I most want to move people with words; that’s where the magic of storytelling lies. I want my readers to come away from the page feeling like they’ve had a genuine experience the way only a great story can offer. 


I wrote...

The Princess of Aenya

By Nick Alimonos,

Book cover of The Princess of Aenya

What is my book about?

Radia was born with a power she does not understand, an empathic connection to Nature that may lead to the destruction of all she holds dear, her life and her people.

Tyrnael once served as the capital of Aenya, but the kingdom declines over the ages and its advanced technology is lost to the pages of myth. Centuries pass when Radia's father dies and she inherits the throne of the once-fabled city. Innocent to the cruelties of the world beyond her ivory tower, she is helpless when her adopted brother, Zaibos, seizes control in a violent coup. While the suffering of her people ravages her soul, her lone protector, Demacharon, forces her to flee, knowing the new king will destroy her if she remains. 

The Mysterious Benedict Society

By Trenton Lee Stewart, Carson Ellis (illustrator),

Book cover of The Mysterious Benedict Society

This book is different from the rest on the list in a few ways. It doesn’t transport the characters to new, magical realms. There are no whimsical beasts or mystical creatures. And, perhaps most significantly, I read this one as a “grown-up.” I had the honor of reading this book aloud to my children, along with its sequels, over the course of several months. My kids were delighted by these bright, young protagonists who, using their wits, imagination, and moral compass, save their loved ones from a devious villain intent on obliterating individuality. I fell in love with these characters, just as my children did. And when we read the final page of the final chapter of the final book, my daughter burst into tears. Not because the story was sad, but because spending time with these imaginary people had been a real experience. 

Good stories take us to other…


Who am I?

Wade Bradford is the author of several picture books, including There’s a Dinosaur on the 13th Floor and Papa Bear’s Page Fright. He has written over forty plays for young performers, and one middle-grade novel: Camp Omigosh


I wrote...

Papa Bear's Page Fright

By Wade Bradford,

Book cover of Papa Bear's Page Fright

What is my book about?

This is the story of a little girl named Goldilocks. Well, that's what it's supposed to be, but there's a problem. When Papa Bear discovers he's inside of a book and there are readers out there looking at him, he gets very nervous and forgets his lines. Poor Papa Bear... he has Page Fright! Can Mama Bear, Baby Bear, and Goldilocks help him find the courage to remember his lines and finish the story?

Fable

By Adrienne Young,

Book cover of Fable

This book absolutely blew me away and completely redefined great storytelling! My editor recommended it when we were talking about great new young adult fantasy books, and I will be forever in her debt for introducing me to Adrienne Young’s work. I love this world and heroine so much—Fable is scrappy, raw, vulnerable, clever, and immensely strong with just the right touch of magic. I recommend this book to everyone I know!


Who am I?

I have loved all things magical my entire life. I grew up leaving out food for the fairies and searching for gnomes in the woods, so it only follows that when I learned to read, I gravitated toward stories of fantasy and myth. I often felt that the worlds I read about matched my personality more accurately than the real world, and I longed to be one of the magically gifted heroines I encountered. I’m excited to share some of my very favorites with you, and hope they bring you as much joy as they did me!


I wrote...

Keeper of Scales

By Anne Mollova,

Book cover of Keeper of Scales

What is my book about?

A princess with a secret. An ancient evil rising. A kingdom caught in the balance.

Alyen, crown princess of Dúramair, has trained her whole life to be queen. She’s kept her Sight a secret, trusting that the Keeper of Scales will find an apprentice soon—for surely one other candidate can be found. But when news comes from the north of dark magic returning to Dúramair, Alyen is forced to make the hardest decision of her life. A decision that could determine the fate of her kingdom.

The Murderer's Ape

By Jakob Wegelius,

Book cover of The Murderer's Ape

A real tour de force that for me was reminiscent of Phileas Fogg's adventures in Around the World in 80 Days. The story follows the life of an intelligent gorilla who although lacking the power of speech is an extraordinary, loveable protagonist. It is accompanied by black and white illustrations that feel like etchings and that only enhance the wistful and nostalgic window through which we observe this gorilla’s world and life experience. It's a lengthy book and so at first may seem like a big commitment especially as it is aimed at children (it also have some grown-up themes) but once you begin the journey I defy anyone to try and get off as the mystery and magic unfold alongside a powerful story of friendship and love. Another brilliant example of how to escape the reality of the every day and be whisked into a world of mystery,…


Who am I?

I have always been a very imaginative individual and even now I think of my imagination as a place I can escape to. I build worlds and dimensions in my head and visit them often especially when I'm writing my own books, poems, or drafting characters. I'm a very visual individual and pay attention to detail so these imagined worlds can become quite complex and intricate. That's why I have always loved adventure, it's such a privilege to be given access to other worlds and minds through the medium of books. You get a chance to wander around someone else's imagination – what a way to escape, what an adventure in and of itself!


I wrote...

The Tunnels Below

By Nadine Wild-Palmer, Ellen Shi (illustrator),

Book cover of The Tunnels Below

What is my book about?

The Tunnels Below is a rite of passage fantasy adventure about growing up and facing up to whatever the world throws at you however weird and wonderful. It follows the story of Cecilia who’s twelfth birthday takes a very unexpected turn when she finds herself at the centre of a plot to save a community from the brutal Corvus rule in an unfamiliar underground world. 

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