The most recommended books about exploration

Who picked these books? Meet our 63 experts.

63 authors created a book list connected to exploration, and here are their favorite exploration books.
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Book cover of To the Bright Edge of the World

Peggy O'Donnell Heffington Author Of Without Children: The Long History of Not Being a Mother

From my list on women without kids (that aren’t sad).

Who am I?

I’m a historian who knows women have long lived not-sad lives without children. I’ve spent years researching the full and vibrant lives women without children lived throughout history—lives that often were only possible because they didn’t have the responsibilities of motherhood. I’m also a woman living a decidedly not-sad life without kids. And yet, in popular imagination, a woman without kids must be longing to be a mother or grieving the fact that she isn’t. I know firsthand that it can be isolating not to have kids. But in writing about the sheer variety of lives non-mothers lived in the past, I’m trying to show that we’re not alone.

Peggy's book list on women without kids (that aren’t sad)

Peggy O'Donnell Heffington Why did Peggy love this book?

Unlike Ivey’s other book The Snow Child, which grapples with the grief of infertility (a book I also love!), this book considers the opportunities a life without children allows for.

It opens with Lieutenant Colonel Allan Forrester as he prepares to lead an expedition into Alaska in 1885. His wife, Sophie, is an explorer in her own right and plans to accompany him—until they realize she’s pregnant and decide she has to stay behind.

Spoiler: Sophie miscarries and learns she will likely never be able to carry a baby to term. But this isn’t an endpoint for Sophie: instead, it sets her on a path toward professional and creative success, as well as love and happiness in her marriage.

We’re used to reading about how motherhood gives life meaning—I loved Ivey’s portrait of how not having kids can do the same.

By Eowyn Ivey,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked To the Bright Edge of the World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


Set in the Alaskan landscape that she brought to stunningly vivid life in THE SNOW CHILD (a Sunday Times bestseller, Richard and Judy pick and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize), Eowyn Ivey's TO THE BRIGHT EDGE OF THE WORLD is a breathtaking story of discovery set at the end of the nineteenth century, sure to appeal to fans of A PLACE CALLED WINTER.

'A clever, ambitious novel' The Sunday Times

'Persuasive and vivid... what could be a better beach read than an Arctic adventure?' Guardian

'Stunning and intriguing... the reader finishes…

Book cover of Curiosity: The Story of a Mars Rover

Linda Zajac Author Of Robo-Motion: Robots That Move Like Animals

From my list on robots for little kids with big-tech taste.

Who am I?

I’m fascinated by robots. As a former computer programmer, systems analyst, and consultant, I’ve had an interest in technology since my first programming class in high school. I’ve been to robotics labs in Boston, Massachusetts, and Lausanne, Switzerland. My husband is a mechanical/software engineer, so STEM is a big part of our lives. In addition to Robo-Motion, I’m the author of a number of Minecraft books with STEM and coding sidebars. I’ve also published many magazine articles, one of which was the inspiration for this book. I wrote about the CRAM cockroach robot for the March 2017 issue of MUSE.

Linda's book list on robots for little kids with big-tech taste

Linda Zajac Why did Linda love this book?

This nonfiction picture book takes an unusual approach in presenting the story of the Curiosity rover. Curiosity tells the reader about her extraordinary journey to Mars. I was fascinated and enlightened reading details about the construction, launch, and landing of this complex robot. The illustrator’s earthy palette compliments the subject matter. The last illustration of the tiny rover on the red planet left me in awe. It reminded me of standing at the rim of the Grand Canyon and gazing at a scene so vast I couldn’t possibly take it all in. Check out the rover’s path here!

By Markus Motum,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Curiosity as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

A stylishly illustrated non-fiction book about the search for life on Mars, told from the unique perspective of NASA's Mars rover, Curiosity.

Discover the incredible story of the search for life on Mars, told from the unique perspective of Curiosity, the Mars Rover sent to explore the red planet. Markus Motum's stylish illustrations and diagrams reveal how a robot travelled 350,000,000 miles to explore a planet where no human has ever been.
Shortlisted for the Klaus Flugge Prize 2018.

Book cover of In the Land of the Blue Poppies: The Collected Plant-Hunting Writings of Frank Kingdon Ward

Teri Dunn Chace Author Of Seeing Flowers: Discover the Hidden Life of Flowers

From my list on flowers.

Who am I?

Hiking in the flower-covered hillsides of Central California as a nature-loving kid, I couldn’t help but wonder about my companions. One of my first purchases (with babysitting money!) was a wildflower guide. I’ve moved around the country many times and every time I’ve had to start over, make new plant acquaintances and discoveries—always an orienting process. Of course, I’ve also studied plants formally, in college and in my career, and (honestly, best of all) via mentors and independent study. All this has shown me that flowers are more than just beautiful! They’re amazingly diverse, and full of fascinating behaviors and quirks. In fact, they are essential parts of the complex habitats we share.

Teri's book list on flowers

Teri Dunn Chace Why did Teri love this book?

Once upon a time, “plant explorers,” intrepid botanists (mainly from the UK) fanned out over the lesser-known world looking for interesting plants to bring into wider appreciation and cultivation. Frank Kingdon Ward (1885-1958) is best known for introducing the breathtakingly beautiful Tibetan blue poppy. There’s an internet meme featuring his grizzled face with the caption “Make sure you want it enough,” a clear reference to what he went through to bring his prizes back. (Imagine: you spot the fabulous blue poppy in some remote place, but, you have to find a way to return in a few months to get seeds.) This book, edited by Thomas Christopher and with a preface by Jamaica Kincaid (both super-credentialed horticulturists and authors), features highly readable, awe-inspiring selections from the great man’s journals.

By Frank Kingdon Ward,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In the Land of the Blue Poppies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Modern Library Paperback Original

During the first years of the twentieth century, the British plant collector and explorer Frank Kingdon Ward went on twenty-four impossibly daring expeditions throughout Tibet, China, and Southeast Asia, in search of rare and elusive species of plants. He was responsible for the discovery of numerous varieties previously unknown in Europe and America, including the legendary Tibetan blue poppy, and the introduction of their seeds into the world’s gardens. Kingdon Ward’s accounts capture all the romance of his wildly adventurous expeditions, whether he was swinging across a bottomless gorge on a cable of twisted bamboo…

Book cover of Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier

Christopher Wanjek Author Of Spacefarers: How Humans Will Settle the Moon, Mars, and Beyond

From my list on how to not die on Mars.

Who am I?

I am an author and freelance health and science writer with expertise is in health, nutrition, medicine, environmental sciences, physics, and astronomy. I try to address all these topics with healthy skepticism, realism, and a sense of humanity and humor. I am the author of three books: Spacefarers (2020), Food At Work (2005), and Bad Medicine (2003). I also have written more than 500 newspaper, magazine, and web articles for periodicals such as The Washington Post and Smithsonian Magazine. My upcoming book concerns the engineering of the NASA James Webb Space Telescope (MIT Press, 2022).

Christopher's book list on how to not die on Mars

Christopher Wanjek Why did Christopher love this book?

During his speech at the World Government Summit 2018 in Dubai, Neil deGrasse Tyson confessed that his original title for the book Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier was Failure to Launch: The Dreams and Delusions of Space Enthusiasts. The publisher rejected this title. I would have purchased this book either way, but the original title is on the mark. Tyson is one of my greatest sources of inspiration because he is so clear-eyed about practical challenges in space travel: from the physical and biological to the political and philosophical. Space Chronicles is one of many fine entry points into his brilliant mind.

By Neil Degrasse Tyson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Space Chronicles as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Neil deGrasse Tyson is a rare breed of astrophysicist, one who can speak as easily and brilliantly with popular audiences as with professional scientists. Now that NASA has put human space flight effectively on hold, Tyson's views on the future of space travel and America's role in that future are especially timely and urgent.

Book cover of Endurance

Marcia A. Zug Author Of You'll Do: A History of Marrying for Reasons Other Than Love

From Marcia's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Professor Lawyer Unromantic Displaced New Yorker

Marcia's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Marcia A. Zug Why did Marcia love this book?

I bought Endurance after watching the show Atypical, in which the main character, Sam, is obsessed with the Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton.

At the time, I had barely heard of Shackleton, but I was quickly captivated by this tale of his doomed Antarctic expedition. I don’t think I have ever read a more gripping story of perseverance and survival. After the Endurance was destroyed by ice, the crew spent two years alone in Antarctica and amazingly, not a single man died.

Despite setback after setback and seemingly through sheer force of will, Shackleton saved his entire crew. In describing Shackleton’s almost mythic quest to save his men Lansing writes, “For scientific leadership give me Scott; for swift and efficient travel, Amundsen; but when you are in a hopeless situation, when there seems no way out, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton.”

After reading Endurance, I understand…

By Alfred Lansing,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Endurance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In August 1914, polar explorer Ernest Shackleton boarded the Endurance and set sail for Antarctica, where he planned to cross the last uncharted continent on foot. In January 1915, after battling its way through a thousand miles of pack ice and only a day's sail short of its destination, the Endurance became locked in an island of ice. Thus began the legendary ordeal of Shackleton and his crew of twenty-seven men. For ten months the ice-moored Endurance drifted northwest before it was finally crushed between two ice floes. With no options left, Shackleton and a skeleton crew attempted a near-impossible…

Book cover of Tomorrow I'll Be Brave

Jill Heinerth Author Of The Aquanaut

From my list on young explorers.

Who am I?

I'm a world-class underwater explorer, writer, photographer, speaker, and filmmaker. A pioneer of technical rebreather diving, I have led expeditions into icebergs in Antarctica, volcanic lava tubes, and submerged caves worldwide. As a child, these fanciful places were just a part of my wildest dreams. The Aquanaut tells the story of how I turned my imaginative journeys into reality and became a celebrated underwater explorer.

Jill's book list on young explorers

Jill Heinerth Why did Jill love this book?

This inspirational book for young explorers offers uplifting messages for kids, encouraging them to try new things and not fret about failure. Hand-lettered words of wisdom help to define what it means to be brave and confident, while teaching patience and tenacity. The colorful illustrations are memorable and immersive, offering opportunities for discussion about each page of positive values.

By Jessica Hische,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tomorrow I'll Be Brave as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 3, 4, 5, and 6.

What is this book about?

Tomorrow I'll be all the things I tried to be today:

Adventurous, Strong, Smart, Curious, Creative, Confident, & Brave.

And if I wasn't one of them, I know that it's OK.

Journey through a world filled with positive and beautifully hand-lettered words of widsom, inspiration, and motivation. As this book reminds readers, tomorrow is another day, full of endless opportunities - all you have to do is decide to make the day yours.

"Jessica Hische, one of the great designers and typographers, now shows herself equally adept at creating gorgeous and immersive images for young readers. This is a joyous…

Book cover of Meet Me in Atlantis: My Obsessive Quest to Find the Sunken City

Jennifer McKeithen Author Of Atlantis On the Shores of Forever

From my list on Atlantis if you love adventure.

Who am I?

I'm a novelis who's had a lifelong fascination with travel, lost civilizations, aquariums, swashbuckling stories (both true and fictional), dancing, dusty old bookstores and libraries, sangria, and sunny beaches. I grew up in beautiful south Louisiana and my earliest memories were in New Orleans. Living in “America's first melting pot” taught me to appreciate cultures, languages, cuisine, and music from a young age. Ancient and Medieval history and folklore remain major influences on my writing.

Jennifer's book list on Atlantis if you love adventure

Jennifer McKeithen Why did Jennifer love this book?

Mark Adams is simply a delightful writer. In this book, he dares to ask the age-old question: did Atlantis actually exist? He sifts through the facts and the fiction, taking the reader with him in his traipse across the globe to find answers. Like his other books, Meet Me in Atlantis is a fun read, where you’ll learn a lot and have some laughs along way.

By Mark Adams,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Meet Me in Atlantis as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The New York Times Bestselling Travel Memoir! 

The author of Turn Right at Machu Picchu travels the globe in search of the world’s most famous lost city. 

“Adventurous, inquisitive and mirthful, Mark Adams gamely sifts through the eons of rumor, science, and lore to find a place that, in the end, seems startlingly real indeed.”—Hampton Sides

A few years ago, Mark Adams made a strange discovery: Far from alien conspiracy theories and other pop culture myths, everything we know about the legendary lost city of Atlantis comes from the work of one man, the Greek philosopher Plato. Stranger still: Adams…

Book cover of Chasing Venus: The Race to Measure the Heavens

Jorge L. Contreras Author Of The Genome Defense: Inside the Epic Legal Battle to Determine Who Owns Your DNA

From Jorge's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Law professor Traveler Science junkie Amateur historian Science fiction buff

Jorge's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Jorge L. Contreras Why did Jorge love this book?

Wulf brings eighteenth-century Enlightenment science, philosophy, and thought to life like no other contemporary writer.

Chasing Venus is the amazing story of the first global scientific collaboration: the expeditions to measure the transit of Venus across the face of the sun in 1761 and 1769.

The result, if achieved, would enable scientists, for the first time, to calculate the distance from the Earth to the sun. The teams of astronomers and surveyors that fanned out across Europe, North America, and Asia to take the necessary measurements faced adversity ranging from wars and hostile locals to equipment failures and bad weather. Yet, against the odds, they succeeded, ushering in a new era in astronomy and scientific cooperation. 

By Andrea Wulf,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Chasing Venus as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The author of the highly acclaimed Founding Gardeners now gives us an enlightening chronicle of the first truly international scientific endeavor—the eighteenth-century quest to observe the transit of Venus and measure the solar system.
   On June 6, 1761, the world paused to observe a momentous occasion: the first transit of Venus between the earth and the sun in more than a century. Through that observation, astronomers could calculate the size of the solar system—but only if they could compile data from many different points of the globe, all recorded during the short period of the transit. Overcoming incredible odds and…

Book cover of The Adventures of Alexander Von Humboldt

Jack Nisbet Author Of The Collector: David Douglas and the Natural History of the Northwest

From my list on the interwoven lifeways of plants and people.

Who am I?

I have studied the intersection of human and natural history as an enthusiast, newspaper columnist, teacher, museum curator, and author. I strongly believe in the value of local knowledge, which has led me to work with and learn from several Plateau tribal communities. I use primary documents, including field journals, maps, artwork, oral histories, and the landscape itself as my building blocks. If I can arrive at a confluence of rivers on the same day of the year as some early white visitors and search for the living things that they wrote about during their stay, then I have something that I can compare directly with tribal oral histories. 

Jack's book list on the interwoven lifeways of plants and people

Jack Nisbet Why did Jack love this book?

I love comics of all kinds, so found it impossible to resist Andrea Wulf’s idea of adapting her popular biography of ecological pioneer Von Humboldt to the graphic form. Illustrator Lillian Melcher combines her comic chops and inventive design sense with Von Humboldt’s own drawings, maps, and specimen papers to create a book that truly enhances Wulf’s scholarly investigations. Plus it’s so much fun. 

By Andrea Wulf, Lillian Melcher (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Adventures of Alexander Von Humboldt as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


From the New York Times bestselling author of The Invention of Nature, comes a breathtakingly illustrated and brilliantly evocative recounting of Alexander Von Humboldt's five year expedition in South America.

Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) was an intrepid explorer and the most famous scientist of his age. His restless life was packed with adventure and discovery, but his most revolutionary idea was a radical vision of nature as a complex and interconnected global force that does not exist for the use of humankind alone. His theories and ideas were profoundly influenced by a…

Book cover of Roving Mars: Spirit, Opportunity, and the Exploration of the Red Planet

Brian Hall Author Of The Stone Loves the World

From my list on exploring the galaxy.

Who am I?

A child of scientists, I grew up planning to be a physicist, but became a novelist instead. Since I straddle the worlds of science and literature, I’ve always valued good science writing. It’s a rare talent to be able to inform and excite the general reader while not oversimplifying the science. I particularly thrill to books about exploring other planets and star systems, because when I was a teenager I read a lot of science fiction, and wished more than anything that someday, when I was much older, I would find myself on a rocket headed for, say, a colony on Mars.

Brian's book list on exploring the galaxy

Brian Hall Why did Brian love this book?

Zubrin’s book proposes a tantalizing what-if. Steve Squyres’ Roving Mars presents readers with an exciting and suspenseful blow-by-blow account of an awesome thing that actually happened: the successful landing on Mars of the rovers Spirit and Opportunity, and the jaw-dropping success of those lovable little robotic beetles. It was hoped that the rovers might function for as long as 90 days. Opportunity performed for 15 years. (Spirit, that slacker, phoned it in for only 6 years.) Squyres, an astronomer, was the principal investigator for the mission, and he proves to be an enormously appealing guide: enthusiastic, excitable, grateful, humble. One of the many likable things about this book is that Squyres lets us see how scientists in charge of a years-long multimillion-dollar one-shot mission with a high chance of failure are every bit as superstitious as village peasants: Squyres makes sure to wear his tattered good-luck jeans to every…

By Steven Squyres,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Roving Mars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Steve Squyres is the face and voice of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover mission. Squyres dreamed up the mission in 1987, saw it through from conception in 1995 to a successful landing in 2004, and serves as the principal scientist of its $400 million payload. He has gained a rare inside look at what it took for rovers Spirit and Opportunity to land on the red planet in January 2004--and knows firsthand their findings.