Wednesday, June 13, 2007

“Adventure must start with running away from home” - William Bolitho

Yesterday afternoon, after spending my lunch hour reading the interesting-but-didactically-written Portrait of the Burger as a Young Calf, I chanced upon a copy in the free-exchange shelves of Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire.

You know me; you know I love to read about Arctic exploration gone awry, shipwrecks, sailors adrift at sea, mountain climbing accidents, wilderness survival stories – if something extreme or insane in the outdoors can be attempted, and even better if something goes wrong in that attempt, I am all over it.

But good writing about the great outdoors is ok, too – I love Bill Bryson’s books, and have a soft spot especially for any kind of climbing writing (after I read Eiger Dreams, I pretty much wanted to marry Jon Krakauer and bear his children).

I snagged Desert Solitaire and then, in a typically obscure tangent, I had to do a bit of research to come up with the name of the man idolized by Christopher McCandless in Into the Wild. (John Wesley Powell, by the way.)

While trying to find out that factlet, I stumbled across this list, thereby guaranteeing many pleasant hours of outdoorsy reading for the summer months ahead:

Outside Magazine’s Best Adventure Books of the Last 100 Years:

1. Wind, Sand & Stars. By Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1940).
I read this, a long long time ago, while sick in bed.

2. (Tie) The Worst Journey in the World. By Apsley Cherry-Garrard (1922)
This has been on my TBR list for so long, it’s shameful.

2. (Tie) Journals. By Meriwether Lewis and William Clark (1841)
I have a good friend who read these right after she read that giant book about L&C released a couple years ago, and recommended it to me. Like every dutiful and good librarian, I have a penchant for primary sources: Daniel Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year, Owen Chase’s and Thomas Nickerson’s The Loss of the Ship Essex, Sunk by a Whale, and Rachel Calof’s Story.

3. West With the Night. By Beryl Markham (1942)
I own this but have not read it. And for whatever reason, I ALWAYS confuse Markham with Amelia Earhart.

4. The Snow Leopard. By Peter Matthiessen (1978)
I have not read this, but I have read and thoroughly enjoyed Mathiessen’s book about great white sharks.

5. Desert Solitaire. By Edward Abbey (1968)
I own it now.

6. Endurance. By F. A. Worsley (1931).
Own it, have read most of it.

7. Sailing Alone Around the World. By Joshua Slocum (1900)
How did I miss this?

8. Into the Wild. By Jon Krakauer (1996)
OK, Christopher McCandless was an extremely foolish young man, but it’s a terrific read.

9. Coming into the Country. By John McPhee (1976)

10. Arabian Sands. By Wilfred Thesiger (1959)

11. Touching the Void. By Joe Simpson (1989)
I own this, but have not read it as I ration my mountain-disaster reading; otherwise I start to get bored. I know, juvenile when I am reading about people in mortal peril but that’s how it goes.

12. The Mountains of My Life. By Walter Bonatti (1998)

13. In Patagonia. Bruce Chatwin (1977)
Own this.

14. Arctic Dreams. Barry Lopez (1986)
Own this.

15. A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush. By Eric Newby (1958)
This looks FABULOUS.

16. Tracks. By Robyn Davidson (1980)
This one is for all you dear Aussies.

17. The Long Way. By Bernard Moitessier (1971)

18. Running the Amazon. By Joe Kane (1989)

19. Young Men and Fire. By Norman Maclean (1992)
This one reminds me of another that piqued my interest, Eric Blehm’s The Last Season.

20. The Great Plains. By Ian Frazier (1989)

21. Kon-Tiki. By Thor Heyerdahl (1950)
A true classic.

22. My Journey to Lhasa. By Alexandra David-Neel (1927)

23. (Tie) Alive. By Pier Paul Read (1974)
Read this, was positively blown away by it. In fact, Nando Parrado’s personal account, Miracle in the Andes, is out in paperback, and I have to go buy it right now.

23. (Tie) The Perfect Storm. By Sebastian Junger (1997)
I read this at the shore one summer, shortly after seeing bits of the movie. Wow. I followed it up with Linda Greenlaw’s The Hungry Ocean, but her writing was not nearly as captivating as Junger’s.

24. A Walk in the Woods. By Bill Bryson (1998)
This is the first Bill Bryson I ever read; I liked it very much but I think In a Sunburned Country (about Australia) is probably my favorite of his.

25. Old Glory. By Jonathan Raban (1981)
This is the only one that doesn’t look all that interesting to me – it smacks too much of Mark Twain. Yawn.

I also found this list of National Geographic’s 100 Best Adventure Books. Many of the titles on the two lists coincide, and I own several more on the NG list. It’s always more fun to go used-book shopping with a goal; now I have one, list in hand.


Anonymous said...

It looks like I've read many of these. A few comments ...

The Snow Leopard disturbed me because the mother of the author's children had just died and, instead of being there for his children (the youngest was around 6 years old), he travelled to the other side of the world in order to "find himself" and to write a nice book when he should've been taking care of his children.

I'll calm down now.

Another version of the Endurance story, by Caroline Alexander, has the most amazing photos taken by the photographer who was with them and saved the photographic plates when the ship was destroyed. He shlepped them over ice and water and tundra all the way home. They are worth it.

Another book by Bruce Chatwyn, Songlines, about Australia's Aborigines, changed my life. I liked it better than In Patagonia (which didn't change my life).

You've read Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, yes? I liked it better than Into the Wild because that kid was kind of stupid to get himself into that situation.

Happy reading!

Kathy said...

I love Journal of the Plague Year and Kon-Tiki.

I can't read books about real people in mortal peril though as I tend to get really upset about it. I did want to read Touching the Void though because I love that title.

Suse said...

I have read no. 15 and it IS fabulous, as are most of Newby's books. Have also read no. 24 and enjoyed it, although less so than his others.

As for Bruce Chatwin, Songlines changed my life too ssheers. Profound and moving. Fabulous.

Jess said...

I just finished "Magnetic North" by David Halsey - you might enjoy.

Perfect comment about both The Perfect Storm and then Linda Greenlaw. I think I would have enjoyed the book more if I hadn't known the two were related. (You know what I mean.)

I read a book last year about a doctor in Antarctica treating herself for breast cancer - IceBound, Dr. Jerri Nielson. Also very good.

delta said...

Oh, my god, The Snow Leopard was my all time favorite book in high school. It was the journey myth in real life. This guy had just lost his wife to cancer and was devastated. He had to go on a journey (literal and spiritual and emotional) in order to make it to the other side. His writing moved me deeply.

West with the Night by Beryl Markham, another book I truly loved. Although I always mix her up with Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen).

I think Jon Krakauer is a great writer. Into Thin Air was well-written. I really liked Into the Wild. But Chris McCandless was a loser. We lived in Alaska and drove by the road where Chris turned off and headed into the wilderness. Krakauer kept referring to him as a "boy," but he was like 26! He was a man child. By that point in time, someone in the military could have led an entire company in combat for over a year. The book was well written but I could not sympathize with McCandless. I think his losing his life was tragic and a waste. He did not take the wilderness of Alaska seriously -- and was irresponsible.

I would highly recommend "Shackleton's Way - Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer." As well as "River of Doubt" by Candice Millard, which chronicles Teddy Roosevelt's expedtion to the Amazon after he was President. It is filled with hubris, and reveals things about the Amazon I never knew. Great book!

David said...

Have you read Touching the Void?

For inexplicable reasons - ok it involves rope, knots, and some gear - I showed the video to my rigging class. Really cool story.

blackbird said...

I would hasten to add Annapurna by Maurice Herzog - best read in the most ancient edition you can find.

(I used to read)

Sarah Louise said...

Tracks!!! Actually I think I've seen your copy and therefore knew you owned it. You mean we do share some similar tastes!!??

My copy got lent out and I never saw it again. But I'm pretty sure I liked it. I at least have good thoughts about it.

You crack me up. Twas great to see you and the dog yesterday.

I don't think Bill Bryson is that funny. Maybe I need to try him again, because everyone seems to LURVE him.

(I read his book about coming back to America after having been gone and I think I was hoping for something different. It's the one with the lookout glass thingy on the cover)(I'm a stranger here myself) I lurve the Internet.

Sarah Louise said...

Oh, I also liked Kon-Tiki.

darkorpheus said...

Ah, I think I saw the list last year and made a list to read some of the titles.

Snow Leopard was a profound travelogue to the realms within and without. I re-read it last year, and realise I will re-read again in the near future.

In Patagonia - dry like twig. Songlines was better. Chatwin is at his best when he's meditating on the idea of nomadism.

Jess said...

Considering my alma mater, I've read shockingly little about Lewis and Clark, but I do have a fondness for their spelling and figures of speech.

I read Into the Wild for a class - as much as I couldn't stand the guy it was about, I couldn't put it down, either.

I read West with the Night in, oh, middle school and loved it then.

Anonymous said...

After The Egg and I, Kon Tiki was next favorite non fiction book as a child. Peter Matthiessen, John McPhee, and Barry Lopez are my faves, but I find Bill Bryson a little treacly. I especially love books about McMurdo on Antarctica - one written in the last few years by a woman whose name I can't remember (aren't I helpful??).

BabelBabe said...

Thoroughly enjoyed Into Thin Air.
I have a book of Herbert Ponting’s photographs; they are AMAZING.

Daysgoby: I own that Gerri Neilsen book but have not read it. Will also look for Magnetic North. Thx for the reccs!

Suse: I just ordered Tracks from can’t wait to read it!

David/Katya – Own Touching the Void, it will be bumped further up the TBR pile.
And of COURSE you showed it for a rigging class : )

Blacbird: I have read lots of Annapurna; in fact, you told me once before to get the one with all the gruesome pics : )

Jess/Orpehus et al: will keep an eye out for a copy of Songlines. Thx!

Loretta: read The Plague and I now. Just as amusing as The Egg and I, I swear!