These 15 Adventure Books Will Satisfy Your Need to Explore

Updated 09/06/18

It's human nature to crave adventure. When we let our minds wander past what's familiar, what's expected, and perhaps what's grown monotonous, we can begin to form the outline of a different experience—and that possible change can be alluring. For some, adventure is a fresh start, the answer to feeling unfulfilled, sad, or restless. Maybe adventure awaits because of a job or a long-held goal. Or sometimes adventure arrives as nothing more than a simple need to see the world.

And for those of us who are content enough to read about adventure, there have been plenty of people who've published stories about thrilling tales, so all we need to do is sit back and turn the pages.

We found 15 adventure books that will get your heart pumping and mind racing as you travel around the world with present and past explorers. These stories will illustrate challenging and entertaining scenarios, and they might make you curious enough to one day set out on your own epic tale.

That's the thing about adventure: Since it's human nature to crave it, it can also be contagious.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail best Adventure Books
Cheryl Strayed Wild $10
Shop

Faced with the unrelenting pain of her mother's death and the end of her marriage, Strayed decides that the best way she can begin to heal is by hiking the full length of the Pacific Crest Trail. Strayed's memoir details her solitary experiences on this grueling expedition with the type of vulnerable openness of a close friend—it's heartbreaking and painful at times, but ultimately inspiring and reassuring. 

Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier

Ian Frazier Travels in Siberia best Adventure Books
Ian Frazier Travels in Siberia $13
Shop

"For most people, Siberia is not the place itself but a figure of speech," Frazier says at the beginning of this sprawling novel about the region. Siberia is the mysterious, dangerous, and unforgiving place out there, a part of Eastern Russia that few dare to explore. But Frazier sets out to do just that by meticulously studying the area, its history, and its people, creating an adventure story that still makes the world feel large.

In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex best Adventure Books
Nathaniel Philbrick In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex $13
Shop

This National Book Award winner follows the story of a 19th-century whaling crew aboard the Essex, which is attacked by a sperm whale and sinks into the Pacific Ocean. The survivors attempt to sail to South America on smaller, open whalers, but must grapple with starvation and dehydration during the three months that they're lost at sea. Prepare to feel like you're part of the crew as you read since the author used the accounts of the actual survivors in his retelling.

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster
Jon Krakauer Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster $11
Shop

Although author Krakauer had given up mountain climbing years before, he decides to join an expedition up Everest as a potential story for Outside Magazine in May 1996. But once he gets to the base camp, he decides to continue. Krakauer's story of what happens next—when a storm hits, disaster strikes, and eight people are killed—offers a glimpse into one of the world's most dangerous and awe-inspiring locations.

Jungle by Yossi Ghinsberg

Lost in the Jungle best Adventure Books
Yossi Ghinsberg Jungle: A Harrowing True Story of Survival in the Amazon $11
Shop

In 1981, author Yossi Ghinsberg sets out on a dream to explore the undiscovered regions of the Amazon. Along the way, he meets three other like-minded travelers, and the four men continue on together—but it doesn't go as planned. Eventually the men split into pairs, and because of an accident, Ghinsberg soon finds himself alone in the jungle with few supplies. His retelling of how he survived for weeks alone in the jungle will make you wonder if you could do the same.

Touching the Void by Joe Simpson

Touching the Void: The True Story of One Man's Miraculous Survival best Adventure Books
Joe Simpson Touching the Void: The True Story of One Man's Miraculous Survival $13
Shop

In another tale about a man's wish to explore an unforgiving landscape, Touching the Void is a story about author Joe Simpson's climb up the Siula Grande in the Peruvian Mountains alongside partner Simon Yates in 1985. The recounting isn't what you'd expect—the men make it to the 20,813-foot summit. But on the way down, Simpson breaks his leg and then has to figure out how to survive.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail
Bill Bryson A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail $10
Shop

Bill Bryson is a famous travel writer, and he has plenty of adventurous stories to choose from if you're in the mood. But this story is for all readers who think that adventure is far away—because Bryson discovers that it can be found right beyond his backyard in the Appalachian Mountains. He decides to walk it, often finding that it's harder than it seems, and tells the story of its history and his struggles on it with self-effacing and comforting humor.

A Cook’s Tour by Anthony Bourdain

A Cook’s Tour Best Adventure Books
Anthony Bourdain A Cook’s Tour $13
Shop

Anthony Bourdain was famous for his numerous travel series, but this 2001 New York Times best seller is what helped propel him into the television spotlight. Using the wry but curious language that eventually became known as his unique voice, Bourdain sets out to discover "the perfect meal" by traveling throughout the world and throwing any caution the wayside. It's a story about adventure, people, and food—all of the things that made him a beloved figure.

The Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto Che Guevara

The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey best Adventure Books
Ernesto Che Guevara The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey $13
Shop

You may recognize the author's name for his revolutionary Marxist teachings, but this memoir follows Guevara when he was all but a 20-something medical student seeking adventure with his friend Alberto Granado. In 1952, the two men decide to discover South America on the back of a motorcycle they've named La Poderosa. It's a nine-month journey that eventually inspires the rest of Guevara's life. 

Pyongyang by Guy Delisle

Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea Best Adventure Books
Guy Delisle Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea $15
Shop

Not all adventure books have to take the shape of black words on white paper. Take Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea as an example, which is a graphic novel that uses art to describe the mysterious intricacies of this country. Delisle is an animator with a two-month visa to work in the capital, and since cameras aren't allowed, he uses animation to describe the culture he's trying to get to know as an outsider.

A Sense of Direction by Gideon Lewis-Kraus

A Sense of Direction: Pilgrimage for the Restless and the Hopeful Best Adventure Books
Gideon Lewis-Kraus A Sense of Direction: Pilgrimage for the Restless and the Hopeful $16
Shop

Like most adventurers, Lewis-Kraus can't help but feel like he's missing out on self-discovery by staying in San Francisco. So he moves to Berlin and then works his way by foot across the Camino de Santiago in Spain, the Shikoku in Japan, and the Uman in Ukraine. He does this all to study the respective faiths of Catholicism, Buddhism, and Judaism, as well as the classic lessons of a pilgrimage. But Lewis-Kraus is also trying to come to terms with his father's past and their present relationship.

The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard

The Worst Journey in the World Best Adventure Books
Apsley Cherry-Garrard The Worst Journey in the World $12
Shop

The Worst Journey in the World lives up to its name, simply because it describes the story of the British Antarctic Expedition that took place between 1910 and 1913. It's not surprising that the expedition was extremely challenging, since Antarctica is still difficult to explore, and that's what makes this story so compelling. By detailing what this team went through to catalog this part of the world, and ultimately what was done to survive, this book illuminates a captivating part of history.

West With the Night by Beryl Markham

West With the Night Best Adventure Books
Beryl Markham West With the Night $9
Shop

Perhaps you've never heard of Beryl Markham, and if that's the case, you should read this memoir. Markham grew up in Kenya in the early 20th century and became a pioneer aviator as an adult. She's the first person to fly east to west across the Atlantic on a solo non-stop flight, which is more difficult to do than traveling west to east, and this book showcases her drive to make it happen before anyone else.

An African in Greenland by Tété-Michel Kpomassie

An African in Greenland Best Adventure Books
Tété-Michel Kpomassie An African in Greenland $15
Shop

When Kpomassie was a kid growing up in Togo, he came across a book about Greenland and became fascinated by it. He made it his mission to eventually go there and become a hunter, and he spends the next decade of his life saving the money to do so. Once he arrives, Kpomassie then explains what happened when he got to explore Greenland at last and what it was like to eventually return home.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Moby Dick Best Adventure Books
Herman Melville Moby Dick $10
Shop

Even if you've never read this 1851 classic, you've heard of it, of course. Thanks to namesake white whale, the sailor Ishmael, the captain Ahab, and many other interesting characters and strange episodes, Moby Dick is still captivating readers for its descriptions of adventure on the open sea. Maybe it's time to finally know what the fuss is all about by picking up a copy, and we wouldn't be surprised if you become just as enthralled with the story.

Related Stories