There are countless studies detailing the benefits of reading and with the dawning of a new decade, it’s the perfect time to start looking for some adventure inspiration in the pages of your new favourite book.
From soul searching quests into the wilderness to a look into modern society and its discontent, this list has something for everyone.
Full of incredible characters, amazing athletic achievements, cutting-edge science, and, most of all, pure inspiration, Born to Run is an epic adventure that began with one simple question: Why does my foot hurt?
In search of an answer, Christopher McDougall sets off to find a tribe of the world's greatest distance runners and learn their secrets - and in the process shows us that everything we thought we knew about running is wrong. Isolated by the most savage terrain in North America, the reclusive Tarahumara Indians of Mexico's deadly Copper Canyons are custodians of a lost art. For centuries they have practiced techniques that allow them to run hundreds of miles without rest and chase down anything from a deer to an Olympic marathoner while enjoying every mile of it.
With a sharp wit and wild exuberance, McDougall takes us from the high-tech science labs at Harvard to the sun-baked valleys and freezing peaks across North America, where ever-growing numbers of ultra-runners are pushing their bodies to the limit, and, finally, to the climactic race in the Copper Canyons.
Born to Run is that rare book that will not only engage your mind but inspire your body when you realize that the secret to happiness is right at your feet, and that you, indeed all of us, were born to run.
"Hugely entertaining.... One of the most joyful and engaging books about running to appear for many years." (Times)
"Equal parts quest, physiology treatise, and running history.... [McDougall] seeks to learn the secrets of the Tarahumara the old-fashioned way: He tracks them down....The climactic race reads like a sprint....It simply makes you want to run." (Outside magazine)
"A terrific ride, recommended for any athlete." (Kirkus)
On the eve of turning 30, terrified of being funnelled into a life he didn’t choose, Jedidiah Jenkins quit his dream job and spent 16 months cycling from Oregon to Patagonia. He chronicled the trip on Instagram, where his photos and reflections drew hundreds of thousands of followers, all gathered around the question: What makes a life worth living?
In this unflinchingly honest memoir, Jed narrates his adventure - the people and places he encountered on his way to the bottom of the world - as well as the internal journey that started it all. As he traverses cities, mountains, and inner boundaries, Jenkins grapples with the question of what it means to be an adult, his struggle to reconcile his sexual identity with his conservative Christian upbringing, and his belief in travel as a way to wake us up to life back home.
A soul-stirring read for the wanderer in each of us, To Shake the Sleeping Self is an unforgettable reflection on adventure, identity, and a life lived without regret.
“[Jenkins is] a guy deeply connected to his personal truth and just so refreshingly present.” (Rich Roll, author of Finding Ultra)
“With winning candour, Jedidiah Jenkins takes us with him as he bicycles across two continents and delves deeply into his own beautiful heart." (Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild and Tiny Beautiful Things)
Marcia Langton’s Welcome to Country is a completely new and inclusive guidebook to Indigenous Australia and the Torres Strait Islands. In its pages, respected elder and author Professor Marcia Langton answers questions such as what does ‘country' mean to Indigenous people.
A detailed introduction covers such topics as Indigenous languages and customs, history, native title, art and dance, storytelling, and cultural awareness and etiquette for visitors. This is followed by a directory of Indigenous tourism experiences, organised into state and territory sections, covering galleries and festivals, communities that are open to visitors, tours and performances.
This book is for everyone travelling around this fascinating country who wants to gain an insight into the culture that has thrived here for over 50,000 years, and enjoy tourism opportunities that will show you a different side of Australia — one that remains dynamic, and is filled with openness and diversity. This book will quickly become one of the most important travel guides to be published in recent times.
In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley.
His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. His body - along with a camera with five rolls of film, an SOS note, and a cryptic diary written in the back pages of a book about edible plants - was found six months later by a hunter.
"Terrifying...Eloquent...A heart-rending drama of human yearning." ( New York Times)
"It works. The listener can imagine Franklin's voice under a television special; Krakauer's text fills in the pictures with ease. Franklin wisely chooses to become involved in the text, rather than trying to manipulate it." ( AudioFile)
Most of us have instinctive evidence the world is ending - balmy December days, face-to-face conversation replaced with heads-to-screens zombieism, a world at constant war, a political system in disarray.
We hear some myths and lies so frequently that they feel like truths: Civilization is humankind’s greatest accomplishment. Progress is undeniable. Count your blessings. You’re lucky to be alive here and now.
Well, maybe we are, and maybe we aren’t. Civilized to Death counters the idea that progress is inherently good, arguing that the "progress" defining our age is analogous to an advancing disease.
Prehistoric life, of course, was not without serious dangers and disadvantages. Many babies died in infancy. A broken bone, infected wound, snakebite, or difficult pregnancy could be life-threatening. But ultimately, Ryan argues, were these pre-civilized dangers more murderous than modern scourges such as car accidents, cancers, cardiovascular disease, and a technologically prolonged dying process?
At a time when our ecology, our society, and our own sense of selves feels increasingly imperilled, an accurate understanding of our species’ long prelude to civilization is vital to a clear sense of the ultimate value of civilization - and its costs. In Civilized to Death, Ryan makes the claim that we should start looking backward to find our way into a better future.
“It is increasingly clear to many of us that the way we have been living is no longer sustainable, at least as long as we want the earth to outlive us. . . . Civilized to Death is an important guide in this conversation.” (Psychology Today)
“Christopher Ryan is one of the most interesting and provocative thinkers of our time. Everyone should read him—you might well disagree but you’ll definitely think differently." (Johann Hari, New York Times–bestselling author of Lost Connections)
For fans of The Lost City of Z, Walking the Amazon, and Turn Right at Machu Picchu comes naturalist and explorer Paul Rosolie’s extraordinary adventure in the uncharted tributaries of the Western Amazon - a tale of discovery that vividly captures the awe, beauty, and isolation of this endangered land and presents an impassioned call to save it.
In the Madre de Dios - Mother of God - region of Peru, where the Amazon River begins its massive flow, the Andean Mountain cloud forests fall into lowland Amazon Rainforest, creating the most biodiversity-rich place on the planet. In January 2006, when he was just a restless eighteen-year-old hungry for adventure, Paul Rosolie embarked on a journey to the west Amazon that would transform his life.
Venturing alone into some of the most inaccessible reaches of the jungle, he encountered giant snakes, floating forests, isolated tribes untouched by outsiders, prowling jaguars, orphaned baby anteaters, poachers in the black market trade in endangered species, and much more. Yet today, the primordial forests of the Madre de Dios are in danger from developers, oil giants, and gold miners eager to exploit its natural resources.
"Rosolie delivers an old-fashioned jungle adventure, one with rare immediacy and depth of feeling for the people and creatures he encounters" (Wall Street Journal)
"Paul Rosolie’s solo adventures in the heart of the Amazon jungle, up close and personal with giant anacondas and jaguars, are gripping. And his dedication to preserving one of the earth’s last wildernesses is where he really sets himself apart. Mother of God is an awe-inspiring read." (Bear Grylls)
The book chronicles the first all-African American summit attempt on Denali, the highest point in North America. Part adventure story, part history, and part argument for the importance of inspiring future generations to value nature.
The nation’s wild places―from national and state parks to national forests, preserves, and wilderness areas―belong to all Americans. But not all of us use these resources equally. Minority populations are much less likely to seek recreation, adventure, and solace in our wilderness spaces. It’s a difference that African American author James Mills addresses in his new book, The Adventure Gap: Changing the Face of the Outdoors.
Bridging the so-called “adventure gap” requires role models who can inspire the uninitiated to experience and enjoy wild places. Once new visitors are there, a love affair often follows. This is important because as our country grows increasingly multicultural, our natural legacy will need the devotion of people of all races and ethnicities to steward its care.
"An important new book about a crucial challenge facing the conservation movement" (Spencer Black, vice president, Sierra Club)
A global phenomenon, The Alchemist has been read and loved by over 62 million readers, topping bestseller lists in 74 countries worldwide. Now this magical fable is beautifully repackaged in an edition that lovers of Paulo Coelho will want to treasure forever.
Every few decades a book is published that changes the lives of its readers forever. This is such a book - a beautiful parable about learning to listen to your heart, read the omens strewn along life's path and, above all, follow your dreams.
Santiago, a young shepherd living in the hills of Andalucia, feels that there is more to life than his humble home and his flock. One day he finds the courage to follow his dreams into distant lands, each step galvanised by the knowledge that he is following the right path: his own. The people he meets along the way, the things he sees and the wisdom he learns are life-changing. With Paulo Coelho's visionary blend of spirituality, magical realism and folklore, The Alchemist is a story with the power to inspire nations and change people's lives.
“His books have had a life-enhancing impact on millions of people.” (The Times)
"The story has the comic charm, dramatic tension and psychological intensity of a fairy tale, but it's full of specific wisdom as well, about becoming self-empowered, overcoming depression, and believing in dreams." (Publishers Weekly)
“I love The Alchemist.” (Oprah Winfrey)
Sunday Times top 10 bestseller by the author of Walking the Himalayas, winner of the 2016 Edward Stanford Adventure Travel Book of the Year award.
Walking the Americas chronicles Levison Wood's 1,800 mile trek along the spine of the Americas, through eight countries, from Mexico to Colombia, experiencing some of the world's most diverse, beautiful and unpredictable places.
His journey took him from violent and dangerous cities to ancient Mayan ruins lying still unexplored in the jungles of Mexico and Guatemala. He encountered members of indigenous tribes, migrants heading towards the US border and proud Nicaraguan revolutionaries on his travels, where at the end of it all, he attempted to cross one of the most impenetrable borders on earth: the Darien Gap route from Panama into South America.
This trek required every ounce of Levison Wood's guile, tact, strength and resilience in one of the rawest, most real and most exciting journeys of his life.
"Levison Wood has breathed new life into adventure travel." (Michael Palin)
A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an 1100-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe and built her back up again.
At 22, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. After her mother's death, her family scattered and her own marriage was destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State - alone.
She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than an idea: vague, outlandish, and full of promise. But it was a promise of piecing together a life that had come undone. Strayed faces rattlesnakes and bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and intense loneliness of the trail.
Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.
“One of the best books I've read in the last five or ten years... Wild is angry, brave, sad, self-knowing, redemptive, raw, compelling, and brilliantly written, and I think it's destined to be loved by a lot of people, men and women, for a very long time.” (Nick Hornby)
“Extraordinary... Truly wild: dirty, beautiful, serene” (Sunday Telegraph)
Captain Liz Clark spent her youth dreaming of traveling the world by sailboat and surfing remote waves. When she was 22, she met a mentor who helped turn her desire into reality.
Embarking on an adventure that most only fantasize about, she set sail from Santa Barbara, California, as captain of her 40-foot sailboat, Swell, headed south in search of surf, self, and the wonder and learning that lies beyond the unbroken horizon.
In true stories overflowing with wild waves and constant challenges, at the whim of the weather, of relationships sweet and sour, of nature's marvels and colorful cultures, Liz captures her voyage in gripping detail in this memoir, sharing tales of sailing in high seas, of solitude and surprises, of finding connection to the earth and commitment to living in harmony with it.
She witnesses how her dream leads her to understanding the unity of all things. More than ten years, 20,000 miles, countless adventures, and one cat later, she's still out there.
"Patagonia is on its way to becoming one of the most exciting surf publishers on the planet." (Surfer Today)
"Clark tells her voyage in great depth, with gripping details about the constant challenges of such an adventure. Moreover, you'll find a unique take on the power of exploration, from someone who has done a lot of it." (Business Insider)
A completely accessible, compelling and riveting account of pre-invasion Aboriginal agricultural systems.
Dark Emu argues for a reconsideration of the 'hunter-gatherer' tag for pre-colonial Aboriginal Australians and attempts to rebut the colonial myths that have worked to justify dispossession.
Accomplished author Bruce Pascoe provides compelling evidence from the diaries of early explorers that suggests that systems of food production and land management have been blatantly understated in modern retellings of early Aboriginal history, and that a new look at Australia's past is required.
‘Dark Emu injects a profound authenticity into the conversation about how we Australians understand our continent ... [It is] essential reading for anyone who wants to understand what Australia once was, or what it might yet be if we heed the lessons of long and sophisticated human occupation.’ (Judges for 2016 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards)
Have we missed any of your favourites? What books are on your reading list for 2020?