What better way to pass the time between trips than to read about destinations far and wide. Here are eight adventure travel books that will fuel your wanderlust, the 23rd edition of books I've read while waiting for my next adventure holiday!
Michael Asher - Sands of death
In December 1880 a French expedition attempted to map a route for a railway that would stretch from their colony in Algeria right across the Sahara desert to reach their territories in West Africa. No native opposition was expected.
Four months later, a handful of emaciated survivors staggered into a remote outpost on the edge of the desert. Although armed with modern rifles, the column had been lured to destruction by the self-styled 'lords of the desert', the Tuareg. The survivors had been pursued for weeks on end, driven into the waterless desert to die. The desperate lengths they resorted to shocked Victorian sensibilities. They do not make easy reading now. This grisly story, told by our greatest living desert explorer reveals what happened when the conceit of western colonialism met the equally arrogant Tuareg, who had dominated this remote region, and anyone trying to cross it, for a thousand years.
Adventure Coordinators review: 8 out of 10. While the author doesn't question the morality and legality of the French entering another country, the book did make me add travelling to the Ahaggar Mountains in southern Algeria to my bucket list!
Alone against the north - Adam Shoalts
When Adam Shoalts ventured into the largest unexplored wilderness on the planet, he was no stranger to the wilderness. He had hacked his way through jungles and swamp, had stared down polar bears and climbed mountains. But one spot on the map called out to him irresistibly: the Hudson Bay Lowlands, a trackless expanse of muskeg and lonely rivers, caribou and wolf, parts of which to this day remain unexplored.
Cutting through this forbidding landscape is a river no explorer, trapper, or canoeist had left any record of paddling. It was this river that Shoalts was obsessively determined to explore.
It took him several attempts, and years of research. But finally, alone, he found the headwaters of the mysterious river. He believed he had discovered what he had set out to find. But the adventure had just begun.
What Shoalts discovered as he paddled downriver was a series of unmapped waterfalls that could easily have killed him. Just as astonishing was the media reaction when he got back to civilization. He was crowned “Canada’s Indiana Jones” and appeared on morning television. People were enthralled by Shoalts’s proof that the world is bigger than we think.
Shoalts’s story makes it clear that the world can become known only by getting out of our cars and armchairs, and setting out into the unknown, where every step is different from the one before, and something you may never have imagined lies around the next curve in the river.
Adventure Coordinators review: 7.5 out of 10. An interesting read set in our own backyard. The author is disarmingly honest about his motives which makes this book a good read.
Outposts - Simon Winchester
A quirky and charming tour of the last outpost of the British empire, Outposts is Simon Winchester’s journey to find the vanishing empire, “on which the sun never sets.” In the course of a three-year, 100,000 mile journey―from the chill of the Antarctic to the blue seas of the Caribbean, from the South of Spain and the tip of China to the utterly remote specks in the middle of gale-swept oceans―he discovered such romance and depravity, opulence and despair tht he was inspired to write what may be the last contemporary account of the British empire. Written with Winchester’s captivating style and breadth, here are conversations and anecdotes, myths and political analysis, scenery and history―a poignant and colorful record of the lingering beat of what was once the heart of the civilized world.
Adventure Coordinators review: 9 out of 10. I loved the characters Winchester meets and the stories he tells. This book fuelled my wanderlust to get to some of the globe's most remote outposts.
On foot to Canterbury - Ken Haigh
Setting off on foot from Winchester, Ken Haigh hikes across southern England, retracing one of the traditional routes that medieval pilgrims followed to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. Walking in honour of his father, a staunch Anglican who passed away before they could begin their trip together, Haigh wonders: Is there a place in the modern secular world for pilgrimage? On his journey, he sorts through his own spiritual aimlessness while crossing paths with writers like John Keats, Jane Austen, Jonathan Swift, Charles Dickens, and, of course, Geoffrey Chaucer. On Foot to Canterbury is part travelogue, part memoir, part literary history, and all heart.
Adventure Coordinators review: 6.5 out of 10. If you love literary history and an eye for architectural detail, this book is for you.
The way of the stars - Robert C. Sibley
In The Way of the Stars, the journalist Robert Sibley, motivated at least in part by his own sense of discontent, recounts his walks on one of the most well-known pilgrimages in the Western world—the Camino de Santiago.
A medieval route that crosses northern Spain and leads to the town of Santiago de Compostela, the Camino has for hundreds of years provided for pilgrims the practice, the place, and the circumstances that allow for spiritual rejuvenation, reflection, and introspection. Sibley, who made the five-hundred-mile trek twice—initially on his own, and then eight years later with his son—offers a personal narrative not only of the outward journey of a pilgrim’s experience on the road to Santiago but also of the inward journey afforded by an interlude of solitude and a respite from the daily demands of ordinary life. The month-long trip put the author on a path through his own memories, dreams, and self-perceptions as well as through the sights and sounds, the tastes and sensations, of the Camino itself.
Adventure Coordinators review: 8 out 10. A lovely read with lots of interesting detail and observations.
Tip of the iceberg - Mark Adams
In 1899, railroad magnate Edward H. Harriman converted a steamship into a luxury "floating university," populated by some of America's best and brightest scientists and writers, including the anti-capitalist eco-prophet John Muir. Those aboard encountered a land of immeasurable beauty and impending environmental calamity. More than a hundred years later, Alaska is still America's most sublime wilderness, both the lure that draws one million tourists annually on Inside Passage cruises and as a natural resources larder waiting to be raided.
Armed with Dramamine and an industrial-strength mosquito net, Mark Adams sets out to retrace the 1899 expedition. Traveling town to town by water, Adams ventures three thousand miles north through Wrangell, Juneau, and Glacier Bay, then continues west into the colder and stranger regions of the Aleutians and the Arctic Circle. Along the way, he encounters dozens of unusual characters (and a couple of very hungry bears) and investigates how lessons learned in 1899 might relate to Alaska's current struggles in adapting to the pressures of a changing climate and world.
Adventure Coordinators review: 8.5 out of 10. Having done the ferry journey from Vancouver Island to Prince Rupert and Haida Gwaii, after reading this book, a journey on the Alaska Marine Highway is high on my list!
Minarets in the mountains : a journey into Muslim Europe - Tharik Hussain
Writer and documentary-maker Tharik Hussain sets off with his wife and young daughters around the Western Balkans, home to the largest indigenous Muslim population in Europe, and explores the regions of Eastern Europe where Islam has shaped places and people for more than half a millennium. Encountering blonde-haired, blue-eyed Muslims, visiting mystical Islamic lodges clinging to the side of mountains, and praying in mosques older than the Sistine Chapel, he paints a picture of a hidden Muslim Europe, a vibrant place with a breathtaking history, spellbinding culture and unique identity.
Adventure Coordinators review: 7.5 out of 10. An eye-opening read of a culture we are not always aware of exists in Europe.
The Longest Way Home: One Man's Quest for the Courage to Settle Down - Andrew McCarthy
With absorbing honesty and an irrepressible taste for adventure, award-winning travel writer and actor Andrew McCarthy takes us on a deeply personal journey played out amid some of the world’s most evocative locales. Unable to commit to his fiancée of nearly four years—and with no clear understanding of what’s holding him back—McCarthy finds himself at a crossroads, plagued by doubts that have clung to him for a lifetime. Though he ventures from the treacherous slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro to an Amazonian riverboat and the dense Costa Rican rain forests, McCarthy’s real journey is one of the spirit. Disarmingly likable, McCarthy isn’t afraid to bare his soul on the page, and what emerges is an intimate memoir of self-discovery and an unforgettable love song to the woman who would be his wife.
Adventure Coordinators review: 6.5 out of 10. Truthfully, the narrative seems a made-up thread to stitch together several travel stories previously published in a travel magazine. Still, the individual travelogues make for a good read.