Adventure Books

In January of 2003, Outside Magazine published a list of recommended “adventure” books, in an article titled “The 25 (Essential) Books for the Well-Read Explorer.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Wind, Sand, and Stars, published in 1939 (first in French and then in English, in the same year), was at the top of their list. In the article, Brad Wieners describes Saint-Exupéry’s classic:

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Wind, Sand and Stars is so humane, so poetic, you underline sentences: “It is another of the miraculous things about mankind that there is no pain nor passion that does not radiate to the ends of the earth. Let a man in a garret but burn with enough intensity and he will set fire to the world.” Saint-Exupéry did just that. No writer before or since has distilled the sheer spirit of adventure so beautifully. True, in his excitement he can be righteous, almost irksome like someone who’s just gotten religion. But that youthful excess is part of his charm. Philosophical yet gritty, sincere yet never earnest, utterly devoid of the postmodern cop-outs of cynicism, sarcasm, and spite, Saint-Exupéry’s prose is a lot like the bracing gusts of fresh air that greet him in his open cockpit. He shows us what it’s like to be subject and king of infinite space.

I have written before about Saint-Exupéry, and I’m happy that Outside included one of his books in their list (he is, most famously, the author of The Little Prince). Truly, Wind, Sand and Stars conveys a sense of what most of us would describe as adventure. However, the books that Outside recommended, and which other publication have recommended in similar lists, might better be classified as “environmental” or “outdoor literature.” After all, “adventure” is a term that is as hard to define as “art,” “nature,” or “love.”

Regardless, if  you find yourself house-bound or otherwise restricted from enjoying the outdoors yourself,  you can find some fine reading material in Outside’s old list. By using the search function on their webpage, you can locate several other lists of recommended readings as well. Also, take a look at the extensive list of “adventure” books published online by National Geographic in 2004 (notice, there is a link to more recent recommendations at the bottom of their webpage).




7 Responses to “Adventure Books”

  1. rivertoprambles Says:

    I may have to check out those lists. I was actually writing something about “adventure” when your post came up. Thanks!


    • Kenov Says:

      There are a few there that I haven’t heard of before. It’s nice to find some new texts for those times that I can actually read one for pure enjoyment.


  2. elizabethjulia Says:

    Thank you for this post! I am always looking for new adventure/explorer books to read and have actually never read Saint-Exupéry – now I will have to check him out!


    • Kenov Says:

      There is nothing worse than having time to read, but not having just the right book. I know I’ll be going back to these lists on occasion. By the way, if you have not read Beryl Markham — Saint-Expupery’s fellow pilot, friend, and brief lover — check her out.


      • SouthwestAdventurer Says:

        I have read Beryl Markham! My favorite movie of all time is Out of Africa, and I think I’ve read almost everything I could find on the main characters. I really resonate with that time period, especially in Africa!


      • Kenov Says:

        Some great writing came out of that setting, for sure. I need to rewatch out of Africa one of these days.


  3. A Book Buyer’s Resource | The Literary Fly Fisher Says:

    […] There you can find may of the classics identified and discussed in my previous post on “adventure books.” If you are looking for one of these titles, or if you simply want to browse the […]


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