Extreme Travel | Adventure Sports

Top 10 adventure books

Adventurer Mikael Strandberg picks his best tomes for travelling
© Simon Cocks, Flickr

Mikael Strandberg is one of the world´s top explorers, having cycled from Chile to Alaska; Norway to South Africa; and canoed the unknown Kolyma River in north-eastern Siberia. Recently, Mikael had his first child and it’s given him time to catch up on his reading. Here, he reveals his top 10 list of adventure books.


by Maurice Herzog Before you fix your ropes to the mountain, this book will show you the way real climbs and real exploration should be done. It presents an enthralling account, by the leader of the French expedition, of the first conquest of Annapurna – at that time, and at more than 8000 metres, the highest mountain ever climbed. It is a story of breathtaking courage and determination against appalling odds. In tales of human endeavour, there is nothing as unforgettable as the account of the descent by these triumphant but frost-bitten men, after the monsoon had broken, through the flooded valleys of Nepal. Available from Amazon

The Worst Journey in the World

by Aspley Cherry-Garrard This is Aspley Cherry-Garrard’s account of an expedition that had gone disastrously wrong. No episode in the history of human endeavour reads more harrowingly than Captain Robert Scott’s last expedition to Antarctica in 1911.  The Worst Journey in the World takes the reader through the Antarctic expedition and its devastating outcome – in which the bodies of Scott and his three team members were found in the frozen wasteland.  Cherry-Garrard, a surviving team member, had been left behind for the final leg of the expedition, in accordance with Scott’s original plan for a four-man advance, leaving Cherry-Garrard eight months later to discover their bodies.  The experience permanently damaged his mental health. For the rest of his life he was haunted by the fear that, but for what he perceived as an error of judgement on his part, they might have survived. This book, his story of that and earlier expeditions, is in no way self-indulgent or sensationalist. Polar exploration requires a singular fortitude pushing beyond brute strength to what Sir Ranulph Fiennes was later to term ‘mind over matter’. A work of supreme dimension, this masterpiece remains as compelling today as when it was first published 80 years ago. Available from Amazon

The Heart of the Hunter

by Laurens Van der Post In this stirring sequel to “The Lost World” of the Kalahari, Laurens van der Post records everything he has learned of the life and lore of Africa’s first inhabitants – the bushmen. He explores the very sources of the Bushmen’s spirit and imagination – their dreams and stories, and the legends that guide and inspire them in their daily battles with the harshest of environments, the Kalahari. Available from Amazon

Arctic dreams

by Barry Lopez An amazing, inspiring account from the northern part of the globe. The European picture of the Arctic is usually one of snow and ice: the hostility of the terrain and the frigid wastes of the tundra contribute to our incapacity to imagine ordinary life there. In this magisterial book, Lopez draws on this hazy understanding of the far north to provide a compelling account of the land and its hold upon the psyche. It is a book which could be compared to Chatwin for its combination of travelogue and poetic vision. Yet, the beauty of the prose and the thought-provoking evocations of modern culture’s shifting relationship with the environment are in a league of their own. Sparkling descriptions of the lives of caribou, muskoxen, polar bears and narwhals, and extraordinarily moving passages offer a meditation on the nature of our relationship with the world, the inter-dependence of ideas, desire and science and the possibility of dignity and compassion in the contemporary world.  The book exemplifies the supreme importance Lopez ascribes to the ethics of respect in the face of all existential paradox: “There are simply no answers to some of the great pressing questions. You continue to live them out, making your life a worthy expression of a leaning into the light”. Available from Amazon

Khyber Knights

by CuChullaine O’Reilly It is an account of perilous adventure and forbidden romance in the depths of mystic Asia. O´Reilly´s book is a real modern day tale with insights into the human soul. It has everything an adventure book should have! Available from Amazon

Scott and Amundsen

by Roland Huntford This is a spectacular book that describes the race to the South Pole between Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott. Being someone brought up in the snow and cold with experience in polar exploration, I think it is very accurate. Amundsen should have been given much more acclaim for his fantastic life and discoveries. It is a very dramatic book, but provides remarkable insight into both his life explorations and discoveries. Available from Amazon


by Robyn Davidson Despite my perceived preference to recommend books written by men, women generally write adventure and exploration better as a whole; they are more honest, lie and brag about themselves much less and evoke more emotions. This book is absolutely excellent in every way and should be read by everyone who is thinking about embarking on adventures and expeditions. Davidson journeys with you on her 1700 mile trek with camels across the Western desert of Australia. Available from Amazon

The Voyage of the Beagle

by Charles Darwin I had no idea that Charles Darwin was such a good writer. The book is a must in many ways, since quite a few of his ideas regarding the evolution of mankind began developing here. To top it off, it is a great travel book, full of adventures and insights into all these countries that the Beagle explored on his five-year journey. Available from Amazon

The Incredible Voyage

by Tristan Jones This is an amazing book by an amazing fella. His passage in his boat through South America is an extraordinary and unbelievable journey. He is a talented writer and this will, without a doubt, be a classic in the future. With a singleness of purpose as ferocious as any hazard he encountered, Tristan Jones would not give up – even after dodging snipers on the Red Sea, capsizing off the Cape of Good Hope, starving on the Amazon, struggling for 3,000 miles against the mightiest sea current in the world and hauling his boat over the rugged Andes three miles above sea level to find at last the legendary Island of the Sun. And beyond, lay the most awesome challenge of all – the tortuous trek through 6,000 miles of uncharted rivers to find his way back to the ocean. Available from Amazon

Arabian Sands

by Wilfried Thesiger By now, I have read the book many times. It is a poetry exploring the meaning of life and an enticing read about his amazing explorations in the Arabian Desert of Rub Al-Khali. Thesiger sums it up in his foreword: No man can live this life and emerge unchanged. He will carry, however faint, the imprint of the desert, the brand which marks the nomad; and he will have within him the yearning to return, weak or insistent according to his nature. For this cruel land can cast a spell which no temperate clime can hope to match. Available from Amazon   For more on Mikael Strandberg, visit his website here