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Extreme Classics: The 100 Greatest Adventure Books of All Time
A list we had hoped our readers would enjoy turned out to be one of the most popular features in Adventure's five-year history. You asked for it—repeatedly—now you got it: the 100 Greatest in all their glory.

40. Journey Without Maps, by Graham Greene (1936) Liberia, 1935: "The great majority of all mosquitoes caught in Monrovia are of a species known to carry yellow fever." The U.S. Army map of the country's interior filled in the blanks with the word "Cannibals." "Have you thought of the leeches?" someone asked Greene. He went anyway, into the forest, on foot, village to village. Be glad. The book is just plain great.
Penguin, 1992.

41. Starlight and Storm, by Gaston Rébuffat (1954) Frenchman Rébuffat climbed all six of the toughest north faces in the Alps and was one of the great guides and climbers of his day. One of the most joyful, too. Never has a man taken to his work with such enthusiasm. It makes his modest book a delight to read; you cannot come away from it without wanting to go into the mountains yourself. Modern Library, 1999.

42. My First Summer in the Sierra, by John Muir (1911) In the summer of 1869, young and fresh, Muir traveled through the Sierra Nevada with a shepherd and his flock. This book is his journal, and it, too, is young and fresh. Muir, who would become a legendary advocate for wilderness and the founder of the Sierra Club, always played down the dangers he faced. But this book is full, nevertheless, of bears. And charm. It reminds you of how much wildness we have lost.
Sierra Club, 1990.

43. My Life as an Explorer, by Sven Hedin (1925) One example out of dozens: In December 1899, the great Swedish explorer of Central Asia sets out with four men and limited supplies to cross 180 miles (290 km) of enormous sand dunes. Temperatures drop far below zero. A camel dies. The men despair. The ink freezes in Hedin's pen. You hold your breath. Hedin keeps going. His thick and engaging autobiography is crammed with this kind of excitement.
National Geographic Books, 2003.

44. In Trouble Again, by Redmond O'Hanlon (1988) Naturalist and lunatic, not necessarily in that order, O'Hanlon ventures into the northern Amazon Basin, where he hangs with the Yanomami, smokes their hallucinogens, and gleefully tells us about all the things that will make you sick or kill you. His book earns its ranking here on the strength of its unflagging humor.
Vintage, 1990.

45. The Man Who Walked Through Time, by Colin Fletcher (1968) With this book, Fletcher may be said to have started the backpacking craze. It was his idea to walk the 200-mile (322 kilometers) length of the Grand Canyon, which had never been done. He did it, wrote this excellent book, and hundreds of thousands have since taken to the trails.
Vintage, 1989.

Book Cover: K2--The Savage Mountain 46. K2—The Savage Mountain, by Charles Houston and Robert Bates (1954) K2 is a killer, not quite as high as Everest but more difficult. This book describes the 1953 attempt by a mostly American group who didn't reach the top but demonstrated, in the face of storms, an accident, and the death of one, the kind of modest courage you can only call exemplary.
Lyons Press, 2000.

Book Cover: Gipsy Moth Circles the World 47. Gipsy Moth Circles the World, by Francis Chichester (1967) At 64, after a life already rich with adventure, Chichester left England to sail alone around the world, stopping once. Though Slocum faced much greater unknowns, Chichester nonetheless endured capsizing, injury, and the huge storms of the Southern Ocean. He reached England a national hero, and his fine book helped inspire today's round-the-globe sailboat races.
Hardcover edition from McGraw-Hill, 2000.

48. Man-Eaters of Kumaon, by Jim Corbett (1944) Corbett was an Indian-born Englishman who became legendary for his ability to track and kill man-eating tigers and leopards—a valuable skill in a region where a single tiger could kill as many as 400 people. This is old-fashioned storytelling at its best.
Oxford University Press, 1993. The hardcover Adventure Library edition, Man-Eaters, combines stories from The Man-Eaters of Kumaon with Corbett's The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag (1997).

49. Alone, by Richard Byrd (1938) Spend the Antarctic winter alone in a small shed and it might get to you. It got to American explorer Admiral Byrd, who almost died from carbon monoxide poisoning. This is the story of his struggle with loneliness, despair, his body, himself. Some of Byrd's other claimed accomplishments now look questionable, but there's no doubt about this one.
Kodansha, 1995.

50. Stranger in the Forest, by Eric Hansen (1988) After trying and failing several times, spraining his ankle, and being frightened by tales of crocodiles seven meters (23 feet) long, Hansen managed to walk across Borneo, for reasons not at all clear to himself. He was brave and savvy enough to face down suspicious tribesmen carrying spears, but it is his open-minded humility when meeting the natives that is most impressive. That and his often charming klutziness. A wonderfully appealing book.
Vintage, 2000.

51. Travels in Arabia Deserta, by Charles M. Doughty (1888) During his two years in the desert, Doughty traveled with camel caravans, lived in Bedouin tents, went hungry, and faced much danger. Then he wrote it all up in the most stylized, peculiar prose, which nevertheless gives us a fascinating picture of a type of Arab life that has been all but forgotten today.
Out of print, but secondhand copies are available.

52. The Royal Road to Romance, by Richard Halliburton (1925) Ah, youth. No sooner did he leave Princeton than Halliburton was working his way across the Atlantic, bicycling through Germany, climbing the Matterhorn. He was in jail and out; he hunted tigers in India and trekked in Kashmir. And he was never anything less than exuberant.
Travelers' Tales, 2000.

53. The Long Walk, by Slavomir Rawicz (1956) The author, a Polish cavalry officer, and six other men escaped from a Siberian prison camp in 1941, walked across Mongolia and the Gobi, through Tibet and the Himalaya, enduring incredible hardship all the way. Four of them made it to India and safety. It is a 3,000-mile (4,830-kilometer) epic, truly grand.
Lyons Press, 1997.

54. Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada, by Clarence King (1872) King was a Yale man, a ladies' man, a friend of Henry Adams's, and a geologist. While still in his 20s, he began a survey of the 40th parallel, from the Sierra to the Rockies. He had adventures galore and was a natural storyteller. He was also one of the first Americans to climb mountains simply because they were there.
University of Nebraska Press, 1997.

55. My Journey to Lhasa, by Alexandra David-Neel (1927) At the age of 55, Frenchwoman David-Neel crossed the Himalaya in midwinter and entered forbidden Tibet in native disguise. It was an extremely dangerous journey; she faced starvation, bandits, and unspeakable weather. But she brought to it a passion for Tibet and a fluency in the language that carried her through—and carries her readers as well.
Beacon Press, 1993.

56. Journal of the Discovery of the Source of the Nile, by John Hanning Speke (1863) Herodotus tells us about five young men of the Nasamones tribe who tried and failed to find the source of the Nile. More than 2,200 years later, it was still unknown. In two separate expeditions, in 1858 and 1860, British explorer Speke located and named Lake Victoria and at last determined that this was the origin of the Nile. His book reads like Victorian fiction-sweeping, detailed, and hip-deep in exploits.
Dover Publications, 1996.

57. Running the Amazon, by Joe Kane (1989) Kane joined up with an international team—if that's the word for this squabbling group—to paddle from the high Andes all the way to the Atlantic through terrifying rapids and everything else. Their feat may not match John Wesley Powell's, but the cast is colorful, the action exciting, and the human drama as interesting as the physical.
Vintage, 1990.

58. Alive, by Piers Paul Read (1974) People are still talking about the events this book describes: the crash of a Fairchild F-227 in the Chilean Andes in 1972 with a Uruguayan rugby team aboard; the fruitless search for survivors; the 16 people who did survive; and, most important, how they survived for ten weeks in the mountains—by eating their dead. In this nicely understated account by novelist Read, great courage and great horror go hand in hand.
Hardcover edition from Adventure Library, 1996.

59. Principall Navigations, by Richard Hakluyt (1589-1590) Hakluyt believed that England should rule the seas and develop colonies before Spain gobbled up the whole world, and he compiled this book to fire the ambitions of his countrymen. At a million and a half words, it's less a book than an encyclopedia, packed with exploration and adventure stories that run from the tales of King Arthur to Drake, Raleigh, and beyond. It was, of course, influential beyond measure.
Penguin's abridged version of Principall Navigations is titled Voyages and Discoveries (1972).

Introduction  |  1-19  |  20-39  |  40-59  |  60-79  |  80-100


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May 2004



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