Top 10 books for outdoor enthusiasts

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We’ve heard stories of people running marathons on their balcony, round their gardens or climbing Everest on their stairs. If you’re missing the freedom and excitement of an adventure maybe pop your head inside a book and virtually follow someone else’s. Here are our top ten recommendations for outdoor adventure books to read during lockdown. 

The Rock Warrior’s Way, Arno Ilgner 

Not just for the climbers among us, Arno Ilgner’s approach to mental training in improving physical performance is particularly relevant now. Drawing on rich ‘warrior’ literature, and sports psychology combined with extensive climbing experience has resulted in a comprehensive program book teaching us how to focus mental resources during a challenging climb. “By using attention more purposefully we can understand how fear is created, deal with it effectively, and free ourselves to get back in touch with a far more powerful motivating force: our love of climbing.”.

Rundinavia, Running 3,000km through Scandinavia, Sophie Rooney

Setting off in 2016 with the bold intention of becoming the first woman to run the length of Scandinavia, Rooney’s book has been described as fascinating, captivating and exhilarating. Carrying everything she needed on her back, Rooney describes running from the northernmost point of mainland Europe to the German border with Denmark on a solo adventure. Battling extreme fatigue, dehydration, relentless bogs, hunger, illness, the odds are stacked against her. “This is a book which shows that ordinary people can do incredible things. Let Sophie’s journey take you out of your comfort zone and show you that there is always more out there if you just have the courage to go and get it.”

Fantastic Female Adventurers: Truly Amazing Tales of Women Exploring the World, Lily Dyu

An uplifting collection of 14 exciting adventures that’s also perfect for inspiring younger explorers. Dyu asks, “Do you know how it feels to run for 1,900 miles? Or to look down at the earth from a space station? Or to swim alongside a hungry shark?” Follow these women on their incredible journeys around the globe. Featuring Dame Ellen MacArthur’s record-breaking ocean sail, Ann Daniel’s awe-inspiring ski trip to the North Pole and the story behind Helen Sharman becoming the first British space astronaut. All beautifully illustrated by artist and adventurer Chellie Carroll. 

Just a Little Run Around the World, Rosie Swale Pope 

After losing her husband to cancer, Rosie Swale Pope set off on a 20,000-mile solo adventure around the world to raise money for charity. Described as breath-taking, gripping and inspiring, its subtitle is ‘5 Years, 3 Packs of Wolves and 53 Pairs of Shoes: 5 Years, 29 Marriage Proposals and 53 Pairs of Shoes’ which gives you an idea of what she came across. Starting with sorrow and heartache and a desire to turn things around, Rosie set off from Wales with a small backpack of food and equipment. Funded by the rent from her small cottage, her epic adventure ended up taking five years. It’s a mesmerising page turner. 

Touching the Void, Joe Simpson 

This one comes via a personal recommendation of our co-CEO, Max Malavasi. Most outdoor adventurers have heard of the story, which has also been made into a film of the same name. In the summer of 1985, two young headstrong mountaineers set off to become the first to conquer the summit of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. After succeeding, they embark on a treacherous descent down the mountain; suffering a horrific accident when Simpson falls and breaks his leg. This is a tale about friendship, morality, fear and ambition. When a storm threatens their lives Yates has to decide whether to cut the rope. 

Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors, Piers Paul Read 

Another well-known story that’s also been translated onto the big screen. Alive is the account of a plane crash in the Andes in 1972. Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 was filled with the Uruguayan Rugby Team and their friends and family. Just 16 people survived the crash in the Andes Mountains on Friday 13th – so it’s not one for the superstitious! After rations run out, the survivors are forced into eating the flesh on the bodies of their relatives and friends who have died. The story is written without embellishment or fictionalisation. Read spoke to many of the survivors as well as family members of the passengers and the social structure between the characters is incredibly interesting to read about. You’ll forever appreciate your dehydrated curry and cold tins of beans on your future adventures! 

The Wilderness World of John Muir, John Muir

John Muir was a conservationist in the early 1900s, travelling through most of the American wilderness alone and on foot without a gun or sleeping bag. This collection of his writings is a magnificent, thrilling and awe-inspiring read which gives you a picture of a wild, unsettled America that’s only a hundred years old. Muir is most famous for convincing President Theodore Roosevelt on a three-day camping trip, on the importance of a national conservation program, and is now widely recognised for saving the Grand Canyon and Arizona’s Petrified Forest. 

The Snow Leopard, Peter Matthiessen

A spiritual journey across the Himalayas which gives you a glimpse into this secretive and legendary animal. Written in 1978, this is Matthiessen’s account of a two-month journey searching for the snow leopard with naturalist George Schaller in the Dolpo region on the Tibetan Plateau. “The Snow Leopard is not only an exquisite book of natural history but an extraordinary account of an inner journey, a true pilgrimage and a journey of the heart.”  

Jimmy Bluefeather: A Novel, Kim Heacox 

This one is for the fiction fans. Jimmy Bluefeather is about a 95-year-old grandfather whose grandson James damages his leg in a logging accident. Previously thought of as a promising basketball player, he feels he has nothing left to live for. This spurs his grandfather into finishing his last canoe and they embark on a great adventure together. It’s been described as a blend of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and John Nichols’ The Milagro Beanfield War with a bit of John Steinbeck alongside. Warm, charming and likeable. 

Wahb: The Biography of a Grizzly, Ernest Thompson Seton

Selected by scholars as being of cultural importance and part of the knowledge base as we know it, Seton’s work follows the story of a bear as he grows up in Yellowstone National Park. After losing his mother and siblings when they are shot, Wahb grows up alone storing up hatred for enemies like men. Available books now have been reproduced from the original artefact published in 1900, remaining as true as possible to Seton’s work which is now housed in important libraries around the world. This is a heart wrenching read that will give you a new-found perspective on grizzly bears.