10 Adventure Books About The Outdoors | 2021

The next best thing to traveling is reading good outdoor books about those who have seen and experienced the places that fascinate us. 

This list contains the best books about the outdoors that will both entertain and inspire you. It includes stories of those who’ve overcome adversity and tales of those who have shunned society to live more simply in the wild.

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Escapist and powerful, these titles will appeal to anyone who understands the lure of nature.

into the wild

Into The Wild

One of the best books about the outdoors and also one of the most heartbreaking, Into the Wild tells the true story of Christopher Johnson McCandless.

Originally from a wealthy family, McCandless gave all his savings to charity, abandoned virtually all of his possessions, and set out alone into the wilderness to create a new life for himself.

Just four months later, his body was found by a moose hunter. This well-researched book gives you a real insight into the sometimes bizarre life of its protagonist and the emotional issues surrounding the decisions he took.

Whilst there is a movie version of this story, you get a much better sense of context from this book and hear more from those who met McCandless during his foray. 

The Lost Art Of Reading Nature’s Signs

Written by the New York Times–bestselling author Tristan Gooley, this fascinating guide to natural navigation is filled with more than 850 tips to increase your confidence outdoors.

Gooley speaks from experience – he has climbed mountains in three different countries, been the leader of expeditions on five different continents, and is the only person alive to have both flown and sailed across the Atlantic single-handedly.

Containing over 74 images, this book will teach you everything from how to gauge the weather by watching passing butterflies, to determining directions by looking at budding flowers.

One of the most interesting outdoor books available, this one tells the story of twenty-year-old Christopher Knight who – back in the 80s – decided to leave mainstream life and disappear into the woods.

The next time he would have a conversation with another person would be an incredible 27 years later. How he managed all those years on the fringes of society is described in the book, written by journalist Michael Finkel after extensive interviews with Knight himself.

The story is both fascinating and thought-provoking, prompting you to look at your own values for what makes a ‘good life’ in an entirely new way.

Lost On Purpose: Adventures Of A 21st Century Mountain Man

If you’ve ever had the desire to completely transform your life and become someone new, then you’ll love this autobiography by Patrick Taylor.

In one of the best outdoor adventure books in this guide, you’ll learn how Taylor grew frustrated with his position as a technology executive and chose to leave society altogether, becoming instead a 21st century mountain man.

There began a chain of extraordinary feats, including crossing the Rocky Mountains alone on foot and revisiting the route that Lewis and Clark took in the winter.

Whilst the book is incredibly inspiring and exciting, it is also very funny in parts – a combination that makes it very hard to put down!

Two Million Steps: Band-Aids, Cocktails, And Finding Peace Along Spain’s Camino De Santiago

This book is the very honest, warts-and-all account of author Patrick DeVaney’s epic journey along the Camino de Santiago – also known as ‘the Way of St.James.

This 500-mile route passes through France and Spain, ending at the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great, located in Galicia’s cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

The start of the book describes how DeVaney had always lived a prosperous and happy life, yet couldn’t shake a feeling of dissatisfaction.

His decision to undergo this famous pilgrimage led to him rediscovering himself, meanwhile encountering many new people and enjoying a series of new places and events along the way. 

If I Live Until Morning: A True Story Of Adventure, Tragedy And Transformation

One of the most inspiring books about the outdoors that you’ll ever read, this autobiography tells the story of Jean Muenchrath who experienced a mountaineering accident on Mount Whitney, following a 200-mile skiing adventure along the John Muir Trail in California.

As she lay bleeding and facing death, she made a vow to herself to turn her biggest dreams into reality, should she only survive until the following morning.

What followed is a story that combines both survival and success, describing how she managed to initially escape the Sierra Nevada Mountains and going on to follow her three-decade journey of recovery.

A beautiful insight into the cultures of places she visited, this is a powerful and inspiring book that highlights how negative experiences can bring about positive change. 

Wilderness, The Gateway To The Soul: Spiritual Enlightenment Through Wilderness

There’s no doubt that modern life tends to lead us away from nature and more towards technology. This book takes a close and fascinating look at just how harmful this may be for our souls.

Written by backpacker Scott Stillman, each page takes you on a deeper journey into the American wilderness, describing the magical and healing properties of nature along the way.

Throughout it all, the author describes experiences in his own life and writes in almost poetic style with a constant undercurrent of optimism.

Even if you are an avid backpacker yourself, this book will help you look at life in the great outdoors with fresh eyes.

The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story Of The Fastest Ride In History Through The Heart Of The Grand Canyon

Few books about the outdoors tell a story quite as unique as this! In 1983 the levels of the Colorado River ran dangerously high – so high, in fact, that a team of engineers at the Glen Canyon Dam were faced with an emergency that could have led to history’s most devastating dam failure.

As this situation developed, Kenton Grua decided to launch ‘The Emerald Mile’ – a small wooden boat – just 15 miles downstream from the dam. His aim was to set the record for the fasted boat ever propelled down the entire length of the Colorado River.

To do this, he planned to use the floods to bring about a ‘slingshot’ effect, propelling him down the river at record speed. This is the account of exactly what happened during that incredible adventure. 

Oh No! We’re Gonna Die: Humorous Tales Of Close Calls In The Alaskan Wilderness

Whilst the best outdoor books tend to focus on heroism or are inspirational in nature, this one – written by adventurer Bob Bell – is just plain funny.

Whether you’re an outdoorsman yourself – or simply enjoy hearing about the humorous misadventures that people experience whilst hiking, camping, and exploring – you’ll love this well-written collection of hair-raising tales and embarrassing moments in Alaska’s wilderness. 

Out And Back: A Runner’s Story Of Survival Against All Odds

An inspiring story of courage, Hillary Allen’s autobiography Out and Back describes her journey and difficult recovery from a terrible accident.

An ultramarathon runner, Allen fell 150 feet off an exposed cliff ridge whilst taking part in the 50-kilometer Tromsø Skyrace in Norway. The fall left her with many broken bones – including a fractured back – and was almost fatal.

In the book, she describes her amazing rescue and how she battled her way towards recovery, dealing with both physical and mental challenges.

The book is very honestly written and at times deeply emotional, providing a great insight into the mind of a true athlete with a fighting spirit.

Final Thoughts

Whether you are already an avid adventurer or want to learn more about those who are, I hope you have found this list of good outdoor books inspiring.

In an age of cell phones and media hype, they serve as a great reminder of the importance of nature and our relationship with it.

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