Every outdoor adventurer has that one book, maybe two, that kick-started their passion and desire for exploration. Maybe it was something by one of the usual suspects, like Laurie Lee, Patrick Leigh Fermor, Dervla Murphy or Jack Kerouac, or maybe it was something more recent.
We’ve certainly been spoilt in the last five years or so with the amount of good outdoor and adventure books out there. A host of great authors have popped up, from the wild adventurers like Alastair Humphreys and Anna McNuff to the philosophers like Robert Macfarlane and Robert Moor. It seems to be a real burgeoning field, and we’re super glad that it is.
And they keep on coming. We’ve pulled together a list of some of our favourite releases from the last year or so, the outdoor books that we think would make excellent gifts for a family member or friend. Who knows, one of these might inspire them to undertake their own epic adventure – and perhaps to write about it as well. So without further ado, here are our top 10 best outdoor and adventure books of 2020.
Beyond Possible: One Soldier, Fourteen Peaks
By Nirmal Purja
“In the death zone, I came alive” writes Nirmal Purja, Nepal-born British-special-forces-Navy-officer-turned-superhuman-mountaineer. This book recounts Purja’s frankly insane stint of summiting the 14 “death zone” alpine peaks, aptly named for their extremely harsh, inevitably fatal conditions. The last guy to take on every single 8,000+ meter mountain on the planet took almost eight years to complete the challenge. That was the world record until Purja rocked up without much climbing experience and casually smashed the record to smithereens, summiting the deadly peaks in less than seven months. His account of the adventure is epic and full of tense situations from which his narrow escapes leave the reader pumping a fist in the air and waking up their partner in bed. Purja’s story has also been adapted into a Netflix Documentary.
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The World Beneath Their Feet
By Scott Ellsworth
While it took until 1953 for Everest to finally be summited, it was in the 1930s that the race was at its most tenacious. New York Times bestselling author Scott Ellsworth delves into the contest that raged between the various expedition teams from around the world, with elite climbers, local sherpas, millionaire businessmen and Nazi’s all racing to bring glory to their nations in a period when global war was on the horizon. If you liked Into Thin Air by John Krakauer then this is one for you.
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Spirit Run: A 6000-Mile Marathon Through North America’s Stolen Land
By Noé Alvarez
Alvarez, the son of Mexican immigrants living in Washington State, gives an account of his unbelievable run through North and Central America. Determined to escape a life destined for low-wage labour, he decided to chose a different course to that taken by his friends and family, joining a team of First Nation/Native Americans on a five month run from Alaska to Panama. This isn’t just another book about a long run though – there’s more to it than that. It’s a meaningful look at immigration in America and an analysis of our connection with the landscape.
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The Land Beyond: On Foot Through the Middle East
By Leon McCarron
Leon McCarron recounts his journey on foot through Israel and Palestine, Jordan and the Sinai Peninsula, a tale that vividly portrays the diverse landscapes and proliferation of cultures within a region that’s all too often judged for its politics and not for its people. “To walk is to meet people on their level, face-to-face and shoulder to shoulder,” writes McCarron, “and it serves more powerfully than anything else that I have found to highlight a shared humanity among all.”
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Hidden Places: An Inspired Traveller’s Guide
By Sarah Baxter
There’s no better motivation for plunging into the outdoors than the promise of a mystical, mythical, mysterious destination. The thing about googling a list of the best hiking trails is that you’ll find some great spots for adventuring, but so will everyone else. Hiking through the Alps can be amazing, but not when you’re stuck with a crowd. The collection of hidden jewels within these bindings feels so exclusive, so well researched, and so richly painted by Sarah Baxter’s poetic descriptions. Almost as rich as the actually-painted illustrations by Amy Grimes – they’re a joy to look at, and since the book contains 0 photographs, readers will be even more inspired to go and find these spots in person and maybe discover their own hidden wonders along the way.
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