There is no frigate like a book to take us lands away…
~ Emily Dickinson
Summer’s almost over, but no need to fret! There’s plenty of time for armchair adventuring (and it always fits into what’s left of your vacation budget!!).
Take a Look at These Great Stories
Travel / Adventure in Nonfiction
In 1899, railroad magnate Edward H. Harriman organized a most unusual summer voyage to the wilds of Alaska: He converted a steamship into a luxury “floating university,” populated by some of America’s best and brightest scientists and writers. Those aboard encountered a land of immeasurable beauty and impending environmental calamity. More than a hundred years later, Alaska is still America’s most sublime wilderness, both the lure that draws a million tourists annually on Inside Passage cruises and a natural resources larder waiting to be raided. As ever, it remains a magnet for weirdos and dreamers. Armed with Dramamine and an industrial-strength mosquito net, Mark Adams sets out to retrace the 1899 expedition. Adams travels three thousand miles, following the George W. Elder’s itinerary north through Wrangell, Juneau, and Glacier Bay, then continuing west into the colder and stranger regions of the Aleutians and the Arctic Circle. Along the way, he encounters dozens of unusual characters (and a couple of very hungry bears) and investigates how lessons learned in 1899 might relate to Alaska’s current struggles in adapting to climate change. Also available in Large Print.
Every child knows the allure of climbing trees. But how many of us get to make a living at it, spending days observing nature from the canopies of stunning forests all around the world? As a wildlife cameraman for the BBC and National Geographic, James Aldred spends his working life high up in trees, poised to capture key moments in the lives of wild animals and birds. Aldred’s climbs take him to the most incredible and majestic trees in existence. In Borneo, home to the tallest tropical rain forest on the planet, just getting a rope up into the 250-foot-tall trees is a challenge. In Venezuela, even body armor isn’t guaranteed protection against the razor-sharp talons of a nesting Harpy Eagle. In Australia, the peace of being lulled to sleep in a hammock twenty-five stories above the ground— after a grueling day of climbing and filming—is broken by a midnight storm that threatens to topple the tree. In this vivid account of memorable trees he has climbed, Aldred blends incredible stories of his adventures in the branches with a fascination for the majesty of trees to show us the joy of rising—literally—above the daily grind, up into the canopy of the forest.
One-third of the earth’s surface is classified as desert. Restless, unhappy in love, and intrigued by the Desert Fathers who forged Christian monasticism in the Egyptian desert, William Atkins decided to travel in eight of the world’s driest, hottest places: the Empty Quarter of Oman, the Gobi Desert and Taklamakan deserts of northwest China, the Great Victoria Desert of Australia, the man-made desert of the Aral Sea in Kazkahstan, the Black Rock and Sonoran Deserts of the American Southwest, and Egypt’s Eastern Desert. Each of his travel narratives effortlessly weaves aspects of natural history, historical background, and present-day reportage into a compelling tapestry that reveals the human appeal of these often inhuman landscapes. The subject is riveting, the gorgeous prose reminiscent of nature observers from Thoreau to Leopold. Lovers of good descriptive writing will devour this book.
The Ganges flows through northern India and Bangladesh for more than 1,500 miles before emptying into the Bay of Bengal. It is sacred to Hindus who worship Ganga, the river goddess. But it has also long been a magnet for foreigners, some seeking to unravel its mysteries and others who have come in search of plunder. Black takes readers on an extraordinary journey from the glaciers of the Himalayas to the sacred city of Varanasi to the “hundred mouths” of the Ganges Delta, introducing us to a vivid cast of characters who worship the river, pollute it, and flock to it from all over the world in search of enlightenment and adventure.
Every summer, hundreds of thousands of king salmon migrate the distance of the 2,000 mile Yukon river through Canada’s Yukon Territory and Alaska to their spawning grounds in the Bering Sea. For the communities that live along the river, salmon was once the lifeblood of the economy and local culture. But climate change and a globalized economy have fundamentally altered the balance between man and nature; the health and numbers of king salmon are in question, as is the fate of the communities that depend on them. Canoeing along the Yukon as the salmon migrate, Adam Weymouth undertakes a riveting four-month journey through untrampled landscape, examining the fundamental interconnectedness of people and fish through searing and unforgettable portraits of the individuals he encounters. He offers a powerful, nuanced glimpse into indigenous cultures, and into our ever-complicated relationship with the natural world in this extraordinary mix of adventure and nature writing at its most urgent and poetic.
In this exquisitely written book, which folds together natural history, cartography, geology, and literature, Robert Macfarlane sets off to follow the ancient routes that crisscross both the landscape of the British Isles and its waters and territories beyond. The result is an immersive, enthralling exploration of the voices that haunt old paths and the stories our tracks tell. Macfarlane’s journeys take him from the chalk downs of England to the bird islands of the Scottish northwest, from Palestine to the sacred landscapes of Spain and the Himalayas. He matches strides with the footprints made by a man five thousand years ago near Liverpool, sails an open boat far out into the Atlantic at night, and commingles with walkers of many kinds, discovering that the paths we choose offer a means not just of traversing space but also of the mind. Along the way, Macfarlane thoughtfully examines the subtle ways we are shaped by the landscapes through which we move.
Pradyumna Kumar, known as PK, was born into a poor, untouchable family in a small village in eastern India. All his life he has kept a palm leaf bearing an astrologer’s prophecy: “You will marry a girl who is not from the village, not from the district, not even from our country; she will be musical, own a jungle and be born under the sign of the ox.” But not until PK attends art school in New Delhi do his stars begin to align. One evening, while drawing portraits in a park, he meets a young Swedish woman, Lotta von Schendin — and this brief meeting will change the courses of their lives forever. This is the remarkable true story of how a young Indian man armed with nothing more than a handful of paintbrushes and a secondhand Raleigh bicycle made his way across Asia and Europe in search of the woman he loves. Also available in eBook.
A chronicle of a solitary year spent on a Cape Cod beach, The Outermost House has long been recognized as a classic of American nature writing. Henry Beston had originally planned to spend just two weeks in his seaside home, but was so possessed by the mysterious beauty of his surroundings that he found he “could not go.” Instead, he sat down to try and capture in words the wonders of the magical landscape he found himself in thrall to: the migrations of seabirds, the rhythms of the tide, the windblown dunes, and the scatter of stars in the changing summer sky. Beston argued that, “The world today is sick to its thin blood for the lack of elemental things, for fire before the hands, for water, for air, for the dear earth itself underfoot.” Almost a century after they were first published, Beston’s words are more true than ever.
When Rosemary Mahoney, in 1998, took a solo trip down the Nile in a seven-foot rowboat, she discovered modern Egypt for herself. As a rower, she faced crocodiles and testy river currents. As a female, she confronted deeply-held beliefs about foreign women while cautiously remaining open to genuine friendship. And as a traveler, she experienced events that ranged from the humorous to the hair-raising–including an encounter that began as one of the most frightening of her life and ended as an edifying and chastening lesson in human nature and cultural misunderstanding. Whether she’s meeting the locals or finding connections to Westerners who traveled up the Nile in earlier times–Florence Nightingale and Gustave Flaubert among them–Mahoney’s informed curiosity about the world never ceases to captivate the reader.
In the heart of China’s Sichuan province, amid the terraced hills of the Yangtze River valley, lies the remote town of Fuling. Like many other small cities in this ever-evolving country, Fuling is heading down a new path of change and growth, which came into remarkably sharp focus when Peter Hessler arrived as a Peace Corps volunteer, marking the first time in more than half a century that the city had an American resident. Hessler taught English and American literature at the local college, but it was his students who taught him about the complex processes of understanding that take place when one is immersed in a radically different society. Poignant, thoughtful, funny, and enormously compelling, this is an unforgettable portrait of a city that is seeking to understand both what it was and what it someday will be.
See Also: Any of these beautiful travel/adventure pictorials (and we have so many more – just ask!):
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