Five Great Adventures

Oslo 2005 128Who doesn’t love a good adventure story? I don’t know what’s better than sitting in your favorite armchair reading about someone else risking life and limb to keep me entertained and make me feel as though I did the journey myself.

Here are five books about five real journeys that will entertain, excite and educate. They may even inspire you to take that off-the-beaten-path journey  you’ve always wanted to take, far from the screaming crowds and urine-soaked floors of Disney World and Bourbon Street.

Jaguars Ripped my Flesh (Tim Cahill)

There are titles people strive for in life: President, Sir, Doctor, Sex-Beast, just to name a few. I want Explorer in Residence and Editor at Large. Cahill is Editor at Large of Outside Magazine. Prick.

Cahill’s collection of essays covers a wide range of topics and he writes with such a down to Earth style as to make these adventures seemingly accessible. Also, this book features epic meetings with animals that are as uncontrolled and unpredictable as the animals themselves. There are some tense moments in these stories, thus providing a bit of perspective on those tense meetings with Bill, the grumpy IT guy in your office.

The Lost City of Z (David Grann)

Have you ever thought about going into or near the Amazon? Well, read this and you won’t anymore. This book is about two separate voyages into the Amazonian jungle; a current one and an old one. David Grann follows the footsteps of and seeks answers to the mystery surrounding noted explorer Percy Fawcett’s disappearance in 1925.

This book is both a mystery and an adventure story. Also, when recounting all of the physical trials and tribulations of Fawcett, it could be counted as a medical horror story as well. There are worms that live under the skin and bacteria which eats through the feet until it’s possible to see bone.

What is also remarkable is that an estimated one hundred people have died trying to either rescue Fawcett or uncover the mystery surrounding his death. This book will have you permanently scratch off the Amazon from your ‘places to visit’ list.

Not for the squeamish, but this book is a great, fast read.

Crusader (Tim Severin)

In 1095 Duke Godfrey de Bouillon rode by horse to Jerusalem to fight in the First Crusade. And 900 years later, so did Tim Severin. Well, there was less fighting there in 1995 than in 1095…marginally. Severin’s journey lasted eight years and he did it without any modern accoutrement, while facing several dangerous adventures on the way. This book is a great read for those who are interested in the history of the Crusades, horses and eight year vacations.

Severin has carved out a niche in contemporary literature and exploration by retracing the steps of famous, often mythological, journeys. He has followed the paths of Ulysses, Jason and the Argonauts and Marco Polo. Prick.

After the siege of Jerusalem, Godfrey de Bouillon was named the first ruler of Jerusalem. Though Severin wasn’t so titled, he did probably take a bath and eat some cake.

A Walk in the Woods (Bill Bryson)

Evidently, if I am attacked by a bear, I should, under no circumstances, run. I should lie on the ground and play dead. OK, if a 900 lb. bear attacks you, run. Run fast and run hard, if for no other reason than to give you something to do with the last 7 seconds of your life. – Bill Bryson, Walk in the Woods.

In 1998, Bryson and his (sometimes) friend Stephen Katz, decided to walk the 2,184 mile entirety of the Appalachian Trail. What makes this most interesting is that in Bryson we are not dealing with your classic explorer/adventurer.

Bryson is in almost direct contrast to swaggering explorers like Thor Heyerdahl or Tim Severin. Bryson is a short, portly guy (shut up) who looks as much like an explorer as Jack Black does an NBA basketball player. So his travels are perhaps far more relatable to you and I.

The two greatest attributes of this book are Bryson’s sense of humor and his research. Educating a reader while relating tales of woe on the trail as experienced by a sweater-clad armchair dweller.

How can you not want to get smarter while laughing?

Kon Tiki (Thor Heyerdahl)

In 1947, Thor Heyerdahl had a theory that the Polynesian Islands were inhabited by explorers who came from Peru a couple thousand years ago on Balsa wood rafts. He presented his written thesis to several academic institutions, and was turned down by everyone because the idea was so ludicrous and because he didn’t go to Harvard.

So, he proved it could be done by building a Balsa wood raft in Peru and sailing to the Polynesian Islands. He was joined by six Scandinavian (mostly Norwegian, 1 Swedish) explorers and scientists, three of whom had been resistance fighters during World War II.

This book is a fantastic story with jealousy inducing descriptions of an intimate journey on the Pacific. Plus, if you enjoy books that unintentionally make you feel like a giant wimp, this book is for you. You can’t help but be amazed as these guys play tug-of-war with sharks by grabbing their back fins, or be impressed with the ease and calm they handle potential disasters in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. With no other ships or people for a thousand miles. On a raft.

  1. #1 by Jeremy Nicholson on November 19, 2012 - 8:35 pm

    I have come to find that anything by Cahill or Bryson is worth reading. Been meaning to read The Lost City of Z for a while and always forget about it.

  2. #2 by Nick Popkey on November 19, 2012 - 9:57 pm

    Thanks for putting these up here buddy! Already put in a request with the library starting at the top!

    • #3 by Damien Galeone on November 19, 2012 - 10:25 pm

      Great Nick! I bet you’ll like Cahill and Bryson the most. Right up your alley.

  3. #4 by greg galeone on November 21, 2012 - 9:59 pm

    hey damo-good post. you know i’ve read bryson and grann. never read thor hyerdahl but every time i see his name it reminds me of a pretty decent old joke.

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