“A man practises the art of adventure when he breaks the chain of routine and renews his life through reading new books, travelling to new places, making new friends, taking up new hobbies and adopting new viewpoints.”
I can still clearly remember the first book I read that fired my imagination and stirred something deep in my soul. It was called Amazon Adventure by Willard Price, and I was probably around 10-12 years old at the time. The two protagonists in the book were brothers, Hal and Roger … Hal was 19 and full of confidence, and Roger was a few years younger and a bit of a joker. And they were my heroes – especially Hal, who loved to punch bad guys in the solar plexus (whatever that was!).
To join them floating on the Amazon, avoiding the poisoned darts of the headhunters and the flesh-eating piranhas (while punching solar plexuses), would’ve been a dream-come-true!
There’s not much that speaks to the heart of a man (or woman!) like a good adventure tale. It can provide a great escape from our sometimes mundane existence and reminds us (non-fiction stories especially) of the potential that lies within the human spirit. I mean, if we can survive 72 days on a glacier in the Andes after a plane crash, we can survive anything!
So, if you can’t pull off an actual adventure until the borders open, your holidays come, or you’ve saved enough money, let someone else’s adventure keep the juices flowing until you can have your own. And if you don’t know where to start, I’ve listed a few of my favourites below …
Pack & Rifle
by Philip Holden
Pack and Rifle is an autobiography written by the late Philip Holden about his time as a government deer culler in the ’60s and was the book that really started my love for hunting. I can remember reading it as an 18-year-old in the early ’90s (when deer were scarce), wishing, more than anything, I was alive during those culling days …
Holden’s exploits and adventures during his seven years employed by the New Zealand Forest Service inspired generations of hunters – and would top the list as the most influential hunting book in the country. It’s definitely one of my favs!
Even if you don’t hunt, Pack and Rifle provides a fascinating historical account of the final years of ground hunting … before the government resorted to shooting from helicopters and dropping poison everywhere.
A Good Keen Man
by Barry Crump
First hitting the bookshelves in 1960, A Good Keen Man is one of the most popular New Zealand books of all time and put Barry Crump on the map as the country’s most famous ‘rugged Kiwi bloke’. Set in the remote beauty of the central North Island, A Good Keen Man tells the story of a young man’s exploits as he learns the skills to become a competent bushman and deer culler.
Based largely on Crump’s personal experiences (plus a few ‘borrowed’ tales), this often hilarious Kiwi yarn is a book that’s stood the test of time and is a ‘must have’ in anyone’s collection of adventure tales – especially from a New Zealand perspective.
by Willard Price
Aimed at the young adult market, Amazon Adventure is the first of 14 in an ‘Adventure’ series Willard Price wrote – this one in 1949! (Although it’s been reprinted a gazillion times since). It follows the adventures of Hal and Roger as they explore the Pastaza – a tribute of the Amazon River where “no white man has ever gone in and come out alive” – to capture animals for their father’s exotic wildlife zoo.
Left to run the expedition on their own (Dad had to urgently go back home after finding out his devious rival had burnt down his zoo!), the boys have to take over the animal capture. These include a vampire bat, an anaconda, a black jaguar, a pygmy marmoset (among others), all while fending off murderous bad guys!
As I mentioned in the intro, this series of books ignited a love for adventure in me, and they’re must-reads for any young explorer in the making.
by Alfred Lansing
If you haven’t heard the story of Ernest Shackleton yet, you are missing out on one of the most incredible stories of survival ever! It follows Shackleton and his 27-man crew through their failed plan to cross the Antarctic on foot. When their ship, the Endurance, gets locked in the Antarctic Sea ice, it starts their astonishing journey of survival. After enduring months of incredible hardship, Shackleton and five others, in a final push for rescue, take a single lifeboat to brave 800 miles of the most dangerous seas on earth to reach the tiny whaling island of South Georgia.
The story is simply incredible and is a real testament to the leadership and strength of Captain Ernest Shackleton. After 22 months of being stranded in the world’s most hostile environment, all
28 men were rescued.
by Larry McMurtry
Okay, I just had to throw this one in there! But, it’s an easy addition of what is quite simply one of the best books ever written … truly an epic adventure story.
It follows two ageing Texas Rangers embarking on one last adventure: a big old cattle drive from Texas to Montana, taking thousands of cows across 3,000 miles of dangerous territory … through sandstorms, blizzards, bandits … among American Indian nations, across rivers, via grizzly bears … and hardly a town in sight.
It’s a big read – around 900 pages depending on the print version. But it’s 900 pages of pure gold and one book you need to read before you die. So, do it … do it now! (And, as a side note, the mini-series is almost as good if you can track it down! But read the book first.)
Miracle in the Andes
by Nando Parrado
Nando Parrado was unconscious for three days before he woke to discover the plane carrying his rugby team to an exhibition game in Chile had crashed somewhere deep in the Andes. Many were dead or dying – among them, his own mother and sister. Stranded on a lifeless glacier, 12,000 feet above sea level, with no hope of rescue, no supplies, freezing temperatures and deadly avalanches, Nando and his friend Roberto decided they had to get help … or die trying.
A simply staggering story of survival, about what life is like at the edge of death, and the incredible power of love. I couldn’t put the book down and read it in a day!! Note: the other book detailing this story is also a goodie. It’s called Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors.
by Gary Paulsen
This award-winning classic has been labelled the ‘survival story with which all others are compared.’
Thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson is travelling by single-engine plane to visit his father for the first time since his parents’ divorce. When the plane crashes, killing the pilot, the sole survivor is Brian. He is alone in the Canadian wilderness with nothing but his clothing, a tattered windbreaker, and the hatchet his mother had given him as a present.
Another epic adventure story intended for young adults – but will be enjoyed by all ages! It’s an easy read, and one that works great read to your older kids at bedtime! You won’t be allowed to put it down … guaranteed!
We’ve run out of room! But here are a few other favourite adventure reads … in no particular order:
A Higher Call
by Adam Makos
An incredible true story of combat and chivalry in the war-torn skies of World War II. Another must-read!
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
by Mark Twain
A literary classic – say no more!
Into Thin Air
by Jon Krakauer
A personal account of the 1996 Everest disaster in which eight climbers were killed and several others were stranded by a storm.
by Jack London
A classic adventure story about the friendship developed between a Yukon gold hunter, and the half-wolf, half-dog he rescues from the hands of a cruel dogfighter.