Do you love reading about outdoor adventures? These are the best books about the outdoors, survival, and epic adventures!
Outdoor adventures can be epic. Living in nature, hiking famous long-distance-trails, many people dream about an experience like this. The best outdoor adventure books can give you the impression that you’re actually there and experiencing the same adventure as the writer. Do you want to experience that feeling? Read one of these amazing books about the outdoors!
Books about hiking a long-distance trail
Hiking long-distance trails is becoming more and more popular these days. Every year, new books about hiking the pacific crest trail, the Appalachian Trail, and other long trails hit the shelves. These are the best books about hiking a long-distance trail.
The Unlikely Thru-Hiker: An Appalachian Trail Journey – Derick Lugo
So you’ve never hiked before and then you decide to hike the entire Appalachian Trail. What’s the worst that can happen? The Unlikely Thru-Hiker is a great and humorous journal about someone who goes for a (long) walk in the woods and learns lessons about the unpredictability of nature and what it’s like to hike one of the most famous trails in the world.
"Derick Lugo's description of his Appalachian Trail thru-hike is a highly readable, personal, humorous and insightful account of his nearly 2,200 mile journey from Georgia to Maine. His fellow hikers and companions are brought to life beautifully by the author's candor and introspective commentary. It is one of the very best of the many A.T. thru-hike books." - Ron Tipton, former President/CEO of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and a '78 thru-hiker
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail – Cheryl Strayed
I hiked about 444 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2019, and I would never have known about this trail if it wasn’t for this book. Cheryl Strayed’s Wild is one of the best adventure books out there and some parts are so relatable. Going on a hiking adventure when you’re feeling lost, starting completely untrained, but you’ll learn and it also helps you grow mentally. Just keep on hiking!
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe—and built her back up again.
Would you like like to read more about the PCT? Check out this post: 12 Amazing books about the Pacific Crest Trail
Walking the Nile – Levison Wood
Following the Nile River is not your typical long-distance trail. Wood followed the Nile for about nine months and traveled through six nations. The book Walking the Nile tells the story of his back-to-basics adventure, but you’ll also learn more about the interesting history of Africa.
A Walk in the Woods – Bill Bryson
This is another book about hiking the Appalachian Trail, but what is a list of the best books about the outdoors without including the famous travel writer Bill Bryson? A Walk in the Woods tells the story of Bryson hiking on one of the most famous trails in the world. He gives an incredibly funny description of his journey and the people he meets on the trail. In addition, he’ll also teach you something about the history of the Appalachian Trail. A must-read for outdoor lovers!
“Bryson is a very funny writer who could wring humor from a clammy sleeping bag.” –The Philadelphia Inquirer
In 2015 the movie A Walk in the Woods came out, starring Robert Redford as Bill Bryson.
Tip! Want to read more about hiking? Check out this list with the 38 Best Books for Hikers.
Books about biking
Cycling a long distance is less common than hiking a long-distance trail, but it can also turn into an epic adventure.
The Buddha and the Bee: Biking through America’s Forgotten Roadways on a Journey of Discovery – Cory Mortensen
What is it like to cross America by bike? Cory Mortensen, the author of this book, starts his journey in Chaska, Minnesota, and plans to finish in Truckee, California. He has no plan or timeline, he just cycles. During his trip, he meets many interesting characters and experiences some scary encounters. The Buddha and the Bee is not a book about all the amazing things you encounter during a trip like this, Mortensen also addresses the bad experiences. Keeping it real!
"This book gave me the refreshment I needed; to put it more precisely, it was a short vacation from everything that I was reading and living." - The Lectorem & Books
The Divide: A 2700 Mile Search For Answers – Nathan Doneen
“What the hell am I doing?” was the first thing Doneen thought when he started cycling the 2,700-mile-long Great Divide, the world’s longest mountain bike route. The Divide is an inspiring story about personal growth and of course an epic adventure.
Come along and discover this world, one of bears, bivy sacks, and mountain weather. You’ll see all of this and more as Nathan follows the Great Divide, the world’s longest mountain bike route, stretching 2700 miles along the Continental Divide from Alberta to the US-Mexico Border.
Somewhere and Nowhere: A Bicycle Journey – Emily Buehler
Life is pretty simple when the only thing you do every day is ride your bicycle, right? This book is about two girls who decide to cross America from east to west on their bikes. The girls have opposite personalities that cause some problems during the trip. How to deal with that? Somewhere and Nowhere is a great journal about adventure and acceptance.
It’s the adventure of Wild, the contemplation of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and the neuroses of Eat, Pray, Love, all on a shoestring budget… and bicycles.
Books about long treks
Some people use animals, cars, or ships to cross long distances. What is it like to make a long trek through the wilderness?
Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback – Roby Davidson
The book Tracks is a memoir of a woman traveling 1700 miles through the Australian Outback with four camels and a dog as her company. An incredible journey that makes you admire and have respect for the natural world.
Why does Robyn Davidson walk 1,700 miles across the Australian desert accompanied by four camels? Tracks is a quintessential adventure, yet the adventurer's relationship to her own quest is ambivalent and nuanced.
The Kon-Tiki Expedition – Thor Heyerdahl
The Kon-Tiki Expedition is another epic adventure on this list! It’s a story about six Scandinavian men in 1947 that want to prove that the Peruvians discovered the Polynesian Islands thousands of years ago. To do that, they built a raft and sail 7000 kilometers on the Pacific Ocean and from Lima to Polynesia. A beautiful story about friendship, survival, and belief.
In 2012, the movie Kon-Tiki came out, which was based on this book.
The Overlanders: An African Journey – Michael Leytonstone
Road-tripping in Africa is something else. Alex Thompson decides to leave his office job and hops on an overland truck from Cairo to Johannesburg. What to expect when you’re crossing the African continent? You can read all about it in The Overlanders.
A long trek home – Erin McKittrick
McKittrick and her husband want to raise awareness of conservation issues and natural resources. Because of that, they start a 4.000-mile expedition from Seattle to the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. They only use human power, so they hike, ski and raft. The book A long trek home tells their story of living in the wilderness from a unique perspective.
* Compelling adventure with an environmental focus
* An informative natural and cultural history of one of our last wild coastlines
* Author is a pioneer in "packrafting," an emerging trend in backcountry travel
Books about mountains
The mountains are calling! Do you want to read more about climbing mountains? You might like to read these books:
Touching the void – Joe Simpson
Touching the void tells the true story of two mountain climbers in the Andes. After reaching the peak, disaster strikes. When they try to ascent they encounter bad weather and the author even falls and breaks his leg. This book tells the story of survival, friendship, and courage.
"A brilliant, vivd, gripping, heart-stopping account of their terrifying adventure... Superbly written" Sunday Express "One of the absolute classics of mountaineering...a document of psychological, even philosophical witness of the rarest compulsion" - George Steiner, Sunday Times
In 2003 the book turned into a film (a docudrama) which is also worth watching. Check it out on Amazon Prime.
My First Summer in the Sierra – John Muir
John Muir is famous for his adventure books and My First Summer in the Sierra is definitely worth reading. It tells the story of Muir, a Scottish immigrant going on an adventure in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. He has lived in Yosemite Vally for four months and describes the area so beautifully that it’s not a surprise that Yosemite National Park is now one of the most famous National Parks in the USA.
Muir is recognized as one of the most important and influential naturalists and nature writers in America. This book, the most popular of the author’s works, will delight environmentalists and nature lovers with its exuberant observations.
Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace – One School at a Time – Greg Mortenson
This New York Times bestseller is not only a book about mountain climbing but also about making the world a better place. Mortensen climbs K2 (the highest peak in the world after Mount Everest) in Pakistan and visits many small mountain villages during his mountain climbing adventure. He wants to give the people there a better life and promises to build them a school. A decade later, he has built about 55 schools! Three Cups of Tea is definitely an inspiring story.
The astonishing, uplifting story of a real-life Indiana Jones and his humanitarian campaign to use education to combat terrorism in the Taliban’s backyard
Rising: Becoming the First North American Woman on Everest – Sharon Wood
In Rising, Sharon Wood tells her story about being the first woman from North America to reach the top of Mount Everest. Although she was ready to give up, she kept on going and she did it! This book is a memoir of an incredible expedition.
Rising is a gripping book―Wood openly shares her experience as a woman in climbing, and has a knack for writing compelling scenes that draw the reader in. -- Sarah Boon ― Alpinist
Books about survival and living off grid
What is it like to live in a remote area? No civilization, just nature? These books tell you about the stories of the people that live in the wild.
Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer
Into the Wild is undoubtedly one of the best outdoor books in the world. The book tells the story of Chris McCandless. He is a 24-year-old man with a bright future. But the call of the wild is there and he decides to leave everything behind and hitchhikes to Alaska.
With barely any decent equipment he goes backpacking and as you might have guessed, it doesn’t end well. Every time I read it, it leaves me speechless. It’s a beautiful book that definitely teaches you a lesson: prepare before you go out in the wilderness.
The book was made into a movie in 2007, starring Emile Hirsch as Christopher. The movie is available on Prime Video.
Tip! Did you like this book? You might also like to read Into Thin Air, which is also written by mountaineer Jon Krakauer. This book is a real-life story about a disastrous climbing expedition to Mount Everest.
Jungle: A Harrowing True Story of Survival in the Amazon – Jean Muenchrath
What if you get stranded in the Amazon Jungle with zero survival training? Jungle is a true story and I have to say it would personally be a nightmare if something like this would happen to me. It is a great read though. Terrifying at some point, but you’ll definitely learn that you’re always capable of more than you might think.
“A powerful story of self-discovery, survival in the wild.” - Los Angeles Times
Between a rock and a hard place – Aron Ralston
Between a rock and a hard place tells the horrible story of a man who goes out for a hike in Utah and gets stuck in a narrow slot canyon. He hasn’t told anyone about his plans, so nobody knows where he is. During the six days that he is stuck in the canyon, he records video messages for the people he loves. This leads to him doing everything he can to free himself.
Does this story sound familiar? The story was used for the famous movie 127 hours with James Franco.
Woman in the Wilderness – Miriam Lancewood
This book is one of my personal favorites, maybe because the writer is Dutch, just like me. Miriam and her husband Peter moved into the wilderness of New Zealand, where they survive using everything they can in the outdoor world. They hunt for food, know which plants they can eat, and live in a tent or a hut. Woman in the Wilderness is a great adventure that most outdoor enthusiasts will love to read about.
There's a lot of drama out there in the wild, and Miriam knows how to spin a good yarn. This is a gripping and engaging read reminiscent of both adventure writing like Wild and nature writing like H is for Hawk, and is perfect for anyone exploring the idea of living a more authentic, real life.
The Way Home: Tales from a life without technology – Mark Boyle
Living without any technology is kind of an outdoor adventure right? In this book, Boyle tells his story about moving to a small wooden cabin in rural Ireland, without electricity or running water. The book The Way Home makes you wonder, what it will be like to live without technology. Would I be able to live like this?
‘Boyle's memoir of his first year off-grid is fascinating… A poetic meditation on the almost-mystical benefits of falling in sync with nature.’ - New Statesman
Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North – Blair Braverman
The Californian Blair Braverman falls in love with the cold north. She moves to Norway where she learns how to drive sled dogs and works as a tour guide in Alaska. Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube is an inspiring story about independence in a very rural (and cold!) area.
“Her descriptions of the natural world are arresting, and powerfully convey her conviction that ‘how to be cold’ means ‘how to live.’” - The New Yorker
The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon – Kevin Fedarko
The Emerald Mile tells the story of an epic journey and a terrifying adventure on the Colorado River. This book tells you a bit about the history of the Grand Canyon and the Glen Canyon Dam. And of course, about the fastest boat ride through the Grand Canyon thanks to the massive flooding in 1983.
From one of Outside magazine’s “Literary All-Stars” comes the thrilling true tale of the fastest boat ride ever, down the entire length of the Colorado River and through the Grand Canyon, during the legendary flood of 1983.
Walden – Henry David Thoreau
This is probably one of the oldest books on this list, but Henry David Thoreau’s Walden is certainly a classic. It was written in 1854 and it’s about the author’s experience of living in a cabin (that he built himself) in the woods. It’s very isolated, and while he’s living there he studies flora and fauna. It’s an interesting read about living off-grid, and some sections don’t feel that different from living off-grid today.
Desert Solitaire – Edward Abbey
Quite similar to Thoreaus Walden but in a completely different setting. Edward Abbey (a park ranger) lives in the desert in southeastern Utah and shares his stories about this isolated life in Desert Solitaire. The book is not only about the natural beauty of this beautiful region in North America but also about tourism and land development destroying nature. Sometimes harsh, but definitely a very interesting read.
Hatchet – Gary Paulsen
Gary Paulsen wrote multiple youth books about wilderness survival adventures, and Hatchet is the most famous one. It’s a great book that follows the 30-year-old Brian Robeson when he’s flying in traveling in a single-engine plane to visit his father. The plane crashes in the Canadian Wilderness and he is the sole survivor. Besides his clothing and a hatchet (that he got as a present from his mother), he has nothing. While he’s learning how to survive in the wilderness, he also learns about patience and understanding.
This award-winning contemporary classic is the survival story with which all others are compared—and a page-turning, heart-stopping adventure, recipient of the Newbery Honor. Hatchet has also been nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read.
This book is part of a series. If you like Hatchet, you might also like to read:
My Side of the Mountain – Jean Craighead George
If you liked the books by Gary Paulsen there is a good chance you will also like the books by Jean Craighead George. She grew up in a family of naturalists and they went out camping on the weekends. Resulting in a growing love for nature and the wilderness. She wrote numerous fiction books about living in the outdoors, like My Side of the Mountain. This book is about a young man named Sam Gribley who runs away from his family home in New York City to live in the Catskill Mountains.
Although it’s more a book for young children to read, adults definitely will like it as well!
I hope you liked this list of the best books about the outdoors. I absolutely love backpacking in nature and hiking long-distance trails, that’s why you can read a lot about national parks and hiking adventures on this website. You might like to read these posts as well:
- My Arizona Trail Journal – In the spring of 2022, I hiked the Arizona Trail (800 miles). In my trail journal, I’ll tell you all about my experience, about the good but also the bad times.
- The best books on US National Parks – The US National Parks are absolutely gorgeous. In this article, I’ll share my favorite books filled with pictures and practical tips about the National Parks in the United States of America.
- Overview of all the national parks in The Netherlands – Did you know that The Netherlands (my home country!) has 21 national parks? I’ll tell you all about them in this article.
Subscribe to my newsletter to read about fun travel adventures and beautiful travel destinations.
Hi, and how nice of you to read this disclaimer! As you may understand, maintaining a website costs money. Therefore, this website contains affiliate links. If you use them to buy a product or book your next trip, I will get a small commission which I can use to maintain this website. At no additional cost to you. Thank You! Check this page for more information and opportunities to support this website.