Book recommendations for Marine with PTSD
August 28, 2012 3:29 PM   Subscribe

Book recommendations for a Marine with PTSD? I'm looking for some escapist adventure/expedition books that do NOT involve people dying at the end or eating their friends.

He just returned from Afghanistan and is suffering some pretty serious PTSD -- he lost members of his unit and has a great deal of survivor's guilt. I want to put together a care package of escapist reading that might emphasize the good stuff about what he went through (brotherhood, survivalism, self-reliance) and not so much the traumatic stuff. I'm thinking books like Kon-Tiki and Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage. He loves fishing, history, military strategy, and accounts of exploration. (Seriously, bonus points for anything involving fishing.) Go nuts, just try to avoid anything that might be potentially triggering to a soldier who has suffered recent trauma. Thanks so much for the help.
posted by anonymous to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (21 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You said "go nuts," so... The Lord Peter mystery novels are well written, funny, intelligent, not dark, and Lord Peter is shell-shocked from WWI, which gets lightly touched on in some of them.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:05 PM on August 28, 2012

I really enjoyed the book Man-Eaters of Kumaon, by Jim Corbett, who was a famous tiger hunter in India at the beginning of the 1900s. His descriptions of stalking tigers (all of whom were mankillers) is suspenseful and written with a lot of respect for the jungle, the outdoor world, and India at that time. It's a great hunting classic.
posted by warble at 4:10 PM on August 28, 2012

The Singing Sands, by Josephine Tey. Fiction, but all the themes are right. Inspector Grant is suffering from easily triggered severe anxiety attacks (claustrophobia), so is sent on leave to pursue his hobby, fly-fishing, in the highlands of Scotland. While disembarking from the train, he sees a young murder victim, a self-reliant adventurous type with whom Grant feels an unexpected sense of brotherhood. While on his lovingly-described fishing holiday, Grant investigates the murder, which turns out to involve solo exploration of the Arabian Desert's Empty Quarter.

I've used this as escapist reading many times since age 11, always with mysterious therapeutic effect.
posted by feral_goldfish at 4:10 PM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Dove, "In 1965, 16-year-old Robin Lee Graham began a solo around-the-world voyage from San Pedro, California, in a 24-foot sloop. Five years and 33,000 miles later, he returned to home port with a wife and daughter and enough extraordinary experiences to fill this bestselling book..."
posted by Jahaza at 4:21 PM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Amazon Extreme: Three Ordinary Guys, One Rubber Raft, and the Most Dangerous River on Earth by Colin Angus

All Fisherman are Liars: True Adventures at Sea by Linda Greenlaw (she's written others about her fishing career as well)

Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World or The Last Fish Tale by Mark Kurlansky
posted by stampsgal at 4:31 PM on August 28, 2012

I really liked Sea of Glory by Nathaniel Philbrick, about the United States Exploring Expedition of 1838-1842.

For fiction, howzabout The Clan of the Cave Bear type stuff?
posted by XMLicious at 4:51 PM on August 28, 2012

"Sailing Alone around the World" by Joshua Slocum, published in 1900 and in the public domain, about the first man to accomplish that feat, and his adventures along the way. Speaking of sailing around the world, there's also:

"Two Years Before the Mast" by Richard Henry Dana, Jr. (1840)-- a Harvard student takes a job as an ordinary sailor in the hopes of repairing his failing eyesight, and spends 2 years on a hide-trading ship, including a visit to a very young San Francisco. (Dana later became a US Attorney during the US Civil War, and had some role in the indictment of Jefferson Davis.)

"Close to the Wind" by Pete Goss, a sailor and contestant in the 1996/7 Vendee Globe, which is a solo non-stop around the world boat race. Goss turn his boat around and made a hard 2-day upwind sail to rescue a fellow contestant whose boat had foundered in the southern ocean.

Anything by Tristan Jones, who sailed only for the adventure (and scrape a living), except perhaps his WWII memoir, "Heart of Oak."

I'd like to recommend "Undaunted Courage" by Stephen Ambrose, the amazing story of Lewis & Clark, but the fact is that, in the years following the expedition, Meriwether Lewis's life fell apart, he fell into the bottle, and committed suicide. Perhaps a book drawn from their journals would be good, though-- the canonical publication of their journals is in 8 volumes, but there are many smaller, abridged-for-action books out there, usually squeezing the good bits into one volume. (At times, in Oregon, they ate very poorly indeed, but never ate people.)

I'll second "Sea of Glory."
posted by Sunburnt at 5:04 PM on August 28, 2012

Clive Cussler's Dirk Pitt novels are marine adventures in the old school James Bond style. Men are men, women are women, and the peril is ridiculous in a good fun kind of way. I find that kind of thing much more tolerable than any sort of real world adventure where harm might really come to people.

Dana Stabenow was raised on an Alaskan boat. Her Kate Shugak series is about an Aleut woman who lives on a homestead in a national Park in Alaska and supports herself hunting and fishing when not detecting, grumpily. Dead in the Water is set on a fishing trawler. Killing Grounds is set on a crab trawler. Another is set in a fishing camp but I've read all 18 so I'm a little fuzzy on which one. You do not need to read them in order, or read them all. Those two will be fine.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:06 PM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Barbara Savage's Miles from Nowhere is an engaging account of a round-the-world bicycle tour in the late 70s. Nothing too traumatic, aside from Barb and her husband being forced off the road in southern Florida by yahoo drivers, and being attacked by villagers with sticks while cycling through Egypt.
posted by brianogilvie at 5:28 PM on August 28, 2012

As much as I've enjoyed the Dirk Pitt books, I feel like there might be some potentially triggering scenes. I haven't read any of them in a while, but I have vague memories of being a bit frightened and/or disturbed by some bits.

Since someone's mentioned Josephine Tey, I really like The Daughter of Time. The aforementioned Inspector Grant has ended up in the hospital with a broken leg (he's fallen off something chasing a criminal IIRC) and is passing time by reading books trying to figure out whether Richard III had the princes in the tower killed.

Not really adventure, but on the theme of people doing principled things, what about John Grisham?

Perhaps an off the wall suggestion, but what about Lucy? It was engrossing (even the chapter on teeth) and sort of ticks the exploration box.
posted by hoyland at 6:01 PM on August 28, 2012

Start by reading Ranulph Fiennes wikipedia page, and then decide which explorations to further explore in his books. Brotherhood, survivalism, self-reliance don't just abound, they are integral to Sir Ranulph's life. I've enjoyed several of the Antarctic books, and the 7x7x7 marathon sounds interesting.

Avoid The Feather Men (republished as Killer Elite, apparently), as likely to trigger trauma.
posted by manyon at 6:17 PM on August 28, 2012

I didn't read this but I listened to an interview with the author that made it sound like something that might fit the bill:

Turn Right At Machu Picchu

It's about exploration and survival, but without the grisly stuff.

Amazon Summary:
What happens when an adventure travel expert-who's never actually done anything adventurous-tries to re-create the original expedition to Machu Picchu?

July 24, 1911, was a day for the history books. For on that rainy morning, the young Yale professor Hiram Bingham III climbed into the Andes Mountains of Peru and encountered an ancient city in the clouds: the now famous citadel of Machu Picchu. Nearly a century later, news reports have recast the hero explorer as a villain who smuggled out priceless artifacts and stole credit for finding one of the world's greatest archaeological sites.

Mark Adams has spent his career editing adventure and travel magazines, so his plan to investigate the allegations against Bingham by retracing the explorer's perilous path to Machu Picchu isn't completely far- fetched, even if it does require him to sleep in a tent for the first time. With a crusty, antisocial Australian survivalist and several Quechua-speaking, coca-chewing mule tenders as his guides, Adams takes readers through some of the most gorgeous and historic landscapes in Peru, from the ancient Inca capital of Cusco to the enigmatic ruins of Vitcos and Vilcabamba.
posted by bleep at 6:22 PM on August 28, 2012

John Macnab

I'm not even sure this is a 'good' book, but I've read it at least thrice, once in my formative years (thus it has a dear place in my heart). Plot: 1920's well-heeled-bored-dudes set out to be honorable poachers in the Scottish highlands to cure their ennui. Definitely fits the bill.
posted by wrok at 6:33 PM on August 28, 2012

PS involves trout fishing and stag poaching.
posted by wrok at 6:34 PM on August 28, 2012

Would the The Lost City of Z fit the bill? No-one really knows how Col. Fawcett died other than he never came back. No people eating IIRC.
posted by fiercekitten at 6:40 PM on August 28, 2012

I wonder if Moby-Dick would be perfectly right or perfectly wrong. Sailing, brotherly friendship, adventure, humor... but would the (spoiler!) "I alone have lived to tell the tale" ending be too much?
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:47 PM on August 28, 2012

On a much, much lighter note, what about Three Men In A Boat?
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:54 PM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

One thing to be aware of for anything covering the first solo nonstop around the world race (the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race in 1968-1969) is that besides other assorted troubles, one of the entrants Donald Crowhurst went pretty solidly crazy and killed himself, so that might be kind of a downer if your friend's PTSD includes depression and suicidal ideation.

The David Weber Honor Harington books are a bit uneven - the first few are great, though - and are basically Horatio Hornblower IN SPAAAAAAAAACE.

In the "someone who is having a worse time than you", Adrift: 76 days lost at sea is about exactly that, from someone who lived through it after his boat was struck (possibly by a whale).
posted by rmd1023 at 7:47 PM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

rmd1023's mention of the Honor Harrington books (which I also would endorse) reminded me that a friend of mine who is also a Marine veteran really likes the Sharpe series. I haven't read them myself, though, so I don't know whether they contain the triggering sort of stuff you mention.
posted by XMLicious at 9:11 PM on August 28, 2012

Shackleton's South, but you mention that...

George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman series is a brilliant combination of history and (sometimes humour. I know nothing about PTSD but he might find them a good way to decompress.

Totally leftfield suggestion but 'After the Ice' is a great history book. Much of it is told from first person, so very readable. I found it absolutely fascinating; in every chapter there was something which made my jaw drop. The timescale (6000 years) gives a very different perspective on your life too. Contains fishing.
posted by BadMiker at 5:35 AM on August 29, 2012

To get a little goofy and dated, I'd throw out The Destroyer series of novels.

They're very James Bond/Kung Fu/Espionage/Sexy Times silly, but still are a fun read. They're like romance novels. But for dudes.

The interplay between Remo and Chiun (his marital arts instructor) is wonderful.
posted by THAT William Mize at 9:50 AM on August 29, 2012

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