Where can I find adventure (at home)?
February 20, 2018 9:53 AM   Subscribe

I love reading long-form adventure articles, or well-written books on same (eg. Krakauer's "Into Thin Air"), like this, or this. Point me to your favourite articles/books describing adventures, disasters, or a combination of the two. Bonus if they're heavy on the technical side.
posted by Nyx to Grab Bag (42 answers total) 79 users marked this as a favorite
I, too, like this genre. Young Men and Fire is a classic of this genre as is Perfect Storm though in a slightly different direction. I'm also partial to The Last of the Bush Pilots by Harmon Hemericks. I was recently captivated by this short blog post about how triage worked in the Las Vegas emergency room after the mass shooting (gory details, but no images). The Worst Hard Time about people surviving the dust bowl is definitely an interesting look at a natural but also man-made disaster. Likewise The Worst Journey in the World.
posted by jessamyn at 10:06 AM on February 20, 2018 [7 favorites]

I encourage you to read Krakauer's original January 1993 Outside Magazine article on Christopher Mccandless. It literally changed my life.
posted by humboldt32 at 10:13 AM on February 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

I forgot to add: I have read "Into the Wild" as well, but I loathe Mccandless with the fire of a thousand suns, so it's not as big a draw for me as others in this genre.
posted by Nyx at 10:17 AM on February 20, 2018

I just read Cheryl Strayed's "Wild" about walking the Pacific Crest Trail, and enjoyed it a lot. Have a look at Laurence Gonzales' "Deep Survival" which is a fun book in itself, but also each chapter tends to reference a survival story that has books written by the folks involved themselves you can follow up with. He's a got an odd obsession with "cool" but does a great job of framing accidents in terms of human behavior instead of just "wow, get a load of what this idiot did, yet somehow survived".

Also, in the same genre, I found Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite and Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon to be extremely compelling reads... a list of everyone who has died in those places, grouped by manner of death.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 10:35 AM on February 20, 2018 [4 favorites]

Shadow Divers
posted by cyndigo at 10:38 AM on February 20, 2018 [4 favorites]

Oh man Crowhurst's story is so good and so weird. It's more a mental health disaster in some ways but still really interesting and the book is meticulous about describing it. A Googleable term might be MegaTransect for really long walks/hikes. The first popularized one one was a project by J. Michael Fay to cross Africa, a year+ long trip. documented in National Geographic but the website I could only find at The Internet Archive. David Quammen wrote a lot about it and other things and he's a worthwhile writer to follow along with.
posted by jessamyn at 10:40 AM on February 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've read many dozens of books like this. Here are three that aren't real well-known.

The Jungle by Yossi Ghinsberg. Friends go into the Amazon rainforest and get separated, and the story is told by one of them. First published in 1985 and the book is so thrilling I've read it twice.

Beyond the Deep. An expedition to a remote cave in Mexico, goes into a lot of detail about how they go about exploring the cave system and overcoming technical challenges.

Shooting the Boh: A Woman's Voyage Down the Wildest River in Borneo. A first descent of a river in Borneo is run by an expedition company, the people who signed up don't have prior rafting experience so the author thinks it will be a safe adventure. Turns out to be a lot more than that.
posted by daikon at 10:42 AM on February 20, 2018 [5 favorites]

Five Days at Memorial, Sheri Fink
"Issac's Storm" about the Galveston hurricane of 1900, and "Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania" both by Erik Larson were fantastic
If you like Young Men and Fire (also strongly recommend) you might enjoy "Fire on the Mountain" by his son John Maclean. If you enjoy the book, you'll also enjoy the video about it
"In The Heart of the Sea" about the whaleship Essex, just wonderful, Nathaniel Philbrick
"Flight 232"about the Sioux City airplane crash, by Laurence gonzales (you might also enjoy his book "Deep Survival")
"Wind, Sand and stars, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry of Little Prince fame (classic)
"The Exploration of the Colorado River and its Canyons" by John Wesley Powell and a companion book by Wallace Stegner, "Beyond the 100th Meridian"
Two books about the fires of 1910: "Year of the Fires" and "The Big Burn"
Fire and Brimstone, about the Butte mining disaster
"The River of Doubt", about Roosevelt in South America, by Candice Leopard
"The Snow Leopard" by Peter Matthiessen (Classic)

Moutaineering types:
"Annapurna" by Maurice Herzog (Classic), but you might follow it with all the follow up books about it because there's some LIES. Still considered a classic, with the best final line in all of adventure literature
"Everest: The West Ridge" by Thomas Hornbein about the first American ascent, hen follow it with "The Vast Unknown" by Coburn
Touching the Void, Joe Simpson (classic)
The two classic national park books: Death in Yellowstone and Death in Yosemite
The Last Season, about a ranger who disappeared in Kings-Sequoia, by Eric Blehm

There have been a lot of books written about K2 that I've enjoyed, particularly concerning the most recent disaster, but "K2" by Ed Viesturs and "One Mountain Thousand Summits" were both great.

Every single thing written by David Roberts (here's an interview with him) but "The Mountain of My Fear" and "Deborah" are considered classics.

Also Eiger Dreams by Krakauer is good too! My favorite Eiger book is "Climb up to Hell" by Jack Olson
posted by barchan at 10:45 AM on February 20, 2018 [4 favorites]

The Emerald Mile is about the speed run of the Grand Canyon during a flood in a dory. It’s very good.
posted by Grandysaur at 10:47 AM on February 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

Will Steger. First he went to the North Pole without resupply, being the first group since Peary to do so. Then he crossed Antarctica with a multinational group, at the time when the Cold War was thawing. Just recently, 30 year later, his business manager wrote a memoir about the Antarctica trip, adding even more juicy technical details.
posted by Melismata at 10:54 AM on February 20, 2018

First, a quick response to humboldt32, above: The original Krakauer article was published in the September 1996 issue of Outside magazine - not 1993, as the tragedy itself didn't happen until May 1996. I read it when it was on the newsstand, and yes, it was gripping, but an important caveat about the article is that Krakauer himself has concerns about it. There are factual errors and misinterpretations in it that he has regrets over, and attributes to the fact that it was written such a short time after the tragedy. He discusses this and related corrections in the later book.

OK, having said that, I'll add a couple suggestions/favorites of my own:

Triangle: The Fire That Changed America: about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire; less "adventure" for being a urban, not wilderness, tale, but the author does a tremendous job of putting the reader right into the moment.

The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes: Not about one disaster, but a compelling look at how humans react to and deal with disaster, and how we can be better prepared

Not a book or an article, but the Radiolab podcast had an episode ("Playing God") about triage that talks a lot about what happened at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, as things quickly went from bad to worse and in the end, a large number of patients were euthanized by the staff. Sheri Fink, guest on the podcast, has written a book on what happened called Five Days at Memorial, which is now sitting on my bookshelf, waiting to be read!

High Tech Cowboys of the Deep Seas - this article from Wired magazine follows a team of salvage workers who try to recover ships and cargo when things go awry at sea. This particular team became known for its emphasis on technology and engineering to solve problems (using laptops and modeling) more than heavy equipment and brute force. It's a surprisingly dangerous line of work. Some of the same team later went on to solve the problem of the cruise ship Costa Concordia, which ran aground on the Italian coast, killing 32 people.

[ETA - on preview I see someone else recommended Five Days at Memorial, but I'm leaving mine in for the Radiolab link. :) ]
posted by leticia at 10:58 AM on February 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

Not much on the technical side but I love IronMan training stories as they scratch this itch as well. No particular reccomendationsas I’ve enjoyed them all.

Born to run may also be of interest to you
posted by raccoon409 at 11:08 AM on February 20, 2018

Minus 148 Degrees - about the first winter ascent of Denali
posted by so fucking future at 11:18 AM on February 20, 2018

leticia, I think he's referring to McCandless, the subject of "Into the Wild", not Krakauer's trip to Everest.
posted by Nyx at 11:33 AM on February 20, 2018

Death In Yellowstone, a catalogue of every non-natural death and its causes in the park (EDIT: I say non-natural, I mean, such as, no heart attacks. Wild animals, weather, etc. are in ther)

Godforsaken Sea - "This is the story of the 1996-1997 Vendee Globe, a solo sailing race that binds its competitors to just a few, cruelly simple rules: around the world from France by way of Antarctica, no help, no stopping, one boat, one sailor."

Fastnet, Force 10 - "It began in fine weather, then suddenly became a terrifying ordeal. A Force 10, sixty-knot storm swept across the North Atlantic with a speed that confounded forecasters, slamming into the fleet with epic fury. For twenty hours, 2,500 men and women were smashed by forty-foot breaking waves, while rescue helicopters and lifeboats struggled to save them. "

Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest - "In this magisterial work of history and adventure, based on more than a decade of prodigious research in British, Canadian, and European archives, and months in the field in Nepal and Tibet, Wade Davis vividly re-creates British climbers’ epic attempts to scale Mount Everest in the early 1920s."

also recommend books by and about John Wesley Powell, Ed Viesturs.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:10 PM on February 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

I thought the story of Shackleton's Antarctic Expedition, Endurance, was amazing.
posted by elmay at 12:39 PM on February 20, 2018 [5 favorites]

I heard David Breshears speak; he was terrific; read High Exposure, and see the IMax Everest film if you can.

Colin Fletcher, The Man Who Walked Through Time is a classic for good reason, along with The Complete Walker, now up to ed. IV, and Bill Bryson, who is a very different writer, has a similar appeal. A Walk In the Woods is the obvious one for you, but I've read others and always enjoy him.

John McPhee is an uncommonly fine writer and any of his books is worth the time.
posted by theora55 at 12:43 PM on February 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

Dove, by Robin Lee Graham. In the 1960s, he sails around the world at age 16.
posted by Melismata at 12:46 PM on February 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

Another Crowhurst-related entry: A Voyage for Madmen, about the first around the world nonstop sailboat race, which Crowhurst competed in.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:00 PM on February 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

Recently, a series of related articles by Neil Paumgarten for the New Yorker really caught my interest, involving Ueli Steck and his climbs on Mt. Everest.
posted by Everydayville at 1:10 PM on February 20, 2018

Indeed I was, as I said in my comment. Sorry Nyx that he puts you off. I think I probably understand why. Regardless, my life would be a whole lot different if I hadn't read that article.

I'll toss a +1 in for any Bill Bryson.
posted by humboldt32 at 1:36 PM on February 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

Robyn Davidson wrote Tracks: A Woman's Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback and Desert Places, among other works, about her travels in remote places.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 1:49 PM on February 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

Not all of his writings are adventure-related, but you may like pieces by William Langewiesche. His stories on Felix Baumgartner, Ken Bradshaw, and Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson may be the sort of thing you're looking for. Bibliography here.
posted by myotahapea at 3:28 PM on February 20, 2018

In The Kingdom of Ice was utterly thrilling, such that I ended up reading large portions of it out loud to my spouse.
posted by raspberrE at 3:59 PM on February 20, 2018

Three more: "In Harm's Way : The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis", "Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why", "Inviting Disaster: Lessons from the Edge of Technology"
posted by rmd1023 at 4:00 PM on February 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

You might also like these threads
posted by rmd1023 at 4:02 PM on February 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

Deliverance From 27,000 Feet, a recent feature from the New York Times Magazine, really stuck with me. I haven't read Into Thin Air, but I know what it's about so I think you'd like this long-form article. It's not as much about dying on Mount Everest as it is about trying to rescue dead bodies off the mountain and how complicated it is. The mix of infographics, video and photos to go along with the text made it a powerful, engrossing read.
posted by AppleTurnover at 6:31 PM on February 20, 2018

Winterdance by Gary Paulsen is a memoir of him training for and entering in the Iditarod.
posted by plinth at 6:39 PM on February 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

One more recommendation, speaking of Iditarod-related books: "My Lead Dog Was a Lesbian"
posted by rmd1023 at 6:51 PM on February 20, 2018

The High Adventure of Eric Ryback is by the first man to hike the complete Pacific Crest Trail. At the age of 18.
posted by SLC Mom at 7:41 PM on February 20, 2018

The Odyssey of C. H. Lightoller, or possibly Lightoller in his own words about Titanic and Other Ships.

He was the senior surviving officer of the Titanic and that might have been the third most exciting event in his life. Second if you count the inquiries afterwards.
posted by clew at 7:55 PM on February 20, 2018

I loved Annapurna: A Woman's Place, which is about the Annapurna Women's Expedition in 1978. You might also like Unbroken, which I believe is Soon To Be A Major Motion Picture, and is about men who survive on a life raft and then Japanese POW camps for a very long time after a plane crash during World War II (they were also both really interesting men in their own right).
posted by ChuraChura at 8:05 PM on February 20, 2018

I second Endurance - the Shackleton book, I found it enthralling.

I'd recommend The Lure of the Labrador Wild and A Woman's Way Through Unknown Labrador.

There was a small expedition in 1903 to explore part of Labrador, in North East Canada. They ran into trouble after taking a wrong turn and one man died (the first book). Two year's later his widow went back to the same place and completed the trip (the second book). See also an article about Mina Hubbard. Even now Labrador must be one of the most remote areas of sub arctic North America.
posted by sinical at 9:23 PM on February 20, 2018

Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies and Why by Laurence Gonzales tells several stories and is gripping.

A Life without Limits by the IronMan champion Chrissie Wellington gave me the same sort of thrills as travel adventures do.

If you do podcasts, you might enjoy the Science of Survival series from Outside magazine. Each episode deals with a different type of situation, usually involving someone involved in a leisure pursuit, though a recent episode was about someone accidentally making risotto with death cap mushrooms she'd picked herself, and that was just as hair-raising.
posted by kelper at 11:56 PM on February 20, 2018

I've read a lot of mountain-climbing books and recommend all of them except maybe The Other Side of Everest (the author seems like kind of a jerk). Since then, I've also read the following, all of which I recommend:

* Denali's Howl: The Deadliest Climbing Disaster on America's Wildest Peak by Andy Hall
* The Summit: How Triumph Turned to Tragedy on K2’s Deadliest Days by Pat Falvey
* The Mountain: My Time on Everest by Ed Viesturs (although I feel like Viesturs is a bit of an acquired taste)
posted by neushoorn at 3:11 AM on February 21, 2018

Surviving the Extremes is fascinating. Personal and second-hand anecdotes from expedition doctor Kenneth Kamler. He splits the book into environments: sea, jungle, mountain...
posted by j_curiouser at 6:06 AM on February 21, 2018

I really enjoyed What Really Happened Aboard Air France 447, which chronicles the minute-by-minute flight log of a plane that was lost over the Atlantic between Brazil and France.
posted by Maxwell_Smart at 6:23 PM on February 21, 2018

If "long-form" includes extensive threads on specialty websites, then I would recommend checking out some of these:
* supertopo.com for climbing disasters
* gcaptain.com for sailing disasters
* pprune.org or airliners.net for flying disasters.

Alas, theoildrum.com is no more but it was great during the Deepwater Horizon events.
posted by soylent00FF00 at 6:35 PM on February 21, 2018

Twelve Days of Terror and Close to Shore, about the 1916 New Jersey shark attacks.
Ghosts of Tsavo, basis of the movie The Ghost and the Darkness.
Issac's Storm, about the Galveston hurricane of September 1900.
Storm of the Century, about the Labor Day hurricane of 1935.
The Last Dive and Helldivers' Rodeo, scuba diving.
Not Without Peril, misadventures on the Presidential Range of New Hampshire.
Seconding Wild and A Walk in the Woods, about long-distance hiking.
posted by TrishaU at 1:33 AM on February 22, 2018

I love this genre, and second pretty much all of the above reccomendations. Anything Shackleton is pretty much amazing. If you like podcasts, the Futility Closet has a lot of episodes on exploration that can be a great jumping off point for further research. They have one on The Worst Hard Time, another on the worst journey ever, some great bits on around-the-world sailors, etc. I really love them in general, and they really love exploration stories.

One I recently finished and loved- and wasn't mentioned here- is Thru-Hiking Will Break Your Heart: An Adventure on the Pacific Crest Trail by Carrot Quinn, about hiking the PCT in 2014. If you want an idea of her style, she also has a blog that is helpfully sorted by hike.
posted by Torosaurus at 6:25 AM on February 25, 2018

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