An expertly crafted and researched true story about the hunt for a man-eating tiger in Russia. Vaillant masterfully unfolds every layer of this showdown between man and beast, showing us a conflict that extends beyond the land and into our own psychology and instincts. Like the best adventure stories, The Tiger draws the reader into a new world, one which lives in memory long after the final page is turned.
The River of Doubt
An astonishing and beautifully-written account of Theodore Roosevelt’s exploration of a dangerous tributary of the Amazon River. The story is as fascinating for the daring and boldness of its protagonist as it is for the emotional and psychological reasons Roosevelt made the journey in the first place. It’s almost unthinkable today to imagine a U.S. president undertaking such a mission to such a risky location, or to a place that reveals so much about oneself.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
This is a different kind of true adventure, one that exists almost exclusively in the mind of its writer, who suffered a stroke that left him paralyzed. Unable to do more than blink his left eye, Bauby dictates this breathtakingly honest and brave story letter-by-letter, blink-by-blink, using the power of his imagination and memory to create his own journeys—imagined, remembered, and anticipated. From his bed, he takes us through a kaleidoscope of worlds rich in meaning and feeling, proving to us that the mind is the most powerful and beautiful creator of adventure in the world.
From the Earth to the Moon
As a boy, Jim Lovell read these fictional masterpieces, and he wasn’t the only future astronaut to do so. Verne’s book and its sequel tell of three adventurers who build a 900-foot space cannon that launches them in a projectile around the Moon. During their journey, the men avert a deadly asteroid strike, discard a dead dog out the window, and succumb to a mysterious force that causes them to dance and sing. Even when published (in 1865 and 1870, respectively), these books made readers believe that traveling to the Moon was possible, and what better endorsement could there be for a book about adventure than that?
Becoming an attorney was the biggest mistake I ever made. The job required attention to mundane details and near-religious risk aversion, which grinded against my DNA. On weekends, I began reading adventure books, tales of people (real and fictional) who explored worlds of danger and uncertainty, encountered great obstacles, and were tested in ways that showed who they really were.
Soon, I quit law to write adventure books myself. My newest, Rocket Men, is a childhood dream come true: the chance to tell the story of Apollo 8, mankind’s first journey to the Moon. It put me on my own odyssey (I even flew with two of the astronauts), and reminded me of how freeing it is to immerse oneself in a great adventure. Here are six of my favorite adventure books, some which I read while building the courage to change my life, and others of which remind me how good it felt to do so.
Featured image: Patrick Hendry on Unsplash; Author Photo: © Matt Ferguson