The Best Travel and Adventure Reading in the history of Exploration and Adventure

For me books have had a enormous impact on life. When I was ten years old it made me realize, since I am grown up in the country side, that there was life beyond the limits of the village. Books made me explore, it has given me so much joy, hope, wisdom and perspective on almost every aspect of life. Books means a lot to me and I´ve always had a big library of books. I always have books lying aroun everywhere. In the kitchen, next to the bed, heaps near the sofa, today, even spread around the country in cardboard boxes after the divorce 2½ years ago!

The 5 best so far:

1. Annapurna by Maurice Herzog. This is the way real climbs, real exploration should be done. Before you had set routes and ropes fixed to the mountain. This work presents the enthralling account, by the leader of the French expedition, of the first conquest of Annapurna – at that time, and at more than 8000 metres, the highest mountain ever climbed. It is a story of breathtaking courage and determination against appalling odds. In records of mountaineering, in tales of human endeavour, there is nothing so unforgettable as the account of the descent by the triumphant but frost-bitten men, after the monsoon had broken, through the flooded valleys of Nepal. As well as an introduction by Joe Simpson, this new edition includes 16 pages of photographs, which provide a remarkable visual record of this legendary expedition.

2. The worst journey in the world by Aspley Cherry-Garrard. This book gave me and Johan Ivarsson great insights into the cold during our Siberian Expedition. One of the youngest members of Scott’s team, Apsley Cherry-Garrard was later part of the rescue party that eventually found the frozen bodies of Scott and three men who had accompanied him on the final push to the Pole. This is his account of an expedition that had gone disastrously wrong. No episode in the history of human endeavour reads more harrowingly than Scott’s last expedition to Antarctica. Scott reached the South Pole in January 1911 to find Roald Amundsen had beaten him to it; then perished with his companions on the way home. ‘Yet, “tragedy”‘, Apsley Cherry-Garrard was to write a decade later, ‘was not our business.’ Cherry-Garrard was just 24, the youngest but one of the team when he joined Scott. Left behind for the final leg, in accordance with Scott’s original plan for a four-man advance, it fell to Cherry-Garrard eight months later to be a member of the search party which discovered their frozen bodies. The experience permanently damaged his mental health. For the rest of his life he was haunted by the fear that, but for what he perceived as an error of judgement on his part, they might have survived. Yet this book, his story of that and earlier expeditions, is in no way self-indulgent or sensationalist. Despite his name, aristocratic birth and classics degree from Oxford, Cherry-Garrard was no arrogant nobleman. Rather, this not especially robust but intelligent man well understood that polar exploration requires a singular fortitude pushing beyond brute strength to what Ranulph Fiennes was later to term mind over matter. Cherry-Garrard’s descriptions of the conditions suffered are rendered all the more diabolical by prose as stark as the landscape traversed. As for hyperbole, the ‘Worst Journey’ of the title in fact refers to an earlier expedition investigating nesting sites of the Emperor penguin. A work of supreme dimension, this masterpiece remains as compelling today as when it was first published 80 years ago.

3. The Heart of the Hunter by Laurens Van der Post. A beautiful book about travels among the Bushmen. In this stirring sequel to “The Lost World” of the Kalahari Laurens van der Post records everything he has learned of the life and lore of Africa’s first inhabitants. He explores the very sources of the Bushmen’s spirit and imagination – their dreams and stories, the legends that guide them and inspire them in their daily battles with that harshest of environments, the Kalahari.

4. Arctic dreams by Barry Lopez. An amazingly inspiring account from the northern part of the globe. The European picture of the Arctic is usually of snow and ice: the inhospitability of the terrain and the frigid wastes of the tundra contribute to our incapacity to imagine ordinary life there. In this magisterial book Barry Lopez draws on this hazy understanding of the far north to provide a compelling account of the land and its hold upon the psyche.It is a book which could be compared to Chatwin for its combination of travelogue and poetic vision. Yet the beauty of the prose and the thought-provoking evocations of modern culture’s shifting relationship with the environment are in a league of their own. Here are sparkling descriptions of the lives of caribou, muskoxen, polar bears and narwhals, and extraordinarily moving passages which meditate on the nature of our relationship with the world, the inter-dependence of ideas, desire and science and the possibility of dignity and compassion in the contemporary world.It is a measure of the respect which Lopez has for his subject that his book exemplifies the supreme importance which he ascribes to the ethics of respect in the face of all existential paradox:”There are simply no answers to some of the great pressing questions. You continue to live them out, making your life a worthy expression of a leaning into the light”.

5 Khyber Knights by CuChullaine O´Reilly. A very good friend of mine. It is an account of perilous adventure and forbidden romance in the depths of mystic Asia. A real modern day tale!

These are all books which wants you to leave on an adventure, change your life and gives insights to the meaning of life.

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