A rush of adrenaline: memoirs of adventure

Al Woodworth on January 21, 2020
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A rush of adrenaline: memoirs of adventure

There is nothing like a great adventure to whisk you away from life as you know it. Though I know I’ll never climb the tallest mountain on earth, journey across a frozen tundra with a three hundred pound sled, or discover a new island, nothing makes me happier than getting lost in epic human adventures.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good quiet novel too, but for the times when I’m missing the great outdoors and hankering for adrenaline, I turn to these books.


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Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer

Perhaps my favorite book of adventure. Jon Krakauer summited Mount Everest in 1996, but what started as a routine trip to the top turned deadly when a storm surged over the mountain and killed eight climbers. Krakauer’s rendering of the ferocious storm, and the physicality and technicality required to climb 29,000 feet, is enthralling. His memoir also brings up fascinating questions about who should be allowed to climb mountains and how decisions are made at the top, and demonstrates the ineffable pull of a mountain in the clouds that has captivated so many.


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The Impossible First: From Fire to Ice--Crossing Antarctica Alone by Colin O'Brady

This just published and I have already dipped back in for a second reading. Colin O’Brady is an extremely remarkable human being. After getting into an accident that had doctors saying he'd never walk again, O’Brady climbed the seven tallest mountains in the world, and then decided to do what no man had ever done: cross Antarctica alone, with no aid. This is the story—all 932 miles of it. His adventure—his survival—is harrowing and inspiring. O'Brady is both boastful and humble about his quest, so much so that what he endures just might bring you to tears.


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Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing

In August 1914—more than 100 years before Colin O’Brady’s adventure—polar explorer Ernest Shackleton and his crew of 27 men set sail for Antarctica, where they planned to walk across the last part of the uncharted continent. After months of sailing, and just a day from its destination, the Endurance got stuck in the ice and was lodged there seemingly permanently before it was crushed by the pressure. But the crew had time to make it off the ship, and the rest is the heroic story of the 28 men who battled the ocean, the ice, starvation, and the harshest conditions in an attempt to make it to safety 850 miles away. This is perhaps the ultimate story of survival, perseverance, and one man’s dedication to his crew.


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The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann

In 1925, the British explorer Percy Fawcett and his son ventured into the Amazon in hopes of uncovering the ancient civilization that had long consumed his imagination and much of Europe’s. Thousands before him had died looking for the glittering kingdom at the heart of the jungle, but Fawcett was determined to discover it. Like the many before him, he entered the Amazon and never returned. Decades later, New Yorker writer David Grann learned of Fawcett’s quest and decided to make his own journey to uncover what went wrong for Fawcett and his son, and even more excitingly was determined to find Fawcett’s fabled city of “Z.” Grann's own adventure into the thick of the jungle is a thrilling ride of adventure and exploration—so much so that it was made into a movie.


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