Books to Inspire Adventure

In no particular order, these are just a few of the books I’ve read in recent years that inspired in me a sense of adventure. These books, in various ways, taught me that wonder is there for us everywhere — in the ordinariness of our morning walks, as much as the wilds of our weekends.

From Tim Winton’s exploration of cultural imagination and connection to country, to Oliver Sacks’ joyful excursion to commune with hundreds of species of fern… these books will take you to wonderful places.

Rain by Melissa Harrison

Sometimes all you need to do is look a little closer to make the ordinary rather extraordinary. And this is what Rain by Melissa Harrison does, taking the reader for a walk in the rain, four times over.

Harrison pulls on her boots and wet weather gear to head out walking while most of the rest of us would stay cosied up indoors.

This short book explores the rain in Wicken Fen, Shropshire, The Darent Valley, and Dartmoor. As a final treat, the book closes with ‘100 words concerning rain’ as well as the slightly more formal ‘glossary of meteorological terms for rain’.

Next time you find yourself wetchered (that’s wet through after having been caught in the rain) your imagination will have more ways with which to share your blashy day (that’s a wet day, thank you Teesdale).

I should also say that this is an experience of beauty.
— Melissa Harrison, Rain

Island Home by Tim Winton

I was turned on to this book by a former colleague who wrote of it so eloquently the author’s publisher chose to feature an excerpt of his review on their webpage for the title.

This book is a challenge to its reader and a reminder of the centrality of place in our imaginations (both individual and collective) of past, present, and future.

It is a book, my friend writes, that tells “of the beauty and power of Australian place, and the colonisation of the Australian imagination”.

His key idea seems to be this: our minds have been colonised just as our country has been.
— Jamie Hanson, writing about Tim Winton's Island Home for The Guardian

The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd

The reissue of this short work of non-fiction includes an introduction by Robert Macfarlane (author of many wondrous books on nature, including Landmarks, ‘about the power of language to shape our sense of place’).

Macfarlane says The Living Mountain is Shepherd’s most important work, and notes its ‘observational acuity’.

Walk a while with Nan Shepherd, you’ll be glad you did.

Most works of mountain literature are ... focused on the goal of the summit. Shepherd, however, goes into the Cairngorms aimlessly, ‘merely to be with the mountain as one visits a friend, with no intention but to be with him’.
— Robert Macfarlane on Nan Shepherd's The Living Mountain

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

For so many reasons, but especially for the wisdom of Cheryl’s mother’s advice, to put yourself in the way of beauty.

Was there ever a better reminder to go to the places where we can see the sky change from night to day and day to night, as it does, without fail, whether we show up for it or not?

Cheryl Strayed’s Pacific Crest Trail hike is an epic journey of the body and soul. (But you knew that already, right?)

There’s always a sunrise and always a sunset and it’s up to you to choose to be there for it,’ said my mother. ‘Put yourself in the way of beauty.
— Cheryl Strayed, Wild

Thru-Hiking Will Break Your Heart by Carrot Quinn

Speaking of PCT stories, this book will have you mentally preparing your gear list to follow in the author’s footsteps along the 2660 mile Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada.

This book moves between existential ponderings and matter-of-fact anecdotes from life on the trail.

It also journeys through the spoken and unspoken transformative moments of relationships forged along the trail… where — for a few thousand miles — strangers become family.

They say there’s a long, narrow ribbon of space-time that stretches from Mexico to Canada. I hear you can live there, for a little while, as long as you keep moving. But be careful, it will break your heart.
— Carrot Quinn, Thru-Hiking Will Break Your Heart

Oaxaca Journal by Oliver Sacks

His mind was like no other, Oliver Sacks is delighted by so many things, and luckily for us, by ferns. Ferns are the topic Sacks explores in his 2002 book, Oaxaca Journal.

Sacks describes his trip as "a wonderful fern adventure, with novelties and surprises, great beauty at every point" — but of course, it becomes more than that.

During his time in Oaxaca, Sacks — in discovering the region’s botany, culture, people, and history — ponders the profundity of immersion in an unfamiliar place. 

"The fern tour is turning out to be much more than a fern tour," he writes. "It is a visit to another, a very other, culture and place."

Tomorrow we will all have to leave this place and go back to our jobs ... But for now, there is nothing to do but sit under the great bald cypresses by the river and enjoy the simple animal pleasure of being alive...
— Oliver Sacks, Oaxaca Journal

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson

While working with a Audible Australia I had the opportunity to experience a session with a bibliotherapist from The School of Life in Sydney.

After a discussion about my reading habits and preferences — as well as touching on wider-ranging subjects including challenges I found myself facing, and goals toward which I was striving — my ‘prescription’ came in the form of a recommendation to read Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book.

And what a delightful book it is. I’m grateful for having been told to read it, because I’m not sure I’d have found it otherwise. Published in 1972, this book is an enchanting read…

“Jansson was a writer who knew the proper magnitudes of our small worlds,” wrote Ali Smith of the book and Jansson’s way with words and worlds.

It’s funny about me, Sophia said. I always feel like such a nice girl whenever there’s a storm.
— Tove Jansson, The Summer Book