Have I read the best adventure books?
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I've been re-reading some classics and have wondered if it's possible that I've read the best ones already. Something like Undaunted Courage, for example, though it won much praise, I simply can't put next to great ones like Alone and We Die Alone, which I have read multiple times and neither of which is depressing, despite their titles. I especially admire the one man against the elements aspect of these books. I am interested in survival and not another death on Everest story. I also like a polar/wintry setting though I don't insist on it. Great Heart comes to mind.
I wonder if anyone out there has an adventure classic that I've missed.
Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors by Piers Paul Read
and the same story but seen from another prospective
Miracle in the Andes: 72 Days on the mountain and My Long Trek Home by Nando Parrado
I looked at your list of books and asked myself why had you chosen them. I have read 2 of your fifty, The White Nile and Seven Years in Tibet but reading them led me to other books about or connected to that place that I may not have read otherwise. Because I have traveled across Africa I read The Blue Nile, Journey to the source of the Nile. When ever I see books on Africa I have to look at then and in most cases read them, fiction and non-fiction, because of my interest in and having traveled in Africa.
When I was a child I remember hearing a radio news report of a young boy escaping from Tibet. I was intrigued by this and that eventually led me to read Seven Years in Tibet. From there I read of his return to Tibet, books written by the Dali Lama and members of his family.
I live beside a river and this has led me to read books about rivers, travels on rivers, countries through which the rivers flow.
I have read over 130 literary travel books and countless other fiction and non-fiction that were influenced by those travel books. My passion are mysteries and even they have some times been influenced by the travel books I read.
Why is a book touted as a classic? You, the reader, make your own decisions about the books you are read, are they good, bad or indifferent? Are any in the good section classics in your mind? Follow your own interests and you may find some classics of your own.
I think I got a little carried away as my short note is not short...
I belonged to a book club called The Adventure Library, now defunct, which was dedicated to releasing the classics of exploration and survival in high quality volumes. So if you check my list, that's where most of those books came from.
Do I detect some condescension in your comment?
To me, most of the titles published by the The Narrative Press are classics.
Then, there's the familiar term "instant classic". So, something from the 80's, especially a travel or adventure narrative could be a classic. Classic might also mean somewhat well-known. I enjoy obscure travel narratives (and there are many out there), but I'm not sure anyone would call them classics. Chappe d'Auteroche, Auguste Guinnard, George Kennan, Matilda Betham-Edwards, Frederick Gustavus Burnaby, etc.
I don't know, Junger is a great journalist. I can't exactly say he wrote a "classic".
Say travel literature, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, perhaps not the most adventurous, but a classic nonetheless.
DanMat, no, not at all, the difficulty with the conversational written word, no inflection. The comment was absolutely sincere. I AM interested in what defines "classic". I work in a library and such definitions or distinctions are useful and above all interesting to me. Does the term require distance (time) to credibly make the distinction?
I think deniro has a few on that list that are the classics of the genre. I occasionally dip but am not conversant enough to make serious judgement.
Regarding the time of composition, I think there's more leeway than with literature. There are areas of the world that have changed remarkably within the last 20 years. Perhaps a work has captured a city, a people, an event that is unique or transient. The Great Railway Bazaar, written in 1975 and could be--or perhaps is--a classic.
But again, maybe there should be some distinction made between travel writing and adventure writing. A travel writer might be better trained in the art of composition but more prone to intellectualize during the physical process. An adventure writer might be more exciting, more willing to take risks or place themselves in situations a person of letters might not.
For travel literature, roughly, from my knowledge:
Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes & An Inland Voyage
The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides
Travels through France and Italy
A tour through the whole island of Great Britain
Pictures from Italy & American Notes for General Circulation
The Persian Expedition (not sure if this really falls under travel or adventure)
Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah (or half a dozen other works by Burton, might be more adventure than travel depending)
Typee (though, there are a lot of fictional constructs and asides)
That's why I tend to favor obscurer accounts. You seem to get an even blend of writer and adventurer. Also, some of the areas are very much off the beaten path and/or no longer exist today.
There are many interesting things compiled in The Principal Navigations Voyages Traffiques & Discoveries of the English Nation which is a collection of accounts made by navigators, sailors, etc.
And The Travels of Sir John Mandeville...da Vinci owned a copy!
To quote one British wit: Adventure is what happens when things go wrong.
On my shelf, adventure would also include escape and survival. Travel narratives, for the sake of travel, generally don't interest me. Obviously, one needs to make room for overlap and loose terminology. But I doubt any of the books listed in 13 would interest me.
Recent books that have caught my attention but which I haven't read include Unbroken and River of Doubt.
Website isn't much, but check out their catalogue, especially Travel - North Africa, and Travel - Various sections. Facsimile reprints of the original books, even if you end up grabbing the book free from google, theres some good ideas for titles here that you may not have heard of. Some definitely qualify as adventure.