If you’re looking for a book to accompany you on your outdoor adventures into the wilderness this summer, here’s some of the best in fiction and non-fiction adventure reading that’s about people surviving and conquering the wilderness and the great outdoors.
This list of the Best Outdoor Adventure & Wilderness Survival Books is divided up into fiction and non-fiction books.
I think the first book I ever discovered in this genre was John Krakauer’s Into the Wild. My childhood best friend, Iris, was assigned to read the book for school or something. I picked it up off her desk to see what it was about, was totally captivated by the story and ended up reading the whole thing. Fun fact: the graduation scene from the movie version of it was filmed at my college graduation ceremony!
Anyway, hopefully something on this list will inspire and enthrall you. Just remember to stay safe out there, and happy reading!
Have you read any of these titles, or is there something you were expecting to see here that’s missing? Feel free to drop a comment below!
Fiction Outdoor Adventure Books
What It's About: The story of two college friends on a wilderness canoe trip—of a friendship tested by fire, white water, and violence
Wynn and Jack have been best friends since freshman orientation, bonded by their shared love of mountains, books, and fishing. Wynn is a gentle giant, a Vermont kid never happier than when his feet are in the water...See the Full Summary and Review of The River Publication Date: March 5, 2019
What It's About: The Call of the Wild—Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of all time
To this day Jack London is the most widely read American writer in the world," E. L. Doctorow wrote in The New York Times Book Review. Generally considered to be London's greatest achievement, The Call of the Wild brought him international acclaim when it was published in 1903...Publication Date: September 14, 1998
What It's About: Migrations is about a woman who goes to the ends of the earth in search of herself and to track what just might be the last migration of Arctic terns, birds that travel from pole to pole every year.
It’s also about love, adventure, climate change, and what happens when a person simultaneously runs away from her past and runs straight towards it. Migrations gets richer with every scene as you learn more about Franny Stone—why she boards a boat full of fishermen, why birds call to her, how she fell in love with her husband, and how death stalks her at every turn.
From Antarctica to a prison in Ireland, Australia to Galway, Franny traverses the world and with every turn of the page, you learn more about why she’s always on the move. The novel’s pacing is phenomenal—and the candor, veracity, and clarity with which it’s written make it feel like a memoir.Publication Date: August 4, 2020
What It's About: The uplifting true tale of the couple who lost everything and embarked on a journey of salvation across the windswept South West coastline.
With nothing left and little time, they make the brave and impulsive decision to walk the 630 miles of the sea-swept South West Coast Path, from Somerset to Dorset, via Devon and Cornwall. Carrying only the essentials for survival on their backs, they live wild in the ancient, weathered landscape of cliffs, sea and sky.
Yet through every step, every encounter and every test along the way, their walk becomes a remarkable journey. The Salt Path is an honest and life-affirming true story of coming to terms with grief and the healing power of the natural world. Ultimately, it is a portrayal of home, and how it can be lost, rebuilt and rediscovered in the most unexpected ways.Publication Date: March 22, 2018
What It's About: A young Swedish boy finds himself penniless and alone in California. He travels east in search of his brother, moving on foot against the great push to the west. Driven back over and over again on his journey through vast expanses, Håkan meets naturalists, criminals, religious fanatics, Indians, and lawmen, and his exploits turn him into a legend...Publication Date: October 3, 2017
What It's About: When two hardscrabble young boys think they’ve committed a crime, they flee into the Northwoods of Wisconsin. Will the adults trying to find and protect them reach them before it’s too late?
It’s the summer of 1994 in Claypot, Wisconsin, and the lives of ten-year-old Fischer “Fish” Branson and Dale “Bread” Breadwin are shaped by the two fathers they don’t talk about...Publication Date: March 23, 2021
What It's About: A high-stakes drama set against the harsh beauty of the Maine wilderness, charting the journey of four friends as they fight to survive the aftermath of a white water rafting accident, The River at Night is a nonstop and unforgettable thriller.Publication Date: January 10, 2017
What It's About: When five colleagues are forced to go on a corporate retreat in the wilderness, they reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking down the muddy path.
But one of the women doesn’t come out of the woods. And each of her companions tells a slightly different story about what happened...Publication Date: September 26, 2017
What It's About: In this epic and haunting love story set on the Oregon Trail, a family and their unlikely protector find their way through peril, uncertainty, and loss. The Overland Trail, 1853: Naomi May never expected to be widowed at twenty. Eager to leave her grief behind, she sets off with her family for a life out West...Publication Date: April 28, 2020
What It's About: Life of Pi is a fantasy adventure novel by Yann Martel published in 2001. The protagonist, Piscine Molitor "Pi" Patel, a Tamil boy from Pondicherry, explores issues of spirituality and practicality from an early age. He survives 227 days after a shipwreck while stranded on a boat in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.Publication Date: September 11, 2001
What It's About: Here is the kind of authentically detailed epic novel that has become Louis L’Amour’s hallmark. It is the compelling story of U.S. Air Force Major Joe Mack, a man born out of time. When his experimental aircraft is forced down in Russia and he escapes a Soviet prison camp, he must call upon the ancient skills of his Indian forebears to survive the vast Siberian wilderness...Publication Date: June 1, 1986
Non-Fiction Outdoor Adventure Books
What It's About: Librarian's Note: An alternate cover edition can be found here
In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself...Publication Date: September 21, 2009
What It's About: At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State — and she would do it alone...Publication Date: March 20, 2012
What It's About: A bank of clouds was assembling on the not-so-distant horizon, but journalist-mountaineer Jon Krakauer, standing on the summit of Mt. Everest, saw nothing that "suggested that a murderous storm was bearing down." He was wrong. The storm, which claimed five lives and left countless more--including Krakauer's--in guilt-ridden disarray, would also provide the impetus for Into Thin Air, Krakauer's epic account of the May 1996 disaster.Publication Date: May 1, 1997
What It's About: The Appalachian Trail stretches from Georgia to Maine and covers some of the most breathtaking terrain in America—majestic mountains, silent forests, sparking lakes. If you’re going to take a hike, it’s probably the place to go. And Bill Bryson is surely the most entertaining guide you’ll find...Publication Date: May 5, 1998
What It's About: Many people dream of escaping modern life, but most will never act on it. This is the remarkable true story of a man who lived alone in the woods of Maine for 27 years, making this dream a reality--not out of anger at the world, but simply because he preferred to live on his own. In 1986, a shy and intelligent twenty-year-old named Christopher Knight left his home in Massachusetts, drove to Maine, and disappeared into the forest...Publication Date: March 7, 2017
What It's About: After graduating from college, Jennifer isn’t sure what she wants to do with her life. Through inexperienced and unprepared, she feels drawn to the Appalachian Trail and sets out along on the long-distance footpath that stretches 2, 175 miles from Georgia to Maine.
The next five months are the most physically and emotionally challenging of her life—coping with blisters and aching shoulders, hiking through endless torrents of rain and a blizzard, facing unwanted company and encountering tragedy...Publication Date: March 16, 2020
What It's About: Including two new chapters on Alex Honnold’s free solo ascent of the iconic 3,000-foot El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.
On June 3rd, 2017, Alex Honnold became the first person to free solo Yosemite's El Capitan—to scale the wall without rope, a partner, or any protective gear—completing what was described as "the greatest feat of pure rock climbing in the history of the sport" (National Geographic) and "one of the great athletic feats of any kind, ever" (New York Times)...Publication Date: November 5, 2015
What It's About: The harrowing true survival story of an early polar expedition that went terribly awry--with the ship frozen in ice and the crew trapped inside for the entire sunless, Antarctic winter--in the tradition of David Grann, Nathaniel Philbrick, and Hampton Sides
“Deserves a place beside Alfred Lansing’s immortal classic Endurance...Publication Date: May 4, 2021
What It's About: A six-hundred-mile canoe trip in the Canadian wilderness is a seventeen-year-old’s dream adventure, but after he is mauled by a grizzly bear, it’s all about staying alive.This true-life wilderness survival epic recounts seventeen-year-old Alex Messenger’s near-lethal encounter with a grizzly bear during a canoe trip in the Canadian tundra...Publication Date: November 12, 2019
What It's About: An immersive account of a tragedy at sea whose repercussions haunt its survivors to this day, lauded by New York Times bestselling author Ron Suskind as “an honest and touching book, and a hell of a story.”
In March of 1984, the commercial fishing boat Wind Blown left Montauk Harbor on what should have been a routine offshore voyage...Publication Date: May 25, 2021
What It's About: "With its huge, scarred head halfway out of the water and its tail beating the ocean into a white-water wake more than forty feet across, the whale approached the ship at twice its original speed - at least six knots. With a tremendous cracking and splintering of oak, it struck the ship just beneath the anchor secured at the cat-head on the port bow...Publication Date: May 8, 2000
What It's About: In the first hours there was nothing, no fear or sadness, just a black and perfect silence.
Nando Parrado was unconscious for three days before he woke to discover that the plane carrying his rugby team, as well as their family members and supporters, to an exhibition game in Chile had crashed somewhere deep in the Andes...Publication Date: May 9, 2006