Though many of us grew up on fairytales, few stories can match the harrowing power of the best non fiction adventure books. They excite and charm. They reveal the sources of our myths and legends. And they really happened.
Exploring the adventures of real people can be tragic or hopeful, even if the books are for children. However, no matter how their lives turned out, their tales never fail to thrill. Here are 3 of the best non-fiction adventure books.
Touching the Void by Joe Simpson
Climbing partners Joe Simpson and Simon Yates were no strangers to peril. They had already made several historic mountain climbs when, in 1985, they decided to do the impossible. So, they wanted to scale the unclimbed Western face of the Siula Grande, a mountain in the Peruvian Andes over 6,300 feet tall. Touching the Void is the story of their tragic attempt.
The snowstorms proved to be brutal and caused the first accident. Simpson severely broke his leg and crushed his knee joint, making their climb slow and painful. In a moment of desperation, Yates had to cut their tether and let Simpson fall.
He landed in a crevice and spent three excruciating days scaling down the slope on his crushed knee with no food or water. Delirious, frozen, and near death, he finally reached the bottom. Out of this potential tragedy, Touching the Void is now considered one of the greatest tales of survival in the modern age.
In the Heart of the Sea by Nathanial Philbrick
In the Heart of the Sea is the story of the American whaleship Essex. A sperm whale attacked and sank the ship in the Pacific Ocean in 1820.
This book is the story of their desperate attempt to survive. They tried to sail in whaleboats to South America but suffered from horrific starvation and a lack of water. Most of them died before being rescued, nearly 4 months after their crash.
Herman Melville used their story to write Moby Dick, which added drama to the real story. Nathanial Philbrick wrote In the Heart of the Sea based more on the real account, provided by a teenage cabin boy who survived.
The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann
The Lost City of Z recounts the expedition of the British explorer Percy Fawcett. Fawcett firmly believed that the ruins of an advanced city existed deep in the Amazon. Therefore, discovering such a city would disprove widely-held claims of the day that Native South Americans never culturally developed.
He disappeared in the jungle, along with his son, in 1925. However, we recently found a city in the Amazon called Kuhikugu, which may have been Fawcett’s lost Z. Regardless, his tale of obsession and loss has quickly become legendary. It is a harrowing tale of survival both as a book and as the 2016 film directed by James Gray.
Fiction adventure books take us to exotic lands, but non fiction stories make the real world seem exotic. Sometimes, we find joy there. Other times, cautionary tales await. Either way, these 3 compelling adventures are more than enough to get any explorer started.