6 Women's Adventure Books To Stir Your Stoke
I learned something depressing today: When you type “women’s adventure books” into the Amazon search box, only one of the books on the first page is actually a true tale of a woman making her way in the outdoors. A shockingly high number of the first-page results were more romance novel than stories of bold ventures into the unknown. The good news, though: We’ve got six hand-picked books right here to help you get inspired for your next trip, or just to enjoy during these long, dark winter nights.
If you’re hungry for more, check out our previous round-up of OR athletes’ favorite women’s adventure books.
Lands of Lost Borders by Kate Harris
You might pick this book up for its plot—a cycling journey the length of the legendary silk road—but, odds are, it will be the writing itself that sticks with you. No dry trip journals here. This book asks the big questions about what adventure actually means in our modern age, and fills in the scenes with exquisite detail. This book only came out in 2018, but I’d wager it will become a classic.
If you search “Gwen Moffat” on Amazon, you’re as likely to come up with her crime novels as her climbing memoir. While I can’t speak to her mystery books, I can fully vouch for Space Beneath My Feet, which spins the yarn of her dirtbag youth—from driving an army truck to modeling for artists to becoming the first female certified mountain guide in Britain in 1953. It’s a rough-and-tumble life and might make you want to kick off your shoes and feel your next climbing pitch with your bare feet.
Welcome To The Goddamn Ice Cube by Blair Braverman
If you’ve ever felt out of place or uncomfortable as a woman among men in the outdoors, Blair Braverman’s quest to become a dogsledder might feel familiar. She gives a witty, tender voice to the feelings and experiences of a young woman who aims to become a “tough girl,” pressing herself into the challenges of Alaska’s wilds and a remote Norwegian village. The complex characters and vivid landscapes she paints will take you on an odyssey, and her course of self discovery will likely have you pumping your fist in solidarity.
Pickets And Dead Men by Bree Loewen
Maybe there’s a theme here. In Bree Loewen’s story about working as a climbing ranger on Mount Rainier, she also fights to prove herself within a system that feels like it’s stacked with bureaucracy and very good at belittling women. If you’ve ever romanticized the life of a ranger, this might help clear up some myths for you. And if you’ve ever dreamed of—or reminisce about—climbing Rainier, this is a behind-the-scenes look of life on the mountain that you won’t forget.
The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd
This book might be small in size—at barely over 100 pages—but it’s deep in quality and thought. The author writes in precise sensual detail about her home range—Scotland’s Cairngorms—and is an inspiration for how, over time one can get to know a wild place intimately. In Shepherd’s case, that intimacy comes from a lifetime of walking—giving up peak bagging for a more thorough experience of wandering. Her book might inspire you to get to know your own backyard a little better.
Rock Queen by Catherine Destivelle
One of the world’s first female sponsored climbers, Catherine Destivelle pushed limits in more ways than one. From sneaking out as a teen to climb at Fontainebleau to putting up gnarly first ascents in the Alps, her story is full of riveting climbs and fascinating personal details. Her account of her 11-day solo quest up a new route on the west face of the Dru will either make you shudder or inspire you to try something hard in the mountains yourself. Probably both. (Copies of this book are more tough to come by—but if you can't find one, or an affordable one to buy, the American Alpine Club Library owns a copy. So if you're a member, you can always reserve it and have it sent to you!)