Our Favorite Women's Adventure Books
There's nothing like a good paperback by the campfire. Or, on the couch, for that matter. Because sometimes the stories on those pages spark something real: a desire for adventure, a plane ticket, a long walk someplace wild. We collected this list of great adventure books by or about women from our employees and athletes. It's just a tiny scrape of the surface—but if you're looking for a read that will light a fire under you, we hope you enjoy one (or several) of these!
Alexandra David-Neel's My Journey to Lhasa. A brave and brilliant woman that we should know by her first name, Madame Alexandra David-Neel left a fascinating account of her disguised four-month trek to Lhasa in the early 1920s. She was the first Western woman to ever visit and she endures the trek's hardships with a marked humor and calm. Furthermore, while many have idealized Tibet, David-Neel's account of the people and place feels real, intimate and descriptive of both the beauty and poverty of the region.
The most influential book I’ve read recently is called Reclaimers, written by Ana Maria Spagna. It’s not a typical story of adventure, but I found it absolutely motivating to get out and learn about our wild places, cherish them, and listen to the stories of people who call them home. It also makes very clear that adventure is not just found high up on a rock face or in a deep snowy couloir - the world is full of places to take risks and dive deep into, to be curious and ambitious and wild and bold.
I really enjoyed Steph Davis' book, High Infatuation: A Climber's Guide to Love and Gravity. I read this book aloud with my husband, Ben, inside a lookout at the summit of Hidden Lake Peak. It was one of my more memorable times in the mountains. What I liked so much about it is how easy it was for anyone, including non-climbers, to relate. ... This brought me back to my first climbing experience and how I was immediately obsessed. I climbed, or shall I add I too flailed, for six hours, using up all reserves to the point where I couldn't open my car door with both hands to drive myself home. Steph has a way of describing those early moments in climbing, the sensations so pointedly yet so down-to-earth, that it resurfaces that feeling I once had when I was brand new to the sport. No one starts off an expert. But climbing has a way of filling voids you never knew you had, of taking hold of your life and even in small moments, giving it meaning and purpose.
Miles From Nowhere by Barbara Savage. I read this book in 2010 while on my own bike tour across America, which I think says at least something about how good it is—that I still felt like reading about biking even after I’d ridden a couple thousand miles. Another book that’s great because of both the writing and the scale of the adventure it captures: Savage and her husband’s two-year, round-the-world bike odyssey.
Learning to Fly by Steph Davis. Learning to Fly inspired me to embrace who I am and what I love by challenging me to look inside myself and focus on what gives my life meaning. Steph's journey hasn't always been easy, but she navigates the world with incredible bravery and curiosity by committing to the things that bring her joy, rather than living up to other people's expectations.
The most recent one that I read in anticipation of my Arctic travels this past spring, and really enjoyed, was Jill Fredstone's Rowing to Latitude: Journeys Along the Arctic's Edge. My synopsis: a thoughtfully written and awe inspiring memoir of Jill Fredstone's (a women's pioneer in avalanche research and snow science) incredible rowing journeys along the earth's northernmost shorelines and waterways. A window into wild and remote landscapes, but even beyond that, it paints a deeper connection to the fragile balance we weave with nature and our role in preserving it for future generations to come.
All That Glitters by Margo Talbot—An inspiring book about one woman's journey ice climbing through addiction, and proves that there is more to life past addiction.
Paddling My Own Canoe by Audrey Sutherland was a revelation for me. Sutherland wasn't rich. She was a single mom. She didn't have fancy gear or sponsorship. She didn't even have a partner. She just longed for freedom, discovery and adventure—so she went after it, leaving from her home in Hawaii to paddle and explore remote coastlines. In fact, for one of her early adventures, she didn't even own a kayak or canoe—she actually just snorkeled, towing along a sealed cooler chest with her camping stuff in it. She was brave and creative, and matter of fact. And I admire her greatly for that.
One of my favorite books is The Valley of the Assassins: and other Persian Travels by Freya Stark. I loved this book because Freya Stark was one of the earliest women adventurers traveling to parts of the world that we now (and even then in the 1930's) consider prohibitively dangerous. This book was explores the mountains and valleys of present day Iran and Iraq and the nomadic people who lived there.
The Other Side of the Mountain, by Evans G, Valens. This story is about Jill Kinmont Boothe, who was a champion ski racer who was paralyzed during a fall on an icy slope. I loved this story because it shows how your life can change in an instant. One minute you're a champion racer about to go to the Olympics and the next minute you are paralyzed. The story is so inspiring because it talks about how hard recovery and a major lifestyle change is, but Boothe still managed to have many accomplishments even though they were different than her original goal.
Climbing Free: My life in the Vertical by Lynn Hill with John Long. This is great for female climbers of all abilities. It's fun to read about such an accomplished female climber and how she helped shape the sport.
Women on High: Pioneers of Mountaineering by Rebecca Brown. Women on High is an inspirational collection of stories about badass, mountaineering women in the early days of alpine climbing and the challenges they faced in pursuit of their dreams and goals.
A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains, by Isabella Bird. It was recommended to me by my aunt Heidi, a naturalist, and history and geography teacher. I enjoyed reading this book because it is a tale of a woman's self-driven adventure, written in her own words.