Nothing gets me excited about my next outdoor endeavour quite like a great adventure book. Whether I’m curled up on the couch, cozy by the campfire, or relaxing in the bathtub, it’s my favourite way to get inspired. And while the classic Into the Wild, Around the World in Eighty Days, and A Walk in the Woods tales are amazing, they all have one thing in common. They’re written by men. There are so many equally as amazing adventure books written by women that are waiting to be discovered—and girl, let me tell you… there is nothing quite like soaking in the tub with a glass of wine on a Friday night and reading about your fellow adventurous females. That said, I present to you:
My Top 5 Must-Read Adventure Books Written by Women
Pure Land, by Annette McGivney
Once you pick this book up, you will literally never want to put it down. In fact, by the time you’re halfway through, you’ll want to read slower just to prolong this fascinating story. At its very base, Pure Land is a true-crime story about the brutal 2006 murder of solo female hiker, Tomomi Hanamure. Annette McGivney originally covered the story as a journalist for Backpacker magazine and became deeply involved in the life of Tomomi and the troubled life of her killer, Randy Wescogame. After the assignment ended, Annette continued her research, learning everything she could about what led Tomomi to hike the Grand Canyon in the first place and the troubled life events that led Randy to commit such a crime. In the process, Annette uncovers some difficult memories of her own, realizing she can relate to her subjects more than she would have expected. This is a story about our connections to the wilderness and also our unlikely connections with each other. It’s similar to Into the Wild but from a female perspective.
Terra Incognita, by Sara Wheeler
The “Silent Giggle-er”
If nothing else, this book is an amazing travel story. Sara Wheeler is a journalist who spent more than two years preparing for a journey into Antarctica. Here, she spends seven months living in and documenting the region’s science camps. The book is actually quite entertaining—she captures the essence of Arctic life (and the people who choose to live it) with great colour and a sense of humour. She shares the stories of the continent’s first explorers and the hardships they faced, the quirks involved in Arctic living (try flushing a toilet in subzero temps), and even some of the challenges faced as one of the few women in a male-dominated setting.
Wild, by Cheryl Strayed
You knew this one was coming! It is undoubtedly #1 on my favourite adventure books list. Cheryl Strayed tells the story of her unlikely journey towards healing on the Pacific Crest Trail, following the untimely death of her mother. Without any hiking experience whatsoever, Cheryl begins her 94-day march with nothing but a gigantic backpack and blind perseverance. She shares the intimate details of both her struggles and triumphs on the trail—from purchasing the wrong fuel for her camp stove to meeting the trail angels who offered her a shower and a hot meal. To me, this is a story about throwing away your pride, getting to know the voice inside your head, and letting the healing effects of nature take over. It’s also a great story if you’ve even thought about completing a long-term thru-hike. In it, life on the trail is captured beautifully.
Almost Somewhere, by Suzanne Roberts
The “I’ve Been There”
Perhaps I love this one because I can relate to Suzanne’s story. (I’m sure many of you can too!) It’s the classic tale of a recent college graduate unsure of what she wants to do with her life. So, she rounds up two of her very opposite friends and decides to embark on a month-long thru-hike, which turns out to be life-altering! Together, they face the elements, injuries, and emotions on the John Muir Trail. In the end, they each come away with a different perspective. It seriously reinforces how theraputic simply spending time in nature can be. It also celebrates the idea that beautiful things can happen when women begin to rely on no one but themselves.
Paddling My Own Canoe, by Audrey Sutherland
The “Wish I Was There”
As far inspiring adventure books go, this one might take the cake. I feel like I can relate to the author in so many ways. In Paddling My Own Canoe, Audrey Sutherland shares memories of the days she spent swimming and kayaking along the shores of Moloka‘i in the 50s and 60s. She was well-known in the paddling community as an epic long distance paddler and solo traveller. She was also known to care very little fancy gear. Audrey paddled on an inflatable kayak, without a GPS, and was even sighted at times using an air-filled wine bladder as her seat cushion. In this book, she braves the sea on her own in search of simplicity and solitude (something I can appreciate!). It’s a beautiful story of epic endurance and solo female travel—and an important lesson in the beauty of simple joys.
What are some of your favourite adventure books written by women? Share them in the comments below!