Women love adventure. We may not have our adventures in the same way as men, but so many of us long to break free from the bonds and demands of work, housework, commutes and what people think about us, that to head out into the wild often means the wild of our souls. But of course it's never that easy.
[Quick story: to perfectly illustrate how women's adventures differ from men's, while researching this post, I found an Amazon book list titled, "Best Sellers in Women's Adventure Fiction." YES! But the first book on the list? Lesbian Assassins. Which goes to show you, our ideas about adventures can look very different, depending on your gender.]
If you're looking to add some adventure to your life (and yes, you should, because what are you doing with this one wild and precious life?), of course you need to sign up for one of Outdoor Book Club's trips and/or workshops. But, if while waiting for the trip to start you need a mini adventure in written form, be sure to check out of one the women's adventure books on our list.
So take a look through the titles below (two of them were written more than 80 years ago!) and see if you can't find a book that appeals to you. Though I should mention one caveat about the list: I didn't include Wild by Cheryl Strayed and West With the Night by Beryl Markham simply because they are such obvious picks, the epitome of what represents the best books about women adventuring, that I didn't include them here (besides, I've already talked about them in my post Top books about women and the outdoors).
Becoming Odyssa: Epic Adventures on the Appalachian Trail
by Jennifer Pharr Davis
“I found things in the woods that I didn’t know I was looking for… and now I’ll never be the same.”
(Memoir) After graduating from college, Davis, who doesn't have much experience backpacking, is drawn to the Appalachian Trail, a 2175-mile footpath that stretches from Georgia to Maine. She decides to hike it alone, despite her friends and family's protests, hoping it will give her some clarity about her life's direction. She quickly discovers through hiking is much more physically and emotionally difficult than she had expected: blisters, aching shoulders from the 30-pound pack, sleeping on the hard wooden floors of trail shelters; endless torrents of rain and even a blizzard. But with every step, Davis experiences a transition: from over-confident college grad to a student of the trail. The trail is full of unexpected kindness, generosity and humor. And when tragedy strikes, she learns that she can depend on other people to help her in times of need.
Grandma Gatewood's Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail
by Ben Montgomery
“Her chest full of crisp air and inspiration, her feet atop a forgettable mountain where the stars make you feel insignificant and important all at once. And she sang.”
(Nonfiction) Grandma Gatewood, as the reporters called her, became the first woman to hike the entire Appalachian Trail alone, as well as the first person—man or woman—to walk it twice and three times. Gatewood became a hiking celebrity and appeared on TV and in the pages of Sports Illustrated. The public attention she brought to the little-known footpath was unprecedented. Her vocal criticism of the lousy, difficult stretches led to bolstered maintenance, and very likely saved the trail from extinction.
Author Ben Montgomery was given unprecedented access to Gatewood’s own diaries, trail journals, and correspondence, and interviewed surviving family members and those she met along her hike, all to answer the question so many asked: Why did she do it? The story of Grandma Gatewood will inspire readers of all ages by illustrating the full power of human spirit and determination. Even those who know of Gatewood don’t know the full story—a story of triumph from pain, rebellion from brutality, hope from suffering.
Eye Of The Needle
By Ken Follett
"The trouble with being inspired to perform the impossible was that the inspiration gave you no clues to the practical means.”
(Novel) It is 1944 and weeks before D-Day. The Allies are disguising their invasion plans with a phoney armada of ships and planes. Their plan would be scuppered if an enemy agent found out… and then, Hitler’s prize agent, “The Needle,” does just that. Hunted by MI5, he leads a murderous trail across Britain to a waiting U-Boat. But he hasn’t planned for a storm-battered island, and the remarkable young woman who lives there.
One for the Money (Stephanie Plum #1)
by Janet Evanovich
"I'm telling you, it's fu**ing hard to be classy.”
(Novel) Now the gold-standard in the chick-lit, beach-reading series category, the adventures of bounty hunter Stephanie Plum is an easy, fun read (and now a major movie with Katherine Heigl). Evanovich single-handedly created a runaway train of a phenomenon with the series, and you can bet that her protagonist inspired more than a handful of women to get out of their comfort zones and find more adventure in their lives.
The Valleys of the Assassins: And Other Persian Travels
by Freya Stark
(Memoir) Hailed as a classic upon its first publication in 1934, this book firmly established Freya Stark as one of her generation's most intrepid explorers. It chronicles her travels into Luristan, the mountainous terrain nestled between Iraq and present-day Iran, often with only a single guide and on a shoestring budget.
Stark writes engagingly of the nomadic peoples who inhabit the region's valleys and brings to life the stories of the ancient kingdoms of the Middle East, including that of the Lords of Alamut, a band of hashish-eating terrorists whose stronghold in the Elburz Mountains Stark was the first to document for the Royal Geographical Society. Her account is at once a highly readable travel narrative and a richly drawn, sympathetic portrait of a people told from their own compelling point of view.
What other books can you recommend that feature fearless (or at least courageous), adventurous women? Leave your picks in the comments below.
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Jill Hinton Wolfe