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15 Captivating True Adventure Books

A guide to the most-read true adventure books for a thrilling experience

While fiction novels allow our imaginations to transport us anywhere, there’s something extra compelling about getting swept away by another person’s real-life experiences, plunging them into formidable challenges and heart-pounding situations.

From confronting nature’s wildest scenarios to overcoming life-threatening health battles, the brave souls profiled in these gripping true adventure books took unbelievable risks. 

They faced unthinkable circumstances head-on, emerging with harrowing tales that keep readers glued to every thrilling turn of events. 

Strap yourselves in and get ready for an insane rollercoaster ride through some of the most incredible coffee table books and adventure books you’ll ever encounter between two covers.

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Top True Adventure Books

1. In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex 

by Nathaniel Philbrick

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I must tell you guys, In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick is one of the best true adventure books I’ve ever read. 

It tells the harrowing story of the crew of the Essex, a whaleship that was sunk by an angry sperm whale in 1820. 

The crew was left to drift for over 90 days in three small boats, facing starvation, dehydration, and the elements. 

This book is so captivating because it’s based on true events. Philbrick draws from historical documents and Nantucket whaling traditions to vividly depict what the crew endured. 

He tells the story in a way that keeps you turning the pages, wondering what will happen next. 

I was so engrossed in the book that I had to see the Hollywood movie starring Chris Hemsworth, inspired by the true events. 

Overall, In the Heart of the Sea is a must-read for anyone searching for adventure books for adults.

2. Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage

by Alfred Lansing 

- 15 Captivating True Adventure Books

Have you ever read an actual story adventure book that left you on the edge of your seat? The Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing is a great one.

This book recounts the harrowing journey of Ernest Shackleton and his crew of 27 men as they attempted to cross Antarctica on foot. 

While trapped in ice, the crew faced unimaginable obstacles, including crushing their ship between two ice floes and an 850-mile journey over treacherous seas. 

Lansing’s retelling of this incredible true story highlights the heroism and courage displayed by the crew during this fateful trip. 

It’s no wonder why Endurance is a New York Times bestseller and praised as one of the best adventure books ever written by the Wall Street Journal. Trust me, this is a story you will want to experience.

3. Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster

by Jon Krakauer 

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I must say, one of the survival stories books based on true stories out there has gotta be Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. 

I mean, this dude climbed to the summit of friggin’ Mt. Everest but didn’t sleep for over two days and was running low on oxygen. 

That takes some serious guts, man. As he was making his way down, he noticed a ton of other climbers still heading up towards the top. 

The sky started looking pretty sketchy, but he soldiered on. Unfortunately, six climbers didn’t make it back to camp – five died in a brutal storm, and the sixth lost his hand. 

Can you even imagine?! Krakauer was exhausted and had hypoxia, but he returned to camp safely. Honestly, this book is a must-read for anyone who’s into adventure stories.

4. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption

by Laura Hillenbrand

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So I just finished reading this amazing book called Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. It’s one of the best survival books non fiction I have ever read. 

The story follows Louis Zamperini, a former delinquent turned Olympic runner who becomes a bombardier in the Army Air Forces during WWII. 

After his bomber crashes into the Pacific Ocean, he is left fighting for his life on a raft for days. He battles off sharks and starvation with only his resilience to keep him going. But that’s just the beginning of his story. 

When the Japanese rescue him, he faces even more immense brutality as a POW. 

It’s an inspiring and moving tale of the human spirit and how one can overcome adversity and danger with strength of will. You won’t be able to put this books down for sure. 

5. Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea 

by Steven Callahan

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I will always remember the gripping tale of Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea by Steven Callahan. As someone who enjoys actual adventure story books, this account of survival at sea truly stands out. 

Reading it felt like I was right there with Steven, fighting for my survival as he did.

From his harrowing first days adrift on an inflatable raft to his eventual rescue more than a month later, his bravery and sheer determination to live on are inspiring. 

The book is utterly absorbing, and I found myself rooting for Steven every step of the way. If you still need to read Adrift, I highly recommend it as a must-have for any adventure library.

6. Touching the Void: The True Story of One Man’s Miraculous Survival 

by Joe Simpson

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Touching the Void is an adrenaline-filled adventure book based on Joe Simpson’s incredible true story of survival against all odds. 

I was captivated by the tale of how Joe and his friend Simon Yates climbed the treacherous peaks of the Andes, only for Joe to fall off an ice ledge, breaking his leg. 

Simon tried to lower Joe in a blizzard but was forced to cut the rope, thinking that he would be pulled down, too. 

The men thought that one of them had died, but Joe crawled over cliffs and canyons for three days before reaching base camp, just in time to see Simon before he left. 

This story of courage, suffering, and survival showcases the strong bond between two friends who faced incredible adversity. 

I couldn’t put Touching the Void down, and it left me feeling inspired and awed by human resilience.

7. The Worst Journey in the World (1922) 

by Apsley Cherry-Garrard 

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When I first picked up Apsley Cherry-Garrard’s “The Worst Journey in the World,” I had no idea what I was getting myself into. 

As I delved into the pages, I was transported to the harsh Antarctic landscape and experienced every hardship alongside Cherry and his team. 

The authenticity of his first-hand accounts gave me a glimpse into a world of true adventure that I had never experienced before. 

Despite the tragic end to Scott’s expedition, Cherry’s dedication to preserving the details of the journey through his writing is a testament to the strength of the human spirit. 

And thanks to publishers like Penguin Classics, we can access this timeless piece of literature and continue to be inspired by the sheer determination and bravery it depicts.

8. Into the Wild 

by Jon Krakauer 

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As a reader of all outdoor adventure books, I recently delved into Jon Krakauer’s nonfiction adventure book, Into the Wild. 

This captivating story tells the tale of Christopher Johnson McCandless, a young man who decided to embark on a journey to give away his savings to charity and live alone in the Alaskan wilderness. 

After months of living off the land, McCandless was found dead by a hunter—a tragic end to his daring pursuit of a life without possessions or money, inspired by authors such as Jack London and John Muir. 

Krakauer’s book provides a glimpse into McCandless’s motivations and the risks he took by leaving civilization behind for an extreme life in nature. 

Although some may see him as naive, I couldn’t help but admire McCandless’s courage and independence in adversity. 

Into the Wild is a must-read for any fan of nonfiction adventure books looking for a thrilling and thought-provoking tale.

9. Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors 

by Piers Paul Read 

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Reading Piers Paul Read’s Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors might be the ultimate real-life adventure. 

As I delved into the book, I couldn’t help but be captivated by the harrowing story of sixteen rugby players who survived a plane crash in the Andes, only stranded for months in freezing temperatures with little food. 

I was taken aback by these survivors’ sheer resilience and grit, who camped in a damaged fuselage despite their injuries, an avalanche, and dwindling food supplies. 

And, as cannibalism became the only way to stay alive, I couldn’t help but feel the same desperation and hopelessness as these men. 

This book is a testament to the strength of the human spirit and the unwavering determination to survive against all odds. 

10. Dark Summit: The True Story of Everest’s Most Controversial Season

by Nick Heil 

- 15 Captivating True Adventure Books

As someone who loves true life adventure books, the Dark Summit: The True Story of Everest’s Most Controversial Season by Nick Heil was a great read. 

It was like nothing I had ever read before. Heil brings to life the fateful climbing season of 2006 and the tragedies on Mount Everest, including the heartbreaking stories of David Sharp and Lincoln Hall. 

The book explores the commercialization of Everest with the introduction of Russell Brice’s commercial operator company and the effect it had on the climbers attempting to reach the summit. 

Heil does a fantastic job of examining the factors that contributed to the deadly season, and it’s challenging not to feel empowered and informed when reading this book. 

If you’re looking for an engaging and eye-opening adventure, I highly recommend reading Dark Summit.

11. Wild

by Cheryl Strayed 

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Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed is undoubtedly one of the top true adventure books I have ever read. 

Cheryl’s writing’s personal and honest tone drew me in from the first page. As someone who has also experienced loss and hardship, I found myself relating to her journey on the Pacific Crest Trail. 

Reading about how Cheryl took on this challenge and faced her fears head-on, showing incredible courage and determination, was incredibly inspiring. 

With no previous hiking experience, the trail proved no easy feat for her, but her grit and resilience shone through. 

Through her story, I was reminded of the healing power of nature and the transformative nature of adventure. 

Wild is a fantastic memoir. I highly recommend it to anyone seeking an engaging, personal, and true adventure story.

12. The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon 

by David Grann

- 15 Captivating True Adventure Books

One of the best true adventure stories I have come across is The Lost City of Z by David Grann. 

I was taken to the deep and treacherous Amazon jungle as I leafed over its pages, reliving the experiences of British adventurer Percy Fawcett. 

Grann’s retelling of Fawcett’s obsession with finding an ancient civilization known only as “Z” is thrilling. 

Along with his son, Fawcett vanished in the jungle, spurring countless other searches that have led to tragedy and madness. 

But the mystery of “Z” never faded away, and Grann’s discovery of Fawcett’s diaries became his obsession. 

A trove of tantalizing clues led Grann on his journey through the Amazon, piecing together the puzzle of “Z.” 

The Lost City of Z is an epic tale that pulls you in from the first page and never lets go, offering a glimpse into one of the most significant exploration mysteries of the twentieth century.

13. Kon-Tiki 

by Thor Heyerdahl 

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I love reading true-life adventure stories, so I was engrossed in Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki. It’s difficult to imagine someone risking their lives to validate a notion, yet Heyerdahl did just that. 

His hypothesis, based on Polynesian folklore, led him to build a raft using pre-Columbian materials with which he believed ancient South Sea Islands were settled. 

Not only did Heyerdahl build the raft, but he set sail with five others on the Kon-Tiki from Peru in 1947. 

Their 4,300 nautical mile journey lasted three months and was filled with harrowing experiences and excitement at the sight of new lands. 

It was thrilling to read about the ultimate confirmation of his hypothesis when they landed at the Polynesian island of Puka Puka. 

This first-person account of a daring journey is to be noticed.

14. The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea. 

by Sebastian Junger

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When I picked up The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger, I expected to be taken on a wild adventure, but I had no idea how thrilling it would be. 

As I read about the “storm of the century” that battered the East Coast with towering waves over one hundred feet high, I was transported into the heart of the action.

But what drew me was Junger’s exploration of the fishing industry, the science of storms, and the testimonies of the people whose lives were forever changed by the storm. 

The Perfect Storm is not just a book, it’s a real-life thriller that left me feeling like I had been caught up in a force of nature beyond my control. 

It won the American Library Association’s Alex Award for real adventure books. This is a must-read for anyone who wants to go on the ride of a lifetime without ever leaving the comfort of home.

15. Through the Brazilian Wilderness

by Theodore Roosevelt

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If you’re looking for an adventure that will make surviving on a deserted island seem like a walk in the park, then Theodore Roosevelt’s “Through the Brazilian Wilderness” should be at the top of your reading list. This is no ordinary survival story.

After losing his presidential bid, Teddy and his son Kermit took on the mightiest of challenges – charting the course of the dangerous River of Doubt in Brazil.

While the cannibalistic natives and unforgiving rapids were the least of their worries, it was a flesh-eating bacteria that almost took Theodore’s life.

But like true survivors, the Roosevelts pulled through and lived to tell the tale.

Roosevelt’s Through the Brazilian Wilderness is undoubtedly one of the best wilderness survival books that one must read to unlock the untold secrets of the jungle and appreciate the beauty of nature. 

My final thoughts on the best true adventure books

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After diving deep into the world of true adventure books, it is clear why these stories have stood the test of time and continue to capture readers’ hearts. 

From the electrifying thrill of exploring faraway lands to the powerful portrayal of human resilience, these books hold an unmatched allure that leaves us wanting more. 

As I reflect on my own literary journeys through tales of danger and triumph, I am reminded of the endless possibilities that await us in between the pages of a book. 

So, dear readers, I urge you to embark on your adventures through True Adventure Books. 

Let yourself get lost in their enthralling stories and be inspired by the courage and determination of their characters. 

As much as we may crave real-life adventures, there is something magical about experiencing them vicariously through these pages. 

So pick up an actual adventure book, and let it take you on a journey that will stay with you long after you turn the final page.

And while you’re at it, read my guide to the best fiction survival books as well.

FAQ the best true adventure books

What are the best true adventure books of all time?

Some of the best true adventure books of all time are Endurance Expedition by Ernest Shackleton, Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, or Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

What are the best adventure books?

Some of the best adventure books are Heart of Darkness by Jeffrey Tayler, Moby-Dick by Herman Melville or Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

What are the best non fiction adventure books?

Some of the best non fiction adventure books are The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon. by David Grann, The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger, or Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer.