Best Adventure Travel Books of 2023

By: Grace Park

Grace Park is Mountain Travel Sobek's Marketing Coordinator. Her recent travels have taken her to Korea, Israel and Cambodia, where she helped teach Cambodian high school students as part of an international mission. Grace enjoys drinking boba & coffee, eating good food, hosting people at her home, playing board games, and trying out new cafes!

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October 17, 2023 | Adventure Experts, Pro Tips

Searching for the top adventure travel books for inspiration? Look no more! Mountain Travel Sobek has compiled our list of the Best Adventure Travel Books of 2023.

We’ve interviewed our seasoned team of travel experts to bring you their personal recommendations. These books have inspired each of us to travel the globe. Collectively, our staff has lived, worked, trekked, rafted, climbed, kayaked, and cycled on every continent for the thrill of adventure travel. Adventure travel is in our DNA, and we can’t wait to share our passion for books with you!

Here are our Staff Picks on Best Adventure Travel Books of 2023!


  1. The Art of Living Dangerously by Richard Bangs
  2. A Fortune Teller Told Me by Tiziano Terzani
  3. In the Shadow of Man by Jane Goodall
  4. The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt by Toby Wilkinson
  5. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  6. Torrents as Yet Unknown by Wickliffe W. Walker
  7. Walk Around the Block by Spike Carlsen
  8. The Emerald Mile by Kevin Fedarko
  9. The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen
  10. Spiritual Places by Sarah Baxter
  11. Becoming Fearless by Brenda E. Smith
  12. Last Days on the Zambezi by Steve Chapple
  13. Undaunted Courage by Stephen E. Ambrose
  14. Costa Rica From Above by Sergio Pucci
  15. Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
  16. In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin
  17. Endurance by Alfred Lansing
  18. Ever Faithful by Karen Barnett

Best Adventure Travel Books for Inspiration

1. The Art of Living Dangerously: True Stories from a Life on the Edge by Richard Bangs (2023)

The art of living dangerously.

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The Art of Living Dangerously presents true stories, both perilous and awe-inspiring, from the full array of adventure travel: trekking, climbing, sailing, diving, adventure cruising, kayaking, back-country skiing, mountaineering, biking, cultural immersions, canyoneering, and more. The author, Richard Bangs, personally led thirty-five first river descents, capsizing on six continents and organized and led the first trips into North Korea, Libya, Yemen, Djibouti, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, New Guinea, Iran, and even China back in 1978. 

This book traces fifty years of adventure travel and how it has evolved through times of war and peace, terrorism, the rise of the internet, the pandemic, and the first virtual expeditions. – Richard Bangs MT Sobek Co-Founder

2. A Fortune Teller Told Me by Tiziano Terzani (2002)

The cover of a fortune teller told me.

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My favorite travel book is A Fortune Teller Told Me which is about a journalist who was told that if he took any flights in the next year he would die so he traveled around Southeast Asia using a bunch of different forms of transportation. It is one of my favs! It was recommended to me by a friend before I embarked on a 6-month overland trip from Singapore to Portugal. – Neil A. MT Sobek Trip Consultant

3. In the Shadow of Man by Jane Goodall (1971)

In the shadow of men by jane goodall.

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I chose In the Shadow of Man because it literally changed my life. Since childhood, I had dreamed of traveling the world. Here in my hands was a real story of a girl just like me, who was curious and liked to climb trees and read books. She worked hard and lived her dream of moving to Africa. So I did the same, studying Wildlife Management in Kenya and then working in safaris and conservation in Tanzania. I haven’t achieved all that Jane has, but she remains a role model, an inspiration, and a voice for the wild animals and wild spaces that need our protection. This book was about the start of her journey and you can read it to see how far she has come in building a world community that cares about not only chimpanzees but the world’s environments as well. – Nicole R. MT Sobek Program Director for Africa

4. The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt by Toby Wilkinson (2010)

The rise and fall of ancient egypt.

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As a huge history nerd, I tend to lean into what some may consider DENSE non-fiction literature as I prepare for travel. I found The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt to be deeply insightful while simultaneously bringing the 3+ millennia of Ancient Egyptian history to life. This volume “is a riveting and revelatory work of wild drama, bold spectacle, unforgettable characters, and sweeping history.” – Kelan S. MT Sobek Adventure Coordinator

Request a free adventure travel catalog from MT Sobek
Request a free adventure travel catalog from MT Sobek!

5. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (1988)

The alchemist book cover.

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This world-renowned tale of self-discovery is a favorite of many in the world over for a reason. I first came across The Alchemist in my teens and it sparked a passion for exploration that never dimmed. Since my first encounter with this amazing little book, I still read it every few years and gift the copy to a friend who may be in search of their “Personal Legend”. – Kelan S. MT Sobek Adventure Coordinator

6. Torrents as Yet Unknown: Daring Whitewater Ventures into the World’s Great River Gorges by Wickliffe W. Walker (2023)

The cover of torrents is unknown.

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Pioneering whitewater explorer Wick Walker examines what lured a generation of incredibly daring pioneers into some of Earth’s most wondrous yet forbidding river canyons: below Victoria Falls on the Zambezi; the Great Bend of the Tsangpo in Tibet; Tiger Leaping Gorge on the Yangtze; the flanks of Mount Everest; and more in Torrents as Yet Unknown.

Loaded with great moments and personal stories, Wick details what these adventurers found there, and within themselves. The extraordinary characters, driven by different motives and visions, but united by their compulsion to seek the unknown and the pulse of free-flowing water, are as remarkable as the daunting geography and conditions they confront.Whitewater sport today stands side-by-side with mountaineering in participation and public attention, yet it has lagged in generating its own literature. Torrents As Yet Unknown will help fill that gap for listeners interested in human drama played out against great natural challenges. – Richard Bangs MT Sobek Co-Founder

7. Walk Around the Block by Spike Carlsen (2021)

A book cover for a walk around the block.

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Engaging as it is endearing, A Walk Around the Block will change the way you see things in your everyday life. Join Carlsen as he strolls through the trash museum of New York City, explores the quirky world of squirrels, pigeons, and roadkill, and shows us how understanding stoplights, bike lanes, and fine art of walking can add years to our lives. In the end, he brings a sense of wonder into your average walk around the block, wherever you are. Guaranteed. – Jen C. MT Sobek Custom Travel Operations

8. The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon by Kevin Fedarko (2014)

The emerald mile book cover.

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A fascinating account of the fastest boat ride ever down the entire length of the Colorado River and through the Grand Canyon. This book is incredibly multi-faceted; not only did it ignite my spirit of adventure, but I also learned so much about the history of the river, dam engineering, and the human psyche. The pioneer protagonists, who did everything in their power to push the envelope, are inspirational. – Tara B. MT Sobek Trip Consultant

9. The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen (1978)

A book cover with a mountain in the background.

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The Snow Leopard is a brutally honest account of an individual’s fear of his own shortcomings as a father during a time of grief. A foray deep into the heart of an “exotic land.” A conservationist’s tale. An adventure story. Brilliantly written by (I think?) the only writer to ever win the National Book Award for both fiction and nonfiction. – Travis W. MT Sobek Program Director for Europe

10. Spiritual Places by Sarah Baxter (2018)

A poster with the words spiritual places on it.

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I found this book, Spiritual Places, at a thrift store and fell in love with the artwork. Maybe a few others might like it, too. 

From the natural splendour of Devils Tower in Wyoming, to the medieval pilgrimage of Camino de Santiago that stretches to Spain, Inspired Traveller’s Guides: Spiritual Places explores locations that will be a balm to the mind and a tonic to the soul.Travel journalist Sarah Baxter has carefully curated a selection of the 25 most spiritual destinations from around the world – places that hold the promise of rare and profound experiences, whether areas of natural beauty imbued with spiritual significance or sites constructed for worship. – Jen C. MT Sobek Custom Trip Operations

11. Becoming Fearless: Finding Courage in the African Wilderness by Brenda E. Smith (2023)

A poster with an image of a river and a boat.

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Dive into this incredible memoir by Sobek alumn Brenda Smith as she takes you deep into her first adventure into the heart of Tanzania’s untamed wilderness 42 years ago. Becoming Fearless is an inspirational true story that showcases what is possible when you step out of your comfort zone into the wild. – Richard Bangs MT Sobek Co-Founder

12. Last Days on the Zambezi: A Remarkable Journey Down Africa’s Wildest River by Steve Chapple (2023)

Last days of zambia by steve chopple.

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Last Days is a survivor’s adventure of the highest order, and at bottom it makes a compelling plea for saving one of the last watery treasures on earth, the Zambezi River. A page-turner. – Richard Bangs MT Sobek Co-Founder

13. Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West by Stephen E. Ambrose (1997)

The cover of undaunted courage by stephen a andrews.

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From the New York Times bestselling author of Band of Brothers and D-Day, Undaunted Courage is on Lewis and Clark’s exploration of the Louisiana Purchase, the most momentous expedition in American history and one of the great adventure stories of all time. – Mindy T. MT Sobek Director of Custom Travel

14. Costa Rica From Above by Sergio Pucci (2014)

Costa rica poster design.

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Hardcover book Color photographs: 300 English and Spanish 100% aerial photographs taken in small airplanes, helicopter, ultra lights, gyrocopters, NO DRONES. Printed in FSC Paper. Dozens of hours in flight produced this collection of moments of wonder. It is a work of extraordinary images that show a diverse country, full of contrasts: a Costa Rica never before depicted. – Jen C. MT Sobek Custom Travel Operations

15. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer (2015)

Braiding strawgrass by robin waller.

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Drawing on her life as an indigenous scientist, and as a woman, Kimmerer shows how other living beings―asters and goldenrod, strawberries and squash, salamanders, algae, and sweetgrass―offer us gifts and lessons, even if we’ve forgotten how to hear their voices. In reflections that range from the creation of Turtle Island to the forces that threaten its flourishing today, she circles toward a central argument: that the awakening of ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgment and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world. For only when we can hear the languages of other beings will we be capable of understanding the generosity of the earth, and learn to give our own gifts in return. – Jen C. MT Sobek Custom Travel Operations

16. In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin (2003)

A book cover with an image of a trailer on it.

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An exhilarating look at a place that still retains the exotic mystery of a far-off, unseen land, Bruce Chatwin’s exquisite account of his journey through Patagonia teems with evocative descriptions, remarkable bits of history, and unforgettable anecdotes. Fueled by an unmistakable lust for life and adventure and a singular gift for storytelling, Chatwin treks through “the uttermost part of the earth”—that stretch of land at the southern tip of South America, where bandits were once made welcome—in search of almost-forgotten legends, the descendants of Welsh immigrants, and the log cabin built by Butch Cassidy. An instant classic upon publication in 1977, In Patagonia is a masterpiece that has cast a long shadow upon the literary world. – Jen C. MT Sobek Custom Travel Operations

17. Endurance by Alfred Lansing (1959)

The cover of endurance with an image of a ship.

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Endurance by Alfred Lansing stands as a remarkable testament to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of unimaginable adversity. This gripping non-fiction account chronicles the ill-fated 1914 expedition led by Sir Ernest Shackleton to cross the Antarctic continent. Lansing’s masterful storytelling weaves together meticulous research and firsthand accounts, painting a vivid picture of the crew’s harrowing journey through treacherous ice and bone-chilling temperatures. What sets “Endurance” apart is Lansing’s ability to convey the raw emotions, camaraderie, and unwavering determination of the crew members as they grapple with seemingly insurmountable challenges. – Heather H. MT Sobek Director of Marketing

18. Ever Faithful: A Vintage National Parks Novel by Karen Barnett (2019)

Karen barrett's faithful.

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Vibrant historic Yellowstone National Park comes to life in this romantic mystery about a man hiding the truth, braving the west to become something more–and the woman who must confront his deception.
Elsie Brookes was proud to grow up as a ranger’s daughter, but she longs for a future of her own. After four years serving as a maid in the park’s hotels, she still hasn’t saved enough money for her college tuition. A second job, teaching a crowd of rowdy men in the CCC camp, might be the answer, but when Elsie discovers Nate’s secret, it puts his job as camp foreman in jeopardy. Tutoring leads to friendship and romance, until a string of suspicious fires casts a dark shadow over their relationship. Can they find answers before all of their dreams go up in smoke? – Jen C. MT Sobek Custom Travel Operations

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MT Sobek takes travelers on thrilling adventures that have you exploring, experiencing nature, and immersing yourself in the local culture, that are perfect for solo travelers, couples, and families! Learn more about our popular trips.

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