Flannel and beards have finally made a comeback, but it seems that good ol’ books are taking a little longer. Everybody’s read Bill Bryson and Jon Krakauer, but somebody somewhere inspired them to take notes and tell stories about the road less traveled.
The Travels of Marco Polo, by Marco Polo
He traveled east from Venice through parts of the world then largely unknown to Europeans, was a guest in the court of Kublai Khan, gained and lost incredible treasures, fought in land and sea battles, then dictated his adventures to a cellmate during his time as a prisoner of war before his release and return to “normal” life.
The Man Who Would Be King, by Rudyard Kipling
Two conmen set out from a newspaper office in India to conquer Kafiristan. Escaping death and claiming armies along the way, they succeed in their endeavor but find that life at the top isn’t easy to maintain.
The Four Voyages, by Christopher Columbus
The Niña, The Pinta, & The Santa María…we’ve all heard about those ships in 1492. What you’ll learn here is the story of a sea captain devoted to spreading his religion, hungry for the wealth of the New World, paranoid and excited, fighting with his officers, and exploring the Caribbean long before Johnny Depp arrived.
Around the World in 80 Days, by Jules Verne
Phileas Fogg and his servant, using whatever means available to a gentleman of the day, set out to circumnavigate the globe in—you guessed it—80 days. Like probably half of the great adventures ever undertaken, this one starts with an outlandish bet and a man bent on proving himself.
On The Road, by Jack Kerouac
Sal Paradise and friends bounce back and forth across the country on a series of road and bus trips punctuated with sex, drugs, jazz, and a case of dysentery. This was the generation before Valley Uprising started and served as a catalyst for several those characters’ lifestyles.
The Odyssey, by Homer
Following the fall of Troy, Odysseus heads home to Ithaca. It takes ten years. Suitors pursue his wife, his son’s guided by Athena to find him, and that’s not even the adventure part. Odysseus and his men were attacked by pirates, blown off-course in a storm, drugged, captured by a Cyclops, and cursed by Poseidon.
Moby Dick, by Herman Melville
Hell-bent on revenge against a white whale who destroyed his ship, severed his leg, and claimed his sanity, Captain Ahab sets sail with Ishmael, the narrator, and a Polynesian harpooner named Queequeg. Their hunt takes them through the seven seas but ultimately claims the lives of the crew.
Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe
Robinson Crusoe was a slave, castaway, and slaver. Surviving multiple shipwrecks, he spends 28 years on “The Island of Despair” fighting cannibals, freeing prisoners, and conning pirates in an effort to return to England where he’s presumed dead.
Tarzan of the Apes, by Edgar Rice Burroughs
The orphaned child of a marooned couple is adopted by an ape. If that’s not enough, he learns to hunt, avenges his ape-mom after she’s killed by a local tribe, and eventually inspires enough jealousy in the alpha-male ape, Kerchak, to cause a battle to the death. Oh, there’s a love story in there, too.
The Rough Riders, by Theodore Roosevelt
Early in the Spanish-American War, a young Teddy Roosevelt left his post as Secretary of the Navy to join the Army as a Lt. Colonel over a mixed group of cowboys, Ivy Leaguers, and outlaws. They trained in the desert and eventually waged war in Cuba.