Best travel and adventure inspiring books, 5 books every traveller should read

Five of the best travel and adventure inspiring books: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, Congo Journey and Into the Heart of Borneo by Redmond O'Hanlon, The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle, and Gorillas in the Mist by Dian Fossey

Books are great! I love books! Books tell stories in ways that movies can't. When watching a movie you can stare mindlessly at the screen. However, when reading a book you have to pay attention and actively imagine it all in your mind. As a result, the story will stick with you better. At least, that's my opinion.

As a traveller and dreamer, I have always been interested in stories. Travel and adventure books are my favourite, as they inspire me to travel! One of the books on this list (Dian Fossey's Gorillas in the Mist) has even led to my choice of education. In addition, when not travelling, books are a great way to still experience some sort of an adventure.

Therefore, I decided to write a post on my favourite travel and adventure inspiring books of this moment. Looking for a new book or thinking about giving someone a great present, check out this list of the five best travel and adventure inspiring books!

Note: Consider the environment, don't participate in our throw-away society and buy either ebooks or second-hand books, or rent a book (60% Off First Month at when using the code: SAS).

Jon Krakauer: Into the Wild (1996)

Of course, Into the Wild has to be part of this list. I was in doubt whether to put this book on the list, as it has been in every travel book list I've seen so far. However, as it's one of the greatest and most inspiring travel books out there, I couldn't leave it out. 

Everybody knows Into the Wild, either from the movie or from the book. If I had to choose, I'd prefer the book over the movie, as the book gives a better insight into the mind of Chris McCandless. Though the movie is great as well! If you have not read or seen Into the Wild yet, shame on you! Go get it as soon as possible!

In an attempt to find himself, Christopher McCandless sets out on a trip that would eventually change his life. He grew up in Suburbia, though he did not really fit in. After graduating, he donated his $25.000 savings to Oxfam, disposed most of his possessing and disappeared. 

In Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer retraced the steps of McCandless, from travelling the Western US, abandoning his car after a flash flood in the Mojave Desert, working at a grain elevator in South Dakota and hitchhiking to the start of his ultimate adventure: Spending a period of months alone in the wilderness of Alaska.

This ultimate adventure did not end well though. Chris' body and belongings (including his diary and camera) were eventually found in an old bus used as a hut in Alaska, where he had died from starvation. The story of McCandless, together with his adventures and thoughts (written down in his diary), became a huge source of inspiration to many travellers. On the other hand, it has also been used as a means to 'scare' people away from this lifestyle (and back into the machine).

Book cover of Into the Wild by Jon KrakauerFurther information about Into the Wild

Writer: Jon Krakauer
Genre: Non-fiction
Adaptations: Into the Wild* (movie), The call of the Wild (documentary)
My personal score: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5 of 5)
Additional reading: Catherine McCandless (McCandless' sister): The Wild Truth*

Redmond O'Hanlon: Congo Journey

Redmond O'Hanlon is by far one of the best travel and adventure writers. His books about his journeys to far and remote places are full of adventure, educative and contain a healthy amount of humor that is often characteristic for someone seeking such remote conditions.

According to Bill Bryson in Outside: (O'Hanlon is) "probably the finest writer of travel books in the English language, and certainly the most daring." Not sure who Bill Bryson is, but I couldn't agree more!

The Congo Journey is the first O'Hanlon book I ever read. I accidentally discovered it stowed away somewhere in a backroom of a second hand store. Since discovering the Congo Journey, I've been checking all second hand stores for O'Hanlon books, and I found five of them so far. Because I did not want this list to become a 'Redmond O'Hanlon book list', I decided to add only two of them, though I would have loved to add them all.

In The Congo Journey, O'Hanlon travels to the Congo on a quest to find Mokélé-Mbembé, the Loch Ness monster of the Congo. He finds himself in the company of a very interesting travel group, consisting of a Congolese naturalist from the government and his two nephews and an American friend of O'Hanlon. 

During his travels through the jungles of the Congo, O'Hanlon describes the fascinating beauty (or horrors to some people) of the places he visits as if you were there yourself. From the spectacular wildlife along the rivers to life in the villages and the mystery of Mokélé-mbembé (which I'm not going to spoiler here). Saving a gorilla baby in the end of the trip brings out O'Hanlon's mother instinct, turning the return trip in a quest to save this little one.

Just to set things straight, O'Hanlon is no cryptozoologist chasing fairytales, but a naturalist with an interest in sorcery, local religions and fetishes.

This book visually describes the fascinating beauty of one of the world's most inhospitable places. I think that even for those that only see horror in such places, this book can be an interesting read that may even open your eyes to the beauty of such unspoiled places.

Book cover of the Congo Journey by Redmond O'HanlonFurther information about Congo Journey

Writer: Redmond O'Hanlon
Genre: Non-fiction
My personal score: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5 of 5)
Additional reading: Redmond O'Hanlon: No mercy, A journey into the Heart of the Congo*

Redmond O'Hanlon: Into the Heart of Borneo

In this second O'Hanlon book on my list, O'Hanlon travels up the Baleh River in Malaysian Borneo to an unmapped area on the border of Malaysia and Indonesia in search of the elusive and near extinct Borneo Rhinoceros. Like always, he gathers an interesting travelling companionship, this time consisting of an English friend and three Borneans who he describes as if you've met them yourself.

Making their way up the river, they encounter many species of wildlife and villages of different cultures, all of which are described into detail by O'Hanlon. From dragging the boat up fast rapids to dancing in the longhouses of the villages that they visit, this book describes all. 

Will they find the Rhinoceros? Again, I'm not going to spoiler anything.

As all of his books, Into the Heart of Borneo is a book full of adventure and humor. Like most people working in such remote conditions, O'Hanlon is able to see the humor in setbacks, which turns hardship into jokes. That's why O'Hanlon books are great!

Book cover of Into the Heart of Borneo by Redmond O'Hanlon Further information about Into the Heart of Borneo

Writer: Redmond O'Hanlon
Genre: Non-fiction
My personal score: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5 of 5)
Additional reading: Redmond O'Hanlon: A river in Borneo. Or get to know O'Hanlon better in Redmond O'Hanlon and Rudi Rotthier: The Fetish Room*.

Arthur Conan Doyle: The Lost World

Arthur Conan Doyle is best known of the stories of Sherlock Holmes. However, he has written quite a few other books as well. One of his other books, from the series of the infamous Professor Challenger, is The Lost World.

In The Lost World, Journalist Ed Malone is desperately trying to break through. An interview with the Professor Challenger, who has reported sightings of dinosaurs on a South American mountain plateau, might bring him the breakthrough he was hoping for. However, things don't go as planned.

In his interview, Challenger invites Malone to join him on a second expedition to South America to attempt to climb the plateau and prove that he was right. Malone accepts skeptically, as this may prove to be a great story about the crazy professor.

In South America, Malone learns that Challenger was not crazy after all. The plateau is indeed home to monstrous creatures that were believed to have gone extinct long ago. In addition, the plateau is home to rivaling tribes of humans and human-like apes waging a war, of which Malone and the expedition become a part. Will they survive their adventure?

Book cover of The Lost World by Arthur Conan DoyleFurther information about The Lost World

Writer: Arthur Conan Doyle
Genre: Maybe it's fiction, maybe it's not. You decide!
Adaptations: The Lost World* (movie), 1960 film starring a young crocodile and a lizard with plastic props as dinosaurs.
My personal score: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5 of 5)
Additional reading: Check out the full 5 part Professor Challenger series* by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Dian Fossey: Gorillas in the Mist

If there has ever been one person who singlehandedly prevented the extinction of an entire species, it's Dian Fossey. By doing so, she became a hero of conservation. 

Dian Fossey was one of Dr. Louis Leakey's angels, three women sent out on expeditions to study the great apes of the world. Jane Goodall was sent to Tanzania to study chimpanzees, Biruté Galdikas to Borneo to study orangutans, and Fossey was sent to study mountain gorillas in the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda.

This book describes her experiences in Rwanda, from her first contact with the gorillas to her observations and her (often controversial) anti-poaching methods. This book provides a great insight into the mind of a very determined woman, and also provides a great insight into the struggles of those trying to protect wildlife.

Fossey eventually payed the ultimate price for her work. In 1985, she was hacked to death with machetes in her cabin high in the Virunga Mountains. However, her legacy lives on in the growing mountain gorilla population of the Virunga Mountains and their National Park, where tourists can now enjoy Gorilla trekking safaris.

Book cover of Gorillas in the Mist by Dian FosseyFurther information about Gorillas in the Mist

Writer: Dian Fossey
Genre: Non-fiction
Adaptations: Gorillas in the Mist* (movie), Secrets in the Mist (3 part National Geographic documentary)
My personal score: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5 of 5)
Additional reading: Jane Goodall: In the shadow of man*, Biruté Galdikas: Reflections of Eden: My years with the Orangutans of Borneo*, or by all three of Dr. Leakey's angels: Goodall, Fossey and Galdikas: Walking with the Great Apes*

Reminder: Consider the environment, don't participate in our throw-away society and buy either ebooks or second-hand books.

Check out my Pinterest board Books | Best travel books for more great travel and adventure books, including great writers as John Muir and Jack London. Are movies more your thing? Check out my Pinterest board Movies | Best travel movies instead. And don't forget to follow me!

Do you have any additional books that have been a great inspiration to your travels, let me know in the comments section below! Feel free to share this post using one of those nice social media buttons below, or pin one of the images below to Pinterest for later re-reading. I appreciate it!

Five of the best travel and adventure inspiring books: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, Congo Journey and Into the Heart of Borneo by Redmond O'Hanlon, The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle, and Gorillas in the Mist by Dian Fossey
Five of the best travel and adventure inspiring books: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, Congo Journey and Into the Heart of Borneo by Redmond O'Hanlon, The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle, and Gorillas in the Mist by Dian Fossey

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