Hot on the heels of my post earlier this week about 5 of my favourite outdoor adventure books by female authors, it’s time to talk about some of my favourite books by male authors.
1. The Totem Pole by Paul Pritchard
When he won the Boardman Tasker Award for Mountain Literature in 1997, Paul Pritchard embarked on a world climbing tour with the prize money. Ironically, that trip changed his life when he was in a climbing accident on the Totem Pole (a sea stack in Tasmania).
The head injuries he sustained when he was hit by a falling boulder were horrific and the hospital thought he may never walk or speak again. This book talks about his recovery from the accident, the challenges he faced and the subsequent changing relationships with family and friends.
I found the book a raw and honest story of challenge and recovery – it was published in 1999 and has stuck in my mind through the years.
Incredibly, in April 2016 (18 years after his accident), Paul Pritchard returned to The Totem Pole and climbed to the top. UK Climbing has a great interview here about this if you’re interested in finding out more.
2. No Mean Feat by Mark Inglis
In 1982, Mark Inglis was trapped for 13 days near the summit of Mount Cook, New Zealand. When he was finally rescued and airlifted to hospital, his frostbite was so bad that the Doctors had to amputate both his legs below the knee.
Written in 2002, “No Mean Feat” talks about the accident and then covers the ensuing 30 years – from recovery, through to winning a silver medal when cycling in the 2000 Sydney Paralympics and finally to being on the summit of Mount Cook again.
One of the abiding memories I have of this book is reading about his experience of flying since having his legs amputated where he talked about no longer needing to worry about leg room between seats as he just took off his prosthetic legs and tucked them away.
3. Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard
Yvon Chouinard founded Patagonia, Inc. an outdoor clothing and gear company with a reputation for quality, innovation and environmental responsiblity.
This book covers both Yvon Chouinard’s and Patagonia’s story, covering the core principles which have taken them through the years.
I found it a fascinating insight into how a business can be successful in today’s global economy but still stay true to the core values and principals on which it was founded – and I loved the idea that when the waves, wind and tide are right, the Patagonia employees go surfing….or when there’s perfect powder snow, they go skiing….and then work gets done when they’ve had their fun.
That always struck me as a sensible way to live life!
4. Touching My Father’s Soul by Jamling Tenzing Norgay & Broughton Coburn
Jamling Tenzing Norgay is the son of Tenzing Norgay (who, with Sir Edmund Hillary, was the first man to reach the summit of Everest).
He’s a Sherpa himself and in “Touching My Father’s Soul” he interweaves the story of his own Everest ascent during the 1996 season (infamous for being wrapped in tragedy) with that of his father’s own ascent of the mountain.
I loved this book, reading about Sherpa traditions, the obsession behind a summit of Everest and the history and relationship between father and son.
5. Ultra Marathon Man by Dean Karnazes
Despite finding running tough work (2 miles is plenty), I was fascinated to read “Ultra Marathon Man”. In the opening chapter, he talks about going running after a working day and having dinner on the roadside with his family before continuing through the night (ordering pizza to be delivered somewhere along the road to refuel while running).
In the next chapter, Dean Karnazes goes back in history and starts talking about the years leading up to that event. I loved reading about how he built up the distance, the pain and recovery, and how it all fit into day to day life.
I was even more fascinated to read about how much pizza he could eat while running!
Even if you’re not a runner, this is a book which can motivate you to push past your own limits – and it’s a great read.
Bonus: Survival of the Fittest by Mike Stroud
I’ve added in “Survival of the Fittest” because it’s not about outdoor adventures – but it’s one which can help you to understand just what the human body can endure and maybe inspire you to plan some adventures.
Mike Stroud is a Doctor and worked with Sir Ranulph Fiennes on his polar exploration. In this book, he analyses human feats of survival and athletic endeavour to explain how we can function at our best and also give tips on staying fit for life.
The book covers human physiology and the effects of diet and lifestyle on our bodies, but I found it was written in a way that was easy to understand and enjoyable to read. Best of all, it made me realise that it is possible to continue sporting and athletic challenges into later life – like the story of an ultra running 72 year old who first took up distance running in her 50’s.
There’s hope for us all!