Captain Colin’s Top 5 Adventure Novels

Posted by Colin Kern, GD Creative Non-Fiction Reader for 6.2 

I define adventure as the process of putting one’s self into the unknown or unexplored with the intent of discovering something new and interesting before returning back to the safety of normality. In the 18th century tales of adventure were the most discussed topics in novels like Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, and Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Although topics in literate no longer focus so intently on adventurous journeys, these novels hold certain historical properties in the literary world. Contemporary novels have a greater emphasis on the emotional and philosophical than their predecessors, so I have compiled a list of my five most noteworthy contemporary adventure novels that hopefully inspire you to venture off into the unknown as strongly as they have pushed me.

5.) The Road Cormac McCarthy 2006

This fictional story of post-apocalyptical survival features only two developed characters, a man and his son, who are heading south to an undisclosed location. Along the way, they have to conquer several different obstacles of grim shadowy catastrophe that enables the narrator to meditate on what it means to survive and qualities humanity features in the face of an uncertain future. Don’t watch the movie, it can never capture the twisted/gory detailing of McCarthy’s original masterpiece.

4.) Into the Wild Jon Krakauer 1996

This novel, that should be on every adventurer’s bookshelf, is Krakauer’s account on the legend of Christopher McCandless’s journey across American to his ultimate demise in Alaska. Much is still left to be known about adventurous life about McCandless but Krakauer efficiently fills in the gaps with logical reasoning and a strong understanding of his life. This novel has incredible strengths in relating McCandless’s life to Krakauer’s own adventures were he often faced uncertainty and the possibility of death.

3.) A Walk in the Woods Bill Bryson 1997

A walk in the woods features one man who attempts to walk the entirety of the Appalachian Trail in an attempt to reinvent himself in his middle age. After researching the dangers of bear attacks the narrator seeks help from an old friend to complete the journey together. Unfortunately, when he is reunited with his friend (Cats) he learns Cats is horribly out of shape and has delirious ambitions of completing the trail. This novel is an outlier in my list for its effective use of humor that helps accurately describe the relationship between the desire an explorer can have in their quest, versus the reality of their abilities. This book is a beautiful example of how anyone can accomplish something extraordinary with the proper frame of mind and determination to do so.

2.) On the Road Jack Kerouac 1957

This iconic novel by legendary beat author Jack Kerouac is an obvious outlier in my list of top 5 adventure novels due to its age and respectful place in the American canon. These pages helped shape the generation of a rebellious counterculture and inspired many to opt out of the traditional life. On the Road documents, Kerouac’s adventures and manic road trips across the country with other counterculture legends during a time where the American culture was in question. Hopefully, this story of reckless adventures and wonderful experiences inspire you to push the limits of comfort on the road and explore parts of the country you didn’t know existed.

1.)The Beach Alex Garland 1996

The Hollywood depiction of this novel might have been a gigantic stepping stone for Leonardo Dicaprio’s acting career but will never grab the excitement and thrill of the novel. This ranks as the greatest adventure novel to me, out of the sheer possibility that it could happen. This novel follows a young man’s trip on holiday to Thailand to explore the world and himself. Once he finds a secret map to an undisclosed location the adventure begins to a secret hideaway community closed off from the world. This community has promises and rules of its own that seem too good to be true at first. This novel was a crucial part of establishing my personality as an adventurer and pushing myself to always explore the far reaches of the globe because you never know what is out there. No matter how old I get and how many things I see, there will always be a part of me believing that the beach is a real place somewhere out there waiting to be found.

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