13 Best Books About Exploration Update 05/2022

Max Jones is the author of The Last Great Quest: Captain Scott’s Antarctic Sacrifice, which talks about the appeal of the Scott story, the desire to explore dangerous places, and what it means to be a hero.

The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard (1922)

To read Cherry-account Garrard’s of Scott’s last Antarctic expedition, click here. The three men barely made it through the first Antarctic winter trip, which saw temperatures as low as -77.5oF (-25.3oC). They died a few months later. Cherry-Garrard wrote a piece of art while he was still mourning the loss of his friends, disillusioned by war, and helped by his neighbor, George Bernard Shaw, who helped him think about the nature of exploration and intellectual curiosity in the modern world.

The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe (1980)

The Right Stuff is a great movie that shows how the first American astronauts thought and how the country admired them at the height of the Cold War. Wolfe is very good at describing the social world of astronauts and their wives in his book. When he wrote about disasters and near-misses, he used a lot of exclamation points. One reader thought that was a bad idea.

The Condition of the Working Class in England by Friedrich Engels (1845)

From Henry Mayhew to Charles Booth to George Orwell, the social explorers of modern city life deserve to be on any list of exploration stories. But Engels’ criticism of working-class living conditions comes out on top, because he used graphic descriptions of the new industrial city as the foundation for a new intellectual critique that was very different from other critics.

Scott’s Last Expedition Vol I: The Journals of Captain RF Scott (1913)

Captain Scott’s last journals are the best example of a type of expedition narrative in which the journey to a new place turns into a journey into one’s own self. Scott scrawled a message to the public in the back of his journal as he neared death in March 1912. It’s a great example of the heroic fantasies of his time, which would come to a head in the trenches of the Western Front.

The Travels of Sir John Mandeville

The Travels of Sir John Mandeville was used by Columbus and is the only travel book known to have been owned by Leonardo da Vinci. In the 1360s, the book first started being sold in Europe. This book is a great example of medieval travel writing. It takes the reader on a fantastic journey through a world full of amazing creatures, like giant griffons, self-sacrificing fish, and men without heads who have eyes in their shoulders.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion (1968)

A collection of essays by one of America’s best writers about California in the 1960s. They cover everything from murder trials to John Wayne movies. There aren’t many cultural commentators who can write in such beautiful language as Joan Didion.

South: the Story of Shackleton’s Last Expedition, 1914-1917 by Ernest Shackleton (1919)

Shackleton may not have written as well as Scott, but his story of survival after his ship Endurance was destroyed in the Antarctic is still the most exciting adventure story in history. I won’t tell anyone who doesn’t know the story how it ends. That they still had to do that to get to safety, even after they had done that and that, always makes me sad.

The Last Journals of David Livingstone in Central Africa from 1865 to His Death, edited by Horace Waller (1874)

It was 1856 when Livingstone wrote his first book, Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa. It sold 70,000 copies and caused a stir. In the 1860s, he lost a lot of popularity because of his failed trip up the River Zambesi. He did a good job editing Livingstone’s last journals, which helped to restore the hero’s reputation.

Terra Incognita by Sara Wheeler (1998)

Many people have thought about modern life in Antarctica, but Sarah Wheeler’s Terra Incognita is my favorite book about the subject. Wheeler skillfully weaves together stories about the bravery of the polar pioneers with her own memories of going to Antarctica in the 1990s.

The Explorations of Captain James Cook in the Pacific: As Told by Selections of His Own Journals 1768-1779

Between 1768 and 1779, Captain Cook wrote a detailed account of his voyages in the Pacific. This is an example of how the Enlightenment thought about things. As a stark contrast to what Captain Scott wrote in his journal, this book focuses more on the people and environment of the Pacific than on Scott himself.

Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose.

Legendary American heroes Lewis and Clark were also ordinary men who had a big job to do for the country. This book is great because it shows their journey as close to the truth as possible. It’s a way for Ambrose to set the stage for how our country looked geographically, politically, and socially over 200 years ago. It comes from both Native American and “new” American perspectives.

River of Doubt by Candice Millard

In a tributary of the Amazon River, Teddy Roosevelt met a friend who was just as big and natural as he was. Even in his later years, Roosevelt always went on expeditions and hunts. He was one of those people who could never be tied down. There were three deaths, Roosevelt’s son became sick, and Teddy himself thought about taking his own life on this trip, which led to the death of three people. In spite of the fact that things went very wrong, Roosevelt led an entire expedition party out of danger and back to civilization. This is how it worked:

The Last Expedition by Charles Pearson

A man named Henry Morton was killed in a car accident Stanley, the man who found Dr. Livingston in Africa, is on a new mission to “rescue” an imprisoned Sudanese governor named Emin Pasha, and he’s going again. Stanley, on the other hand, had other reasons for going into the heart of the Congo. He wanted to expand his territory. His story shows again that there is a very fine line between hero and villain, how politics can be used to get what you want, and how ignorance and pride can be dangerous.

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