A few months ago, I came across a list of outdoor/adventure books and acquired six of those that I still wanted to read.*
I am writing brief reviews of two to give you a feel for their variety and encourage you to do more reading and less doom-scrolling in your social media feeds. Most books can be downloaded in the open source .epub format that is useable by various reading apps (I use Apple Books).
Eric Newby’s A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush (1956) recounts his “walk” with an exuberant, slightly mad friend to Nuristan, a remote part of Afghanistan. Most of their journey involves pain, confusion and surprises. Only a few chapters actually deal with their attempt to climb a tall peak. To me, the book reminds me the rarity and difficulty of recreational travel — an idea that arose when the British combined colonialism, romance and oddity. I am pretty sure that it is still difficult to get to Nuristan, but their overland journey in a wreck of a car from England to Afghanistan shows how much safer, cheaper and easier it is to travel these days (Covid permitting). Recommended to anyone with a passion for hiking, dry wit, and polluted water sources (4 stars).
Joshua Slocum’s Sailing Alone Around the World (1900) tells how he sailed his 11.2m (36 foot) wooden boat, the Spray, from Boston to Gibralter to Brazil to the Cape Horn (where he was trapped by storms for 40 days), to Australia (sailing 73 days without hitting land), and then around the Cape of Good Hope back to the US. The book is deservedly famous among sailors for his solo voyage (made possible by the Spray’s extremely stable cruising configuration, which allowed him to read or rest while the boat “sailed itself”), as well as his “first” of solo circumnavigation. Slocum’s fluid writing about sailing as well as his ports of call gives readers a number of interesting insights. (I personally am not going to be making that trip anytime soon!) Slocum and the Spray, by the way, disappeared at sea in 1909. Like many old school sailors, he had never learned to swim, and I am pretty sure he saw no tragedy in going down with his ship. Recommended to anyone who has thought of sailing into the deeps (5 stars).
* Try Project Guttenberg, Open Library or — for those still under copyright — Library Genesis, but be careful about what you download from LG.