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And something I love more than all of those separately is any combination of them. Think a woman walking to the North Pole alone, woman-accomplished firsts like summiting mountains or circumnavigating the globe, even journeys to far-flung places alone.
I’m surprised I didn’t write this post earlier because it’s something I’ve loved reading about but here we are. I think I’ll do a general post like this that includes accomplishments by men, too, but I wanted to highlight the amazing women in the world first.
I’ve hard a hard time trying to find the right title or description for what this genre would be but I’ve figured books about amazing woman adventurers, outdoor adventure books by women, and womens adventure books are the best choices.
I’ve read some of these and want to read everything on this list that I haven’t yet, is anyone really surprised? I hope you can find at least one womens adventure book here to read and would to hear what you choose or any others I may have missed that you love!
- If you want to listen to some of these, consider trying Audible! You can get your first month free (one free book) plus tons of others they have for free. Get that Audible deal here.
- If you’re on more of a budget, try Scribd! You can get your first month free there. You can read books and listen to audiobooks. It is unlimited (especially the reading) but if you listen to tons of new audiobooks you may be restricted after a few. I don’t listen to enough to confirm this, but I do use Scribd myself and like it a lot. Sign up for Scribd here!
- Shop my collection of bookish goodies on Etsy! These aren’t my shop items, but other shops I’ve curated into a book-themed collection. Shop my Etsy bookish goodies here!
- If you want to read more on your Kindle but don’t want to buy books, Kindle Unlimited is a wonderful option. It’s $9.99 a month but if you read a lot and like to read more than just new releases, it could be worth it. Get Kindle Unlimited here!
- Get $5 off of $25 from BookOutlet! This is a great place to find new books for pretty cheap. They also have sales quite a bit, so keep an eye out for those. I tend to check here for books I want if they’re more expensive other places. They don’t have everything but they do have a lot. Shop BookOutlet here!
- Thrift Books has become my go-to when I’m looking for a book and want it cheap. It’s great if you like buying used books. With this you can get a free book after spending $30!
- Shop my book lists here! You can find every book list I have on Bookshop.org (except my monthly round-ups) and I add everything I can but they occasionally won’t have some. I do occasionally add extras though. If any lists are empty, they’ll be filled in shortly! Shop my bookshop.org book lists here.
- Shopping internationally? Check out Book Depository!
This is the story of Alycin who followed her dreams and hitchhiked alone from Canada to Colombia, through Mexico and Central America, in the 1970s. Once she made it to Colombia, she bought an old dugout canoe thinking she could paddle the Amazon River to Brazil.
The Amazon Rainforest isn’t the paradise she imagines, especially with little food and no map. Along the way she faces life-threatening obstacles, mystical adventures, and even falls in love.
Sharon was ready to give up as she was engulfed by swirling snow. She was facing the 400-foot high Hornbein Couloir on Mount Everest thinking it was impossible when Dwayne, her climbing partner, handed her the rope and said “your lead.”
Hours later on May 20, 1986, at 9PM, she became the first North American to reach the summit of Mount Everest and the first woman ever to do it via the difficult West Ridge on a new variation and without Sherpa assistance. It’s a feat that has never been repeated.
Kara struggled with every step but was determined to summit Mount Kilimanjaro. Along with her gear, she carried the 300 pounds of her own body, her food addiction, and her lifetime of reckoning with feelings of failure and shame when she realized the only way out was up.
Junko Tabei is the first woman to climb Mount Everest and the seven summits, the highest summit on each continent, and this is a collection of stories from her life that are important to mountaineering culture.
It chronicles her childhood with little promise of athleticism, the disastrous first all-women’s Everest expedition, the early days of women on Everest, a cancer diagnosis, the Fukushima earthquake and tsunami in 2011, and more. This sounds like a really incredible woman’s adventure book.
Between studying at Oxford and MIT, Kate Harris and her friend Mel set off to experience the Silk Road by bicycle. This is a reflective, wry, and rapturous travel account that explores the nature of limits, weaving adventure, philosophy, science, and exploration.
Kira followed the 1927 route of Ivan Champion, a British Explorer, through Papua New Guinea on foot and by dugout canoe. She stays in villages that still practice cannibalism, met leaders of OPM, the separatist guerrilla movement, and took an epic trek through the jungle.
Amazon Woman: Facing Fears, Chasing Dreams, and a Quest to Kayak the World’s Largest River from Source to Sea
On her 35th birthday, Darcy set off on a 148-day journey kayaking the entire length of the Amazon River with her boyfriend of twelve years and a mutual kayaking friend/colleague. The emotional waters encountered on the trip were often more difficult to navigate than the class five rapids on the river itself.
Along the way they encounter 25 days of whitewater rapids, illegal loggers, narco-traffickers, Shining Path rebels, ruthless poachers, and surprisingly friendly locals before reaching the triumphant end becoming the first woman to paddle the length of the entire Amazon.
Robyn Davidson sets out to cross 1,700 miles of Australian Outback with just her dog and four camels. Not only does she fend off the wildlife, but also lecherous men.
She learns to care for her camels when they are skittish or injured. She comes out of the trek a courageous woman driven by a love of the Australian landscape, indigenous people, and a willingness to cast away her old self.
Helen Thayer will be opening and closing this list. Polar Dream is about her incredible journey in 1988, at the age of 50, when she was the first woman ever to travel to the magnetic north Pole on foot. She traveled with her husky Charlie to one of the most remote and dangerous regions of the world.
This is the story of their trek together facing polar bears, unreal temperatures, and a storm that destroyed almost all of their food and supplies.
I read Walking the Gobi also by Helen Thayer, and I loved it so I can’t wait to read this one.
I think everyone knows Wild, but its on the list anyway. After her mother’s death and a divorce, Cheryl set out to hike the Pacific Crest Trail alone with no training or experience. Follow along on her journey of walking with strangers and without boots.
Emma Gatewood left her Ohio hometown with a change of clothes and less than $200 and said “I’m going for a walk!”
The next anyone heard from her she had walked 800 miles on the Appalachian Trail. Then, in September 1955 after facing a rattlesnake strike, two hurricanes, and a face-off with gangsters from Harlem, she stood at the top of Mount Katahdin in Maine and proclaimed “I said I’ll do it, and I’ve done it.”
She made headlines as Grandma Gatewood, as the first woman to hike the AT alone, as the first person, man or woman, to walk it twice and three times.
Her TV appearances and time in the pages of Sports Illustrated bringing attention to the little-known footpath was unprecedented.
She vocally criticized lousy and difficult stretches that led to trail maintenance and likely saved the trail from extinction.
Carrot Quinn is weary of a life of screens and disconnect and in a desperate move, she decides to ditch the city for a walk on the PCT.
She faces physical and emotional pain but meets an eclectic group of people she never would have met in the “regular” world and grows closer with them as they all work toward the same goal: making it to Canada before the snow. This is a must-read book for walkers and hikers.
By 18, Blair left home in California, moved to Norway to learn to drive sled dogs, and worked as an Alaskan glacier tour guide. She was often terrified of losing control of her dog team, getting lost on the tundra, or being attacked by a polar bear, but most of all, she worried she wasn’t cut out for frontier life. The only thing that was clear is that she is hooked on the North. This is her story of self-reliance in extraordinary circumstances.
This is one of the ones I have and can’t wait to read. Maybe it will be my next one, actually!
Jill is a small-town Alaskan newspaper editor with a lofty goal: to compete in the 2,740-mile mountain bike race from Canada to Mexico along the rugged spine of the Rocky Mountains.
As she prepares for her journey, her fear becomes her fuel. A winter race in Alaska leaves her seriously frosbitten while her career is also on thin ice and her long-term relationship starts to crumble. She questions if the race still matters but senses the challenge carries deeper meaning.
Caroline Van Hemert, an ornithologist in graduate school, was conducting experiments on misshapen chickadee beaks when she started to feel stifled by the lab.
She began to worry that she was losing her passion for scientific research when she decided to get back outside and follow the trails of animals.
While this isn’t all by foot, the 4,000-mile journey with her husband from the Pacific Rainforest to the Alaskan Arctic is all human-powered.
They survived harrowing experiences and moments full of joy and grace. This is a great blend of science, adventure, and personal narrative.
This is another one I have and can’t wait to read!
Arlene Blum tells us the story of thirteen American women who left San Francisco in August 1978 to the be the first Americans and the first women to summit Annapurna, the tenth highest peak in the world.
On October 15th, two women and two Sherpas stood on the summit but just two days later, two women on the second summit team fell to their deaths. This is the story of their challenges and triumphs on the mountain.
Jill and her husband have traveled more than twenty thousand miles (!) in the Arctic and sub-Arctic waters. They carry all they need to be self-sufficient and, together, have battled treacherous waters, grizzly and polar bears, hurricane-force winds, and dragged their boats across the ice. But it wasn’t all bad. They were serenaded by humpback whales, admired by puffins, and enjoyed moments of calm. This is a celebration of their experiences in the northern waters.
I love reading about the Arctic (it’s one of the top places I want to visit) so I would love to read this one.
In the spring of 2018, Susan’s world became her 18-foot sea kayak and the Inside Passage of Alaska. The 1,200-mile journey took her deep into herself and deep into Alaska where she grapples with fear and exhaustion while also forging friendships.
I have no desire to kayak long distances (though I do enjoy a casual paddle) this makes me think I should do it. But I know I won’t. I’ll stick to reading all these great outdoor adventure books by women.
Felicity was the first woman and only the third person ever to ski across the entire continent of Antarctica on her own.
She did the whole thing without the help of parasails or kites, unlike her two predecessors.
She had to face the possibility of hypothermia and unseen cracks in the ice below, along with emotional vulnerability thanks to hallucinations caused by the vast sea of white and lack of stimulation to her senses.
This is an inspiring tale of Felicity battling loneliness and her own vulnerabilities as a human. This women’s adventure book sounds so good!
This is the story of one girl, one bike, and 1,000 beers in Africa as she dares to follow her dream by cycling from England to Cape Town. Along the way she crossed the Sahara, the tropics of West Africa, paddled down the Niger River, hitchhiked to Timbuktu, and traversed the Congo.
I watched Long Way Down years ago and this sounds like an even better read in this women’s adventure book.
I don’t care about running at all but I do love New Zealand and impressive physical feats and this covers both of those. I got this one and can’t wait to read it!
Anna was never like the real runners on TV but when she read about the 3,000 km Te Araroa Trail in New Zealand, she started to think being a real runner was overrated and maybe she could run the trail anyway.
For 148 days, she ran through New Zealand’s backcountry alone, scrambling through forests, over ridgelines, and across beaches, sleeping in the wild most nights and with friendly Kiwis in between.
This time, Anna sets off with her friend Faye and limited Spanish on a six-month bicycle journey along the spine of the Andes Mountains starting in La Paz, Bolivia. They sleep in tents most nights and experience 50 mph crosswinds and catastrophic crashes on their 5,500-mile journey.
Erin and her husband set out on a 4,000-mile human-powered expedition from Seattle to the Aleutian Islands. It was a year-long journey through some of the most rugged terrain in the world to bring awareness of natural resources and conservation issues along the way.
On a wet and windy day at the British Museum, Bettina decided to travel the length of the Nile from the Mediterranean to its source. Armed with insect repellant, a sun hat, and a water filter, she designed a bright red ‘all-terrain’ bike for the 4,500-mile adventure.
I am so fascinated by caves and cave diving and this adventure book is so high on my TBR!
More people have died in underwater caves than on Mount Everest and we know more about space than the deep ocean. Jill Heinerth is one of the few women working in the field of cave diving and is taking us into the caves with her here.
She was the first person to dive into an Antarctic iceberg and the leader of a team that discovered the ancient underwater remains of Mayan civilization. These are her experiences with split-second decisions, prejudices keeping women from pursuing these careers, and her endeavor to recover a friend’s body from the confines of a cave.
This is pretty high on my wishlist and sounds like an absolutely incredible women’s adventure book.
Tania was eighteen, living in New York with no big plans. But then her father gave her a choice: a college education or a twenty-six-foot sloop. She chose the boat with the caveat of having to sail it around the world. Alone.
It was her home for the next two years and 27,000 miles with just her cat as a companion. What started as just an adventure became a spiritual quest.
Here we have another first, this is the youngest sailor to single-handedly circumnavigate the globe. Not only did she face the seas on her own, but also doubts and hostile resistance from officials.
This is her story of what it was like sailing around the world alone. This one sounds pretty interesting (and extremely impressive) and it was only $0.99 on Kindle so I think I’ll give it a shot!
Civil unrest and local traditions didn’t stop Rosemary from taking a solo trip down the Nile in a small boat. She begins in the south with the help of a Muslim sailor who provided a boat and insight into the lives of rural Egyptians. Egyptian women don’t row on the Nile and tourists aren’t allowed to for safety reasons.
She faces extreme heat, crocodiles, and her own deeply held beliefs about non-Muslim women as she connects to past chroniclers on the Nile.
I don’t think I can do this description justice, so here is the official one straight from Amazon:
“It’s well known that Mother River doesn’t like a smart aleck,” says Patricia McCairen. Accordingly, she plies her oars with reverence and skill on a sometimes hair-raising solo rafting trip along the Colorado River that winds through the stupendous stone valleys of the American Grand Canyon. Like the waters of the Colorado, which change from long, still stretches to boiling white water that barely clothes sharp rocks and hides holes that can suck down a raft, McCairen’s moods–and even her name–change as the miles unwind. One moment, she’s the cocky, athletic river guide Babe; the next, she’s an earthier, more spiritual woman who answers to the name of Patch. Hours later, she seems more vulnerable, less convinced of her strength and joy in the solitude she so zealously courts. Canyon Solitude records these shifts and beautifully limns a journey that tests McCairen’s mettle and shows that determination, grit, and the will to spurn conventional rewards offer their own deep satisfactions.”
When she needs a little shakeup in her life, she does the only thing you do in the situation: she sets out on the 1,200 kilometer henro michi Buddhist pilgrimage through the mountains of Japan.
I cannot wait to read this one! I am so excited because it combines two things I love: Japan and long walks.
In 1966, Dervla bought Jock, a pack mile, to trek across the highlands of Ethiopia. From the Red Sea to the Simien Mountains, she faces three armed robberies, trades Jock for an uncooperative donkey, and develops a growing affection for and understanding of another race.
Dervla may be Queen of adventure books for women. She’s back here traveling from Ireland to India by bike.
At ten, she secretly started planning a bike trip to India and at 31 years old in 1963, she set off on that journey. This is based on her diary from her trip through Persia, Afghanistan, the Himalayas, Pakistan, and India. A woman alone on a bike was almost unheard of and she was of major interest almost everywhere she went.
Nina always yearned for adventure in far-off places but at 34 she found herself married and contemplating motherhood while living in Paris. She catches her reflection in a window and no longer sees the fearless woman of her youth.
Inspired by female explorers of the 1800s, she hops on a plane headed to West Africa to make her way overland to Timbuktu on her own.
Annie wants to track down a small oasis town in the Sahara whose inhabitants came to her rescue on a dark day in her youth so she sets off from the olive groves of Italy along the coast of the Mediterranean.
She plunges south through Morocco and Algeria where she finds her old friend and discovers that life in a date-farming oasis isn’t as simple as she thought.
Have you read any of these women’s adventure books? Which ones? Are there any other books about adventurous women I should check out?