The Essential Man’s Library: 50 Fictional Adventure Books Edition

by Chris on June 2, 2009 · 183 comments

in Books, Travel & Leisure

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Nothing speaks to the heart of man like a good tale of adventure. Whether in the form of a bedtime story read to young boys or a nail biting page turner that keeps you up at night, the adventure story is one genre of literature that stays with you for a lifetime. The very mention of such novels brings to mind images of buried treasure, hidden deep in the jungle of a deserted island, protected by dastardly pirates and the local cannibal population. Or perhaps the mind jumps instead to the image of a forgotten world, complete with lost civilization and monstrous creatures of a bygone era.

Whatever your personal adventure fantasy, there are some stories we all can relate to. Listed here, in no particular order, are fifty adventure novels that no man should go a lifetime without reading. This is not considered a complete list of all the great adventure novels, so please take advantage of the comments section to share what other adventure novels you recommend to your fellow men. Also, be sure to stay tuned for the upcoming second part of this series, The Essential Man’s  Library: 50 Nonfiction Adventure Books Edition.

And now, to jump into the world of high adventure….

(Note to RSS and Email readers: Because of the length of this post we had to break it up into sections in order for it to appear in your reader or inbox. So, you’ll have to come to site to click through past the first 10. Sorry for the inconvenience.)

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

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A tale of survival, Hatchet traces the story of young Brian, who is left stranded in the Canadian wilderness when his plane crashes. Forced to survive with little food or gear, Brian’s will to live is put to the test.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

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Easily the best known adventure novel, this is Stevenson’s masterpiece. The son of an innkeeper, young Jim Hawkins finds himself thrust into the world of piracy as he joins Long John Silver in the search for buried treasure.

Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss

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Stranded on a desert island as a result of a catastrophic shipwreck, a family is forced to survive with nothing but the natural resources available. Eventually, they are able to create an impressive compound within which they are able to live at ease in their jungle surroundings.

Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling

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Follow the adventures of Harvey Cheyne, son of a railroad tycoon, as he is thrown overboard on a steamship journey, only to be rescued by fishermen who eventually mold him into a true seafarer.

She by H. Rider Haggard

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A college professor and his young apprentice follow instructions on a broken pottery shard that lead them to a fabled lost city in the jungles of Africa, where they encounter She Who Must Be Obeyed, the seemingly immortal ruler of the land.

Ayesha: The Return of She by H. Rider Haggard

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Set sixteen years after the events of She, this novels follows the same characters as they travel to the far reaches of the earth seeking out a reincarnation of She Who Must Be Obeyed.

King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard

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Adventurer Allan Quatermain is drafted into a search and rescue party that leads into the great unknown of unexplored Africa, where entire civilizations are discovered and rumors of the location of the mines of King Solomon lead the team on one of the greatest adventures in all of literature.

Out of the dark we came, into the dark we go. Like a storm-driven bird at night we fly out of the Nowhere; for a moment our wings are seen in the light of the fire, and, lo! we are gone again into the Nowhere.

Southern Mail/Night Flight by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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A two for one deal, this book chronicles the dangerous lives of the early mail pilots as told by Saint-Exupery, author of Wind, Sand and Stars and himself an accomplished pilot.

The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle

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This timeless classic by Arthur Conan Doyle inspired the imagination of countless young boys and spawned what is now known as the Lost World genre. Inside its pages the protagonist, Professor Challenger, plays tour guide on an undiscovered plateau in South America, filled with dinosaurs and other mystical creatures that time seemingly forgot.

The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling

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Rudyard Kipling’s famous short story about two wandering British adventurers who somehow manage to become kings of Kafiristan, only to suffer a drastic fall from power.

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{ 183 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Andrew June 2, 2009 at 7:51 pm

I’m glad to see Hatchet is the first one on the list. That was by far my favorite book when I was younger.

2 James June 2, 2009 at 7:56 pm

My personal favorite in the manly tales of adventure category is definitely Jack London’s “The Sea Wolf”.

3 Benson June 2, 2009 at 7:57 pm

Great list! Hachet is probably my all-time favorite book from grade school.

4 Chris June 2, 2009 at 7:59 pm

Just minor correction: the fishermen in Captains Courageous were from Massachusetts. One guy happened to be Portuguese.

5 Bryce Beattie June 2, 2009 at 8:03 pm

More fantastic manly adventure fiction include Robert E. Howard’s original Conan Stories (all later tales pale in comparison) and Edgar RIce Burroughs’ (Creator of Tarzan) John Carter of Mars series.

6 Andrew Barbour June 2, 2009 at 8:17 pm

I’ve read nine of the titles on this list. Having enjoyed them all, it’s clear the editor has good taste. I’ll have to check out some more of his suggestions.

One neat thing is that my copy of “The Jungle Book” is the same edition as the one in the photo above :)

7 Jeff@StretchyDollar June 2, 2009 at 8:22 pm

Awesome – every time I thought of a book, it was there. The only one that came time mind (that I didn’t see, but I might have missed it) was the Great Gatsby.

8 Ammon June 2, 2009 at 8:22 pm

An excellent list! I’ve read many books on this list and will add those I haven’t to my reading queue.

Here are a few of my Adventure genre picks that didn’t make your cut:

Last of the Breed by Louis L’Amour
Known mostly for his library of cowboy books, L’Amour tackles the cold war genre. Fun, satisfying, and unlike anything you’ve ever read or heard about him.

The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov
What deceptively starts out as a series about an Encyclopedia turns out to be one heck of an inter-stellar adventure as the most brilliant man ever known lays the groundwork for preventing the total degeneration of mankind and the rise of a new galactic empire.

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
For me, this is the definitive cyberpunk novel. Also, main character Hiro Protagonist may have the greatest name in all of literature.

9 Edward June 2, 2009 at 9:43 pm

Louis L’Amour’s The Walking Drum is a great adventure book.

10 David June 2, 2009 at 9:45 pm

Brett,

You should check out “My Side of the Mountain” by Jean Craighead George. I remember really enjoying that book when I was younger.

11 iron June 2, 2009 at 10:18 pm

moby dick!

12 Evan June 2, 2009 at 10:22 pm

David,
“My Side of the Mountain” was one of my favorite books when I was younger. I must have read it five times.

I also recommend “Watership Down” by Richard Adams. Another childhood favorite that I still can look back on as a quality piece of literature. And of course, the “HIs Dark Materials” series, by Phillip Pullman, is excellent. I don’t even consider those young adult books; they should be read by any educated adult as well.

13 Bob June 3, 2009 at 3:40 am

The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers. Is seen as the first modern spy novel and had heavy influence on John Buchan and Ian Flemming. Was such a powerful story and lesson that Winston Churchill and other British leaders used its premise in British Naval defense planning prior to WWI. Great read for anyone into sailing as well.

14 Kenney Farmer June 3, 2009 at 4:06 am

I’m glad some of Clive Cussler’s books were included. I have been a fan for thiry years. An interesting read is his book on his actual searches for missing ships and other artifacts. I can’t remember the title, but I’m sure it could be easily found via a good search engine.

15 JS June 3, 2009 at 4:30 am

Finally, after months of waiting I get an addendum to the original Man’s Library that I have been whittling away.

Some of these are duplicate’s but I am hearted by the addition of a few new books that I have always thought as Classics :)

Thanks for expanding the list!

16 Shane June 3, 2009 at 4:31 am

I’ve read many of these titles. Some other great adventure novels not on this list are Ivanhoe, Don Quixote and one of my personal favorites, Moonfleet by John Meade Falkner.

17 Lev June 3, 2009 at 4:49 am

These are great books. Call of the Wild was a definite favorite of mine as a kid. I even named my dog Buck! If I might make a few more suggestions, Jack London’s Sea Wolf is one of the manliest books concievable. Shogun, Tai Pan, and Noble House are increadible. Also check out the Hornblower series by C.S. Forester.

18 Michael June 3, 2009 at 4:55 am

Robert E. Howard – Not just the Conan stories, but also: Solomon Kane, El Borak, Kull, Sailor Steve Costigan and so many others.

19 Charlie June 3, 2009 at 4:55 am

A fantastic list. I myself wouldn’t have place L’Morte on there, only because it is plodding, period fiction. I’d suggest more readable versions of the Arthurian tales, especially White’s The Once and Future King.

20 Andy June 3, 2009 at 4:59 am

“The Swiss Family Robinson”? Seriously? I think it can be summed up thus:

1) See wild animal
2) Kill wild animal
3) Pray thanks to God for wild animal

Repeat to end.

21 Sgt. Major R June 3, 2009 at 5:10 am

Great list. I own nine of the titles listed and am now motivated to go out and add additional titles for my reading pleasure. Bravo!

22 Sam June 3, 2009 at 5:14 am

A few recommendations I haven’t yet seen:

1) CS Lewis’s Space Trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength) — While partly theological/philosophical, these books also have some darn good adventure in the form of kidnapping, chases, fights to the death, etc.
2) CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia — For the same reason that Tolkien is on your list.
3) How could you exclude Tom Clancy’s novels, especially the earlier ones — Hunt for Red October, Red Storm Rising, Patriot Games, and my personal favorite, Without Remorse?

23 Sam June 3, 2009 at 5:18 am

Another set of good ones I just thought of:

1) Patrick O’Brian’s “Master and Commander” (plus the others my Dad recommended) — great sea stories in the same genre as CS Forester’s Hornblower novels.

To Lev,
I loved Shogun! I read it several times as a young teen because I loved the TV miniseries, especially the Japanese woman who played Mariko.

24 Michael Summer June 3, 2009 at 5:22 am

Good call. Big for of the Tolkien picks. In that same vein, have you ever read any of the Dark Tower series by Stephen King?

25 Turling June 3, 2009 at 5:43 am

I second the O’Brian series. Add in Horatio Hornblower, as well. I’m also surprised not to see any Ian Fleming, ala Mr. Bond.

26 Perry Clease June 3, 2009 at 5:58 am

The Call of the Wild is one of my favorite stories and one that I read when I was not yet a teenager. Interestingly that last Thursday I went to visit Jack London State Park, but there was a power outage in the area and the buildings were closed. Anyway, if you are in the Napa Valley wine country take a short side trip to the Park http://www.parks.sonoma.net/JLPark.html

The Man Who Would be King is also a favorite of mine. It is possibly based upon the true story of Josiah Harlan, an American, see http://www.sepiamutiny.com/sepia/archives/000828.html and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josiah_Harlan

I second Ammon’s recommendation of Louis L’Amour’s Last of the Breed and Edward’s recommendation of L’Amour’s The Walking Drum.

I recommend Hell on Ice. The story of the USS Jeanette which was Navy research ship that back in 1879 got frozen into the Arctic ice pack. It is a grueling tale of survival that ranks up there with Shackelton. Also another Arctic, well Antarctic, story that I recommend is The Last Place on Earth by Roland Huntford and Paul Theroux, about Amundsen’s and Scott’s race to the South Pole. You can get both at Amazon.com

27 Kal June 3, 2009 at 6:05 am

I think that the list could cut any of the Cussler titles an replace it with The Iliad. I would also recommend Beowulf

28 Tommy C June 3, 2009 at 6:57 am

You certainly like Jules Verne! Adding more stuff to the que…

I agree with one of the comments above, Tom Clancy is some great fiction, though I don’t know if its really adventure. My favorite of his is Rainbow 6.

29 Jonathan June 3, 2009 at 7:06 am

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott

30 Heather June 3, 2009 at 7:14 am

Another book I would recommend (maybe one day it will make “classic” status) is Naomi Novik’s “His Majesty’s Dragon”. The author is an admitted fan of O’Brian, so this book has been described as Master and Commander with dragons. Lots of battles with lots of dragons set in the time of the Napoleonic Wars.

31 Kelly June 3, 2009 at 8:11 am

If you want adventure, I recommend anything by Wilbur Smith. He writes great African adventure stories.

http://www.wilbursmithbooks.com/

32 Chadd June 3, 2009 at 8:12 am

Just learned that Gary Paulson will be speaking at the Mercer Island Library (Seattle area) Tonight (June 3rd) at 7pm. Apparently, appearances by Mr Paulson are quite rare, as he lives in the woods (with a sharp hatchet, I am sure)…check out http://www.KCLS.ORG for more info.

Chadd

33 Gideon June 3, 2009 at 8:18 am

I can’t believe they didn’t include The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells.

34 Farley June 3, 2009 at 8:18 am

Good to see some Cussler made the list. Gotta add:
1. West from Singapore by Louis L’Amour. Collection of short stories of a captian and his crew as they work to thwart the Japanese and later the Nazis in 1930′s Southeast Asia.
2. Night over the Solomon’s by Louis L’Amour. Similiar vein time and setting to West from Singapore, but assorted tales of pilots and sea captains.
3. The Proving Trail by Louis L’Amour. Tale of a young man who must uncover the mysteries of his father’s murder and his dad’s hidden life while running from the men who will kill for his inheritance.
I agree with My Side of the Mountian.
More that I can’t think of right now…

35 Chris June 3, 2009 at 8:30 am

@Gideon-

As I mentioned, it is not a complete list, but in hindsight I should have included The Time Machine…it’s definitely a classic of the genre. Good call.

@Turling, @Sam-

Novels like Fleming’s or Clancy’s seem to have their own genre (Spy, Military, etc). I considered both authors, but I knew that if I included that genre under the heading of adventure there would be countless others to consider as well. That being said, Tom Clancy’s works are incredible, and no man can deny the greatness of James Bond. Good recommendations!

Thanks for all the other input everybody, keep the recommendations coming!

36 Jim June 3, 2009 at 8:35 am

“Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Old_Man_and_the_Sea

37 Lynn June 3, 2009 at 9:01 am

WILBUR SMITH. I’m surprised not to see this name mentioned more. In fact, it seems (though I’m daring to risk assuming) that the other person who recommends his book is a woman (Kelly?) Believe me, these are definitely FOR REAL MEN books (but some women will love them too). My favorite Wilbur Smith series is one of his Courtney Series: Birds of Prey, Monsoon, and Blue Horizon. These are MUST READ books. There are also some great adventures that are in the fantasy realm (George R.R. Martin anyone?) but I will leave that for another discussion.
Meet you at Table Mountain!

38 Ian McPhee June 3, 2009 at 9:19 am

I saw that Lev recommends the Hornblower series, and I agree entirely! I devoured those books, and loved them from start to finish. I’ve read a good deal of these books, but I think I might make a trip to the library today and pick up some more.

39 Jon June 3, 2009 at 9:53 am

A couple of additions….Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlin, Ender’s Game. Also just about any book by Clive Cussler that has Dirk Pitt in it.

40 Ryan June 3, 2009 at 9:59 am

ive actually read a large number of these fantastic books. the only thing that i believe deserves a spot on this list but was not mentioned(except by an earlier comment) is edgar rice burrough’s John Carter of mars series. ive read both tarzan AND the carter series, and HIGHLY recommend it to anyone looking not only for love, action, and adventure, but also the manly and unbeatable will to survive in a foreign environment.

41 Andy June 3, 2009 at 10:01 am

The original Essential Man’s Library List is one of my favorite things I’ve ever found on the internet, and I am glad to see this adventure follow-up list. I second “The Sea-Wolf” by Jack London. How about Huckleberry Finn?

42 Joe June 3, 2009 at 10:17 am

What about Last of the Mohicans? Or Huckleberry Finn? How about Arabian Nights, Gulliver’s Travels, or the Scarlett Pimpernel?

43 Kelly June 3, 2009 at 10:26 am

@Lynn

I am indeed a woman, so your assumption was correct. And the person who turned me onto Wilbur Smith is my mom. He has since become my favourite author and I do my best to spread the word of his books. I’ve gotten at least two other women hooked on his books. It’s high time we get some men into them as well!

44 Lynn June 3, 2009 at 11:07 am

@ Kelly — your mom is one cool woman. Alas, a man turned me onto him and I’ve passed it onto other men. Wait, that doesn’t sound right does it? : ) I would be curious to know which books you recommend. I haven’t read every WS book as he’s very prolific. My favorites are the ones I’ve mentioned. I’ve also read The Diamond Hunters (stand-alone, so-so); The Sunbird (stand-alone, a bit torturous); and River God (good). I’m about to embark on The Burning Shore which I heard was AMAZING.

45 Robby G June 3, 2009 at 11:17 am

What about Fight Club and the like? or are these only old-school classics.

46 Kelly June 3, 2009 at 11:32 am

@Lynn

I’m sure my mom will be glad to hear it. Haha. It’s strange that I don’t know any men who read his books, because they are the very definition of manly adventure stories.

Of the standalone books, I have only read Elephant Song and I thought it was great. Of the three series, I’ve read them all but the oldest three and newest one of the Courtney series.

I think the Courtney series is my favourite. I haven’t disliked any of them, but Blue Horizon and The Power of the Sword are standouts among them for me. I hope you enjoy The Burning Shore :) And I hope we’ve inspired some men out there to pick up a Wilbur Smith book.

47 Jerrick June 3, 2009 at 12:40 pm

Great call on including Hatchet in this list. While likely not considered a timeless classic as are other titles on this list, Hatchet is a compelling read, especially to the teen males. Great book!

48 Kelly June 3, 2009 at 1:11 pm

Lost in the Barrens by Farley Mowat, while a book for young adults, is a great adventure story of two young men who get lost in the wilderness of the Northwest Territories in Canada and have to survive on their own. It was mandatory reading for me in school, but I’m not sure how widely known it is outside of Canada so I want to spread the word.

http://booksiloved.com/11/Lost_In_The_Barrens.html

49 dirtybacon June 3, 2009 at 1:33 pm

Man, I’m glad “The Sea Wolf” made the list. It is one of my favorite books of all time, and in my eyes the best adventure book. I really think it speaks volumes on what it is to be a man.

50 Aaron June 3, 2009 at 2:14 pm

Good list, but True at First Light over The Sun Also Rises… can’t agree with that. Also, On the Road. These may not be an traditional adventure novels, but I would say adventure novels for a more modern time. I would also have to agree with another comment, what about Huck Finn?

51 Jared C. W. June 3, 2009 at 2:16 pm

The only one I noticed missing was Captain Joshua Slocum’s “Sailing Alone Around the World”. My all-time favorite adventure story.

52 Mike Mixer June 3, 2009 at 3:26 pm

2 words, Zane Grey

53 Mike M. June 3, 2009 at 4:29 pm

A fair number of my recommendations have already been covered, but I’ll focus some things.

Edgar Rice Burroughs: Read “A Princess of Mars”, “Gods of Mars”, and “Warlord of Mars”. The other Barsooom stories are good, but those are the essentials.

Ian Fleming: “Casino Royale”, “From Russia With Love”, “Moonraker”, “Thunderball”, “On Her Magesty’s Secret Service”, and “You Only Live Twice”. The Bond novels are VERY erratic in quality, these are the best.

Tom Clancy: “The Hunt For Red October”, and “The Sum of All Fears”. Maybe “Red Storm Rising”.

Robert Heinlein: “Starship Troopers” and “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”.

Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle: “The Mote in God’s Eye”.

And last but never least….

E. E. Smith’s Lensman Series.

54 p couzens June 3, 2009 at 7:30 pm

Two Years Before The Mast by Richard Dana – a stunning depiction of “going off to sea”

55 Todd K June 3, 2009 at 7:32 pm

Dune

56 james June 3, 2009 at 9:56 pm

I would add:
Last of the Mohicans (and really all of the Leatherstocking Tales) by James Fenimore Cooper – my all time favorites
Little Britches by Ralph Moody – not so much adventure as a Dad teaching his son what it means to be a man.
Great list, though. Thanks

57 Ammon June 4, 2009 at 11:49 pm

@Todd K
+1 for Dune! I finally read the book for the first time this year. If anyone (like me) has put off reading it because they saw the awful 1980s Kyle McLachlan debacle do yourself a favor and read this book. Truly, epic sci-fi that is so much smarter than the movie. Highly recommended

@Jon
+1 for Ender’s Game — Fantastic book about young boys saving the Earth from Alien Invaders. For another excellent series by Ender author, Orson Scott Card, check out the Alvin Maker series.

@Michael Summer
+1 for the Dark Tower series — hardly anyone is manlier than Roland of Gilead!

58 Michael@TheSafeLife June 6, 2009 at 10:51 am

I would have to add Dune by Frank Herbert. That book left a mark on my life.

59 megadethmonk June 6, 2009 at 3:41 pm

Awesome! Glad to see Tarzan on the list; I read all 23 while growing up. Tarzan was the Übermensch, and his influence shaped my character.

60 Geoff June 8, 2009 at 3:09 pm

I take issue with this list as a classics major. The Odyssey was not -written-. The Odyssey was orally composed along with the Iliad.

61 Finnian June 9, 2009 at 4:26 am

I think Geoff missed the point of the list.

62 Phil June 11, 2009 at 11:40 am

Good list. I think you should add Beowulf, and Virgil’s Aeneid.

63 Christatos Aristad June 12, 2009 at 1:07 pm

I would make two additions, one for young people, and one for the older crowd.

Despite it’s odd nature, I can’t think of a better young adult adventure series than the Time Quartet by Madeleine L’Engle. I buy them for all of my young relatives. They excite the young mind with adventure as well as open it with new and interesting, if a little cockeyed, concepts. Among the best adventure writing for the young mind.

And no mention should be made of Fleming without Le Carre. The adventures of Smiley and the Circus are exciting and heartbreaking, and from beginning to end Le Carres writing is brilliant and top tier adventure writing. no one should go without. Especially Spy Who Came In From The Cold, A Constant Gardener, and A Perfect Spy.

64 Tre June 13, 2009 at 10:13 pm
65 Mark Owings June 14, 2009 at 1:12 pm

I am not sure what to make of the fact that two of the four Haggard titles (and one of the other two was the very last) are about his weakest books, written before he knew what he was doing, and the one John Buchan is also an apprentice work. On Buchan try Mister Standfast or The Three Hostages or Huntingtower. (A princess being rescued from imprisonment in a tower by ta troop of imaginary Boy Scouts!)

You should have at least one Talbot Mundy, perhaps The Winds of the World.

You people read too much in the way of best sellers and do too little digging up for yourselves.

66 ward bond June 15, 2009 at 8:05 pm

Tai Pan is probably my favorite book of all time. I have read and reread it, never ceases to entertain.

67 JT June 17, 2009 at 9:53 am

Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini is some mighty manly fare.

68 Timoteo June 22, 2009 at 1:42 pm

As to Hemingway’s “True At First Light,” it is not “manly ” to hunt an animal you’re not going to eat just out of simple blood lust, which is what Hemingway did. One of our greatest writers, but I always have trouble reconciling that with the kind of person he was.

69 Tor Krogius June 26, 2009 at 5:19 pm

The Polish national epic, With Fire and Sword, by Henryk Sienkiewicz, is a terrific story, in league with The Three Musketeers.

Prisoner of Zenda is also terriffic

70 Nathan June 27, 2009 at 4:08 pm

A lot of Dan Brown’s non-movie books are very good. Digital Fortress was one that I remember greatly enjoying.

Awesome list! I can’t wait to get started!

71 Adam Cook June 29, 2009 at 5:17 pm

I just ordered 2 of these and 2 of the non-fiction. Something to break up my James Bond marathon haha

72 S. Early July 1, 2009 at 7:27 pm

Byzantium and Hood by Stephen Lawhead.

The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

The King Must Die by Mary Renault

Anything by Helen MacInnes, Patrick O’Brian, or Rex Stout.

73 J.D. Tuccille July 1, 2009 at 10:06 pm

I would add Rogue Male, by Geoffrey Household. A self-reliant individualist sets out to assassinate a dictator who is either Hitler or Stalin (Household deliberately fudges the identity, making it clear that he considers one totalitarian to be the same as another). Then he goes on the run and must survive by his wits while secret policeman track him down. The movie versions turned the story into an anti-Nazi period piece, but it’s really a celebration of the value of liberty and the competent individual.

74 Marcos Hernández July 6, 2009 at 9:06 pm

Definitely Dune by Frank Herbert is a must add to the list, full of politic, social and ecological metaphors that points to the building of a leader. Also The Never Ending Story by Michael Ende is a profound novel of self discovery through a fantastic travel in which the main character, Bastian Baltasar Bux, loses and then founds himself.

75 Tommy Lingbloom July 8, 2009 at 1:23 pm

Great lost, I’m excited o read some of these!

I would add James Clavell’s Shogun to the lost for sure. Blackthorne is a man!

76 Joshua July 9, 2009 at 5:01 pm

For the younger audience I would suggest “My Side of the Mountain” by Jean Craighead George. A story of a young boy running away from home to escape city life and survive in the mountains. I read it in the third grade and it has been one of my favorites ever since. Always stirred in me a desire to try it for myself.

77 Nate Kahn July 11, 2009 at 12:19 pm

From an author known more for horror than adventure, I would add Stephen King’s Dark Tower Series. It contains seven books in all, with both an incredible plot, and some very interesting commentary on human nature and the balance/struggle between good and evil. Not for young readers, but perfect for adolescents and adults.

78 AHersh July 12, 2009 at 1:21 am

For Hemingway, I think For Whom The Bell Tolls would be a better choice. It has everything–war, love, mountain wilderness adventure, blowing stuff up, booze.

I would also suggest Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. It is an inward adventure, I guess, but no less manly.

79 Stan Geronimo July 12, 2009 at 12:32 pm

Thanks for the list! I’ve read some of them.

80 Steve Anthony July 13, 2009 at 4:54 pm

Gulliver’s Travels
Dune

81 Len Causey July 14, 2009 at 9:16 pm

Three books that inspried me when I was a younger were: Rifles for Watie, The Red Badge of Courage, and Johnny Tremain. Could not believe they were not listed.

82 Minotauromachia July 15, 2009 at 2:48 am

Ulysses, by James Joyce
The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner
A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway

83 roadking July 15, 2009 at 1:17 pm

I enjoyed the list; a couple of tweaks- Tarzan was raised by apes, not gorillas ( Bolgani the Gorilla was a tribal hated enemy), and I would submit that Stranger in a Strange Land by Heinlein should be on every must read list..

84 Nathaniel July 18, 2009 at 9:27 am

There are the books you read, and then there are the books that change your life.

85 Andrew Hill July 21, 2009 at 11:19 pm

George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman novels are hilarious, appalling, and thrilling. Harry Flashman is a confessed coward, but also a keen observer of human nature and of true (and valuable) courage. The books I like best in the series are Flashman, Flash for Freedom, Flashman at the Charge, Flashman in the Great Game, and Flashman and the Redskins. If you can, pick up “Quartered Safe out Here”, Fraser’s memoir of his experiences in the Second World War. Not an adventure story, but great.

I also heartily recommend PC Wren’s “Beau Geste”, a story of three orphaned brothers who join the French Foreign Legion. It has one of the greatest set-ups I have ever read–a column of the Legion rushing to relieve a beleaguered outpost finds all of its defenders dead at their posts. Read the book before you watch the decent Gary Cooper movie of the same title

Finally, just a general observation: Virtually all of the books (at least those with which I am familiar) mentioned in the comments above are great, but I many of them are patently not adventure stories (James Joyce, I am looking at you). For example, John Le Carre has never written an adventure story. I loved the Smiley trilogy, Little Drummer Girl, the Spy Who Came in From the Cold, Constant Gardener, et al. But adventure? Not at all. Spy stories are not necessarily adventurous. Many of them have more in common with the morally ambiguous, bleak, seediness of classic noir.

I suppose we can debate the meaning of adventure, and some voyages of discovery are internal (as the gentleman who recommends Siddhartha suggests). Still, there are enough undiscovered stories of adventure out there that it seems we would be better served by sticking to books that don’t require a tortured explanation as to why they are appropriate for the list.

86 Phil July 24, 2009 at 6:33 pm

I heartily recommend Lars Walker’s novels, the most recent of which is “West Oversea.” It’s about turn-of-the-millennium vikings in Sola, Norway, with Erling Skjalgsson as a lord over a small area. The conflict is essentially old world magical beings and their followers against new world ideas and beliefs. “The Year of the Warrior” is a another story of that type. Search for Lars Walker online to buy them.

87 Jared July 26, 2009 at 7:06 pm

I have to agree with some of the other people that Shogun should have made the list and is a must read.

88 Sam August 10, 2009 at 3:23 pm

What a great list! Gotta love Sea Wolf by London but I think Star Rover beats it out as my favorite London Novel.

And no master and commander??

89 Matty H August 12, 2009 at 1:36 am

My great-grandfather was a man’s-man and survived a life of punishing himself physically while bringing love to my household when I was a youngster… if I were half the man he was, I’d consider it a success. That being said, I probably bought him 3 large-print copies of Captain Blood for him in the 10 years he lived with us… he reread it over and over and that book definitely deserves to be on the list.

And, Sam, (right above) I’m pissed you said it first, but in the same pirate-y vein, O’Brien’s Master and Commander deserves a place on the list.

I’m also surprised at the lack of sci-fi, but maybe that’s not what this list was about… a little Dune would have made me happy, and well as maybe some Philip K. Dick for Blade Runner… maybe even a little fantasy — Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland was one hell of an adventure, after all, right?

I liked the strong Clive Cussler presence and agree with the previous poster that Clancy was noticeably missing in an adventure list.

Thanks for a great site, webmaster.

Just no one submit the Twilight series, ok?

90 Robert August 14, 2009 at 3:06 pm

No mention of Endurance? The true story of Ernest Shackleton’s failed attempt to be the first man to cross the Antarctic, which turned into a fight for survival after his ship was crushed by pack ice before reaching the contintnet. Every member of his crew survived, but it took them more than a year to reach civilization, surviving on wits and ingenuity. Shackleton was a true man’s man.

91 Robert August 14, 2009 at 3:09 pm

Oops, I see now it’s a list of fiction. My mistake!

92 Jared August 24, 2009 at 9:37 pm

No fiction adventure book list is complete without mention of Wilbur Smith. The stories of manly men and beautiful women set in the wilds of Africa…it doesn’t get much better than that. Start with “When the Lion Feeds” and go from there.

93 chris August 27, 2009 at 7:40 pm

Thanks to my son I have a suggestion to and to this already wonderful list. It is a newer set of books that I found to be a wonderful trip down memory lane. The author has tied in so many cameos from other great books you will feel like you are seeing old friends again. But that’s just my 2 cents here is the title of the series and a short quote.

The Imaginarium Geographica- Here their be dragons
“What is it?” John asked.
The little man blinked and arched an eyebrow. “It is the world, my boy,” he said. “All the World, in ink and blood, vellum and parchment, leather and hide. It is the World, and it is yours to save or lose.”

94 Sam August 30, 2009 at 3:16 pm

I was so glad to find my two favorite manly novels on this list- “King Solomon’s Mines” and “The Mysterious Island.”

A great moment in “King Solomon’s Mines” is when two characters are introduced to each other: the European Sir Curtis, and the African Umbopa. The two were identically built, with large powerful bodies. Umbopa remarks, after observing the other: “We are both men, you and I.” In context it is an awesome moment.

The Mysterious Island is one of the greatest celebrations of the ingenuity of man I’ve ever read. When they’re constructing nitroglycerin from raw materials to blow a hole in a rock and create a river, I knew I was reading something extraordinary. The book is about hunting and building things, what more do you need?

95 James Clark September 12, 2009 at 11:51 pm

In the same vein as Tolken, my favorite adventure series ( which happen to be scifi/fantasy) are The Dragonlance Trilogy (dragons of autumn twilight, dragons of winter night, and dragons of spring dawn) with grand adventure, plenty of identification with characters, character developement, and it’s a tradgedy that they are not more well known.

Also, the Dark Elf Trilogy (before the Icewind Dale trilogy, also set in the Dungeons and Dragons universe) being Homeland, Exile, and Sojourn, had grand adventure, magic, politics, and growth. Drizzt is shown to be so human in these books that it is dificult to not identify with him, which makes the adventure so much more real to the reader! Definately a must (on both trilogies)

3rd post here on AoM. Guess it’s time to man up and sign up :-)

96 Veronica Lynn September 14, 2009 at 5:28 am

i’ve discovered i love jules vern, i’m enthralled by anything he’s ever written!! my favorite auther im guessing….sorry, im not much of a man, sorry to crash the party but i love adventure and adventure stories. :3 i keep seeing all my favorites in this list, i have so many of hem, but i didn’t know about some of these, im going to go by them lolol
theres this amazing app for the iphone where you get all these literary classics for only i dollar, reads just like a Kindle, its fantastic!!! im just now reading 20,000 leagues under the sea, and i think its bumped up to one of my favorites!!! Monte Cristos next XP awesome list guys, thanks~!!

97 TBV September 23, 2009 at 3:32 pm

Just a slight correction… these are not “fictional adventure books”… they are very real. They’re “Fiction Adventure Books” or less awkwardly, “Adventure Fiction”.

98 Joel September 30, 2009 at 7:28 pm

Life of Pi. My favorite adventure book.

99 josh perlman October 1, 2009 at 6:50 pm

darktower series

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