And you're in luck: there's been a windfall of good new adventure books out lately, from a meditation on surfing to a fly-fishing murder mystery. Here are some of our favorites.
‘Barbarian Days,’ Penguin Press ($16.11)
It's almost impossible to write about surfing and not sound trite or glossy or way too baked. There are only so many ways you can describe a wave. That's why William Finnegan's memoir of growing up surfing, Barbarian Days, is so refreshing.
He's able to describe the hold that surfing has over his life without getting schmaltzy or sentimental. It's adventure and culture and coming of age all wrapped up into one. And Finnegan, who was also a war reporter, has crisscrossed the globe chasing waves, from Tonga to Trestles, and has no shortage of stories.
‘On the Burning Edge,’ Ballantine Books ($15.49)
In 2013, 19 New Mexico–based hotshot firefighters died fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona. Kyle Dickman, who also worked as a hotshot, recreates the story of what happened to them before and during the fatal fire through accounts from their families and friends and the lone survivor.
It's vivid and gripping. You're going to want to read it in one go. And, as more and more wildfires spread across the West, it's a clear-eyed, detailed look at what happens on the front line of fire: the relationships that form and the myriad reasons people are drawn to fighting flames. It couldn't be more timely.
‘The Oyster War,’ Counterpoint ($12.97)
When Summer Brennan went home to Point Reyes, California, to work for the local newspaper, she didn't foresee getting pulled into a highly contentious economic, political, environmental battle about oysters. But there, in Drakes Bay, she stumbled into "The Oyster War," a clash between environmentalists and oyster farmers.
It's a really interesting look at land use, what we think of as nature and how, when it comes to the environment, there are so many different ways to be right.
‘The Painter,’ Vintage ($15.30)
Peter Heller, whose first novel, Dog Stars, is also worth checking out, spins a complicated novel about fly-fisherman and painter Jim Stegner, who kills a hunter after seeing him beat a horse. Stegner is wrestling with the death of his daughter and gets dragged into a web of lies, poaching and murder. It has the elements of a Western adventure, but it's also a deceptively deep look at kindness and loss and how people cope with their demons.
‘The Oregon Trail,’ Simon & Schuster ($20.97)
How's this for a road-trip idea? Retrace the route of the Oregon Trail, the way pioneers did in the 1800s, but do it just like they did, in a covered wagon. Enlist your not-quite-socialized brother, because he's good at fixing horse-drawn vehicles. Break down and meet a lot of interesting people along the way.
Rinker Buck makes his way across the West in a way that is hilarious and fascinating, and you'll find yourself learning about things you never knew you were interested in.
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