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Will you recommend a great book for me to read?

Treehouse Life - the bookshelf

I have finally made it to the end of the bookshelf that holds all my unread books.
This is great news: it means that I have an excuse to buy more books and begin a new swathe of reading.
So I thought I would use this blog today to ask you to recommend in the comments section a book that you think I should read. I’m looking for novels, biographies, humour, travel – anything at all, so long as it’s an incredible book! Please do let me know.
I wrote a post like this last year and it generated a great response (see “What book are you reading right now?”). Fingers crossed for more this year…
This year I asked the question on Twitter and received loads of fantastic suggestions. What else would you add? Have your say in the comments…

Twitter suggestions:

  1. alanhardy alannevertooold

    @Al_Humphreys Mad White giant by Benedict Allen is very good, made me want to go to the jungle.

  2. Dave Cornthwaite DaveCorn

    @Al_Humphreys ‘The Shack’ by Wm Paul Young. Went to a lecture of his last night, remarkable bloke, unique book.

  3. Nick Hand nickhand

    @Al_Humphreys to Kill a Mockingbird. Turned me from a dyslexic non-reader into a reader at 16 (and I think made me a bit more political)

  4. Lawrence LawrenceBham

    @Al_Humphreys Without making you feel big headed lol one of my face books is pt 1 of your journey! Very honest.

  5. Stuart Grant ProfPing

    @Al_Humphreys There’s this book about a guy who took 4 years and 40000+ miles to cycle round the world. I really enjoyed that one!! ;o)

  6. Adam Long adam_jb_long

    @Al_Humphreys Two small books for travelling light: Alan Garner- Thursbitch, JA Baker – The Peregrine. Both bring landscape to magical life.

  7. Simon Morris Moo1970

    @Al_Humphreys A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry by far. The characters were my friends by the end if the book.

  8. Phil Tynan PhilCTynan

    @Al_Humphreys La floradita!

  9. Troy Hudson greaseandglide

    @Al_Humphreys Wind, Sand and Stars.

  10. Sharon Somerville arcticlass

    @Al_Humphreys Have you read “Arctic Dreams” by Barry Lopez?

  11. Gavin Davies gmdavies84

    @Al_Humphreys Hey Al, straying a little from the adventure genre but ‘Peace Is Every Step’ by Thich Nhat Hanh is great.

  12. Nation Harris NattySupertramp


  13. Jonathan Wollny jmwollny

    @Al_Humphreys have you read blood river by Tim butcher? Great read.

  14. Mark Cooper runwithmark

    @Al_Humphreys lisa tamati – running hot. Great book and a lovely woman

  15. Chris Lines chrisjlines

    @Al_Humphreys …Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy before The Honourable Schoolboy. Both are outstanding like their sequels.

  16. James Cooper coopersound

    @Al_Humphreys Hell or High Water – Peter Heller

  17. Pete Casey Orbitalearth

    @Al_Humphreys To rule the night- by astronaut Jim Irwin …a book i read 25 years ago!!-not the best- but what an adventure!

  18. Japhy Rider P0bsta

    @Al_Humphreys : Recommend ‘Ten Zen Questions’ – Susan Blackmore… ‘Feeding the Rat’ – Al Alvarez

  19. Scott Smith smithers1980

    @Al_Humphreys Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Just pips Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell.

  20. Dan Harrison BetterLifeCycle

    @Al_Humphreys – best book I’ve ever read? Tricky one; currently re-reading A Short History of Nearly Everything (Bill Bryson) & that rocks

  21. Profeet profeetcustom

    RT @Al_Humphreys: So, what’s the best book you’ve ever read? 100 Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

  22. James Gillies James_Gillies

    @alannevertooold @Al_Humphreys and @RideTheDivide is worth a watch if not already done.

  23. William Kent treemonkey_

    @Al_Humphreys Woodlands by Oliver Rackham

  24. Simon Giles Peakflow

    @Al_Humphreys Nicholas Shakespeare’s Biography of Bruce Chatwin…the definition of troubled genius…taken too early

  25. Kieran McBride Montys_Creosote

    @Al_Humphreys or given all other suggestions, Unscathed – Phil Ashby?

  26. Graham Kelly german68

    @Al_Humphreys Mountain Days and Bothy Nights or The Shining Mountain.

  27. Kieran McBride Montys_Creosote

    @Al_Humphreys China Mieville is good for sci fi, so are Ken Mcleod and Ian Banks (Player of Games)? Although, some people spurn the sci fi.

  28. Rob Friend RobFriend

    @Al_Humphreys The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins

  29. Tina Fotherby TinaFotherby

    @Al_Humphreys My favourite is William Boyd’s Any Human Heart. Genius – intriguing and entertaining. I must read it again.

  30. Lawrence LawrenceBham

    @Al_Humphreys Hi Al I am doing an assignment for my OU course on “sacred places” as an adventurer.

  31. Ruth Mathieson Rumathie

    @Al_Humphreys so difficult! Avoiding obvious Tolstoy/harper lee, recently Thousand Splendid suns Khaled Hosseini, Ian McEwan, enduring love?

  32. Pete Rhodes peterarhodes

    @Al_Humphreys Glamorama, Brett Easton Ellis. Flawless.

  33. Nation Harris NattySupertramp

    @Al_Humphreys The Motorcycle Diaries by Che Guevara.

  34. Michael Kenny iwantacervelo

    @Al_Humphreys anything by Vernor Vinge. A deepness in the sky is particularly great.

  35. Andy Collins Andy_is_great

    @Al_Humphreys the da vinc….. (joke)

  36. Andy Howell mustbethisway

    @Al_Humphreys Songlines Bruce Chatwin, Oxonia Robert Byron & the other two by Patrick Leigh Fermor.

  37. Andy Howell mustbethisway

    @Al_Humphreys I’ll start with the Songlines, Road to Oxonia, A Time of Gifts & Between the Woods and the Water…

  38. Alistair Pearson alistairpearson

    @Al_Humphreys Best book I’ve read: Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

  39. Lawrence LawrenceBham

    @Al_Humphreys Mr Nice by Howard Marks is cool as is Reefer Men by Tony Thompson. They’re both about drug smugglers. Marks is very witty!

  40. louisebrowne louisebrowne

    @Al_Humphreys The Raw Shark Texts by @stevenha11

  41. alanhardy alannevertooold

    @Al_Humphreys Thats a hard one, i was gripped by Touching the Void and The White Spider. Also enjoying you going through South America.

  42. Matthew Stafford mstafford

    @Al_Humphreys easy: ‘touching the void’ – the first (and best) book about disasters up moontains that i read.

  43. LeeWilfredMussell Lee_Wilfred

    @Al_Humphreys The Traveller by John 12 hawks best book ever, in my opinion.

  44. Mark Kalch MarkKalch

    @Al_Humphreys Tough, but Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa is pretty epic. A lot of adventure and learning to be had.

  45. Chris Lines chrisjlines

    @Al_Humphreys Or Fatherland by Robert Harris or The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett.

  46. Jack Brajcich jackersjp

    @Al_Humphreys Integral Psychology: Consciousness, Spirit, Psychology, Therapy by Ken Wilber

  47. Martin Vidler vids76

    @Al_Humphreys hmm best evers …. Anne Rice – Vampire Lestate / Shantaram / Shogun / Dune / Teachings of Don Juan / Wonderland Avenue

  48. Ed Dowding ed_dowding

    @Al_Humphreys 10 lessons from the road, without a doubt.

  49. Chris Lines chrisjlines

    @Al_Humphreys Or then again, maybe it’s one of Le Carre’s other Karla trilogy books and Mieville’s The City and The City.

  50. Martin Vidler vids76

    @Al_Humphreys Recent finishes Count of monte cristo / James Clavels Asia Saga / This thing of darkness .. all great books

  51. Lucy Wallace snoweider

    @Al_Humphreys Oh easy. Lord of the rings. A journey on foot, with danger, elves and friends. Blew my quite geeky childhood mind.

  52. Chris Lines chrisjlines

    @Al_Humphreys My view changes every month. At the mo’, it’s between The Honourable Schoolboy by Le Carre or The Scar by China Mieville.

  53. Nation Harris NattySupertramp

    @Al_Humphreys Take a Seat by Dom Gill?

  54. Apple Ball Cat martianloafer

    @Al_Humphreys Zen and the art of Motorcycle maintenance, paths of glory.

  55. Leonora Oppenheim ElioStudio

    @Al_Humphreys The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert, ignore Eat Pray Love, read this incredible tale of modern pioneer Eustace Conway.

  56. Oli Broom cyclingtoashes

    @Al_Humphreys the lost cowboys by Hank Wangford is a helluva read. It’ll prob interest you having cycled through the area too.

  57. Mario Cacciottolo SOTMario

    @Al_Humphreys Alone in Berlin, Birds Without Wings, Carry On Jeeves

  58. Bastien bastiendemange

    @Al_Humphreys 2 book you wont forget soon Vassili peskov : lost in the taiga and also Kolyma by varlam chalamov

  59. Andy Collins Andy_is_great

    @Al_Humphreys Hey Al I liked these; The Kon-Tiki expedition – Thor Heyerdahl, Captain Scott – R feinnes, The Unthinkable – Amanda Ripley

  60. Joanna Penn thecreativepenn

    @Al_Humphreys you need a Kindle , then you always have more samples – I am addicted to samping 🙂

  61. jez hastings jezhastings

    @Al_Humphreys book to read-Richard Mabey’s Beechcombings.

  62. Lucy Wallace snoweider

    @Al_Humphreys I’ve just finished “The Tracker” by Tom Brown Jr. Amazing account of growing up in the wild and learning to live with nature.

  63. alanhardy alannevertooold

    @Al_Humphreys “Two wheels on my wagon” by Paul Howard is worth a read if not done so already.

  64. Ben Saunders polarben

    @Al_Humphreys Riddley Walker

Read Comments

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  1. Robert Jenkins Posted

    My favourite book?
    “Captains Courageous” by Rudyard Kipling.
    Basically a better version of “Old Man and the Sea”!

  2. Ben Grover Posted

    Just read:
    For a Pagan Song – Jonny Bealby
    Wonderful travel writing (so you should appreciate it!)

  3. Quaver Girl Posted

    I’m a sucker for mountaineering books.
    Psychovertical was mad – loved it!

  4. A Tale of Two Cities – Dickens
    The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien.
    But I imagine you’ve read them. So maybe something like
    Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus

  5. Rob Patrick Posted
  6. Richard Mayneord Posted

    Shantaram by Gregory Roberts – absolutely unputdownable! It’s about a man who escapes from jail in Australia, manages to get to India and lives for 10 years in the slums of Mumbai. It’s semi-autobigraphical, based on the true life of the author. It’s a biggie too, at about 1,000 pages, but it’s a real page-turner right to the end!

    • hi Richard,
      I enjoyed Shantaram but felt he could have chopped out about 500 pages.
      Also the fact that it is only semi-factual really spoiled it for me. His life seems astonishing enough without needing to embellish?
      Definitely a good choice though!

  7. Joao Daniel Posted

    A Primate’s Memoir, by Robert Sapolsky.
    you’ll see you can pretty much fit it in all the categories (“[…] novels, biographies, humour, travel […]”)

  8. “Surely You’re Joking Mr Feynman” – inspirational, whether you’re into particle physics or not!

  9. The Shadow of the Sun: My African Life

    Fantastic account of decolonising Africa from perspective of Poland’s first Africa correspondent. Great read.

  10. I just started reading ‘Travel in Dangerous Places’ which is a collection of first-hand accounts from the likes of David Livingstone, Ernest Shackleton, Roald Amundsen, etc. So far so good. Edited by John keay with a thought provoking foreword by the late Wilfred Thesiger.

  11. Yours is a cracking read! BTW that looks a bit like an old book shelf I once had! I would recommend Call of the wild by Guy Grieve, he spent a year living in the Alaskan wilderness. Good read apart from the fact he uses “clearly” a bit too often…

  12. Glen Rooney Posted

    Im reading ” Notes from underground’ by dostoevsky.. incredibly funny book about a man emotionally cut off from the word. some of his thought patterns are hilarious.

  13. Hi Al, this is a great blog, very inspirational. I commented on the similar post last year too so here are a few of my recent favourites…

    The Snow Geese by William Fiennes.

    His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman.

    Occupational Hazards by Rory Stewart.

    Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

    The Vanishing Face of Gaia by James Lovelock

    The Earth by Richard Fortey

    Any of Jasper Fforde’s ‘Thursday Next’ series…adictive!

    Hope you like!

  14. The white tiger by Aravind Adiga. It is an easy read but has quite some depth under the simplicity.

  15. misterbaz Posted

    Best fiction I’ve read recently is Young Turk by Moris Farhi.

    And, (very ) loosely connected to the idea of your micro-adventures, Robert McFarlane’s The Wild Places. Or Roger Deakin’s Wildwood.

  16. A few more Twitter suggestions:

    @arcticlass: Another book “Blazing Paddles” Brian Wilson’s Kayaking Journey around Scotland

    @Revolution_Ferg: the little prince. kitchen confidential, man’s search for meaning, the trial, being and nothingness, on the road, papillon

    @swjscully: The third policeman by Flann O’Brien. The bit about “The atomic theory” and the bicycle becoming part of the rider are apt.

    @fantasticmrmatt: The Unlikely Voyage of Jack De Crow; Wales to the Black Sea in a 12ft wooden boat.

    @evansjh: “Down and Out in Paris and London” by George Orwell – hugely int story of poverty in 1930s

    @dcisbusy: Any short stories by Etgar Keret, Israeli trying to make sense through the bizarre. ‘Missing Kissinger’ is a great collection.

  17. Robert Massie’s Peter the Great… everything and a makeshift door stop. perfect
    Michael Frayn’s Headlong is something I also really enjoyed recently

  18. If you’ve not already read it, I suggest ‘A Walk Across America’ by Peter Jenkins. A bit old now, and not amazingly well written, but an inspiring adventure and a very enjoyable read.

  19. Haggisfrog Posted

    If you haven’t already read it in your polar preparations, try Mawson’s Will. An incredible polar exploration and survival story. Not for dog lovers though…

    Also on my list would be

    Ted Simon’s Jupiters travels
    Any of John Simpson’s books

    You’ve mentioned both authors in your books at some stage so you’ve probably already have read but anyway for those who haven’t.

  20. Mike Stroud’s Survival of the Fittest. Truly inspirational and a lesson in what we can all achieve – at any age…

  21. city of djinns by william dalrymple

  22. If you haven’t already read it, then:

    Nanda Devi Exploration and Ascent

    It’s actually two books, one written by Shipton, the other by Tilman describing their epic exploration of the remote Himalayan region in the best possible style, i.e. small teams, self-reliant etc.

    Brilliantly written in an understated and self-deprecating manner, one of my absolute favourite exploration books.

    Of course, Arabian Sands by Thesiger is another classic.

    Away from adventure, I found the book Chaos by James Gleick was a brilliant and thought provoking read.

  23. – What is the What – Dave Eggers
    – Zeitoun – Dave Eggers
    – 3 Cups of Tea – Greg Mortenson
    – Let my people go surfing – Vyon Choinnard (Patagonia)
    – Leaves of Grass… poetry by Walt Whitman

  24. In regards to that picture on this page, is that your home? A hut in the woods? If so, you have done all my dreams. You’ve cycled around the world, which I am hoping to start in the spring, and you live in a little hutty house! Which I hope to do when I return from my adventure!

  25. Someone way up at the top of this list recommended Rohinton Mistry – a very good suggestion. I had not come across him until we read “Such a Long Journey” for my bookclub and think that he is a great writer.

  26. “Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman” by Jon Krakauer. Krakauer is a terrific author and Tillman (Professional American Football player that died in Afghanistan) was a great man (albeit a Yank). Best parts are about the history of Afghanistan and Pat Tillman as a young man.

  27. Just finished the latest Douglas Coupland, “Generation A”. Definitely up there with his best, which is high praise. Set in the near future when some of the potential impacts of global warming and infomation tech culture have materialised, it is likely to strike a chord with readers of this blog.

    Also just read “The Places In Between”. Al, thanks for the rec in a previous post. Excellent read by another globe trotting nutcase.

  28. Jonathan Effer Posted

    Fup by Jim Dodge
    The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
    Ringolevio by Emmett Grogan
    The Ground Beneath Her Feet by Salman Rushdie

  29. Martin Walton Posted

    “Fools Rush In” by Bill Carter – An amazing book about the siege of Sarajevo

  30. “Bounce” by Matthew Syed, he reveals how the idea of God-given talent is a myth and that the key to achieving greatness lies in hard work and the right attitude and training.

  31. These are my favorite recent readings on nature and travel:
    John Vaillant’s ‘The Tiger’, Greg Mortensen’s ‘3 Cups of Tea’ and ‘Stones into Schools’, Sid Marty’s ‘The Black Grizzly of Whiskey Creek’, Susan Casey’s ‘The Wave’. Peter E. Kelly’s ‘The Last Stand’, John Walsh’s ‘Time is Short & the Water Rises: Operation GWAMBA: The Story of the Rescue of 10,000 Animals From Certain Death in a South American Rain Forest’.

    I read the last one in mid-80s and again and again ever since then.

  32. Bel Canto=by Ann Patchett. An adventure in it’s own right. I absolutely fell in love with each character and was thinking about some lines in the book for months to come. I sent it to a friend in the mail lined with sticky notes on my favorite parts and we posed questions and thoughts back and forth.

  33. A book by a fellow adventurer – Around Africa On My Bicycle by Riaan Manser

  34. Hi Al

    Have you read Tuesday’s with Morrie by Mitch Albom or the Alchemist by Paulo Coelho…both great books?

    I readTony Cascarino’s autobiography a while ago when travelling as it was the only book in the hostel. It was a great read and a very honest account of his football career.

    Will you be doing any talks in the North of England soon?



  35. Andrew Richards Posted

    Might be a bit late on this one but Papillon is a one of my favourite books of all time.

    It’s about a guy who escapes from prison…but better than Shantaram.

    I agree with you on Shantaram, potentially an immense book but left me thinking….is this really true and why does it take this many pages to tell the story.

    • Much as I love the wonderful Papillon, I fear that the same charge I hold against Shantaram may also stand against Papillon. I have read a couple of articles suggesting it may not all be true.
      Great tale though.

  36. INTO THE WILD!!!..a young man who decided to leave this consumer scoiety and went into the alaskian wild to conquer absolute freedom. Before his big adventure in Alaska, He travelled a lot, backpacking and hitching. My favourite book!
    Unfortunately this man, named Chris McCandless, died.
    Maybe you could have seen the homonymous film Into the Wild by Sean Penn.

  37. colleen mclaughlin Posted

    In the Shadow of Denali, by Jonathan Waterman, describes life and death on North America’s highest mountain. It is passionately well-written by someone who has spent much of his life on this mountain.

    Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales is a great read. It delves into the reasons why people survive accidents or other great and unexpected challenges, while others perish. It takes a close-up view at the reactions and behaviors that lead to survival, or death.

    An oldie but goodie is Dervla Murhphy’s Full Tilt, particularly for its descriptions and insights into the wonders of her travels in Afghanistan.

    A friend from the UK sent me her copy of Sea Room, mentioned above, after we completed a bike tour of the Hebrides. An intimately detailed book about a small place, it is definitely worth a read.

  38. I’ve just bought a Kindle so trawled through this list again picking up a few more that I did not read originally.
    Thanks for all the suggestions!

  39. Scratch my last suggestion. I strongly recommend Soul Survivor by Philip Yancey. 13 biographies, including Martin Luther King Jr, Tolstoy and Ghandi. Discovering each of the people and their life adventure has been amazing and has restored my interest in reading!



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