We live in what we like to call a concrete jungle today, but the truth is that the actual jungle is a much more wondrous and dangerous place. Throughout history, people have been obsessed with exploring it’s mysteries, with varying levels of success. This works out great for us because these adventures inevitably end up as incredible books for us to read.
Today, for World Animal Day, here are some of the best books about the wilderness out there.
Into The Wild, Jon Krakauer
Although the book was published in 1996, its seeds were planted in Krakaruer’s 9000-word article, titled Death Of An Innocent, which was published in 1993. Krakauer retraces the steps taken by Christopher McCandless, aka Alexander Supertramp, over the two years between his graduation from high school and the discovery of his corpse inside an abandoned bus in Alaska, USA. He also explores the similarities between McCandless and himself. The book is an excellent portrait of grief, especially that of McCandless’ family and friends who tried and failed to understand the young man. The tale is a gripping account of what could go wrong when man pits himself against nature.
Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
So many of us have seen Apocalypse Now but not as many have read the book on which that amazing film was based. Conrad’s epic story about a voyage up the Congo River, set in the very heart of Africa, to find the mysterious ivory trader Kurtz is an incredible exploration of what makes us civilized. The book raises questions about racism and imperialism (which was very much the norm at the time of the book’s publication) and forces readers to re-evaluate their notion of what separates them from those they consider lower than themselves.
Tiger! Tiger! Rudyard Kipling
While this is technically a short story, we couldn’t leave this out of the list simply because it completes a story that so many of us know only the beginning of. Occurring immediately after the events of The Jungle Book, this story picks up the plot after Mowgli has chased Sher Khan out of the jungle. After being forced out of the wolf pack, he is adopted by humans and forced to become civilized. What happens next is a tale of daring, adventure and betrayal.
Lost In Shangri-La, Mitchell Zuckoff
In May of 1945, a US military airplane, The Gremlin Special, crashed in New Guinea. On board was Women’s Army Corps corporal Margaret Hastings. The news of her being lost in the jungle with 'savages' soon reached the people of America and the event was covered extensively by the press. In 2011, Zuckoff published a modern retelling of the events from that time, based on interviews with Americans and New Guineans who had been alive at the time, along with previously unpublished information. The case was one of the most amazing rescue missions of World War II and Zuckoff does it complete justice in his brilliant book.
Man-Eaters Of Kumaon, Jim Corbett
You’ve heard of Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand, but did you know Jim Corbett was an author apart from being a naturalist and a famed hunter? This book follows Corbett into the Kumaron region of India between the 1900s and the 1930s, as he hunts down man-eating leopards and tigers. It is a collection of 10 short stories filled with daring and adventure, but the beasts he hunts down are terrifying in every sense of the word. After reading these stories, you’ll be glad for the safety of your guide’s vehicle the next time you visit a national park.
Mother of God: An Extraordinary Journey Into The Uncharted Tributaries Of The Western Amazon, Paul Rosolie
The book is an account of Rosolie’s epic adventure into the Amazon. What sets the book apart from other tales of adventure is that Rosolie dedicates himself entirely towards saving one of the world’s last great jungles, the rainforest of Madre de Dios (Mother of God). Along the way, he fought of wild beasts, wrestled with anacondas, tracked multiple species of animals so as to understand them better, and even spent time among the indigenous people of the region. His journey is a blueprint on how to rewrite the staid old way we approached conservation of our wildlife.
Blood River: A Journey To Africa's Broken Heart, Tim Butcher
Butcher embarked on a plan that was described as 'suicidal' by everyone he spoke to. The man was obsessed with recreating HM Stanley’s famous expedition across the Congo, but with one major difference. He wanted to do it all alone. Nevertheless, he embarked on his adventure-of-a-lifetime and made his way via an assortment of different vehicles, being helped along his way by an amazing and diverse cast of characters. But while his story is amazing, the story of the Congo, told through vivid and exciting prose, is more amazing still.
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