Daniel James Brown, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Boys in the Boat, recommends “Five Books That Take You Away”:
One of the things that I look for in a book is a story that will carry me away to a time or a place that I know I will never be able to visit myself. That applies to both fiction and nonfiction, but for me the draw is particularly powerful in the case of nonfiction, where I know that the world I am journeying into really does or really did exist. Here a few of my favorite armchair adventures.
In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides
What an epic journey! Transported back to 1879 you will travel deep into the Polar Regions on the U.S.S. Jeannette. You will soon find yourself struggling valiantly alongside Captain George Washington De Long as he confronts mounting and seemingly impossible obstacles in one of the harshest and most challenging environments on earth. Put out some snacks by your reading chair, because you’re going to get hungry before it’s all over.
The Emerald Mile by Kevin Fedarko
This is one of those books that takes you not only into a spectacular physical environment—the Grand Canyon—but also into a culture that is nearly as exotic as the setting. Racing through the canyon on the Colorado River at crest of an epic flood, you will see it as you have never seen it before, and you will learn about the mindset of the extraordinary young people who live to master the river when it is at its most dangerous.
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
By now Krakauer’s epic tale of life and death on Mount Everest is a classic of narrative nonfiction. But it’s a classic for good reason, and if you’ve somehow missed it, you should don a sub-zero parka, grab some supplemental oxygen, and strap on some crampons because you’re going to feel that you need them as you ascend the mountain with Krakauer on what turned out to be a tragic expedition in 1996. Along the way, you are are going to journey deep into the souls of those who accompanied Krakauer, and the author himself.
Pilgrim’s Wilderness by Tom Kizzla
I suppose this is not so much a journey as a sudden and dramatic translocation. But you are likely to find the world in which Kinzzla sets you down—outside the tiny Alaskan outpost of McCarthy—as exotic and interesting as you could hope for. Aside from the vivid descriptions of the countryside itself, the book will introduce you to a memorable cast of eccentric characters, most particularly Papa Pilgrim, his wife, and their brood of fifteen children. The tale turns on the slow unraveling of Pilgrim’s carefully constructed and self-serving mythology about his life, and in so doing it brings you face to face with just how odd life in rural Alaska can be.
Pirate Hunters by Robert Kurson
This is a book that takes you on two adventures at once. You will travel under the Caribbean with a pair of modern-day, high-tech treasure hunters. And at the same time you will travel back to the 1600s—the Golden Age of pirates—and voyage on the Golden Fleece with her rapacious captain, the infamous John Bannister. Both the modern day and the 17th century stories are first rate.
Thanks, Daniel James Brown! And the Penguin Hotline can’t help but recommend one book that takes us away: The Boys in the Boat! Start reading an excerpt here. And check out the Penguin Hotline for custom book recommendations!