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A Cruising Voyage Round the World:
The Adventures of an English Privateer
By Woodes Rogers
This is the first-hand story of Woodes Rogers, the most successful British privateer ever, and his circumnavigation from 1708 to 1711. Rogers' mission was to harass Spanish shipping, and he did it splendidly, capturing two Spanish galleons laden with riches off the Pacific coast of the Americas. Along the way he rescued a castaway, a Scottish seaman named Alexander Selkirk, who joined his crew. Daniel Defoe, a friend of Rogers', read this log, and later wrote Robinson Crusoe. High adventure on the high seas!
A Journal of the Santa Fe Expedition under Colonel Doniphan:
Under Colonel Doniphan in 1846
By Jacob S. Robinson
Jacob Robinson volunteered for Colonel Doniphan's expedition, which left St. Louis in June 1846 for old Santa Fe, simply because he had nothing better to do. The expedition continued on through Navaho country and then down into Chihuahua, Mexico, where they fought with the Mexicans. Their victories were the basis of a United States claim to what is now New Mexico, Arizona and California. As a newcomer to the great West, Robinson was fascinated by all that he saw, and provides some wonderful sketches of the people and scenery.
A Ride to Khiva:
My Travels and Adventures in Central Asia, 1875
By Frederick Gustavus Burnaby
Frederick Gustavus Burnaby--soldier, traveler, writer, and pioneer balloonist--set out on an unofficial mission in 1875 to investigate the motives behind Russia's exclusion of foreigners from Central Asia. This real-life adventure details the hardship and humor of Burnaby's excursion. Reprinted eleven times in its first year of publication, the story made Burnaby a popular hero in his own day.
A Virginia Girl in the Civil War:
Being a Record of the Actual Experiences of the Wife of a Confederate Officer
By Myrta Lockett Avary
This narrative gives a rare glimpse inside the mind of the wife of a former Confederate officer and shows with a simple sincerity what life was like for many Southern women during the human tragedy of the Civil War. The author tells of her many travels across the war-torn South, her capture behind enemy lines, her encounter with the famous Belle Boyd, her friendship with the dashing General J.E.B. Stuart, and the devastation suffered by the citizens of Richmond in the last days of the Confederacy. This is a real "Gone with the Wind."
Across Asia on a Bicycle:
The Journey of Two American Students from Constantinople to Peking in 1890
By Thomas Gaskell Allen
Allen and Sachtleben graduated from Washington University in June 1890, sailed to Liverpool, and began a 15,000 mile bicycle journey to Peking. They had conceived of the idea during their senior year as "a practical finish to a theoretical education" in liberal arts. Their account really begins in Asia Minor as they cycle on through Persia and Turkestan, with detours to Merv, Bokhara and Samarkand. They peddled across the vast tract of the Gobi Desert to Peking, where they were received by Li-Hung-Chang, the Prime Minister of China.
Adventures on the Columbia River:
Six Years on the Western Side of the Rocky Mountains
By Ross Cox
Ross Cox was a fur trader for the Pacific Fur Company. In 1811, he sailed from New York, around the Horn, to Hawaii, and on to the Columbia River in Oregon, exploring inland to Montana along the Clark Fork and Flathead Rivers. For six years he lived on the frontier -- and beyond -- in a violent world of white and red men, bears and wolves, frostbite and starvation. He wasn't a hero, but he was a survivor, and a sharp observer who wrote one of the best first-hand accounts of the fur trapper's life.
African Game Trails:
The Classic Big Game Safari
By Theodore Roosevelt
This book reads like a loping conversation with our 26th president. He has just returned from his year-long safari in east Africa at the turn of the last century and he is full of stories about hunting and native life. He is also full of dated opinions about the native peoples and what should be done about them (for their own good, of course). The graphic (and endless) hunting scenes are also not for the vegans amongst us. But all this said, this is a bully adventure book.
Against All Odds:
Shot Down Over Occupied Territory in World War II
By Frederick Dustin Worthen
The author and his eight crewmembers bailed out of their crippled B-24 on their 24th mission over enemy territory. Shot at and then captured by the Germans, they were taken to a stalag in Nuremberg, and then on a forced march to another in Moosburg. They were strafed by Allied planes, nearly lynched by an angry mob, starved, and shot at again by retreating SS just before their liberation by General Patton. Incredibly, all nine crewmembers survived, and eight of them contributed to this remarkable account that took 20 years to write.
An American General:
The Memoirs of David Sloan Stanley
By David Sloan Stanley
Stanley had a remarkable American military career. He started in 1853 by surveying a railroad route along the 35th parallel, fighting the Cheyennes on Solomon's Fork and the Comanches near Fort Arbuckle. At the start of the Civil War he turned down a Confederate commission and led Federal troops in dozens of battles, including most of the battles in the Atlanta Campaign and the defense of Nashville (he won the Congressional Medal of Honor for his leadership in the battle of Franklin, Tennessee). This memoir must be read by anyone seriously interested in the Civil War.
Anson's Voyage Around the World:
In the Years 1740-1744
By Richard Walter
When Britain declared war on Spain in 1740, Commodore George Anson was sent to harass the Spanish in the Americas. His fleet was manned with the sick and infirm, and he lost the majority of his crew by the time he reached the west coast of South America. Nevertheless, the HMS Centurion sacked the city of Paita in Peru and managed to capture a Manila galleon before sailing home the rest of the way around the world. The author, Richard Walter, was chaplain aboard, and it is interesting to compare this book with Woodes Roger's account of the same voyage.
Ascent of Denali:
First on the Highest Peak in North America, 1913
By Hudson Stuck
Hudson Stuck was the Episcopalian archdeacon of the Yukon. With three companions he made the first ascent of Mt. McKinley -- the 20,320 foot tall south summit of Denali. They started in March, arrived at the approaches in April, and by May they were at their base camp, where a late storm kept them in their tents for three weeks reading Shakespeare, history, theology, philosophy, and science. They reached the summit near mid-day on June 7, 1913. Stuck could see and appreciate the beauty of the mountain, which comes through in this intimate account.
Boots and Saddles:
Or, Life in Dakota with General Custer
By Elizabeth B. Custer
The wild west from a wife's perspective! Mrs. Custer describes her life on the plains with the General until his disastrous defeat at Little Big Horn. She nursed frostbitten soldiers, camped among the Sioux, and saw the capture of Rain-in-the Face. All the while she maintained a home -- no mean feat in a land of punishing blizzards, scorching summers and few amenities. More than anyone else, Elizabeth was responsible for creating the character of General Custer, and burnishing his image as long as she lived.
Burro Bill and Me:
Ramblings in the American Desert
By Edna Calkins Price
Burro Bill and Me, a personal memoir, shows the West in the 1930s just as it was changing from an open territory to the settled land it is now. This very literate, funny, and insightful book is a joy to read. Ms Price gave up a life as a nurse to a millionaire to travel Death Valley, Nevada, and the Arizona Strip behind a burro. The characters she meets come to life in this book; from the old prospectors, Mormon farmers, thieves, and people who would give their last bite of food to a couple of strangers.
California Coast Trails:
A Horseback Adventure from Mexico to Oregon in 1911
By J. Smeaton Chase
This is the lyrical journal of Chase's 2,000-mile horseback journey from Mexico to Oregon along the coast trails. He set off in 1911, his purpose being to experience the beauty of the land and to record for posterity the distinctively 'Western' way of life. Chase felt that with the construction of the Panama Canal, commerce and industry in California would skyrocket and the old way of life would disappear, along with the sacred nature of the coast lands. So he decided to see it all for himself and record it for future generations. A fascinating look at the towns and wilds of California as they were at the beginning of the 20th century.
Camera Trails in Africa:
A Photographer's Safari in British East Africa
By Martin Johnson
Johnson, previously a photographer of 'wild men' in the islands of the South Seas, takes his first African safari in the early 1920's. With his wife Osa he journeys through Eastern Africa, photographing and hunting wild animals. Replete with thrilling adventures, near-fatal mishaps, and moments of quiet beauty, this is the story of the beginning of the Johnsons' love affair with Africa. In his graceful, accurate prose, Martin describes the awesome creatures of the savannah, occasionally interjecting a tirade about the poisoning influences of the 'civilization.' A lovely and entertaining book.
Cavorting with Cannibals:
An Exploration of Vanuatu
By Rick Williamson
This is modern explorer's tale of living among the primitive peoples in the Vanuatu island chain of Melanesia. On Lamen Island he falls in with a sorcerer, who reveals the tiny island's brutal past. On Erromango, the haunted island, he hunts pigs and survives an exorcism. On Tanna Island, where they believe all white men are evil, he is initiated into a tribe. On Irian Jaya he survives where missionaries died. Williamson walks alone, and survives by embracing these cultures.
Commerce of the Prairies:
Life on the Great Plains in the 1830's and 40's
By Josiah Gregg
Gregg crossed and recrossed the Great Plains four times as a trader, frontiersman and trail-blazer in the 1830's and 40's. His epic account of early Santa Fe trade has been used as a guide by historians, naturalists and sociologists because of its accuracy and detail. "Commerce of the Prairies" gives a remarkably clear view of the country as it was when white people first arrived. Gregg describes the thrill of a buffalo hunt, the disappointment of a desert mirage, and the terror of an Indian attack with first-hand immediacy.
Confessions of a Macedonian Bandit:
A Californian in the Balkan Wars
By Albert Sonnichsen
Sonnichsen left San Francisco in 1905, went to Macedonia, and got caught up in the Balkan Wars. Oddly Quixotic but quintessentially American, he took sides with the revolutionaries fighting against the Turks and the Greeks in the Strumitza Mountains, on the Bulgarian border. Horror abounds, but also humor: the revolutionaries abduct a young woman, hoping her ransom will fund their war, but she and her pregnant companion make their lives miserable.
Dead Men Do Tell Tales:
A 1930's Archaeological Expedition into Abyssinia
By Byron Khun de Prorok
This is de Prorok's tale of his archaeological expedition into Abyssinia (now called Ethiopia) in 1933-34. Hardly the patient scientist, Prorok tells about raiding tombs, flirting with native women, outrunning murderous warlords, spying on magical cults, and getting hip-deep in political intrigue in one of the wildest places on Earth. This fellow is the real Indiana Jones. This edition contains an historical introduction and extensive footnotes. (Second Edition)
Death Valley in '49:
The Autobiography of a Pioneer
By William L. Manly
This is the detailed and devastating account of the sufferings of the party of emigrants who gave Death Valley its name. Persuaded by the leader of another wagon train to try a shortcut to southern California, the emigrants got lost in the barren, arid valley. After splitting into small groups, most of the party died of thirst, hunger, or exhaustion. William Manly, however, lived up to his name, and survived the ordeal to write this autobiography, which also describes conditions in California during the 1849 Gold Rush.
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