Exploration is a state of mind. Explorers seek out hidden places on Earth or deep inside themselves; they leave on a journey to discover the world and come back having learnt something about themselves. The urge to leave our comfort zone to reach for something unknown is an incredibly powerful feeling that has always infused novels, essays, fiction and non-fiction. Here are the 10 most inspiring books about exploration chosen by the Fold editorial team.
An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders
Published by Atlas Obscura, a magazine collecting the strangest and most curious places in the world, this Explorer’s Guide edited by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras and Ella Morton leads the reader through five continents in search of the lesser-known wonders of the globe. Some examples are an abandoned miners’ village in Nigeria, an Indian palace that resembles an Escher painting, or the glowworm cave in New Zealand – a magical place lit up by the light of millions of insects.
A classic sea adventure tale: published in 1851, Moby Dick by Herman Melville recounts the epic journey of Captain Ahab and his crew to hunt the great white whale. The obsession of Captain Ahab, who lost his leg to the rage of Moby Dick in a previous encounter, drives him from the freezing waters of Nantucket in the North of the USA, to the warm climates of the Equator. It is here that he finally meets the white whale for one final battle.
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Biography, Barbarian Days by William Finnegan is a memoir that smells of the ocean, sun and sweat. It recounts the author’s innate passion for surf and the lengths it took him to fulfill it. After graduating in California during the Summer of Love, Finnegan took off with a friend for a trip around the world in search of the perfect wave. This trip would take them to Fiji, Australia, Indonesia and finally South Africa on a life changing journey.
The Eight Mountains
Pietro is a young city boy who spends his holidays in a small village close to Monte Rosa in the Italian Alps. During seemingly never ending summers, Pietro becomes friends with a local boy called Bruno, who helps him discover the natural environment around him. The Eight Mountains is an award-winning novel by Italian writer Paolo Cognetti, a coming-of-age journey about the discovery of the wild, pure, and extreme world of the high mountains and the lessons they can teach about life, loss and growth.
Trails are a hidden web that connects the world. From ant trails to the paths that thread the mountains, they point the way and lead our feet. This is what Robert Moor, the author of On Trails, thought when walking the Appalachian Trail. How do they form? Why do we decide to follow them? The quest to answer these questions took him all over the world, to discover the origin of paths, roads, and hidden trails that link us all and are the foundation of the Internet.
1933, New Guinea. Three anthropologists have been working on the field for some years, in the hardest circumstances: hostile climate conditions, illnesses, dangers, tense relationships with the tribes they are studying. Euphoria by Lily King is a fictional interpretation of the life and works of Margaret Mead, one of the most famous anthropologists of all time. It revolves around the discovery of new populations, their secrets, their traditions, and the depths that a human being can reach when confronted with the wilderness.
The Geography of Genius
Some specific places, during a specific lapse of time, seem to have enjoyed a particularly impressive burst of creativity. Think of Ancient Athens or Renaissance Florence, or Silicon Valley technological exploits. Is there any connection between these places and the innovative ideas that have sprung out of them? This is the question that underlines The Geography of Genius, Lessons from the World’s Most Creative Places by Eric Weiner, a modern Grand Tour in search of the roots of creativity. “What was in the air, and can we bottle it?”
The Invention of Morel
A history of discovery, romance and ghosts. A fugitive man hides on a desert island, where he tries to make a living of what he finds there. Suddenly, a group of tourists come to visit Morel, the owner of the island. The fugitive falls in love with a beautiful woman, who does not seem to notice him. Actually, no one seems to notice him. What is the reason? Why does everyone seems to repeat the exact same actions? The answer might lie in the strange machine found in the basement of the abandoned house, The Invention of Morel.
There are places in the world that seem to carry a destiny written in their name. Disappointment Island, Loveless Lake, Mount Hopeless… What is the history behind these names? This is the exact question that Damien Rudd, author of Sad Topographies, asked himself. First he collected these places in an Instagram account, then he decided to do more research. Between the heritage of colonial history, the traces of adventurous explorers and the signs of legends that last until today. You can discover them all in the book!
The Savage Detectives
It is impossible to think about Roberto Bolaño’s novels without picturing young poets lost in the nights of Mexico City, wandering through the empty streets, having a drink of mezcal, a bite of tortilla and then starting all over again. This is just what Ulises Lima (recalling the great wanderer of Antiquity) and Arturo Belano do, before setting off to look for the mysterious poet Cesárea Tinajero. Besides covering miles and miles of road, the Savage Detectives leads the readers through a poetic wandering in the field of literature and the wilderness at its heart.