Attention Robyn Carr fans! Did you enjoy What We Find?
The Corps of Discovery Expedition (Clark wanted to call it the Magical Mystery Tour but was out-voted*) set off 115 years ago today. The expedition, commissioned by Thomas Jefferson to explore the newly expanded frontier (thanks to the Louisiana Purchase) and find a way through to the west coast, rode, walked and floated (rivers are incredibly handy when they aren’t flooded) it’s way across the continent from the Illinois side of the Mississippi and back. All told, it took two year, four months and ten days!
Can’t. Even. Imagine.
It is hard to comprehend such an undertaking, committing that much time and effort to a potentially dangerous enterprise with no certain conclusion. Boldly going, et cetera, et cetera. Just amazing. Recognizing that, the Corps of Discovery and explorers in general, here is a list of some our favorite books about explorers and their adventures, successful and otherwise.
In August of 1914, the British ship Endurance set sail for the South Atlantic. In October 1915, still half a continent away from its intended base, the ship was trapped, then crushed in the ice. For five months, Sir Ernest Shackleton and his men, drifting on ice packs, were castaways in one of the most savage regions of the world.
In 1803 President Thomas Jefferson selected his personal secretary, Captain Meriwether Lewis, to lead a pioneering voyage across the Great Plains and into the Rockies. It was completely uncharted territory; a wild, vast land ruled by the Indians.
Joe Simpson and his climbing partner, Simon Yates, had just reached the top of a 21,000-foot peak in the Andes when disaster struck. Simpson plunged off the vertical face of an ice ledge, breaking his leg. In the hours that followed, darkness fell and a blizzard raged as Yates tried to lower his friend to safety. Finally, Yates was forced to cut the rope, moments before he would have been pulled to his own death. The next three days were an impossibly grueling ordeal for both men.
Recipient of the Grand Prix of the Académie Française, Wind, Sand and Stars captures the grandeur, danger, and isolation of flight. Its exciting account of air adventure, combined with lyrical prose and the spirit of a philosopher, makes it one of the most popular works ever written about flying.
The Worst Journey in the World recounts Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the South Pole. Apsley Cherry-Garrard, the youngest member of Scott’s team and one of three men to make and survive the notorious Winter Journey, draws on his firsthand experiences as well as the diaries of his compatriots to create a stirring and detailed account of Scott’s legendary expedition.
“Arabian Sands” is Wilfred Thesiger’s record of his extraordinary journey through the parched “Empty Quarter” of Arabia. Educated at Eton and Oxford, Thesiger was repulsed by the softness and rigidity of Western life-“the machines, the calling cards, the meticulously aligned streets.” In the spirit of T. E. Lawrence, he set out to explore the deserts of Arabia, traveling among peoples who had never seen a European and considered it their duty to kill Christian infidels.
A bank of clouds was assembling on the not-so-distant horizon, but journalist-mountaineer Jon Krakauer, standing on the summit of Mt. Everest, saw nothing that “suggested that a murderous storm was bearing down.” He was wrong. The storm, which claimed five lives and left countless more–including Krakauer’s–in guilt-ridden disarray, would also provide the impetus for Into Thin Air, Krakauer’s epic account of the May 1996 disaster.
Kon-Tiki is the record of an astonishing adventure — a journey of 4,300 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean by raft. Intrigued by Polynesian folklore, biologist Thor Heyerdahl suspected that the South Sea Islands had been settled by an ancient race from thousands of miles to the east, led by a mythical hero, Kon-Tiki. He decided to prove his theory by duplicating the legendary voyage. On April 28, 1947, Heyerdahl and five other adventurers sailed from Peru on a balsa log raft.
Ferdinand Magellan’s daring circumnavigation of the globe in the sixteenth century was a three-year odyssey filled with sex, violence, and amazing adventure. Now in Over the Edge of the World, prize-winning biographer and journalist Laurence Bergreen entwines a variety of candid, firsthand accounts, bringing to life this groundbreaking and majestic tale of discovery that changed both the way explorers would henceforth navigate the oceans and history itself.
In April, 1992, a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, a party of moose hunters found his decomposed body. How McCandless came to die is the unforgettable story of Into the Wild.
Did we miss one of your favorites? Feel free to comment below and add to the list.
As a lifelong period drama devotee, historical romance is probably my favorite subgenre in all of Romancelandia. But as a history nerd, I’ve never quite understood why the Regency and Victorian eras are so very, very dominant. Don’t get me wrong—I will never say no to a good bustle, and I love Austen-esque tales as much as the next romance reader. But why isn’t there an entire genre of fast-paced, witty Roaring ’20s romances? Or love affairs within the court intrigue of Tudor England? Or, you know, more romances set anywhere other than England or America? The following list is unfortunately still Anglocentric, much like the romance genre itself, but these authors offer a place to start for those looking to move beyond the Regency or Victorian romance.
It was a relatively minor criminal matter, all things considered, but enough that the US Marshals obtained a warrant to enter the home. They didn’t expect to unearth trophies from a score of killings. Now Davenport is on the trail of a serial murderer, one who was able to operate for years without notice or suspicion. But there’s even more to this killer than meets the eye…
In recognition of the day here are two lists of the best Star Wars novels ever. Yes, two lists, one canon and one that used to be.
10. QUEEN’S SHADOW by E. K. Johnston
When Padmé Naberrie, “Queen Amidala” of Naboo, steps down from her position, she is asked by the newly-elected queen to become Naboo’s representative in the Galactic Senate. Padmé is unsure about taking on the new role, but cannot turn down the request to serve her people. Together with her most loyal handmaidens, Padmé must figure out how to navigate the treacherous waters of politics and forge a new identity beyond the queen’s shadow.
9. STAR WARS: AFTERMATH by Chuck Wendig
As the Empire reels from its critical defeats at the Battle of Endor, the Rebel Alliance—now a fledgling New Republic—presses its advantage by hunting down the enemy’s scattered forces before they can regroup and retaliate. But above the remote planet Akiva, an ominous show of the enemy’s strength is unfolding.
8. THRAWN by Timothy Zahn
One of the most cunning and ruthless warriors in the history of the Galactic Empire, Grand Admiral Thrawn is also one of the most captivating characters in the Star Wars universe, but Thrawn’s origins and the story of his rise in the Imperial ranks have remained mysterious. Now, author Timothy Zahn chronicles the fateful events that launched the blue-skinned, red-eyed master of military strategy and lethal warfare into the highest realms of power—and infamy.
7. LAST SHOT by Daniel Jose Older
It’s been ten years since the rebel hero Han Solo last encountered Fyzen Gor. After mounting a successful rebellion against the Empire and starting a family with an Alderaanian princess, Han hasn’t given much thought to the mad inventor. But when Lando turns up at Han’s doorstep in the middle of the night, it’s Fyzen’s assassins that he’s running from. And without Han’s help, Lando — and all life on Cloud City — will be annihilated.
6. BLOODLINE by Claudia Gray
Now a respected senator of the New Republic, Leia must grapple with the dangers that threaten to cripple the fledgling democracy—from both within and without. Underworld kingpins, treacherous politicians, and Imperial loyalists are sowing chaos in the galaxy. Desperate to take action, senators are calling for the election of a First Senator. It is their hope that this influential post will bring strong leadership to a divided galaxy. As the daughter of Darth Vader, Leia faces with distrust the prospect of any one person holding such a powerful position—even when supporters suggest Leia herself for the job. But a new enemy may make this path Leia’s only option.
5. THRAWN: ALLIANCES by Timothy Zahn
On Batuu, at the edges of the Unknown Regions, a threat to the Empire is taking root—its existence little more than a glimmer, its consequences as yet unknowable. But it is troubling enough to the Imperial leader to warrant investigation by his most powerful agents: ruthless enforcer Lord Darth Vader and brilliant strategist Grand Admiral Thrawn.
4. TARKIN by James Luceno
Grand Moff Tarkin, the face of the Empire (at least in 1977 before we met the Emperor), has never had his story told. Until now as author James Luceno brings the legendary character to full, fascinating life.
3. A NEW DAWN by John Jackson Miller
Ever since the Jedi were marked for death and forced to flee Coruscant, Kanan Jarrus has devoted himself to staying alive rather than serving the Force. Wandering the galaxy alone, from one anonymous job to another, he avoids trouble–especially with the Empire–at all costs. So when he discovers a deadly conflict brewing between ruthless Imperial forces and desperate revolutionaries, he’s not about to get caught in the crossfire. Then the brutal death of a friend at the Empire’s hands forces the ex-Jedi to make a choice: bow down to fear, or stand up and fight.
2. AHSOKA by E. K. Johnston
Fans have long wondered what happened to Ahsoka after she left the Jedi Order near the end of the Clone Wars, and before she re-appeared as the mysterious Rebel operative Fulcrum in Rebels. Finally, her story will begin to be told. Following her experiences with the Jedi and the devastation of Order 66, Ahsoka is unsure she can be part of a larger whole ever again. But her desire to fight the evils of the Empire and protect those who need it will lead her right to Bail Organa, and the Rebel Alliance….
1. LORDS OF THE SITH by Paul S. Kemp
“It appears things are as you suspected, Lord Vader. We are indeed hunted.” Anakin Skywalker, Jedi Knight, is just a memory. Darth Vader, newly anointed Sith Lord, is ascendant. The Emperor’s chosen apprentice has swiftly proven his loyalty to the dark side. Still, the history of the Sith Order is one of duplicity, betrayal, and acolytes violently usurping their Masters—and the truest measure of Vader’s allegiance has yet to be taken. Until now.
10. FATE OF THE JEDI series by Aaron Allston, Christie Golden, and Troy Denning
After a violent civil war, and the devastation wrought by the now-fallen Darth Caedus, the Galactic Alliance is in crisis — and in need. From all corners, politicians, power brokers, and military leaders converge on Coruscant for a crucial summit to restore order, negotiate differences, and determine the future of their unified worlds. But even more critical, and far more uncertain, is the future of the Jedi.
9. THE COURTSHIP OF PRINCESS LEIA by Dave Wolverton
Seeking rich, powerful allies to bring into the Rebel Alliance and a new home planet for the refugees of her native Alderaan, Princess Leia considers a proposal that could tip the balance of power against the evil Empire. The Hapes Consortium of 63 worlds is ruled by the Queen Mother, who wants Leia to marry her son, the dashing and wealthy Prince Isolder. Han Solo has always dreamed of marrying Leia himself, and now he makes a desperate last gamble to win her back.
8. SPLINTER OF THE MIND’S EYE by Alan Dean Foster
Luke Skywalker expected trouble when he volunteered to follow Princess Leia on her mission to the planet Circarpous. But he discovered that hidden on the planet was the Kaiburr crystal, a mysterious gem that would give the one who possessed it such powers over the Force that he would be all but invincible. In the wrong hands, the crystal could be deadly. So Luke had to find this treasure and find it fast….
7. LEGACY OF THE FORCE series by Troy Denning, Karen Traviss, and Aaron Allston
This is the era of Luke Skywalker’s legacy: the Jedi Master has unified the order into a cohesive group of powerful Jedi Knights. However, as this era begins, planetary interests threaten to disrupt this time of relative peace and Luke is plagued by visions of an approaching darkness.
6. DARK LORD: THE RISE OF DARTH VADER by James Luceno
Throughout the galaxy, it was believed that Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker the Chosen One had died on Coruscant during the siege of the Jedi Temple. And, to some extent, that was true. Anakin was dead. Seduced, deranged, and destroyed by the machinations of the Dark Lord Sidious, Anakin Skywalker is dead . . . and Darth Vader lives.
5. THE OLD REPUBLIC: DECEIVED by Paul S. Kemp
Darth Malgus brought down the Jedi Temple on Coruscant in a brutal assault that shocked the galaxy. But if war crowned him the darkest of Sith heroes, peace would transform him into something far more heinous—something Malgus would never want to be, but cannot stop, any more than he can stop the rogue Jedi fast approaching.
4. DARTH PLAGUEIS by James Luceno
“Did you ever hear the Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise? It’s a Sith legend. Darth Plagueis was a Dark Lord of the Sith, so powerful and so wise that he could use the Force to influence the midi-chlorians to create life. He had such a knowledge of the dark side that he could even keep the ones he cared about from dying.”
—Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith
3. DARTH BANE trilogy: PATH OF DESTRUCTION, RULE OF TWO, and DYNASTY OF EVIL by Drew Karpyshyn
Once the Sith order teemed with followers. But their rivalries divided them in endless battles for supremacy. Until one Dark Lord at last united the Sith in the quest to enslave the galaxy—and exterminate the Jedi. Yet it would fall to another, far more powerful than the entire Brotherhood of Darkness, to ultimately realize the full potential of the Sith and wield the awesome power of the dark side as never before.
2. THE NEW JEDI ORDER series by multiple authors
Twenty-one years have passed since the heroes of the Rebel Alliance destroyed the Death Star, breaking the power of the Emperor. Since then, the New Republic and the New Jedi Order have valiantly struggled to maintain peace and prosperity among the peoples of the galaxy. But unrest has begun to spread and threatens to destroy the Republic’s tenuous reign.
1. THE THRAWN trilogy: HEIR TO THE EMPIRE, DARK FORCE RISING, and THE LAST COMMAND by Timothy Zahn
It is a time of renewal, five years after the destruction of the Death Star and the defeat of Darth Vader and the Empire. But with the war seemingly won, strains are beginning to show in the Rebel Alliance. New challenges to galactic peace have arisen. And Luke Skywalker hears a voice from his past. A voice with a warning. Beware the dark side….
Movie: Tell It to the Bees
When it comes out: May 3
What the book is about: Lydia Weekes is distraught at the break-up of her marriage. When her young son, Charlie, makes friends with the local doctor, Jean Markham, her life is turned upside down. Charlie tells his secrets to no one but the bees, but even he can’t keep his mother’s friendship to himself. The locals don’t like things done differently. As Lydia and the doctor become closer, the rumors start to fly and threaten to shatter Charlie’s world.
Movie: The Professor and the Madman
When it comes out: May 10
What the book is about: An extraordinary tale of madness, genius, and the incredible obsessions of two remarkable men that led to the making of the Oxford English Dictionary — and literary history. The compilation of the OED, begun in 1857, was one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken. As definitions were collected, the overseeing committee, led by Professor James Murray, discovered that one man, Dr. W. C. Minor, had submitted more than ten thousand. When the committee insisted on honoring him, a shocking truth came to light: Dr. Minor, an American Civil War veteran, was also an inmate at an asylum for the criminally insane.
Movie: Charlie Says
When it comes out: May 10
What the book is about: The Family: The first full-length, chronological account of the Manson clan tracks the case through two decades of turmoil and include revealing information on the highly publicized murder trial of 1970 and 1971, Squeaky Fromme’s attempt to shoot President Gerald Ford, and Manson’s continued leadership of the Satanic underground from behind bars.
The Long Prison Journey of Leslie Van Houten: At The Age Of Twenty-One, Leslie Van Houten was sentenced to death, along with Charles Manson and his other disciples, for the infamous murder rampage spanning two nights in August 1969. Leslie, who was present at the Rosemary and Leno LaBianca stabbings, serenely accepted her sentence, wishing only that she had better served Manson in carrying out his apocalyptic vision of Helter Skelter. When the United States temporarily suspended its death penalty, her sentence for murder conspiracy was converted to life in prison. Today, at the age of 51, after three trials and with no parole in sight, Leslie has become a remarkable survivor of a living nightmare.
Movie: A Dog’s Journey
When it comes out: May 17
What the book is about: The direct sequel to the New York Times and USA Today bestselling A Dog’s Purpose.
Buddy is a good dog. After searching for his purpose through several eventful lives, Buddy is sure that he has found and fulfilled it. Yet as he watches curious baby Clarity get into dangerous mischief, he is certain that this little girl is very much in need of a dog of her own.
Movie: The Sun Is Also a Star
When it comes out: May 17
What the book is about: Natasha is a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. Definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when her family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica.
Daniel has always been the good son, the good student, living up to his parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when he sees her, he forgets about all that. Something about Natasha makes him think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store.
When it comes out: May 17
What the book is about: Harry Martinson’s Epic Science Fiction Poem, is at once a warning of despair in the time of the nuclear weapons and the looming threat of ecological disaster and perhaps the most complete expression of Martinson’s lifelong project to illustrate man’s attempts to truly see himself and his role in creation.
Movie: Trial by Fire
When it comes out: May 17
What the book is about: When Elizabeth Gilbert approached the prison guard, on a spring day in 1999, and said Cameron Todd Willingham’s name, she was uncertain about what she was doing. A forty-seven-year-old French teacher and playwright from Houston, Gilbert was divorced with two children. She had never visited a prison before. Several weeks earlier, a friend, who worked at an organization that opposed the death penalty, had encouraged her to volunteer as a pen pal for an inmate on death row, and Gilbert had offered her name and address. Not long after, a short letter, written with unsteady penmanship, arrived from Willingham, convicted of setting the fire that killed his three young children. “If you wish to write back, I would be honored to correspond with you,” he said. He also asked if she might visit him. Perhaps out of a writer’s curiosity, or perhaps because she didn’t feel quite herself (she had just been upset by news that her ex-husband was dying of cancer), she agreed. Now she was standing in front of the decrepit penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas—a place that inmates referred to as “the death pit.” Gilbert came to believe that the polite unassuming man Willingham was innocent and would soon set out on a long, frustrating journey to find the truth.
Do you enjoy intelligent murder mysteries, trains, movies made from books about murder on trains, and/or anything by Agatha Christie? If so, here are some other things you might be interested in.