I read a good number of books. Some stick with me. Some fade away very quickly. Those rollicking tales of adventure I read mostly as a child are ingrained into my mind. I have revisited some of them as an adult and the experience can be exhilarating. Not only do the heroes and villains come rushing back but the bedroom where I first read that tale of bravery, conflict, and intrigue returns into focus. Adventures in faraway places, especially when they are entwined with historical facts, just don’t seem that far-fetched when you are eight or nine. Anything is possible.
Smuggling, pirates, desert islands, rebellions, undiscovered regions, forts, spies, family feuds, nature at its most brutal and lots of fights are the stuff of old-fashioned adventure yarns. The 20 books below all have staying power and should never be forgotten. Many were published at the start of the 20th century, a golden age for adventure (because the world was actually like that to some extent), but the genre as we know it dates back to Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe in 1719. Hollywood has always loved these books because the plots put the characters in physical danger, and twisted and turned to keep you reading.
Many of these novels were intended for children but, like so many good books, were also adored by adults. Perhaps it’s time for a hefty dose of nostalgia or even to discover the ones you missed. If you know a teenager glued to the Nintendo, introduce them to my friends, Davie Balfour, Jim Hawkins, Allan Quatermain and Richard Hannay. They are more super than Mario.