Explorer Levison Wood talks about his favourite reads

From a classic by Paulo Coelho to Winston Churchill’s account of his early life…

Levison Wood undertook the first expedition to walk the length of the Nile, which took nine months, and has also walked the length of the Himalayas and circumnavigated the Arabian peninsula on foot. A Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and the Explorers Club, he has worked and travelled in more than 100 countries. He served in the Parachute Regiment for 13 years before leaving the army, in 2010, to pursue his writing career. The author of 11 best-selling books, Wood has also contributed to numerous publications, including National Geographic. Here, we ask the explorer, writer and photographer for his top eight reads.

The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling

This book fuelled my interest in history. A tale of imperial ambition and the pitfalls of unchecked hubris, it helped me develop a passion for adventure, and it serves as a cautionary tale – a reminder to tread lightly and respect the lands we explore.

The Moon and Sixpence by W Somerset Maugham

This is an exploration of what it means to suffer for one’s art and live outside societal conventions. It’s a reminder that the pursuit of passion often involves sacrifices and challenges, and a willingness to break free from the constraints of what is considered normal.

A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby

This book is a classic. Eric Newby’s witty, unorthodox description of an expedition to the summit of Mir Samir, in Afghanistan, was one of the reasons I wanted to be a travel writer. His adventurous spirit fuelled my desire to explore. It’s a testament to the transformative power of adventure.

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway’s portrayal of the realities of war left an indelible mark on my understanding of conflict. It’s a reminder that pursuing adventure often intersects with darker aspects of humanity, and that, as explorers, we must acknowledge that. It’s an exploration of the human cost of war.

My Early Life by Winston Churchill

Churchill’s account of his early life shows the remarkable experiences one can cram into a single lifetime. His journey from young soldier to statesman inspired me to become a journalist and soldier, showing that a life well lived is one of constant growth and adaptation.

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

Tolle’s book about living in the present moment laid the foundation for my interest in spirituality. His teachings serve as a reminder to savour each experience fully and find balance amid the chaos. It’s a book that reminds me to appreciate each step of the journey.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

A masterpiece that taught me the art of simplicity in writing and reinforced the importance of pursuing my dreams. The narrative style influenced my own approach to writing, and its core message about following curiosity and passion aligns with the ethos of exploration.

Factfulness by Hans Rosling

Hans Rosling’s enlightening take on critical thinking and maintaining hope amid adversity has been a guiding principle in my journey. In the face of challenges, it reminds me to approach each situation with a balanced perspective and an optimistic outlook.

  • Endurance: 100 Tales of Survival, Adventure and Exploration by Levison Wood is out now

This feature was taken from Gentleman’s Journal’s Winter 2023 issue. Read more about it here.

Want more recommendations? These are the essential books every man should read before he dies…

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