Category Archives: audiobooks

the 29th day

The 29th Day – Surviving A Grizzly Attack by Alex Messenger

From Audible:

A 600-mile canoe trip in the Canadian wilderness is a 17-year-old’s dream adventure, but after he is mauled by a grizzly bear, it’s all about staying alive.

This true-life wilderness survival epic recounts 17-year-old Alex Messenger’s near-lethal encounter with a grizzly bear during a canoe trip in the Canadian tundra. The story follows Alex and his five companions as they paddle north through harrowing rapids and stunning terrain. Twenty-nine days into the trip, while out hiking alone, Alex is attacked by a barren-ground grizzly. Left for dead, he wakes to find that his summer adventure has become a struggle to stay alive. Over the next hours and days, Alex and his companions tend his wounds and use their resilience, ingenuity, and dogged perseverance to reach help at a remote village a thousand miles north of the US-Canadian border.

The Twenty-Ninth Day is a coming-of-age story like no other, filled with inspiring subarctic landscapes, thrilling riverine paddling, and a trial by fire of the human spirit.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

A fascinating story of a once in a lifetime adventure that goes incredibly wrong. The story provides background to the trip and builds up through the journey until the bear attack and then follows the aftermath and his fight to reach safety, supported by his friends.

With stories like this I’m always amazed by the detail of recall. He creates a vivid picture of the Tundra wilderness and what it is like to explore there and the challenges they faced travelling by canoe. However, the detailed recall of the bear attack was astounding considering how quickly it all must have happened and the shock he experienced afterwards. It did make me wonder if it was embellished a bit but I’m taking it at face value.

The remoteness of their location and the actual wilderness of the area they were travelling through was really brought home in the immediate period after the attack. These teenage boys showed remarkable courage and perseverance to support and care for their injured friend and get him to safety.

Where the audiobook falls down is the narration. The author chose to narrate his own story and it’s a good example why it’s a good idea to employ a professional reader. He has a strong, pleasant voice but reads in a flat monotone with no variation for emotion. The story would have been so much more gripping if read in a way that reflected the experiences being described. However, it’s still very much worth a listen.

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wild winter

Wild Winter by John D Burns and read by Stewart Crank.

From Audible:

In Wild Winter, John D. Burns, best-selling author of The Last Hillwalker and Bothy Tales, sets out to rediscover Scotland’s mountains, remote places and wildlife in the darkest and stormiest months. He traverses the country from the mouth of the River Ness to the Isle of Mull, from remote Sutherland to the Cairngorms, in search of rutting red deer, pupping seals, minke whales, beavers, pine martens, mountain hares, and otters. In the midst of the fierce weather, John’s travels reveal a habitat in crisis, and many of these wild creatures prove elusive as they cling on to life in the challenging Highland landscape.

As John heads deeper into the winter, he notices the land fighting back with signs of regeneration. He finds lost bothies, old friendships and innovative rewilding projects, and – as Covid locks down the nation – reflects on what the outdoors means to hillwalkers, naturalists and the folk who make their home in the Highlands.

Wild Winter is a reminder of the wonder of nature and the importance of caring for our environment. In his winter journey through the mountains and bothies of the Highlands, John finds adventure, humour and a deep sense of connection with this wild land.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This is a beautifully written and really well narrated book. I absolutely loved listening to it and it felt way too short.

The author has an amazing talent for describing outdoor scenes and environments. His skill takes you away from your current location and firmly plants you in the spot he is describing. His love of the outdoor life and his passion for the Scottish Highlands is evident all the way through and is inspiring.

Not only does he take us to the Highlands but he allows us a glimpse of the strong friendships he has built since childhood and the struggle he had coping with the lockdown at the start of Covid.

This is a hugely positive and uplifting book and definitely my favourite audiobook so far.

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where’s the next shelter?

Where’s the Next Shelter? written and read by Gary Sizer

From Audible:

Where’s the Next Shelter? is the true story of three travelers on the Appalachian Trail, a 2,000-mile hike that stretches from Georgia to Maine, told from the perspective of Gary Sizer, a seasoned backpacker and former marine who quickly finds himself humbled by the endeavor. He teams up with Megan, a sassy college grad whose indomitable spirit eclipses her lack of experience; and Lemmy, a cartoonist from overseas whose off-kilter commentary on the wonders and frustrations of the trail keeps everyone laughing.

Sprawling through the woods and towns of the Appalachian Mountains, the trail carries the trio through real and fanciful ups and downs ranging from hilarious to perilous. Much more than an orderly account of mountaintops and meals, this book is an adventure about friends figuring things out as they go. It’s about screwups and solutions, awe and inspiration.

If you long for the horizon or to sleep under the stars, then come along for the hike of a lifetime. All you have to do is take the first step.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Yes, yet another audiobook on long distance hiking and my second in a row on the AT! This one took a bit of getting used to. The author reads his own story and he reads at a speed that is slightly too fast for comfortable listening. He also has a slightly irreverent attitude that while novel means quite a lot of swearing. Hearing fuck in an audiobook conversation while not shocking is kind of jarring and I was nearly at the end before I was getting used to it.

A consistent element of the story style is the author recounting conversations as they happen and verbatim. I find it difficult to believe that he was able to recall so many conversations over such a long period of time and almost a year after finishing the trail.

Sizer himself is an interesting character and I found his friendship and relationship with other hikers and trail angels really well written and described. In particular his special relationship with Voldemort (Megan) and Lemmy is particularly enjoyable.

Another good depiction of the AT and I found it particularly interesting how Sizer’s description was different to that of David Miller’s while still staying so similar in many ways.

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awol on the appalachian trail

Awol on the Appalachian Trail written by David Miller and read by Christopher Lane

From Audible:

In 2003, software engineer David Miller left his job, family, and friends to hike 2,172 miles of the Appalachian Trail. AWOL on the Appalachian Trail is Miller’s account of this thru-hike from Georgia to Maine. Listeners are treated to rich descriptions of the Appalachian Mountains, the isolation and reverie, the inspiration that fueled his quest, and the rewards of taking a less conventional path through life. While this book abounds with introspection and perseverance, it also provides useful passages about hiking gear and planning. This is not merely a travel guide; it is a beautifully written and highly personal view into one man’s journey and the insights gained by abandoning what is comfortable and routine.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

I listened to this straight after “Journeys North” and I think it would have been more enjoyable with a gap between the two. It’s also the very first AT based audiobook for me and it seems that the PCT is a much more diverse adventure and also seems to attract a more interesting participant. This means that while the author is interesting and has his own good back story those around him seem less so. Again this could be due to comparing everyone to Journeys North.

I did enjoy the writing style of the story which kept it tipping along at a steady pace. He also provided a lot of information about the AT itself and I felt that I knew it much better at the end compared to Bill Bryson’s book which was more about his experience than the actual trail.

At a similar age to the author I found great admiration for how he was able to recognise the way his career was affecting his mental health and happiness and was able to change the script of his life with the incredible support of his wife. I was really glad he filled us in at the end on how he returned to real life once again.

My only regret with this book is that I should have listened to it before Journeys North.

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journeys north: the pacific crest trail

Journeys North: The Pacific Crest Trail by Barney Scout Mann

From Audible:

In Journeys North, legendary trail angel, thru hiker, and former PCTA board member Barney Scout Mann spins a compelling tale of six hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2007 as they walk from Mexico to Canada. This ensemble story unfolds as these half-dozen hikers – including Barney and his wife, Sandy – trod north, slowly forming relationships and revealing their deepest secrets and aspirations. They face a once-in-a-generation drought and early severe winter storms that test their will in this bare-knuckled adventure. In fact, only a third of all the hikers who set out on the trail that year would finish.

As the group approaches Canada, a storm rages. How will these very different hikers, ranging in age, gender, and background, respond to the hardship and suffering ahead of them? Can they all make the final 60-mile push through freezing temperatures, sleet, and snow, or will some reach their breaking point?

Journeys North is a story of grit, compassion, and the relationships people forge when they strive toward a common goal.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I absolutely loved this, easily the best  audiobook I’ve listened to so far. Really well written and excellently narrated but it’s the story that makes it special.

Most thru-hike stories focus on the author, their personal story and the people they meet along the way. This one gives the other five stories equal merit and this makes it unique.

Scout seems to be a very special person and I really enjoyed his take on the PCT but also his insights into the lives of the friends he made along the way. It’s obvious that much of the information was provided by them, rather than just observations, which points to the close relationship he had with each one.

A truly inspirational story of resilience, determination and the strength of humanity.

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the farthest shore

The Farthest Shore by Alex Roddie (Read by Alex Wingfield)

From Audible:

In February 2019, award-winning writer Alex Roddie left his online life behind when he set out to walk 300 miles through the Scottish Highlands, seeking solitude and answers. In leaving the chaos of the internet behind for a month, he hoped to learn how it was truly affecting him – or if he should look elsewhere for the causes of his anxiety.

The Farthest Shore is the story of Alex’s solo trek along the remote Cape Wrath Trail. As he journeyed through a vanishing winter, Alex found answers to his questions, learnt the nature of true silence, and discovered frightening evidence of the threats faced by Scotland’s wild mountain landscape.

My Rating: ⭐⭐

I came across this book from a recommendation on Splodz Blogz a couple of weeks ago. Having just finished Wild and watched YouTuber Haze Outdoors’ videos of  walking the Cape Wrath Trail I thought it would be right up my street.

This author and Haze Outdoors definitely seem to be very different characters but I was still surprised by the differences in how the two people approached the walk and their experiences on it. Haze very much camped for the majority of the trail and also immersed himself in the experience, the land and devoted his story to the experience of completing the trail. Roddie on the other hand used this book to talk more about his motivation for walking the trail and his own very personal experience which was more about a changing outlook on life that happened along the trail. He made extensive use of bothies along the trail rather than relying on camping and took almost 3 times as long. That was probably a consequence of the different times of year as much as the different walkers.

As I was expecting more of a trail story I was a bit disappointed by this book. I was expecting and hoping for something more like the aforementioned Wild or even The Last Englishman but didn’t get it. I thought that the book was written more as a way to justify the author’s expedition and to fund the cost of it. Now, that is his career and I can understand the need for it, but I think this was more of a personal journey that didn’t need to be a book. While I have sympathy for his struggles with anxiety I couldn’t help but feel that much of it was either self-imposed by his view of social media or coming from a totally unrelated source. Maybe if I had a similar struggle I could have related and empathised more.

I also struggled with the overly flowery language he used. It reminded me of Steve Backshall’s book Expedition that I eventually gave up on. This author had the same tendency to over describe the most normal of occurrences. Everything seemed to be the most wonderful or the most terrible rather than just depicting it as it was. His occasional forays into a very mystical view of nature and wildlife left me rolling my eyes and tempted to switch off.

This is the author’s second book based on walking The Cape Wrath Trail. It’s possible he didn’t want to rehash the story of the original but for me this approach simply didn’t land. I think I’d like to try his first book though and see what it’s like and how they differ.

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wild

Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Read by Laurel Lefkow

From Audible:

A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an 1100-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe and built her back up again. At 22, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. After her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State – alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than an idea: vague, outlandish, and full of promise. But it was a promise of piecing together a life that had come undone. Strayed faces rattlesnakes and bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and intense loneliness of the trail.

Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This is an excellent story! The summary above tells you enough about Cheryl’s life that she self-destructed after her Mother’s death but she writes a very eloquent and honest story about the details and what walking the PCT meant for her. I loved how she mixed in her past life story with the PCT story, it gave so much more depth to it all. This isn’t really a story about the PCT. It does provide a lot of details of the walk itself but it’s more a personal journey set on the PCT.

The narrator is also excellent. I still struggle a little with the convention of imitating voices and accents for characters but it doesn’t take away from the fact that she tells this story with warmth and passion as much as if it was her own story.

Stop reading this review and go listen to the book!

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micro adventures

Micro Adventures by Alastair Humphreys

From Audible:

Adventure something that’s new and exhilarating, outside your comfort zone. Adventures change you and how you see the world, and all you need is an open mind, bags of enthusiasm and boundless curiosity.

So whats a microadventure? Its close to home, cheap, simple, short and 100 percent guaranteed to refresh your life. A microadventure takes the spirit of a big adventure and squeezes it into a day or even a few hours.

The point of a microadventure is that you don’t need lots of time and money to meet a new challenge. This practical guide is filled with ideas for microadventures for you to experience on your own or with friends and family, plus tips and advice on safety and kit.

Whether its sleeping on a hilltop or going for a wild swim, cycling a lap of the Isle of Wight or walking home for Christmas, it’s time you discovered something new about yourself and the world outside your window. Adventure is everywhere, every day, and it is up to us to find it.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Interesting concept but more aimed at someone who has little or no experience of the outdoors. It’s well enough written and the author narrates it with passion and enthusiasm but I did find it a bit repetitive on the “bivvy after work” theme. It definitely has encouraged me to make plans for the summer and not to let excuses get in the way though.

Some of the final resource and ideas chapters are very useful and I did find some good hints and tips there. Worth reading or listening to but maybe better from a library rather than buying.

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the last englishman

The Last Englishman by Keith Foskett read by Adam Stubbs

From Audible:

Born traveller Keith Foskett had thousands of miles of thru-hiking experience when he prepared for his toughest challenge yet: a gruelling 2,640-mile hike from Mexico to Canada. In a six-month journey along America’s Pacific Crest Trail, he crossed the arid expanses of California’s deserts, the towering peaks of Oregon’s volcanic landscape, and the dense forests of Washington.
Battling phobias of bears, snakes, critters, and camping in the woods after dark, can Foskett find new ways to achieve his ultimate goal when the worst winter in years bears down on the trail?
Shortlisted for The Great Outdoors magazine Outdoor Personality of the Year and Book of the Year multiple times, veteran storyteller Keith Foskett lets you join him for a trek across the greatest long-distance hiking trail on Earth. With witty humor, astute observations, and a delightful cast of characters, you’ll discover a compelling narrative that turns the travelogue formula on its head.
The Last Englishman is an extraordinary travel memoir by an experienced long-distance hiker. If you believe there’s more to life than work, yearn for new horizons and challenges, and believe in overcoming adversity, then you’ll love Keith Foskett’s tale of exploration. 

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I was going to give this 3 stars but then the last two chapters tipped it into 4 star territory. I couldn’t help but compare it to Bill Bryson’s “A Walk in the Woods“. That is set on the Appalachian Trail (AT) and this is the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Along with the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) they form the Triple Crown of Hiking in the US.

Bryson’s story is about his personal challenge and his relationship with the trail and his walking partner Stephen Katz. This story also deals with the author’s personal challenge but also spends a lot of time on his interactions with the various other hikers on the trail. The PCT has an official launch party and there’s a specific window that most hikers walk during so there are a lot of people on the trail at the same time.

The author does a good job describing the challenges of the trail, both physical and mental, as well as the high points. He meets some interesting characters and makes friends with many of them. He does a good job giving us a good feel for their personalities.

I found the use of trail nicknames very childish and irritating. I get that it’s a tradition of the trail but I’d rather he would have mentioned the trail name and then used real names.

I think I would have enjoyed this more with a different narrator. I found his reading style and tone of voice quite pompous and it did grate at times. I understand audiobook narrators are expected to mimic voices from the story but it sounded odd in this reader’s voice.

Overall a good story well told that is saved by the last two chapters.

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the man who cycled the world

The Man Who Cycled The World by Mark Beaumont

From Audible:

The inspiring story of one young man’s record-breaking solo cycle journey around the world.

On 15 February 2008, Mark Beaumont pedalled through the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. 194 days and 17 hours previously, he had begun his attempt to circumnavigate the world in record time. Mark smashed the Guinness World Record by an astonishing 81 days. He had travelled more than 18,000 miles on his own through some of the harshest conditions one man and his bicycle can endure, camping wild at night and suffering from constant ailments.

The Man Who Cycled the World is the story not just of that amazing achievement but of the events that turned Mark Beaumont into the man he is today. From the early years of his free-spirited childhood in the Scottish countryside to present day, he has been equally determined not to settle for an average existence but to break free and follow his dreams.

Mark Beaumont grew up in the foothills of the Scottish Highlands. When he was 12, he cycled across Scotland, then a few years later, completed the 1,000 mile solo ride across Britain from John O’Groats to Land’s End. His next long-distance ride took him the length of Italy, a journey of 1,336 miles, helping to raise £50,000 for charity. After graduating from Glasgow University, and having also qualified as a professional ski instructor, he decided against a conventional career and devoted himself full-time to raising money for his endurance adventures. 

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This was brilliant! Hands down the best audiobook so far. It’s an absolutely amazing story of endurance and perseverance written in a very humble and unassuming manner. This feels like a very honest story. He has no arrogance about his abilities and conveys his nerves and worries. He revels in his successes but also describes the many low points. Having the story written and read by the guy that actually completed the expedition gives it a sense of realism. He also eloquently conveys his feelings at the time. Listening to him you can almost feel him relieving the experiences all over again.

I was amazed by how little formal training he did (although I definitely think he was already a very fit guy) and how little preparation was completed in some ways. His journey in Australia and America seemed particularly haphazard and he admits himself that he hardly even considered the final leg through Portugal and Spain. Also how inexperienced his Mum was and in such a critical role.

I found the story quite emotional at times. I could feel his passionate dislike of the Pakistani police escorts and their treatment of him yet also his delight with the Madrid police and his final goodbye to the main contact. I also found the last couple of days very emotional, especially that last section into Paris and meeting his family again.

Another interesting aspect was his difficulty staying focused after a rest day and getting back in the zone. This was most evident on the American leg when he decided not to stay overnight with prearranged contacts when he had opportunities almost every night. He felt that it would hamper his focus and drive to have company every night. It really enforced for me the importance of mental strength for endurance athletes. It also explains the almost selfish and self-centred approach that they have to take.

The version I listened to had a chapter at the very end telling the story from his Mum, Una’s point of view. At first I didn’t like this. Mark is a much more accomplished reader and Una seemed nervous and hesitant. However, after a short while I found her perspective interesting and overall that it added to the story.

I obviously found this interesting from the aspect of a cyclist but definitely feel it’s worth reading or listening to for anyone interested in endurance sports, expedition or adventure.

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