On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped off of the lunar moduleâ€™s ladder and into history. As the first man to walk on the moon, the world saw him as a living representation of the technology, intellect, and immense effort that had gone into making this "great leap for mankind." But to be bold enough to take these great leaps in the public eye, explorers like Armstrong must be driven by fierce private passions. Here are five books that take us into the real lives and personal dreams of explorers who expanded the limits of our world.
"Finding Everett Reuss" by David Roberts
A young poet, diarist and artist, Everett Ruess found inspiration in trekking the vastness of the American West. By the time he was 20, Ruess would disappear into one of those canyons, never to be heard from again. But in the few short years he spent exploring the mountains and deserts of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico, Ruess investigated the natural world, steeped himself in the native cultures and became friendly with influential and iconic Western artists like Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange. Ruess funneled all of the experience into his art and writing, leaving behind a vivid depiction of his travels. Genuine admiration for Ruess shines through in David Robertsâ€™ extensively researched biography. Ruessâ€™ diary entries and poems, his watercolors and engravings, the words of his family and the remembrances of people he met while trekking are brought together to depict the exceptional mind of this daring young man and the romance and danger of solo exploration.
"Women of the Four Winds: The Adventures of Four of Americaâ€™s First Women Explorers" by Elizabeth Fagg Olds
Explorers are celebrated for having the courage and pluck to endure the danger and discomfort of venturing into unfamiliar territory. Early twentieth-century female explorers had to be doubly bold to transgress the social boundaries that discouraged â€śmasculineâ€ť pursuits like travel and adventuring. "Women of the Four Winds" introduces us to four of these intrepid women: Annie Smith Peck, Delia Akeley, Marguerite Harrison, and Louise Boyd. Scaling mountains, studying primates in equatorial Africa, spying on the Bolsheviks, or exploring the Arctic. Wherever they went, these women were leading the way for generations of female scientists, anthropologists, ethnologists and travelers.
"First Man: The Life of Neil Armstrong" by James R. Hansen
The image of Neil Armstrong planting the American flag on the moon is an iconic one, even echoed in the original MTV logo. But Armstrong himself always resisted celebrity. In "First Man," we get the first authorized biography of the enigmatic man behind the icon. Contrary to popular belief, Armstrong wasnâ€™t a predestined hero who always dreamed of traveling to the moon, but a hard-working man who simply was determined to make the most of his career and serve his country. Precise details are woven into the story of Armstrongâ€™s life, drawing us into every day American experience during the Space Age and giving us a crystal clear understanding of the world Armstrong lived in and affected so deeply.
"Passionate Nomad: the Life of Freya Stark" by Jane Geniesse
When explorers trek out over new landscapes, they also encounter cultures different from their own. Freya Stark recorded both the lands and the people she saw in her extensive travels in the Middle East. Starkâ€™s genuine interest in Arab cultures, and willingness to learn their customs helped her make her way not only through the land but also into homes in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and other Arab countries. In addition to expanding and updating maps of the region, she became extremely knowledgeable about the social and political aspects of the areas she traveled and during World War II even worked to promote the Allied cause throughout the region. "Passionate Nomad" reveals that the woman behind these impressive deeds was actually very insecure and self-conscious, making Stark even more interesting for her efforts to push past her own personal boundaries.
"The Way of the Explorer: An Apollo Astronautâ€™s Journey through the Material and Mystical Worlds" by Edgar Mitchell with Dwight Williams
In 1971, Edgar Mitchell rocketed into outer space as a lunar module pilot on Apollo 14. He was there to learn more about the universe around us, but Mitchell came back down to earth with a passionate desire to explore the universe within us. Mitchell describes being astounded by a feeling of â€śuniversal connectednessâ€ť while looking down at the earth from orbit. Upon his return to earth, he devoted himself to mapping the limits of human consciousness, including investigations into ESP, telekinesis and other paranormal phenomenon. Mitchellâ€™s account of his experience of space travel is unique in its attention to intuition and emotion. His story underscores the fact that traveling beyond the borders of society can profoundly transform a human mind.