The 12 Funniest Exploration Books


Editor’s note: This personal list by author Lawrence Millman diplomatically omits Millman’s own masterpiece, Last Places, which many would include in this company.

The Ascent of Rum Doodle, by E.W. Bowman.  A novel that parodies particularly robust mountaineering expeditions.

Ninety-Two Days, by Evelyn Waugh.   A mordantly comic (and sometimes nasty) narrative of traveling through British Guinea in the early 1930s.

Salt Water Taffy, or 20,000 Leagues Away From the Sea, by June Triplett (actually, Corey Ford).  A hilarious parody of seafaring tales, putatively written by the daughter of a sea captain.

Arctic Solitaire: A Boat, A Bay, and the Quest for a Perfect Bear, by Paul Souders.   A harrowingly funny book about traveling up the west coast of Hudson Bay in a small boat by a fellow who has almost no knowledge of how to handle a boat.

Map of My Dead Pilots, by Colleen Mondor.  This oft-tragic account of bush piloting in Alaska contains a surprising number of humorous moments.

The Sex Lives of Cannibals, by J. Maarten Troost.   A funny, although sometimes too funny, narrative of hanging out with former cannibals in the South Pacific.

The Innocents Abroad, by Mark Twain.   American’s greatest humorist describes what it’s like to travel to Europe and the Holy Land on a chartered cruise ship named Quaker City.

Thirty Years in the Golden North, by Jan Welzl.   An Arctic pseudo-memoir that describes (among other things) its author’s being elected the first ever Czech “Eskimo chieftain” in the New Siberia Islands.

Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw, by Will Ferguson.   A travel narrative that takes on the question of Canadian identity altogether unseriously.

Letters from a Lost Uncle, by Mervyn Peake.  Written in the form of letters from an uncle lost in the Arctic, this absolutely hilarious illustrated parody describes a search for (among other things) a rare arctic lion.

Big Dead Place, by Nicholas Johnson.   A cynical, informative, biting and humorous book about what it’s like to spend a year at various stations in Antarctica.

Vagrant Viking, by Peter Freuchen.   An off-the-wall memoir that includes Freuchen’s classic description of using pieces of his frozen shit as pitons to climb out of an ice crevice.


About the Author

lawrence millman

Lawrence Millman is a man of many talents. As an author, he has written 16 books, including such titles as Last Places, A Kayak Full of Ghosts, An Evening Among Headhunters, Lost in the Arctic, and — most recently:

At the End of the World: A True Story of Murder in the Arctic (2016)
Giant Polypores and Stoned Reindeer (2013)
Hiking to Siberia (2012)
Fascinating Fungi of New England (2011)

As a mycologist, he has studied fungi all over the world, but especially in his own backyard of New England. And as an explorer, he has made over 40 trips and expeditions to the Arctic and Subarctic. The photo shows him in a contemplative mood on a beach in Siberia.

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Gary Goldenberg
Gary Goldenberg
1 year ago

You must add “The Burgess Book of Lies.”

1 year ago

Agreed with editor’s note


[…] occupied at the moment, and Explorers Web is here to help. The site recently posted a list of the 12 Funniest Adventure Books, with some real classics to add to your library. Options include The Ascent of the Rum Doodle, The […]