We invited Alastair to contribute some books that have inspired his epic activities to the Lending Library at 72 Rivington Street.
On October 23rd, adventurer Alastair Humphreys visited 72 Rivington Street to personally introduce a selection of his favourite books and discuss their influence on his extraordinary activities.
The celebrated English adventurer struggles to sit still and, to date, has hiked across India, packrafted across Iceland, cycled around the world and rowed the Atlantic. A comfortably seated group of YCN Members enjoyed an inspiring insight into Alastair's literary loves; all of which can now be found in YCN's Lending Library.
Above: Alastair Humphreys at 72 Rivington Street
1. Historical Expeditions - The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Chery-Gerard
For Alastair, it was remarkable that a room full of people hadn't picked up this book, one he felt other audiences would find too obvious a choice. The memoir is the official account of the British Antarctic Expedition led by Robert Falcon Scott from 1910-1913. Written by one of the only survivors, it documents the extreme trials and disastrous outcome of their goal to reach the South Pole.
"It was a miserable journey, but the amount of decency, humanity and courage of these men was extraordinary," Alastair explained, "I've always enjoyed this masochistic element of adventure— but you should always ask yourself whether the knowledge you gain in your journey is worth it." Since first reading the memoir, a trip to Antarctica and the South Pole has been etched on his to-do list .
2. Modern Day Adventure - Moondust by Andrew Smith
How can life match up after standing on the moon? Realizing that only twelve people human beings ever have, nine of which are still alive and elderly, Andrew Smith sets out to track these astronauts down well after their glory days. For Alastair, this book concerns the journey of all journeys, as well as addresses the issues one must face when returning to real life.
"When I read it, I kept going outside and looking at the moon thinking, that is utterly crazy!" he said, "I often worry whether my life has peaked, and then think of this book."
Above: Alastair Humphreys on his cycle journey around the world
Alastair read Arabian Sands during his time at Oxford university, where 20th century explorer Thesiger had carried out his studies as well. "I couldn't believe what I was reading, I wanted to be just like him-- I even joined the boxing club because he had, which didn't last very long," he shared. The book is a poetic account of Thesiger's extraordinary camelback journey across the "Empty Quarter" of Arabia, the largest desert in the world.
Since reading it, Alastair has wanted to replicate it-- which is what he set out to do last year. "I couldn't afford a camel, so I emailed a fellow adventurer and asked if he wanted to haul a cart with me across the desert of Oman and the Emirates," he shared. At first disappointed by the fact that infrastructure had ruined these never-ending stretches of sand, Alastair eventually came to accept it: "I made my peace with the changing desert. We finished our journey in Dubai on the top floor of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. Thesiger would have been mortified".
Above: Alastair Humphreys' journey mimicking Thesingers' Arabian Sands
4. Fiction - For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
This book made the list because of the way Hemingway describes what it means to be alive, rather than his usual themes of "maniless". Having read it the first time during his cycle tour around the world, it was a time Alastair was obsessed with cramming as much of life as he could into as little time as possible.
5. British Adventure - Feet in the Clouds: A Tale of Fell-Running and Obsession by Richard Askwith
Fell-running is an old extreme sport involving running over mountains. A type of amateur activity in the nice sense of the world, Alastair explained, it has a charming "country fair" appeal. The book follows Askwith, a middle-aged, slightly overweight Londoner, in his obsession to beat the legendary Bob Graham Round-- a 24-hour circuit of 42 of the Lake District's highest peaks.
Above: Alastair's reading list
6. Microadventure - As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee
Another one discovered while at university, this memoir inspired Alastair to carry out his travels in a particular type of way; by heading into the unknown. In 1934, a British poet leaves his village in Gloucestershire on foot to London, and embarks on an epic journey across Spain. He finds his way by busking on his violin and with his only knowledge of Spanish being to ask for a glass of water.
"I hope to copy Lee's journey one day, but first learn a musical instrument so I too can fund my way by busking," Alastair shared, "This book is the one I would take with me, should I be in the scenario where I can take just one item to a deserted island--which has yet to happen."
These books have been added to the Lending Library at 72 Rivington Street.
Alastair is contributing to the opening section of the coming issue of the YCN Members' Magazine. See and buy the latest issue here.
Location:72 Rivington Street,
London, EC2A 3AY,
Start:23rd October, 2013 at 6:30pm
End:23rd October, 2013 at 8:00pm