Book Review: Against All Odds (25 Incredible Historical Adventurers)

“In 1927, at the age of 51, Geoffery returned to Zermatt to climb the Monte Rosa, the highest mountain in the Swiss Alps. With a strong support team around him, by moving slowly, occasionally crawling and by using a ski contraption in descent, it took a total of eighteen hours to complete his one-legged ascent”.

Against All Odds by Roger Bunyan is a real book of historical adventurers. The men and women featured in this book are 25 of the most inspiring outdoor enthusiasts throughout the 19th and early-mid 20th century. Their tales of walking around the globe, climbing the tallest mountains, and exploring uncharted geographies offer an insight into untapped outdoor history. Bunyan brings the stories to light, so these adventurers will not be forgotten. Their historical significance will live on for future outdoor enthusiasts.

The book features 25 chapters, and each one focuses on one adventurer. The chapter recounts the personal lives and adventurous undertakings of the individual. It starts from their upbringing and early years on to late adulthood.

book of historical adventurers: Against All Odds

Historical Adventurers In Context

For each adventurer featured in the Against All Odds, I found myself amazed. The undertakings and spirit of these men and women are incredible. But, the context of each accomplishment cannot be understated.

To climb a 16,000 ft mountain or to cycle the continent of Africa now, in modern times, is a feat. But to have the will, drive, and knowledge to take on these harrowing adventures in the 1800s and early 1900s when technology and modern gear were unavailable, is unimaginable. The historical adventurers in Against All Odds could not look up reviews and routes on the Internet, nor could they order a guide book and have it in mere days.

Instead, they took what knowledge they had gained through word of mouth or books they sought out. Then, they jumped into the unknown. If they experienced any dangers or hardships (which was often the case), they persevered as best they could and continually strived to reach their dreams.

Furthermore, many of these adventurers struggled with societal expectations and discrimination. Some explorers were treated poorly or unjustly because they lived a different lifestyle than what was expected of them. During that era, onlookers mocked many of these adventurers for pursuing their dream to explore the outdoors. Yet, they continued and completed harrowing feats and adventures!

Hint of Inspiration

From the inspirational stories presented in this book and from our history, we can learn valuable lessons for ourselves and perhaps find the inspiration we need to complete our own adventures. To get you started, here are a few of my favorite adventurers presented in Against All Odds.

Geoffery Young, a British mountaineer, author, and humanitarian of the early 1900s, summited Monte-Rosa and many other famous mountains with only one leg. He built and created a variety of contraptions to help him along the ascent. The amount of perseverance it took to continue with his passion despite this physical disability is incredible. In fact, his ascents inspired others who had lost limbs. Even after his climbing days ended, Geoffrey worked tirelessly to create and promote outdoor and mountaineering programs, including Outward Bound and the British Mountaineering Council.

Annie Kopchovsky became the first female cyclist to circumnavigate the globe in 1895. After hearing of a bet about whether this feat would be possible for a woman, Annie took on the challenge! She taught herself to ride a bicycle and then embarked on a fifteen-month journey around the world. Her adventure drew the interest of other cyclists and women suffragists. Moreover, some cyclists even joined Annie for part of her 15,000 km (over 9,300 mi) journey!

Matthew Henson became one of the first explorers to reach the North Pole in 1909. He was an impressive traveler and skilled mechanic and craftsman, with a knack for problem-solving. Matthew’s skills were instrumental in the success of the journey to the North Pole, which was filled with tragedy and constant dangers. However, for many years after the expedition, Matthew did not receive the recognition he deserved in accomplishing this feat because of racial inequities and injustice at the time. Fortunately, shortly before Matthew’s death, President Eisenhower honored him for his role in this incredible adventure.

Additional Format Notes

Each historical adventurer in this book provides a sense of wonder and inspiration. Also, since each chapter is roughly 20 pages and focuses on an individual subject, you could easily read Against All Odds in small, short bursts. This format makes it an excellent book for those interested in learning history, but without large amounts of time to dedicate to reading.

For additional information about the featured historical adventurers, there is also a bibliography available in the back of the book.

This book provides excellent historical content and stories. The only distraction I found while reading Against All Odds relates to the editing. As a significant grammar nerd, there were a few inconsistencies and mechanical errors in the text. These issues sometimes caused me to have to re-read the paragraph or sentence again for a full understanding. However, I found the content in the book and historical stories described to far outweigh these inconsistencies.

Inspiration To Seek Adventure

Overall, the remarkable stories and subsequent lessons shared in Against All Odds are much more than history. They are an inspiration for our own adventurers. They are reminders that no matter our age, our ability, our identity, we can still achieve our dreams and explore the outdoors to our heart’s content.

Are you interested in learning more about our historical adventurers? Would you read  Against All Odds? Let us know in the comments below!

Thank you to Roger Bunyan for supplying my copy of Against All Odds. All opinions and views expressed in this review are entirely my own.  

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About the author

Susan Wowk

Susan Wowk

Susan has owned Snowshoe Magazine with her husband, Paul, since 2015. In 2018, she became more involved in writing and editing content and now is the lead editor of the publication. She enjoys all things winter and snowshoes regularly with Paul and 13-year-old puppy Grizzy.

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