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Photo: Jeff Harris
Does captaining a ship through the perfect storm count as an adventure? We'd say so. But what about taking up dating in late middle age? Here, some books in which authors expose their bravest acts of derring-do, far, far away—and at home, too.
1. You might think Linda Greenlaw, captain of the Andrea Gail's sister ship in The Perfect Storm, wrote her most harrowing story in The Hungry Ocean. But in fact her Lobster Chronicles (Hyperion), about taking a break from captaining a swordfish boat to become a lobsterman on a tiny island, is an even fiercer tale of nerve and pluck.

2. So, okay, John Charles Gilkey was a criminal—he stole rare books—but in Allison Hoover Bartlett's The Man Who Loved Books Too Much (Riverhead), he becomes a madcap rogue who will stop at nothing to feed his obsession.

3. Journalist Peter Hessler didn't leave China when his Peace Corps stint was up. Instead he settled in and wrote Oracle Bones (Harper Perennial), about traveling between the present and China's ancient past.

4. A Round-Heeled Woman (Villard) is a courageous, frank, and hilarious chronicle by Jane Juska, a semiretired English teacher who entered the dating world through a personal ad—at age 66.

5. The Lost City of Z (Vintage) chronicles what happens when an unlikely adventurer—urbane, allergic New Yorker staff writer David Grann—goes in search of a legendary explorer and the Amazon civilization from which he never returned.

6. In Three Wishes (Little, Brown), Carey Goldberg, Beth Jones, and Pamela Ferdinand tell the story of their adventures in family planning. (Hint: They involved sharing information—and more.)

7. Thirty-year-old Kira Salak kayaked alone for 600 miles on the Niger River of Mali to Timbuktu—and loved it, according to her 2004 chronicle The Cruelest Journey (National Geographic).

8. Extreme Fear (MacSci), by Jeff Wise, is both a journalistic account of some brave encounters (a woman coming face-to-face with a cougar in a canyon, for example) and a smart scientific analysis of what happens in the brain when we experience fear—and how we can turn that fear into an advantage.

Next: Oprah's top 10 favorite books

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