I have a thing for good survival stories--or good disaster stories, really. Happy endings are pleasing, but I'm interested either way. I didn't intend to read in a specific subgenre, yet there seems to be a theme here. I should mention these are for grown-ups.
Most recently I read this one:
Here's a strange fact from page 49: Edmond Halley, who calculated the orbit of Halley’s comet back in the 18th century, also believed “the earth was hollow, suffused with luminous gases, and inhabited by animals and even a race of humans.” To me that sounds only slightly more bonkers than on-purpose sailing a ship to the North Pole to see if the ocean is frozen or not up there. It makes for a pretty thrilling story, though. I stayed up too late reading it.
As I was reading, I was reminded of another, similarly harrowing epic adventure. It takes place on the other end of the earth, though:
It took me a while to find our copy of this book to take a picture of it. We have hundreds of books in no order at all, so when I want to find something I simply scour the shelves for it. I read this one a while ago, but happily I took some notes when I did:
ENDURANCE: SHACKLETON’S INCREDIBLE VOYAGE by Alfred Lansing *****
This is a nonfiction adventure/survival account of Ernest Shackleton’s crew. The men become ice locked aboard the Endurance near the south pole and lose the boat. This is the story of how they winter, and how Shackleton and a small group make for a whaling port to enlist a relief ship. It’s amazing, all the more so for being true. After a slow start, I couldn’t put this down.
Here's another excellent book I heard was made into a movie. I didn't bother with the movie because I didn't think it could be better than this:
This is an account of the whaling ship that was bizarrely attacked by a whale, and the crew members who survived. Melville based Moby Dick on this story. It's pretty shocking.
In summary: if you want to spend a few days with your mind in the Arctic/Antarctic/adrift at sea, these are for you.