top of page
Book Cover

Levison Wood


For over a century, Ernest Shackleton’s ship, "Endurance", lay at the bottom of the Weddell Sea off the coast of Antarctica. Its wreck was discovered in 2022 at the same time as Levison Wood was compiling an anthology of adventure stories.
Wood is no stranger to endurance. A renowned explorer who made his name walking the length of the Nile in 2015, he has clocked up tens of thousands of miles covering hostile terrains around the world. From the Himalayas to the Americas, Arabia to Russia, Wood has cornered the market in long walks and accompanying books.
It was with some trepidation, however, that I hoisted his book "Endurance" into my lap: its 630 pages weigh in at a hefty 1.2 kilograms. Subtitled ‘100 Tales of Survival, Adventure and Exploration’ it is an anthology of travel stories. Many such books have been published in the last five years alone but Wood’s book is different.

Taking his title from Shackleton’s ship, Wood interprets the theme of endurance widely and poignantly. You don’t need to be an Arctic explorer or an expert in the Amazon River to be able to endure stage four cancer or political internment.

This wide interpretation serves the book well. The entries are organised into sub-categories: Against All Odds, Courage Under Fire, Frontiers of Discovery, Pioneers and Mavericks, and Pushing the Limits. Of course, there are plenty of entries from the Pantheon of traveller writers and adventurers. Not many travel anthologies could avoid including the likes of Gertrude Bell, Freya Stark, Robert Falcon Scott and Wilfred Thesiger. We know the broad brush strokes of many of these entries already: Joe Simpson whose climbing partner cut the rope and Sir Francis Drake navigating the great unknown, but the excerpts in "Endurance" give these stories much deeper context. Jon T. Coleman’s account of Hugh Glass (Leonardo di Caprio’s character in "The Revenant") was an eye-opener.

But "Endurance" is not just about people who put themselves in extraordinary situations. It is filled with accounts of those who find themselves caught up in events and circumstances beyond their control: Malala Yousafzai who survived a Taliban attempt on her life; Nelson Mandela languishing in prison; Marie Colvin’s experience of escaping Tamils in Sri Lanka and David Nott’s descriptions of life as a doctor in Syria all make for compelling reading.

Stories like these remind us that acts of heroism, toughness and endurance are not simply the preserve of those who undertake well-funded, large-scale expeditions, have a gift for writing, or a talent for publicity. They happen all the time and they often go unremarked and unreported. These stories resonate with many of the extraordinary people I met while covering conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Ukraine and Gaza.

In his introduction, Wood says that his aim was to inspire readers to reach for the original texts and delve deeper into what it means to endure. He succeeds. There is hope within these pages: we have within us an extraordinary capacity to cope. Reading this anthology is affirmation that the human spirit can and will endure.

Lalage Snow


bottom of page