Books have many roles. At the most basic level they can record and inform, and they can also entertain. Some books, though not many, do all three of these things, and very much more as well. "Fifty Years of Adventure", edited by Kev Reynolds, is a book that records, informs and entertains, but much more importantly it is a book that inspires. As we leafed through this outstandingly beautiful book, we began to wonder whether it might be possible to boil our review down to just three words: "Inspirational. Buy it." That would indeed have been possible, and the result would have been an accurate review. But it would hardly have done justice to the huge amount of effort and love that has so very obviously been invested in this book by the contributors, by the contributing editor, and by the publishers, Cicerone Press.
As well they might. "Fifty Years of Adventure" has been published as part of the celebrations being held throughout the year to mark the fact that Cicerone Press is 50 years old in March 2019. At the heart of the book are 50 tales of adventure, one for each year that Cicerone has been publishing. They are divided fairly evenly between adventures in the UK, in Europe, and worldwide. Not that the location of each adventure really matters very much. What the stories have in common is that they are engagingly written and beautifully illustrated. The photography in this book is well worth a special mention. The illustrations are simply outstanding, and many have been printed at large size in a way that maximises their impact.
The stories themselves range from the familiar to the exotic: though of course the distinction between the two will vary for every reader, depending on their own experiences. A sense of the breadth of the coverage can be seen from the UK section, which includes wild mountain walks (especially in Scotland) alongside a piece about Hergest Ridge (especially educational for those of us who never knew Mike Oldfield's second album was about a real place) and the Thames Path. A similar diversity of subject matter can be found in the "European" and "Worldwide" sections of the book. The result is something for everyone: and above all a book that will widen the horizons of anyone but the most committed lifelong globetrotter.
In many ways this is a book that could only have been published by a company that over the years has produced 400 guidebooks which between them have looked at just about every part of the globe that anyone was likely to want to visit with adventure in mind. The book begins with a chapter that looks at "The Cicerone Story" from 1969 to date, which helps set the rest of the contents very nicely in context. The book concludes with what might be described as ten tales of misadventure: "Mishaps and Misadventures" experienced by Cicerone authors over the years. These are entertaining and enlightening, and show that even the best prepared and most knowledgeable of adventurers can have bad days: though whether being struck by lightning on the Cobbler and living to tell the tale counts as being "unlucky" or "lucky" (or perhaps both) is open to debate. This is an inspirational book which will be enjoyed by anyone with an interest in outdoor adventure.