Considering he was raised on Moby Dick and Jack London, it’s no surprise that Alex Carleton has built a career helping American heritage and adventure brands realize their vision.
Now Creative Director at Filson, we recently asked Carleton to share a list of favorite books. Unsurprisingly, it’s a list heavy on travel and adventure: through the heart of Africa, down the Colorado River and into the stormy Atlantic.
One even spurred him to decamp New York and start a new life in Maine.
Below, his selections — they’ll make you consider whether you’re where you’re supposed to be, trust.
The House of the Seven Gables
“Maybe it’s my New English-ness or maybe I’m a masochist. Nate spun a good old-fashioned Massachusetts fairy tale in a painfully long book. It has humor, murder, witchcraft, a creepy but stylish house, a curse, a spinster, her convict brother, a mysterious hottie and a fair maiden… all with regional flavor. Ultimately, the theme ‘fate is history’ is an idea that’s fascinated me for a long time. It’s the lens through which I look at most things.”
By Herman Melville (and illustrated by Rockwell Kent)
“Part two of my New England origin. As a kid, I played tag in Nantucket graveyards and spent more time in the Atlantic than I did on land. I’m still a member of the New Bedford Whaling Museum. The Pequod was a catalyst for escaping my small-town Cape Cod life and quelled my yearning for far-reaching adventure. It’s a story that rooted within me a sense of identity while (for better or worse) encouraging me to chase my own white whale.”
The Call of the Wild
And everything written by Jack London
“This book is perfect. It makes me cry. It makes my heart explode out of my chest and gives me a stomach ache at the same time. If you are even remotely a dog person you’ll understand. The hero dog has all of the best qualities that a man could ever hope to have: loyalty, strength, stamina, bravery, endurance and simple, clear love. The landscape is sweeping, epic perfection. It’s a story that strangely makes me feel pride and shame at the same time. It’s made me want to explore wild places and also deepens my intrigue and connection with the dogs I’ve encountered in my own life.”
Heart of Darkness
By Joseph Conrad
“This book was a tie with Lord of the Flies: they both explore the thin veil between organization and chaos — a theme that’s interested me since a college Shakespeare class, when I read Henry V. It’s a measure I use to evaluate my personal life.”
The Exploration of the Colorado River
By John Wesley Powell
“I picked up this book when I was living in New York City and had a sleeping hunger for adventure. It’s written by a bearded, grizzled, one-armed Civil War veteran about the place he loved more than any other. It begins, ‘We are ready to start on our way down the great unknown.’ What passage could better have inspired me to quit my job, move out of the city and begin a new life in Maine? It doesn’t hurt that it documents the West with original drawings and woodcuts from the 1800s: landscapes, geology, native people, their homes and crafts. It’s actual adventure.”