The Adventurer’s Glossary

By: Joshua Glenn
September 28, 2021

She never flew anywhere without it.

THE ADVENTURER’S GLOSSARY, my latest collaboration with the philosopher Mark Kingwell and the cartoonist Seth, will officially be published tomorrow — though it is available for sale today!

Mark, Seth, and I previously created The Idler’s Glossary (2008) and The Wage Slave’s Glossary (2011) for the independent Canadian publishing house Biblioasis — the folks who, more recently, brought you Lucy Ellmann’s novel Ducks, Newburyport. It had been a decade since we’d worked together, but in December 2019 we met up in Guelph, Ontario for an exhibition of Seth’s Dominion project, and agreed that we wanted our series to be a trilogy.

The Adventurer’s Glossary, a handsome little hardcover that fits into your hand like “Irish confetti” (that is, a brick), comes to you courtesy of McGill-Queen’s University Press, Canada’s preeminent academic press. We’re grateful to editor Khadija Coxon, to the rest of the MQUP team, and to our anonymous peer reviewers — whose invaluable critiques we took to heart.

Because HILOBROW is a noncommercial website, I won’t to link to the book directly in this post. But you should be able to find it pretty easily…


“Joshua Glenn, Mark Kingwell, and Seth combine their talents to embark on a grand linguistic adventure. Together they map out the power of language to help the explorer navigate a rich narrative.” — Ann Bancroft, first woman to trek to the North and South Poles

“A case for ‘adventure’ as a literary as well as a quasi-athletic genre and attitude, with a philosopher’s aerial approach, a set of literary recommendations, and a great deal of cultural history baked into a very skimmable A to Z.” — Stephanie Burt, author of Don’t Read Poetry: A Book about How to Read Poems

“I read The Adventurer’s Glossary with great interest and mounting enthusiasm; there is no book quite like it. I found surprises on nearly every page.” — Lucy Sante, author of Maybe the People Would Be the Times


Here’s an excerpt from a prominently placed writeup in the September issue of Quill & Quire, Canada’s magazine of book news and reviews:

[Glenn’s] third word project, following 2008’s The Idler’s Glossary and 2011’s The Wage Slave’s Glossary, is a comprehensive list of 500 terms inspired by adventure; it takes the reader on a semantic journey sourced from the military, aviation, surfing, NASA, hip hop, comic books, extreme sports, gaming culture, and classic adventure literature. Kingwell has again written an essay introducing and examining the topic and its role in popular culture while Seth designed and illustrated the book with his bold black-and-white creations.

Many thanks to Waheeda Harris for the kind words…


At the invitation of Writer’s Digest, I dashed off a short piece on “5 Thrilling Adventure Terms Every Writer Should Know (And Why).” Excerpt:

DANMAKU. Shoot-’em-up videogames in which players must dodge elaborate, at times almost psychedelically complex patterns of projectile flows, are known in Japanese as danmaku — which means, literally, “bullet curtain.” (Until recently, most games of this sort, including Espgaluda II, DoDonPachi Resurrection, and Ikaruga, came from Japan.) What’s the appeal of this sort of challenge? Rapidly figuring out the weak spots in patterns and how to exploit them. The best strategy in most cases involves moving boldly and nimbly forward — into the maelstrom. A useful lesson for adventurers.

Here’s the piece. If you’ve ever wondered what the plural of propædeutic enchiridion is, this is your chance to find out.


This Sunday, the Boston Globe‘s IDEAS section will run an excerpt of Mark Kingwell’s AG introduction, along with several of my glossary entries and Seth’s illustrations. (Online, for subscribers, here.) Here’s a sample:

Adventure is challenge and reward, risk and redemption. It doesn’t have to be physical or violent. There are romantic adventures, aesthetic, intellectual, and philosophical ones, and spiritual challenges of all kinds. But even in an expected kind of adventure, such as a military mission or a mountain climbing expedition, the elements of danger and risk dominate the consciousness and the unfolding narrative. No amount of preparedness can be equal to the demands of contingency.

I’m grateful to IDEAS deputy editor Kelly Horan, for making this happen. Here’s a link to the full-page spread.


I’m grateful to thriller writer Jessica Payne, and author Crystal Z. Lee for giving the book a shout-out.

Thanks, also, to Travel Writing World, and to We Are Explorers, for the shout-outs. Excerpt from We Are the Explorers:

Diving into more than 500 terms relating to adventure, this little book is packed with interesting trivia, philosophical musings, humour, and cartoons that’ll appeal to any adventure enthusiast.


Stay tuned for more ADVENTURER’S GLOSSARY news…


Adventure, Kudos