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I Married Adventure: The Lives of Martin and Osa Johnson
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I Married Adventure: The Lives of Martin and Osa Johnson

4.14  ·  Rating Details ·  540 Ratings  ·  74 Reviews
A CLASSIC MEMOIR OF TWO PIONEERING ADVENTURERS Before Joy Adamson went to Africa, before Margaret Mead sailed to Samoa, before Dian Fossey was even born, a Kansas teenager named Osa Leighty married Martin Johnson, a pioneering photographer just back from a 'round-the-world cruise with Jack London. Together the Johnsons flew and sailed to Borneo, to Kenya, and to the Congo, ...more
Paperback, 422 pages
Published August 14th 1997 by Kodansha (first published January 1st 1940)
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Jun 02, 2011 Amy rated it really liked it
This book is an absolute treat. It is everything an adventure book should be: full of romantic, scary, challenging and awe-inspiring moments. Osa chronicles her life with her husband to explain how they went from two Midwestern kids to two daring world travelers in the early 20th century who braved cannibals, African chiefs, harsh elements, and every kind of scary animal known to man. Their goal was to capture everything they saw on film to preserve it for history. While today's environmentalist ...more
Dec 23, 2008 Lisa rated it really liked it
Recommended to Lisa by: Michelle Schwartz
I read of Osa and Martin Johnson this fall in the KS Dept of Wildlife and Parks magazine. To think that such a strong/adventsuresome woman who traveled internationally came from western KS totally intrigued me.

May 2011 I found this book fascinating. The adventures this couple undertook would be amazing today, but considering that it was the 1920's and 30's, when women rarely wore pants let alone carry a gun, go on MAJOR adventures (Africa, South Pacific, Borneo), and learn to fly a plane, well,
Aug 27, 2012 Helen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Wonderful book. It is an amazing story of travel and exploration in the early 1900s in Africa and the South Pacific before there were tours, drivers and guides. It is also an endearing love
story of a couple able to follow their passion for travel together. Descriptions of their encounters with head-hunters and "safaris" are truly inspiring. It will make you want to abandon your desk job and go see the world.
Sep 16, 2013 Jubilee rated it it was amazing
Terrific book! The Johnson's are one of my all time favorite couples!
Jun 14, 2015 Annie rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
I received this as a gift from an adventuresome farm wife in my church, and am so glad she recommended it to me! This is the story of an explorer and his loving, loyal sidekick, his wife Osa. I loved seeing how Osa's plucky bravery and love for her husband kept her by his side as they explored Africa, captured many reels of wild animals and wilder natives, and saved each other's lives numerous times. She could shoot a lion in mid-attack, fly a plane, ford a river in a safari car, and trudge acro ...more
Trish Remley
Sep 02, 2013 Trish Remley rated it it was amazing
I can't believe my children grew up in Kansas and had not come across Osa and Martin Johnson from Chanute and Independence Kansas. Their adventures all over the world in the early 1900's are truly remarkable. I enjoyed Osa's telling very much and although there are many terrible descriptions of the people they meet and hire to work for them based out of sheer ignorance. The descriptions of where they went, how they prepared, the photos they took were wonderful. The amount of visual information c ...more
Aug 29, 2011 Christine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I requested this book from my University Library after reading about Osa Johnson in "Women Travelers." From the moment I received this first edition, with its zebra-striped bookcloth cover, I was hooked. I had requested Martin and Osa's silent film, "Simba" (1924) through Interlibrary Loan at the same time.

Osa's voice throughout the book (the film was obviously silent) was inviting and in no way condescending. I am looking for a first edition of this book to purchase, in case anyone has one they
Sep 14, 2010 Justinbwood rated it liked it
Intriguing account of a woman who lived life rather differently than most, following her husband around the world as they attempted to film people and wildlife in the remote and inaccessible parts of the world in the early 20th century. Interesting for her un-self-conscious approach to traditional domesticity in the midst of thorough adventure.
Although many of their attitudes regarding civilized whites and the savages are cringe-inducing today, she and her husband were filming when most were sho
Jul 12, 2008 Carol rated it really liked it
This book (with the zebra cover) sat on my shelf for years. I think I started to read it once but got bogged down. This time I couldn't put it down. I don't believe people have adventures like this any more. Imagine being chased by cannibals down a mountain, through a jungle and into the ocean. That's what novels are made of, but this actually happened.
Niki Landry
Jun 19, 2012 Niki Landry rated it it was amazing
I was originally drawn to the zebra stripe cover and exciting title, but the story definatey pulled me in further. Osa Johnson vividly describes the exotic locations and cultures she explored throughout her marriage to Martin Johnson. Wonderful story of Love and Adventure.
Sep 06, 2008 Ruth rated it it was amazing
Five stars for the past, way past, when I loved this book. Coming back to it as an adult, I saw what I didn't see as a kid. The book is filled with the slaughter of animals.
Mar 12, 2014 Heather rated it it was amazing
I chose this because it was one of National Geographic's recommended top 100 adventure books. "I Married Adventure" by Osa Johnson is the story of two kids from Kansas who travel the world. Martin Johnson is a very early photographer who takes a voyage with Jack London, films cannibals in the South Pacific, and embarks on a life of photography and adventure. Osa, his young wife, doesn't realize what she has signed up for at first but is just the type of woman who is up to the challenge, accompan ...more
Dec 15, 2016 Jrobertus rated it it was amazing
This is a truly amazing memoir/adventure book, and is justifiably considered a classic. Martin Johnson was born in Kansas in 1884. He was a poor student but was a take charge guy. His father owned a prosperous jewelry store and hoped Martin would continue the business, but it was not to be. He fooled araound with photography and as a teenager signed on to sail the south Pacific with Jack London. He traveled around the world more or less as a vagabond. He came back to Kansas when broke and did so ...more
Elaine Meszaros
Dec 03, 2014 Elaine Meszaros rated it it was amazing
Osa and Martin Johnson were once household names. In the 1920s and 30s they brought the wilds of Africa, Micronesia and Borneo to the big screen in little towns. Both were originally from small towns in Kansas. While Martin dreamed of seeing the world and photographing it, Osa wanted only a nice home and family. In her late teens, she met and spontaneously married Martin and her life veered wildly off track. They spent the first few years together running a traveling show and lecture about Marti ...more
Mar 26, 2014 Carol rated it really liked it
This is one of those times that I realized that I was unaware of a true story that is a part of history; the story of the lives of Osa and Martin Johnson, film-making
adventurers of the early twentieth century. In 1910, Martin married 16
year old Osa and they spent the next 27 years exploring and filming places
that few westerners had ever seen: native and animal populations in the
South Seas and equatorial Africa. They embraced the local cultures and often
lived months, and even years, miles from
Doug Dams
Feb 12, 2012 Doug Dams rated it really liked it
This book tells the story of Martin and Osa Johnson who traveled the Pacific south seas and Africa trying to photograph and film the lives of native peoples and animals before civilization could alter them. Their trips took place between 1912 and 1937.
The stories of their encounters with the headhunters and cannibals in the south seas islands are thrilling and fascinating. And the safari stories in Africa are interesting with their up close observations of animals and natives. Osa Johnson write
Sep 18, 2014 Betty rated it did not like it
I must have reviewed this on Amazon. This was a hard book to locate given it is old. This adventuresome couple were unique and unusal in their day, and we are so "Discovery" and "NatGeo" that we'd dismiss them today. But they were at the beginning of the great explorers and the beginning of film. Both have come a long way. Thank goodness safaris are now with camera, rather than guns. As predicted so many species are endangered now. This book was too long, needed a good editor, and was part of wh ...more
Nov 01, 2015 Beth rated it it was amazing
I found a first edition of this book in a 25 cent bargain bin at a church bazaar and intrigued by the zebra-striped cover I purchased it. What a fantastic book, and one in which I read while my husband and I were on our own adventure crossing the country from NY to CA...but oh, Osa's stories of travel in the South Seas and Africa in the early 20th century pale in comparison to any 21st century roadtrip! I absolutely LOVED this book and rank it up there in my top 20. Osa Johnson was so much a wom ...more
A real life adventure story of a couple in the 1920s and 1930s. The author, Osa Johnson, describes their travels around the world making documentary films. They did some revolutionary work in aerial filming. Although they came from modest backgrounds they were able to support themselves doing something they loved. Martin Johnson was also a close friend and former shipmate aboard Jack London's sailing yacht, The Snark. An interesting book written in an era when there were still undiscovered parts ...more
Wonderful memoir of adventure! Osa and her husband Martin traveled the world, photographing wildlife and remote tribes in their natural habitat in the 1920s and 1930s. Fearless in their work, they paved the way for later naturalists and other scientists. They were intrepid!

In the sense of adventure, it reminded me strongly of another true story I read a few years ago, "Tea for Two," about an English woman who married an Englishman who ran a tea plantation in remote India, complete with pet tiger
Sep 04, 2010 Swhe641200 rated it liked it
This was the story of the Johnson's life of adventure in the 1910 to 1920. They were quite a couple and their lives as he went into the jungles of the uncivilized world to take picture were quite unique. I enjoyed the book. I never could live that kind of life and I am sure many could not. She turly gave her life to him. Sorry that he was killed in a plane wreck after speaking in the tabernalce to a group of youth. He had a lot of life still to live. Suggested by Weber county Library list.
Feb 06, 2009 Lea rated it really liked it
Recommended to Lea by: Museum in Florida
Shelves: history, bookclub
I first heard about Martin & Osa Johnson while staying at the Animal Kingdom Resort at Disney World. This book was mentioned in the display about the couple. This book by Osa details Martin's early life and their life together. It's an interesting look at history published in the early 1940s about their experiences in the early part of the 1900s. It's an early look at preserving natural history. I found it to be very readable.
May 20, 2008 Marty rated it liked it
Recommends it for: those who like to read old time adventure/true stories
Recommended to Marty by: tina
Adventure in the early 1900's---much sounds awkward by our knowledge and language use today----but what a time Martin and Osa had.....Martine with Jack London, Osa, marrying this young fellow and off she goes to the South Seas! Reflecting the times, while his main interest was photography, unfortunate casualties included understanding of the people, and the death of poor elephants, rhinos, etc which got in the way.
Maria Pumilia
Apr 30, 2008 Maria Pumilia rated it it was amazing
Thoroughly enjoyed this well written, entertaining and absolutely fascinating auto/biography of Osa and Martin Johnson, written by Osa herself. Wow. First hand harrowing accounts of how the worlds first film footage of african wildlife and indigenous peoples (not to mention south pacific cannibals!!) was laid to celluloid. It's kinda like Discovery Channel meets "Joe Vs. the Volcano" meets Jane Goodall's "Born Free" meets "Ozzy and Harriet".
Travis Hamilton
Dec 29, 2011 Travis Hamilton rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Travis by: Rebekah Hamilton
This was a great clean read. I enjoyed it very much. It has made my need to travel and see the world by working and serving increase in great steps and leaps and bounds. I am not sure if I could live somewhere for four years taking pictures of elephants for that long...but maybe a 6 months! A great read.
Apr 27, 2010 Becky rated it liked it
Interesting story about the adventurous marriage of these two. It did make me want to learn more about them: how readers/audiences in the early part of the 20th century received them, what happened to Osa after Martin died, and so on. Some questions will probably never be answered, such as why didn't she get pregnant?
Anne Buck
Aug 20, 2014 Anne Buck rated it really liked it
This was such an interesting book. Martin and Osa are adventure travelers and documentary film makers and photographers in the early part of the 20th century. Their travels took them to the South Pacific and Africa. The pictures in the book help tell the story. I felt like I was there with them at some points in the book.
Sep 02, 2014 Jan rated it really liked it
I watched the Osa and Martin Johnson movies when I was a kid, on early TV. I loved them then, and loved reading about them now. I had read this book several times before, and will probably read it again.
Robin Rivers
Feb 04, 2015 Robin Rivers rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics, explorers
I loved this book, a beautifully written homage by Osa Johnson to her husband Martin who was one of the most intrepid adventurers in Africa during the 20th century. Bittersweet, it gives a nearly lost glimpse into human discovery of the world. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
Deanna Against Censorship
This is a book I read first when I was in Junior High School (back in the dark ages my kids would say). I read adult books at an early age. This book has NEVER left me in all these years. It is an amazing true story.
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In the first half of the 20th century an American couple from Kansas named Martin and Osa Johnson captured the public's imagination through their films and books of adventure in exotic, far-away lands...Photographers, explorers, naturalists and authors, Martin and Osa studied the wildlife and peoples of East and Central Africa, the South Pacific Islands and British North Borneo...They explored the ...more
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