The best books about the allure, tragedy, and terrifying majesty of high-altitude mountaineering

Who am I?

When I was 10, my father quoted to me the line by Henry David Thoreau, that "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." This scared me deeply. It became an enduring question. What makes us feel truly alive? I love stories that take us to these edges. I like to explore what we chase - love, adventure, ambition, art - and where it goes wrong. I’ve long been drawn to stories about people who climb the world’s most dangerous mountains, putting themselves through unthinkable ordeals in places that don’t care if we live or die. And what of their friends, families and partners?

I wrote...

Ever Rest

By Roz Morris,

Book cover of Ever Rest

What is my book about?

Twenty years ago, Hugo and Ash were on top of the world. As the rock band Ashbirds they were superstars. Then Ash went missing on a mountain, and the lives of Hugo and everyone around him were changed forever. Two decades on, Ash’s fiancée Elza is still struggling to move on, her private grief outshone by the glare of publicity. Hugo is now a recluse in Nepal. Robert, an ambitious session player, feels himself both blessed and cursed by his brief time with Ashbirds, unable to achieve recognition in his own right. While the Ashbirds legend burns brighter than ever, Elza, Hugo, and Robert are as stranded as if they were the ones lost in the ice. How far must they go to come back to life?

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster

Why did I love this book?

This is the ultimate place to understand the epic undertaking of climbing Everest. Krakauer climbed in a season with the worst death toll in the peak’s history. His book takes us through a remarkable ordeal of human fragility, of hurricanes, cold, exposure, lucky and unlucky decisions, all in a place where nothing can be trusted - not the air, not your own body or mind, not even the ground you walk on.

By Jon Krakauer,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked Into Thin Air as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER • The epic account of the storm on the summit of Mt. Everest that claimed five lives and left countless more—including Krakauer's—in guilt-ridden disarray. 

"A harrowing tale of the perils of high-altitude climbing, a story of bad luck and worse judgment and of heartbreaking heroism." —PEOPLE

A bank of clouds was assembling on the not-so-distant horizon, but journalist-mountaineer Jon Krakauer, standing on the summit of Mt. Everest, saw nothing that "suggested that a murderous storm was bearing down." He was wrong. 

By writing Into Thin Air, Krakauer may have hoped to exorcise some of his own demons…

Book cover of Savage Summit: The Life and Death of the First Women of K2

Why did I love this book?

A different mountain, and reputedly more deadly than Everest. The focus is on a handful of professional elite mountaineers, all women, and the different ways they achieve their climbing dreams, according to their personalities - from phenomenal physical grit to unashamed use of every feminine wile. Yes, it seems you can sleep your way to the top. You might think this sounds monstrous, but I found it incredibly human and moving, and afterward I searched YouTube for videos of these women, to see their actual faces, full of unstoppable life.

By Jennifer Jordan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Savage Summit as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Here is narrative nonfiction at its most gripping. Journalist Jennifer Jordan chronicled the individual stories of the five courageous women who have climbed K2, the most fearsome mountain in the world. Climbers call K2 "The Savage Mountain." It is not quite as tall as Everest, but it is far more dangerous, located at the border of China and Pakistan, in the deadly Karakoram range, which has the harshest climbing conditions and weather of any place in the world. Ninety women have climbed Everest, but only five female climbers have ever reached the summit of K2 alive. Three of these women…

Book cover of Where the Mountain Casts Its Shadow: The Dark Side of Extreme Adventure

Why did I love this book?

Mountaineering attracts people of lionlike courage. What of the people who wait for them at home? When Maria Coffey started dating a climber, she found herself part of an exclusive club…and she soon needed them more than ever after her partner was lost in an accident. As she struggles through her bereavement she examines the adventuring nature, and the bravery needed to make a life with such a person.

By Maria Coffey,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Where the Mountain Casts Its Shadow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Drawing on interviews with many leading mountaineers or their survivors, Coffey goes beyond the typical climbing book to question the reasons why climbers risk their lives. The result is a powerful, affecting book that strips the romance from adventure and returns it to the human realm: the parents, spouses, children, and partners of climbers who until now have maintained their code of silence. Interviewees include Jim Wickwire, Conrad Anker, Joe Simpson, Chris Bonington, Ed Viesturs and others.

Killing Me Softly

By Nicci French,

Book cover of Killing Me Softly

Why did I love this book?

We’re in fiction now. This is the story of Alice, a young professional woman with a settled life and reliable boyfriend, who jettisons it all when she meets Adam, a mountaineer. Adam is very broken, with PTSD after a tragedy in the mountains. I know climbers who would say the plot is sensationalist, but I’ve also met climbers who seem to have left their most vivid selves in that white otherworld. And this is the essential territory of Nicci French novels - people with dangerous edges and missing pieces, and how charismatic they are. 

By Nicci French,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Killing Me Softly as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

***Special anniversay edition, with a new introduction by Peter Robinson***

You're in passionate love. And grave danger . . .

Alice Loudon couldn't resist abandoning her old, safe life for a wild affair. And in Adam Tallis, a rugged mountaineer with a murky past, Alice finds a man who can teach her things about herself that she never even suspected.

But sexual obsession has its dark side - and so does Adam.

Soon, both are threatening all that Alice has left. First her sanity. Then her life.

'The pacing is spot on, and the tension keeps creeping up and up…


By Rosie Thomas,

Book cover of White

Why did I love this book?

Another novel - breathtaking descriptions that really put you on the mountain, and a trio of characters caught in a tangle of obsession. While you share every painful, astounding step, you’re aching for them to put their emotional baggage down, stop dwelling on the past, and instead seize the future. Great armchair adventuring, a complicated romance, and no easy answers. 

By Rosie Thomas,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked White as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One Love. One Chance. Once Sacrifice. For Sam McGrath a brief encounter with a young woman, on a turbulent flight, changes his life. On impulse, crazily attracted to her, her vows to follow her - all the way to Nepal. Finch Buchanan is flying out as doctor to an expedition. But when she reaches the Himalayas she will be reunited with a man she has never been able to forget. Al Hood has made a promise to his daughter. Once he has conquered this last peak, he will leave the mountains behind forever. Everest towers over the group, silent and…

5 book lists we think you will like!

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