The Best Books On Nepal

The Books I Picked & Why

Tiger for Breakfast

By Michel Peissel

Tiger for Breakfast

Why this book?

Tiger for Breakfast is the illustrious story of a Russian adventurer and nightclub owner, traveler Boris Lissanevitch who opened the first hotel in Kathmandu in 1950. Boris also opened the first mixed-race nightclub in Calcutta and had the first car carried across the Himalayas from India to Kathmandu. His guest list proved remarkable too. Edmund Hillary set off from the Royal Hotel for Everest in 1953 and numerous royals stayed, including Queen Elizabeth. For better or for worse, Boris was a catalyst for the outside world to make inroads into the Himalayan kingdom and Michel Peissel’s book does a great job evoking those early days of travel and exploration on the Roof of the World.


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The Snow Leopard

By Peter Matthiessen

The Snow Leopard

Why this book?

Writer, explorer, Zen monk, and erstwhile CIA agent Peter Matthiessen’s best work is fiction, but The Snow Leopard, an account of the author’s travels in search of the Himalayan blue sheep in 1973, remains a Nepal nonfiction classic and is a great introduction to the work of foreign writers focusing on the country. Embarking on this expedition in the wake of his wife’s death, Matthiessen weaves his personal journey into observations of the mountains with an eye on Buddhist precepts and the hope to encounter the very rare snow leopard.


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

By Jon Krakauer

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

Why this book?

Hair-raisingly suspenseful, tragic and insane, Into Thin Air is the nonfiction account of journalist’s Jon Krakauer ascent of Mount Everest in 1996, for a magazine assignment that was to turn into one of the most serious disaster’s in the world’s tallest mountain’s history. The book asks some hard questions about commercialising the climbing of the mountain (and by extension, commercialising anything) and Krakauer takes a long hard look at his own actions on the deadly slopes of Everest and lays out what happens when people who are only connected by money face peril. This is a brilliantly researched book that manages to draw the reader in and keep her/him on the edge of their seat throughout. Riveting.


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Video Night in Kathmandu: And Other Reports from the Not-So-Far-East

By Pico Iyer

Video Night in Kathmandu: And Other Reports from the Not-So-Far-East

Why this book?

Only one segment of this travel classic is about Nepal, but Pico Iyer’s exploration of 1980s South and Southeast Asia throws a candid eye on a rapidly globalising world. Before social media and smartphones, foreign travelers and locals talked to one another and the results make for illuminating and elegant reading about the Lonely Planet generation and how it was received and perceived in the Far East.


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Kathmandu

By Thomas Bell

Kathmandu

Why this book?

Planning on a trip to Kathmandu? Curious about what makes one of the world’s most fascinating cities tick? Thomas Bell’s 2016 account is the perfect and most concise introduction to the history, culture, religiosity, and recent changes of the capital on the roof of the world. Bell confidently unravels the intricate interplay of caste, tradition, and rigid hierarchy on the one hand, and modernization, tearing into a city that was virtually isolated until 1950 like a bullet train, on the other. Perhaps it’s time for a Nepali writer to publish a panoramic nonfiction view of one of the world’s most fascinating cities, but in the meantime, Bells’ Kathmandu sets the bar high.


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