The Living Mountain

By Nan Shepherd,

Book cover of The Living Mountain

Book description

'The finest book ever written on nature and landscape in Britain' Guardian

Introduction by Robert Macfarlane. Afterword by Jeanette Winterson

In this masterpiece of nature writing, Nan Shepherd describes her journeys into the Cairngorm mountains of Scotland. There she encounters a world that can be breathtakingly beautiful at times and…

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Why read it?

6 authors picked The Living Mountain as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I’ve never read anything like The Living Mountain. A book that is, at once, an autobiography of a remarkable yet under-celebrated woman writer and an exploration of the ecstasies of experiencing the world through the body and its senses.

In gorgeously vivid prose, Shepherd invites us to pursue depth over breadth and to rely upon our felt experience as a way of knowing in the world. This book challenges dominant “hero’s journey” narratives in both content and form and suggests that all we yearn to experience and know can be found right where we find ourselves, wherever that may…

From Sara's list on the stories we tell about women.

If you want to get in touch with nature and are looking for a how-to book, not so much a prescription, but an experiential meditation, then look no further because Nan Shepherd is your gal, and her book, The Living Mountain, is your book.

Shepherd went about writing The Living Mountain in the 1940s by analyzing her fifty years of walkabouts and then synthesizing her experience into twelve chapters that move from hardscapes into the biosphere. The last few chapters are meditations on perception, the last entitled “Being.”

Ultimately, this book is a meditation on what Shepherd calls “bodily thinking,”…

From Jeffrey's list on where imagination and nature run free.

I’m rather ashamed that I didn’t know about it before and only came to it after reading a recommendation by Robert Macfarlane. I began by reading it in bed but had to stop almost immediately as it was never going to help send me to sleep.

Her use of language when evoking the Cairngorms is utterly extraordinary, and any attempt to sum it up would be, to use one of her phrases, a pallid simulacrum.

Crafted by a remarkable novelist and poet, it may well be, as it’s often described, “the finest book ever written on nature and landscape in…

For a devotee of mountaineering books, this one holds a special place in the canon. Whereas other narratives might accentuate the numbers or other data of the climb, this one emphasizes the author's internal, subjective experience of sublimity in nature. This pilgrim loves—but I mean deeply and faithfully respects, reveres, and revisits—the mountain range that is just outside her home village. Nan Shepherd was a native of Aberdeen, Scotland (1893-1981) who made a living teaching English but whose true vocation was to be on top of the Cairngorms. Just to be, not to prove anything. I've not found an explorer…

"The thing to be known grows with the knowing." This slim book is the distillation of a whole lifetime spent knowing the Cairngorms. Every page is radiant with wisdom, and I think it’s close to perfection. A book all about matter and spirit, and how paying close attention to creation is an endlessly rich and rewarding devotion. 

From Edward's list on to rewild the mind.

To my mind the finest meditation on the experience of walking among the hills, looking inward and out. Written in the Forties, this short book is at once timeless and decades ahead of its time. It is profoundly philosophical yet utterly rooted in experience - environmental, ecological, spiritual, the product of many years of wandering and musing in the Cairngorms. Hauntingly lovely and true, without ever being inflated or sentimental, it goes to the heart of our being, and the mountains’ being. I had the pleasure and privilege of recommending this long out-of-print book to Canongate for its series of…

From Andrew's list on from the other side of the mountain.

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