The best books on the Himalayas

5 authors have picked their favorite books about the Himalayas and why they recommend each book.

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The Snow Leopard

By Peter Matthiessen,

Book cover of The Snow Leopard

How far must you travel to discover your true inner self? Pretty far, for Peter Matthiessen—all the way to the slopes of Annapurna in Nepal, in search of blue sheep, the Lama of Crystal Mountain, the elusive snow leopard, and most of all, spiritual enlightenment—very big in the ’70s (trust me, I was there). It’s a journal, a travelogue, a nature study, a daredevil escapade in a setting of such unworldly grandeur that makes you long to be there, at the top of the world, where the clouds dance and the mountains sing. Lots of self-reflection, but absolutely worth signing on for the trek.


Who am I?

As an author and composer, writing to me is music: the flow of words across the page can sparkle like a symphony, cry like a requiem, or swagger like rock n’ roll. Places have their own kind of music: in the lilt of their language, the lift of their architecture, the beauty of their landscapes. My favorite books about those places manage to capture that particular music, singing a siren song that stirs my senses and makes me want to go there—not tomorrow, not next week, but right now. I live in Hudson, NY with my wife, actress/writer Mel Harris. Our four children live all over the place. 


I wrote...

The Piazza: Stories from Piazza Santa Caterina Piccola

By Bob Brush, Scott Howard (illustrator),

Book cover of The Piazza: Stories from Piazza Santa Caterina Piccola

What is my book about?

On a tiny piazza in an obscure Italian hilltop town in 1933 remarkable things are happening. From the window of his mother’s bakery a young boy, Niccolò, sees it all. The citizens of this unexpected and improbable place find themselves bound together by their hopes, their lies, their humanity, and their destiny, unbowed in the face of onrushing war and certain catastrophe. It’s a heartwarming, heartbreaking, fantastical love song to a time and place that no longer exist—if in fact they ever existed at all.

Fallen Giants

By Maurice Isserman, Stewart Weaver,

Book cover of Fallen Giants: A History of Himalayan Mountaineering from the Age of Empire to the Age of Extremes

If you’re a Himalayan enthusiast, this book is a must. Heck, even if you’re not yet an enthusiast, you will be after you start reading Fallen Giants. Its sweep is magnificent, its story-telling superb. You’d think this book would get repetitive, so many mountains and so many climbs, but you’d be wrong.


Who am I?

I fell in love with the Himalayas in the 8th grade and vowed to go there one day. Eighteen years later I fell in love again, with a woman this time, who was living in Nepal. While living there I trekked extensively and read everything I could about the mountains, especially Everest. I thought it was odd that all the Everest books started in 1921, but the mountain was discovered in 1853. What took them so long? Hence my book The Hunt for Mount Everest.


I wrote...

The Hunt for Mount Everest

By Craig Storti,

Book cover of The Hunt for Mount Everest

What is my book about?

The height of Mount Everest was first measured in 1850, but it would be 71 years before any westerner got closer than 40 miles of the famous peak. The Hunt for Mount Everest tells the gripping back story of the quest to find the world’s highest mountain and claim the last great prize in the history of exploration, climaxing one June morning in 1921 when George Mallory and Guy Bullock became the first westerners—and almost certainly the first people—ever to set foot on the mountain. It is a story of high drama, two disastrous wars, larger-than-life characters, a few quiet heroes, hundreds of mules, thousands of camels, and two zebrules—all playing out against a backdrop of the most spectacular geography on earth.

Lost Horizon

By James Hilton,

Book cover of Lost Horizon

I was on a spiritual retreat when I found an old, dusty copy of Lost Horizon in the retreat’s library. Some of this book is surely dated—having a Christian monk as the head of a Tibetan nirvana hasn’t aged well—but the heart and soul of James Hilton’s tale of a world gone mad and one man’s discovery of a hidden paradise feels more relevant than ever. We’re all looking for Shangri-La, for the hidden paradise in our own hearts, and Hilton, through his compelling, heartfelt story, points the way.


Who am I?

In my senior year of high school I had an experience that shifted my view of Life, the Universe, and Everything—and that experience cracked open both my interior and exterior worlds, taking me to extraordinary inner spaces and to the feet of a great spiritual master in India. I cherish stories that can look at the (apparently) mundane and find the glistening jewels of spirit hidden beneath, just as I treasure stories that use the tropes of fantasy to open our eyes to the universe’s sacred wonders. All the books on this list have done that for me. 


I wrote...

The Excavator

By J.M. DeMatteis,

Book cover of The Excavator

What is my book about?

Sandra Rosen awakens to find a mysterious boy standing at the foot of her bed. It is, she soon discovers, her son Henry. But she has no memory of his existence. A mind-hacker has excavated her psyche with surgical precision and now demands a ransom to replace the priceless memories he’s stolen.

Living with the Himalayan Masters

By Swami Rama,

Book cover of Living with the Himalayan Masters

The third book I would suggest is Living with the Himalayan Masters by Swami Rama. Written as an autobiography, this book follows the life of a famous spiritual teacher, and his many adventures on his path to becoming one. I personally love biographies, and this was one of the most interesting ones for me. I think you would get just as inspired by it as me, and you could even continue with The Autobiography of a Yogi by Yogananda.


Who am I?

Gabriel Dee is a mystic, author, spiritual teacher, and the founder of Immortology. At the age of 26, he became a seeker and became enlightened on the 11th of March, 2011. He experienced most of the spiritual methods of the world and traveled to India to learn more about healing, hypnosis, and meditation. His main teaching is making people face their own mortality, and then going beyond it to realize their immortality.


I wrote...

The Power of Death: A Radical Path to Personal Transformation and Spiritual Enlightenment

By Gabriel Dee,

Book cover of The Power of Death: A Radical Path to Personal Transformation and Spiritual Enlightenment

What is my book about?

Do you want to change your life, but constantly lose motivation? Are you trying to find or transform yourself? Are you seeking spiritual enlightenment? Stop the search, and get the book now! The Power of Death will show you a revolutionary method to reach all of the above and more. This technique was invented by the Buddha, but it has not been widely used, because it seems so contradictory and radical at first. However, the lives of millions of people is the proof that it works. Although it „happened” to them by accident, now you can learn to use it consciously at will.

Annapurna

By Maurice Herzog,

Book cover of Annapurna: The First Conquest of an 8,000-Meter Peak

Annapurna is a classic: a classic book about a classic climb. Annapurna is only the 10th highest mountain in the world, but it is the most dangerous of all 14 of the giants, those peaks over 8,000 meters. It should not even have been attempted under the circumstances described in this book. But never mind: the odds were utterly against success. No worries on that front; the French—they were the ones trying—were never going to be the first to summit a giant. Only no one told them. (Craig Storti’s forthcoming book retells this classic tale.)


Who am I?

I fell in love with the Himalayas in the 8th grade and vowed to go there one day. Eighteen years later I fell in love again, with a woman this time, who was living in Nepal. While living there I trekked extensively and read everything I could about the mountains, especially Everest. I thought it was odd that all the Everest books started in 1921, but the mountain was discovered in 1853. What took them so long? Hence my book The Hunt for Mount Everest.


I wrote...

The Hunt for Mount Everest

By Craig Storti,

Book cover of The Hunt for Mount Everest

What is my book about?

The height of Mount Everest was first measured in 1850, but it would be 71 years before any westerner got closer than 40 miles of the famous peak. The Hunt for Mount Everest tells the gripping back story of the quest to find the world’s highest mountain and claim the last great prize in the history of exploration, climaxing one June morning in 1921 when George Mallory and Guy Bullock became the first westerners—and almost certainly the first people—ever to set foot on the mountain. It is a story of high drama, two disastrous wars, larger-than-life characters, a few quiet heroes, hundreds of mules, thousands of camels, and two zebrules—all playing out against a backdrop of the most spectacular geography on earth.

The Ascent of Rum Doodle

By W.E. Bowman,

Book cover of The Ascent of Rum Doodle

Probably the funniest and most inventive climbing expedition book ever written, loved by climbers who appreciate its satire, spoof, mickey-taking pastiche of Serious Mountaineering Expedition Books. It is Chris Bonnington turned Wodehouse, Jon Krakauer rendered by Spike Milligan. Its knowing self-mockery of all the tropes and self-important delusions of Climbing is sharp and accurate enough to raise it high above whimsy. Wildly creative, it is impossible to read without snorting in one’s sleeping bag. It is the comic, ridiculous side of the great pursuit of Getting Higher.


Who am I?

I was an under-employed Scottish poet hillwalker when I met a Himalayan mountaineer in a pub. Due to alcohol and a misunderstanding about the metaphorical nature of Poetry, Mal Duff asked me to join an attempt to climb the legendary 24,000ft  Mustagh Tower in the Karakoram. By the time I admitted I had no climbing experience whatsoever and was scared of heights, it was too late. Those Scottish winters’ apprenticeships and following Himalayan expeditions re-shaped my writing life, outlook, and friendships. My books have been shortlisted three times for the Boardman-Tasker Award for outstanding mountaineering literature, for Summit Fever; Kingdoms of Experience (Everest the Unclimbed Ridge); Electric Brae.


I wrote...

Summit Fever

By Andrew Greig,

Book cover of Summit Fever

What is my book about?

Mountaineering books are written by people who have been climbing for years, working their way up from local crags to their country’s hills, to ice climbing, winter climbing, then the Alps, and finally the Himalaya. As the result of a beer-fuelled misunderstanding, Andrew Greig, a writer non-climber with a deep aversion to heights and danger, found himself training in ice climbing for one Scottish winter before being part of the small team attempting the Mustagh Tower, a legendary peak in Baltistan, sometimes known as ‘the Himalayan Matterhorn’. Summit Fever is a unique adventure story of a novice’s induction into a mindset and a way of living, of an outsider becoming an insider. It is written for any armchair climber who wonders What would it be like for me? Never out of print since its publication in 1985, it has become a quiet classic, an outlier and one-of-a-kind. Stories of fear and climbing through fear, of deep friendship and novel experiences.

Asha and the Spirit Bird

By Jasbinder Bilan,

Book cover of Asha and the Spirit Bird

Asha is a wonderfully brave character who sets out on a dangerous adventure to find her father. She connects with a lamagaia bird, which she believes is the spirit of her grandmother. This bird leads her from her village at the foothills of the Himalayas through India. I loved the exotic setting and the realistic challenges Asha faces. She rises to each challenge with bravery and continues on with loyalty for her friends and family. A beautiful, inspiring book.


Who am I?

I was an avid reader from the age of six. Books inspired me and, as a shy girl, stories helped me find the confidence to be myself. I felt amazed and inspired by reading – finding out about parts of the world I had never been to. Especially as an adult, I’ve been blessed with wonderful, female friends. These are the themes I explore now in my books. I hope to inspire young readers to be themselves and celebrate friendship. I love travelling and nature. I've lived in various parts of the US and England. Through my writing, I hope to share the wonder of different cultures and natural settings.


I wrote...

Element Girls: The Lost Goddess

By Giulietta Maria Spudich,

Book cover of Element Girls: The Lost Goddess

What is my book about?

In this magical adventure set in Hawaii, four loyal friends discover they have the powers of the elements. 

Susie, Elizabeth, Tess, and Amelia have been together for as long as they can remember. When Amelia suddenly vanishes, they find themselves drawn into a world of magic they never knew existed. The amulets they wear as a symbol of their friendship give them elemental powers. Will these new powers be enough to save Amelia from dangers they didn’t even know existed outside of books?

Clive Cussler's The Devil's Sea

By Dirk Cussler,

Book cover of Clive Cussler's The Devil's Sea

Clive Cussler is one of the few authors whose real-life adventures paralleled that of his action hero, Dirk Pitt, creating a compelling story. It is easier to convey an adventure story if you have actually lived it. I was humbled by an editorial review and a number of readers that stated my book is reminiscent of Clive Cussler’s works.


Who am I?

As an engineer and a science teacher I am passionate about science and science fiction stories. I also enjoy adventures. Together these lifelong passions led me to write my first science fiction novel. I have years of technological and educational training. My first job was with IBM where I worked in the Quality Control and Engineering departments. Throughout my life, I’ve been an avid sportsman and have trained in powerlifting and a variety of martial arts. When I’m not writing or conjuring science fiction novels, I enjoy teaching my grandchildren how to drive my tractor while working the fields around my home in the Hudson Valley.


I wrote...

Beneath the Dragon's Triangle

By Tony Dellamarco,

Book cover of Beneath the Dragon's Triangle

What is my book about?

The reputation of the Dragon’s Triangle for unexplained events is just beginning a new chapter. An obvious neophyte in this deadly game where people are starting to disappear, Andrea has nowhere to turn. Sean is a retired Navy SEAL officer who teams up with Andrea only to find that they are both in over their heads. The enemy seems to have limitless power, and there is only one person Sean knows who can help them stay alive. He turns to Paul O, a man of great wealth who owns a company that builds ships and satellites for the U.S. government. A private war breaks out with Paul, Andrea, and Sean pitted against an unknown, fanatical group that takes place in the air, on and beneath the sea, and on land.

The Forest Beneath the Mountains

By Ankush Saikia,

Book cover of The Forest Beneath the Mountains

This is a marvellous novel about an area in the foothills of the eastern Himalayas that is not far from where I grew up. It’s a story about people and nature, how the relationship is at once very elemental for those who live off the land, as well as very convoluted and destructive because it’s driven by greed, politics, and fear. The narrator is a visitor to the region, looking to solve a mystery from his past, and this device of the curious outsider looking in works really well to make the whole place come to life. 


Who am I?

I started writing fiction and writing about fiction at about the same time. My novels and stories tend to be about solitary characters pulled into the maelstrom that is contemporary Indian urban life and trying to make sense of it. I’ve always believed that to be an effective observer of your society you need to stay in tune with what your peers are doing and the last two decades in which I’ve been writing and publishing have been some of the most exciting for Indian fiction in general.  


I wrote...

The Cosmopolitans

By Anjum Hasan,

Book cover of The Cosmopolitans

What is my book about?

Qayenaat is a drifting, sensitive figure at the edge of the Bangalore art scene. When world-famous artist Baban Reddy, once a young man who hung on her every word, returns to the city to exhibit his latest artwork, all her old longings rise to the surface. Baban’s arrival accompanies other seemingly momentous events and sets Qayenaat off on the most unexpected journey of her life – to the heart of rural, war-torn India. The Cosmopolitans is a novel of ideas and emotions – one that questions the place of art in modern life, and draws a vivid portrait of a woman at odds with the world. 

Everest

By Walt Unsworth,

Book cover of Everest: The Ultimate Book of the Ultimate Mountain

This is the Everest Bible. It has it all: every fact, every myth, every attempt, every failure, and the ultimate success. By rights, this book shouldn’t really work—so many attempts, so many near-misses, so many personality clashes, so many tragedies—but somehow it builds. The personalities are outsized, of course, the egos gigantic, and that helps, but the mountain is just too famous to ever be dull.


Who am I?

I fell in love with the Himalayas in the 8th grade and vowed to go there one day. Eighteen years later I fell in love again, with a woman this time, who was living in Nepal. While living there I trekked extensively and read everything I could about the mountains, especially Everest. I thought it was odd that all the Everest books started in 1921, but the mountain was discovered in 1853. What took them so long? Hence my book The Hunt for Mount Everest.


I wrote...

The Hunt for Mount Everest

By Craig Storti,

Book cover of The Hunt for Mount Everest

What is my book about?

The height of Mount Everest was first measured in 1850, but it would be 71 years before any westerner got closer than 40 miles of the famous peak. The Hunt for Mount Everest tells the gripping back story of the quest to find the world’s highest mountain and claim the last great prize in the history of exploration, climaxing one June morning in 1921 when George Mallory and Guy Bullock became the first westerners—and almost certainly the first people—ever to set foot on the mountain. It is a story of high drama, two disastrous wars, larger-than-life characters, a few quiet heroes, hundreds of mules, thousands of camels, and two zebrules—all playing out against a backdrop of the most spectacular geography on earth.

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