The best mountaineering books 📚

Browse the best books on mountaineering as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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

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

By Maurice Herzog

Why this book?

Without Annapurna, I would have never climbed a mountain. It not only inspired my childhood but all the mountaineers who followed in author Maurice Herzog’s footsteps. Herzog was also a captain of the 27th BCA during World War II, the mountain battalion where I served as a Special Forces Mountain Commando in the 1980s—but that’s not why I picked this book. I can’t think of a better way to describe it than to quote my own memoir, I, Tarzan: Against All Odds:

It was a time before the modern mountaineering climbs masterfully described by Jon Krakauer and…

From the list:

The best books about exploration, endurance, and world expeditions

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Book cover of The Ascent of Rum Doodle

The Ascent of Rum Doodle

By W.E. Bowman

Why this book?

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.

From the list:

The best books from the other side of the mountain

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

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

By Maria Coffey

Why 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.
From the list:

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

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Book cover of Annapurna: A Woman's Place

Annapurna: A Woman's Place

By Arlene Blum

Why this book?

It illustrates how one woman’s courage to forge ahead in a male-dominated world produced scientific work that challenged gender stereotypes and led to all-male clubs breaking their male-only rules.
From the list:

The best books on barrier breaking women

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

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

By Jennifer Jordan

Why 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.
From the list:

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

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Book cover of White

White

By Rosie Thomas

Why 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. 

From the list:

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

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