The best books about mountains

Many authors have picked their favorite books about mountains and why they recommend each book.

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The Living Mountain

By Nan Shepherd,

Book cover of The Living Mountain: A Celebration of the Cairngorm Mountains of Scotland

"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. 


Who am I?

I did a master's in Environmental Policy, and at the end of that year, I thought, "this is all very well, but there’s no point designing these policies if no one wants them." My response to the environmental crisis is to try to open people’s eyes to the beauty and wonder of Nature. If you pay close attention, you start to develop an expansive sense of the ordinary: Creation is stranger, more mysterious, and more wonderful than we can imagine. This in turn helps us to love the world more deeply, and we tend to look after things that we love. 


I wrote...

Talking Through Trees

By Edward Picton-Turbervill,

Book cover of Talking Through Trees

What is my book about?

Talking Through Trees was supposed to be a rather dry history of the gardens in St John’s College, Cambridge, but what came out when I sat down to write it was altogether more unexpected. The book is a rhapsody on the trees in the college’s garden, flowing between anecdote, history, biology, poetry, and philosophy. It was augmented by 35 wonderful woodcuts produced by Angela Lemaire for the book and printed by hand at the Old Stile Press. My favourite lines are "A tree is a river in reverse. A river converges on its trunk, and a tree diverges from its source. Humans are both wood and water, since our arteries are trees, and our veins are rivers."

This book is available here.

The Kangchenjunga Adventure

By Frank Smythe,

Book cover of The Kangchenjunga Adventure: The 1930 Expedition to the Third Highest Mountain in the World

I first read this among my father’s books as a child. I believe he had met Smythe in London in the early 30, thus his signed copy of The Valley of Flowers. This is the quintessential book of that era of passionate amateur climbing and exploration, the age of Shipton and Tilman, of highly knowledgeable and deeply eccentric personalities. The writing is lyrical, just this side of purple, earthed by Smythe’s passion for botany, photography, and close observation. In the true sense of amateur, Kanchenjunga is a great adventure expedition in a time that will not come again. This is the book that prompted me to accept an invitation to climb with an expedition on a serious Himalayan mountain with real mountaineers, despite my lack of experience and hardwired dislike of heights. It changed my life. I like to think Smythe would have approved.


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.

The Mountains That Remade America

By Craig H. Jones,

Book cover of The Mountains That Remade America: How Sierra Nevada Geology Impacts Modern Life

Jones gives a modern account of the roles that the Sierra Nevada range has played in the history of California: barrier to transportation, source of gold, source of water, desert maker, provider of unique ecosystems, inspiration of water law and mining law, target of vacationers, hikers, and climbers, and inspirer of the national park system. This engaging book weaves the history of exploration and development of the state into the larger story of why the range exists, what it is made of, and why it is so odd that the Sierra Nevada, unlike most tall mountain ranges, lacks a low-density root to hold it up. Jones excels at explaining things that I never even thought to wonder about.


Who am I?

As a boy in southern California, I knew that the mountains were to the north, that they were big, and that they were somehow related to earthquakes. I loved chemistry and the outdoors and decided on the first day of college that geology offered a great way to be an outdoor chemist. I learned the craft of writing in high school as a sports reporter for the local paper. After I started as a geology professor at the University of North Carolina in 1981, Bob Sharp of Caltech and I founded the Geology Underfoot series to get people into the outdoors to discover geology on their own.  


I wrote...

Geology Underfoot in Yosemite National Park

By Allen F. Glazner, Greg M. Stock,

Book cover of Geology Underfoot in Yosemite National Park

What is my book about?

Few places in the nation rival Yosemite National Park for vertigo-inducing cliffs, plunging waterfalls, and stunning panoramas. Many of the features that visitors find most tantalizing about Yosemite have unique and compelling geologic stories—tales that continue to unfold today in vivid, often destructive ways. This book leads you to explore twenty-seven sites in and around the park. You’ll learn why Yosemite’s domes shed rock shells like onion layers, what geologic features allow sheer rock walls to be climbed, what happens when a volcano erupts under a glacial lake, how ice buried and sculpted the landscape, and why rocks seem to be almost continually tumbling from the region’s cliffs. 

Geology Underfoot in Yosemite National Park will help you read and appreciate the landscape the way a geologist does.

The Mountain Man’s Bride

By Mia Brody,

Book cover of The Mountain Man’s Bride: An Instalove Curvy Woman Romance

Maybe it’s because I live in a city but I’m a sucker for outdoor settings both in my own books and in those I read. This book by Mia Brody pushes all the right buttons: we’ve got Crew, a prickly but good-hearted muscled lumberjack, and Maggie, a curvy bride who’s running away from a polite-language-can’t-describe-how-horrible-he-is groom. Fortunately, as she hightails it away from the arranged marriage from hell, she spins off the road and winds up stuck in a cabin with Crew in the middle of a snowstorm. It’s sweet, it’s steamy, it moves fast and it’s just the perfect read to snuggle up with when the wind’s howling outside. 


Who am I?

I’m the USA Today bestselling author of nineteen romances including the He Wanted Me Pregnant! series of short, steamy, standalone reads, several of which feature curvy heroines. I believe there’s room in romance for heroes and heroines of all shapes and sizes and I love to see curvy girls find their one-and-only: someone who loves them exactly the way they are. I like my curvy heroines to be smart, witty, and have depth and I like my romances to be just the right mix of squee-inducing instalove and steamy scenes.


I wrote...

The Curvy Vet and the Billionaire Cowboy

By Victoria Wessex,

Book cover of The Curvy Vet and the Billionaire Cowboy

What is my book about?

A short, steamy, laugh-out-loud romantic comedy to read in your lunch break. Curvy veterinarian scientist Amanda has never been comfortable with her body. She hides away in her lab in Atlanta, burying herself in her work…until a call from a stranger drags her out of the city and into the wilderness.

Former oil man Russ Tyler has made his billions and bought himself a stud farm in Wyoming. He needs Amanda to treat a feral horse high in the mountains…but that means persuading the timid beauty to trek there with him on horseback. Amanda’s used to soy lattes, not camping out under the stars with a gorgeous, muscled cowboy. Can Russ convince her that he loves her curves…and wants her to have his children?

Tents in the Clouds

By Monica Jackson, Elizabeth Stark,

Book cover of Tents in the Clouds: The First Women's Himalayan Expedition

Betty Stark was the aunt of a friend of mine, and she was part of the first all women Himalayan expedition in 1955. It is an antidote to the very all-male outlook and structures of many climbs of that time. It had no leader, no ‘lead climbers’. Instead, they were a small team of friends, all experienced and capable, who wished only to explore, encounter, and climb as high and hard as they could. It is anti-heroic, recording the pains, sufferings, and losses and highs, quietly downplaying and yet the efforts and dangers come through. They were outliers and trailblazers. They made their point. They were the point.


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.

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.

Bookshelves related to mountains