The most recommended books about the Sierra Nevada mountains

Who picked these books? Meet our 16 experts.

16 authors created a book list connected to Sierra Nevada, and here are their favorite Sierra Nevada books.
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Book cover of Earth Abides

Terence M. Green Author Of Shadow of Ashland

From my list on searching for answers in the past and present.

Why am I passionate about this?

There are things expressed only in writing, never spoken aloud in our culture. We can find them in books, in the honesty and insights of those willing to take the time and make the effort to say what they feel and think. Another reason to read is for the sheer joy of a story well told, one that can open both the mind and the heart. I have published 7 novels and a collection of short stories, have just retired from teaching creative writing at the university level. My life has been spent among books. Simply, I am in awe of the ones recommended here.

Terence's book list on searching for answers in the past and present

Terence M. Green Why did Terence love this book?

This novel appeared in 1949 and is eminently readable still—wise and unpredictable—about a plague that decimates the globe before it became fashionable as a topic. Stewart was a professor of English at UC Berkeley. First read it as a teenager, and several times since over the years. It holds up! Stewart was way ahead of his time—and writes a terrific story.

By George R. Stewart,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Earth Abides as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this profound ecological fable, a mysterious plague has destroyed the vast majority of the human race. Isherwood Williams, one of the few survivors, returns from a wilderness field trip to discover that civilization has vanished during his absence.

Eventually he returns to San Francisco and encounters a female survivor who becomes his wife. Around them and their children a small community develops, living like their pioneer ancestors, but rebuilding civilization is beyond their resources, and gradually they return to a simpler way of life.

A poignant novel about finding a new normal after the upheaval of a global crisis.


Book cover of Voices in the Wilderness: A True Story

Ernest Solar Author Of Spirit of Sasquatch

From my list on believing in Bigfoot.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been fascinated by the subject of Bigfoot ever since I was a child when my father drove through West Virginia and told me to search the woods for the elusive creature. From that point forward I wanted to spend as much time in the forest as I could. Over the years I have developed a fondness for the wild, the trees, and nature. For the past ten years, I’ve traveled around the country searching for Bigfoot in Washington, New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. The searches may have been hit or miss, but more importantly, I was able to experience the wonders and beauty of the wild forest.

Ernest's book list on believing in Bigfoot

Ernest Solar Why did Ernest love this book?

Ron Morehead is a true explorer in the field of Bigfoot research. He could easily stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Clive Cussler in the category of author, explorer, and adventurer. Voices in the Wilderness chronicles Morehead’s four-decade journey of trying to understand what he heard in the Sierra Nevada woods back in the early 1970s. Toward the end of the book, Moorehead explores ideas and theories on the origins of Bigfoot and what researchers are searching for in the forest.

By Ronald Morehead,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Voices in the Wilderness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A 40-year chronicle of Bigfoot interaction by Ron Morehead . In this book he brings to the reader an electrifying, passionate and exciting story, which encompasses his trekking into the high country of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to learn more about these creatures and the enigma associated with them. Like humans, he believes that they are self-aware, sentient beings who have reasoning abilities - and possibly more. After reading his story and hearing the recorded sounds from his CD, now available as a digital download, you might too.


Book cover of Ghosts of Gold Mountain: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad

Michael A. DeMarco Author Of Wuxia America: The Timely Emergence of a Chinese American Hero

From my list on uniquely fantastic, yet possible heroic skills.

Why am I passionate about this?

Life is pretty dull without passion. Since early childhood I was attracted to Chinese philosophy, then to all the cultural aspects that reflect it. At the same time, I felt the blood in my veins drawing me to ancestral roots. Learning about other cultures helps us learn about our own. I’ve been driven by sympathy for the immigrant experience, the suffering, and sacrifices made for a better, peaceful life. What prepared me to write Wuxia America includes my academic studies, living and working in Asia, and involvement in martial arts. My inspiration for writing stems from a wish to encourage ways to improve human relations.

Michael's book list on uniquely fantastic, yet possible heroic skills

Michael A. DeMarco Why did Michael love this book?

The Chinese American presence in the USA started with the gold rush and the building of the transcontinental railroad.

It was a blessing to find Chang’s non-fiction work because he utilized a tremendous about of research to accurately cover the book’s topic. I’m also grateful that his writing style is not dull.

Building a railroad trestle through the High Sierra mountains in winter implies work conditions that affect laborers as well as investors. Chang strings the human sentiments throughout the history of those who participated in noble fashion, Chinese and non-Chinese alike.

In portraying the Chinese experience, Chang’s book as underscores how vital the transcontinental railroad was to the development of America. 

By Gordon H. Chang,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Ghosts of Gold Mountain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Gripping . . . Chang has accomplished the seemingly impossible . . . He has written a remarkably rich, human, and compelling story of the railroad Chinese.” — Peter Cozzens, Wall Street Journal

WINNER OF THE ASIAN/PACIFIC AMERICAN AWARD FOR LITERATURE 
WINNER OF THE CHINESE AMERICAN LIBRARIANS ASSOCIATION BEST BOOK AWARD

A groundbreaking, breathtaking history of the Chinese workers who built the Transcontinental Railroad, helping to forge modern America only to disappear into the shadows of history until now

From across the sea, they came by the thousands, escaping war and poverty in southern China to seek their fortunes in…


Book cover of Almost Somewhere: Twenty-Eight Days on the John Muir Trail

Marianne C. Bohr Author Of The Twenty: One Woman's Trek Across Corsica on the GR20 Trail

From my list on by women about outdoor adventure.

Why am I passionate about this?

I married my high school sweetheart and travel partner, and followed my own advice to do graduate work, and started my career working for the French National Railroad in New York City, mapping itineraries for travelers to Europe. Travel means the world to me and if I don’t have a trip on the horizon, I feel aimless and untethered. I worked in book publishing for 30 years and dropped out of the corporate rat race to take a gap year abroad. I wrote about our “Senior year abroad” in my first book Gap Year Girl. I returned to the US to teach middle school French and organize student trips to France. 

Marianne's book list on by women about outdoor adventure

Marianne C. Bohr Why did Marianne love this book?

I read Almost Somewhere in just two sittings because I couldn’t wait to return to the trail.

I am a life-long hiker in her sixties and I couldn’t believe how much I identified with the self-doubt and misgivings of the twenty-something author on her journey. Roberts writes beautifully, and shares honest, raw reflections on almost every page and I felt every sore muscle, frustration, and joy.

The stunning descriptions of the trail give readers the sense that they’re there beside the author kicking up pebbles with her, but there is so much more to the story. The ups and downs and the surprises remind us that it’s not completing the trek that counts, it’s all that happens and changes us along the way.

By Suzanne Roberts,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Almost Somewhere as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the 2012 National Outdoor Book Award in Outdoor Literature

Day One, and already she was lying in her journal. It was 1993, Suzanne Roberts had just finished college, and when her friend suggested they hike California's John Muir Trail, the adventure sounded like the perfect distraction from a difficult home life and thoughts about the future. But she never imagined that the twenty-eight-day hike would change her life. Part memoir, part nature writing, part travelogue, Almost Somewhere is Roberts's account of that hike.

John Muir had written of the Sierra Nevada as a "vast range of light," and…


Book cover of The Last Season

Andrew Vietze Author Of This Wild Land: Two Decades of Adventure as a Park Ranger in the Shadow of Katahdin

From my list on park rangers and the wild places they protect.

Why am I passionate about this?

Andrew Vietze was five years old when he told his older sister that one day, he would be a park ranger. Twenty-eight years later, he put on his badge for the first time as a seasonal ranger in one of the premier wilderness areas in the East, Maine’s Baxter State Park. Home of Katahdin and the terminus of the Appalachian Trail, “Forever Wild” Baxter has no pavement, no electricity, no stores, no cell service. As a boy, Vietze imagined a life flying around in helicopters, rescuing hikers off mountaintops, fighting forest fires, chasing wilderness despoilers, and plucking people out of raging rivers. And he's spent the past twenty years doing just that.

Andrew's book list on park rangers and the wild places they protect

Andrew Vietze Why did Andrew love this book?

The Last Season recounts the disappearance of ranger Randy Morgenstern in California’s High Sierra. A legend in the NPS for his devotion to wild places, Morgenson spent more than 25 seasons as a backcountry ranger in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks before disappearing without a trace in 1996. An introspective sort who knew every corner of the territory he patrolled, Morgenson left behind a tantalizing mystery that writer Eric Blehm turns into a page-turning, psychological thriller. Did he fall off a cliff? Was he murdered? Did he take his own life? As a young ranger, I read this book late into the night under the hissing gas light of my duty station. We’ve had campers vanish in our wilderness—and a ranger die in the line of duty—so every page rang true. 

By Eric Blehm,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Last Season as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Destined to become a classic of adventure literature, The Last Season examines the extraordinary life of legendary backcountry ranger Randy Morgenson and his mysterious disappearance in California's unforgiving Sierra Nevada—mountains as perilous as they are beautiful. Eric Blehm's masterful work is a gripping detective story interwoven with the riveting biography of a complicated, original, and wholly fascinating man.


Book cover of Early Days in the Range of Light: Encounters with Legendary Mountaineers

Elizabeth Wenk Author Of John Muir Trail: The Essential Guide to Hiking America's Most Famous Trail

From my list on the High Sierra.

Why am I passionate about this?

Hiking in the Sierra has been equal parts recreation and profession since I’ve been an adult. I’ve worked for the concessionaire in Yosemite Valley, surveyed lakes for rare amphibians, completed a PhD on alpine plants, and, over the past 15 years, written nine books on the Sierra Nevada. I continue to spend every summer obsessively exploring its trails, peaks, and remote lake basins, always excited to see a new view, find a rare flower, or simply see a favorite place in a new light. The rest of the year is spent writing—and reading what others have written, broadening my knowledge about my favorite place on Earth before I set out on the next summer’s adventures.

Elizabeth's book list on the High Sierra

Elizabeth Wenk Why did Elizabeth love this book?

Daniel Arnold’s book describes his journey to climb 15 of the Sierra’s most prominent peaks by their first-ascent routes—and mostly using similar gear to the first-ascent party. As a Sierra mountaineer and backpacker, his writing immediately captivated me because he wove his adventure together with that of the first ascent party. His careful historical research drew me back in time, providing context for why each climber was pursuing the summit, their personalities and passions, and, importantly, how well (or poorly…) documented the Sierra’s topography was at the time of their explorations. My mind kept wandering into the past, imagining a time when I didn’t have ready access to detailed maps and thinking how different Sierra exploring once was. 

By Daniel Arnold,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Early Days in the Range of Light as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“A splendid chronicle of early climbing in the Sierra Nevada.” —Royal Robbins

It’s 1873. Gore–Tex shells and aluminum climbing gear are a century away, but the high mountains still call to those with a spirit of adventure. Imagine the stone in your hands and thousands of feet of open air below you, with only a wool jacket to weather a storm and no rope to catch a fall.

Daniel Arnold did more than imagine—he spent three years retracing the steps of his climbing forefathers, and in Early Days in the Range of Light, he tells their riveting stories. From 1864…


Book cover of Roaring Camp: The Social World of the California Gold Rush

Sarah Deutsch Author Of Making a Modern U.S. West: The Contested Terrain of a Region and Its Borders, 1898-1940

From my list on reimagining our mythic American West and its cast.

Why am I passionate about this?

At some point I decided that if I was going to teach US history, I better have a good sense of what the place looked like. So I drove across the country—and then back again—and then again, and then once more, each time at a different latitude. I drove through North Dakota and South Dakota, Montana and Idaho, Nebraska and Kansas, Arkansas and Oklahoma, Louisiana and Texas, up and down California, Oregon and Washington, and on and on. I got addicted to seeing the landscape in all its amazing variety and vastness, and seeing the landscape made the histories come alive. 

Sarah's book list on reimagining our mythic American West and its cast

Sarah Deutsch Why did Sarah love this book?

Surely the Gold Rush is one of the first things we learn about the West, but who were these people? Where did they come from? Susan Johnson is a great storyteller, and this story is peopled with men and women from across the globe, radicals and racists, Chinese, Mexicans, Germans, Irish, and everyone else, how they worked, loved, and made a life.

By Susan Lee Johnson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Roaring Camp as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The world of the California Gold Rush that comes down to us through fiction and film is one of half-truths. In this brilliant work of social history, Susan Lee Johnson enters the well-worked diggings of Gold Rush history and strikes a rich lode.

Johnson explores the dynamic social world created by the Gold Rush in the Sierra Nevada foothills east of Stockton, charting the surprising ways in which the conventions of identity-ethnic, national, and sexual-were reshaped. With a keen eye for character and story, she shows us how this peculiar world evolved over time, and how our cultural memory of…


Book cover of Geology Underfoot in Yosemite National Park

Elizabeth Wenk Author Of John Muir Trail: The Essential Guide to Hiking America's Most Famous Trail

From my list on the High Sierra.

Why am I passionate about this?

Hiking in the Sierra has been equal parts recreation and profession since I’ve been an adult. I’ve worked for the concessionaire in Yosemite Valley, surveyed lakes for rare amphibians, completed a PhD on alpine plants, and, over the past 15 years, written nine books on the Sierra Nevada. I continue to spend every summer obsessively exploring its trails, peaks, and remote lake basins, always excited to see a new view, find a rare flower, or simply see a favorite place in a new light. The rest of the year is spent writing—and reading what others have written, broadening my knowledge about my favorite place on Earth before I set out on the next summer’s adventures.

Elizabeth's book list on the High Sierra

Elizabeth Wenk Why did Elizabeth love this book?

Every step in the Sierra leads you across landscapes shaped by a succession of geologic eventsoverwhelming to comprehend at times. I’ve read and reread this book because it describes not just what you see, but explains, in approachable language, the processes that led to the rocks you see. The book is comprised of as series of vignettes, each focused on a different rock outcrop, formed through a unique process at a particular moment in the Sierra’s geologic history. 

By Allen F. Glazner, Greg M. Stock,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Geology Underfoot in Yosemite National Park as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Few places in the nation rival Yosemite National Park for vertigo-inducing cliffs, plunging waterfalls, and stunning panoramic views of granite peaks. 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. While visiting more than twenty-seven amazing sites, you�ll discover why many of Yosemite�s domes shed rock shells like onion layers, what happens when a volcano erupts under a glacial lake, and why rocks seem to be almost continually tumbling from the region�s cliffs. With a multitude of colorful photos and illustrations, and…


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

Allen F. Glazner Author Of Geology Underfoot in Yosemite National Park

From my list on wandering through California’s geology.

Why am I passionate about this?

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.  

Allen's book list on wandering through California’s geology

Allen F. Glazner Why did Allen love this book?

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.

By Craig H. Jones,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Mountains That Remade America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From ski towns to national parks, fresh fruit to environmental lawsuits, the Sierra Nevada has changed the way Americans live. Whether and where there was gold to be mined redefined land, mineral, and water laws. Where rain falls (and where it doesn't) determines whose fruit grows on trees and whose appears on slot machines. All this emerges from the geology of the range and how it changed history, and in so doing, changed the country.

The Mountains That Remade America combines geology with history to show how the particular forces and conditions that created the Sierra Nevada have effected broad…


Book cover of Speaking of Bears: The Bear Crisis and a Tale of Rewilding from Yosemite, Sequoia, and Other National Parks

Elizabeth Wenk Author Of John Muir Trail: The Essential Guide to Hiking America's Most Famous Trail

From my list on the High Sierra.

Why am I passionate about this?

Hiking in the Sierra has been equal parts recreation and profession since I’ve been an adult. I’ve worked for the concessionaire in Yosemite Valley, surveyed lakes for rare amphibians, completed a PhD on alpine plants, and, over the past 15 years, written nine books on the Sierra Nevada. I continue to spend every summer obsessively exploring its trails, peaks, and remote lake basins, always excited to see a new view, find a rare flower, or simply see a favorite place in a new light. The rest of the year is spent writing—and reading what others have written, broadening my knowledge about my favorite place on Earth before I set out on the next summer’s adventures.

Elizabeth's book list on the High Sierra

Elizabeth Wenk Why did Elizabeth love this book?

Rachel Mazur was a wildlife biologist in Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia National Parks for many years. A core component of her job was “solving the bear problem”—generation upon generation of bears dependent on human food and ever more aggressive and crafty as they endeavored to satisfy this desire. Her story artfully weaves together the history of bear-human interactions in the Sierra, scientific research on bear habits and diets, and importantly sociology, especially people’s changing perception of acceptable wildlife management and visitors changing expectations of the attractions on offer in a national park. The book is skillfully written and thought-provoking, but also heartening as it ends with evidence that changing wildlife management and visitor actions mean bears are slowly becoming wilder again.

By Rachel Mazur,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Speaking of Bears as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As majestic as they are powerful, and as timeless as they are current, bears continue to captivate. Speaking of Bears is not your average collection of stories. Rather, it is the history, compiled from interviews with more than 100 individuals, of how Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks, all in California's Sierra Nevada, created a human-bear problem so bad that there were eventually over 2,000 incidents in a single year. It then describes the pivotal moments during which park employees used trial and error, conducted research, invented devices, collaborated with other parks, and found funding to get the crisis…