Winter is coming, at least here in Europe, and with it those long, dark evenings perfect to catch up on reading about your favourite or next travel destination. Here are my top-10 Himalaya related books: From an Everest climb gone badly wrong to finding Zen among mountain sheep to civil courage in deep valleys in Pakistan.
Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen
A field study, a diary and a contemplation on the meaning of life all in one. Matthiessen accompanies a friend to the remote Dolpo area of Nepal in hope to find the elusive Snow Leopard, and his account of this trip is as much travel literature as philosophical exploration. A must read, for anybody trekking in the Himalayas.
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
Dazzling, sickening, amusing all at once, this rollercoaster trip through India and on to Pakistan and Afghanistan will get its hooks into you faster than you think. One of my all-time favourite travel books, though it is not primarily about travel at all. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and many times both at the same time.
I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
A must-read about how an 11-year old girl stood up to the Taliban and got gunned down for it, and how this only made her increase the volume of her speaking out about the atrocities in her hometown.
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
An Everest expedition gone badly wrong. Jon Krakauers minute recount of the tragedy on Everest back in 1996, that led to the death of eight climbers. More in-depth than the movie “Everest”, and equally gripping.
Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie
This lesser known novel by Salman Rushdie takes you deep into the heart of Kashmir and it’s complicated relations with India, Pakistan and the rest of the world. Beautifully written, and gripping from the start.
The ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy
An enchanting tale of a transgender woman living in a graveyard in Delhi, and a tale that spins its web all the way up into the mountains of Kashmir. A beautiful book.
3 Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson
Starting off with a climbing expedition in Pakistan gone wrong, this book tells the story of a man’s mission to set up schools in remote locations in Pakistan. The memoir recounts the many difficulties NGO’s face in the area, and how cultural differences make the lives all involved sometimes more difficult, sometimes a little lighter. Heart-warming and critical at the same time.
Annapurna by Maurice Herzog
Not much has to be said about this legendary book about a legendary climb. Herzog and his companions were the first to ascent Annapruna, a victory that came at a cost. Read Herzogs memoir on how they chased the mountain, on how they managed to summit and how they made their chaotic, tragic escape from it chased by Monsoon storms and looming infections from their injuries.
View from the Summit by Sir Edmund Hillary
And another mountaineering classic. Hillary tells us in this book about his legendary Everest ascent, but also let’s us take part in many other exhibitions of his, in the Himalayas, the Swiss Alps, the South Pole. Always told with a rather dry sense of humor, the book will make you shiver and make you laugh.
The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan
Ending this list with a bit of heavy reading: The Silk Roads might seem daunting, but the book is well worth your time. It recounts world history focusing on the vast area between China and Europe, rather than putting Europe into the center of the story. It tells tales of Alexander the Great and the Mongols, of Marco Polo’s travels and of the Silk Road traders, and it ends with the cold war in Afghanistan and the rise of Islamist terrorism and some thoughts on what is to be expected from the new strong players in the world, and what this means for the territory along the legendary Silk Road.
These list is of course just a selection. Let me know in the comments below: What are some of your favourite books on the Himalayas, mountaineering and the Himalayan countries?
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