10 Best Books about the Himalayas

The Himalayas have captured the imagination of authors, artists, and adventurer for ages. The Himalayan mountain range is majestic, mysterious, and dangerous. The cultures that have grown up in their shadow are ancient and intriguing. There are many stories about the Himalayas that have been adapted to movies, but most of them began as books.

An amazing view of Kangchenjunga, Himalayas. Photo Credit: A.Ostrovsky at Flickr.

These ten books are some of the most interesting stories written about human life in the shadow of those great mountains. They include tales of adventure and disaster, compassion and cruelty. Take look at this list of the ten best books about the Himalayas if you’re looking for your next great read.

1) The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen

Photo Credit: Amazon.com.

In 1973, two men journeyed into the Himalayas to study Himalayan blue sheep and snow leopards. This chronicles that trek as well as the author’s own spiritual journey. The Snow Leopard is written in a mesmerizing lyrical style. There are numerous descriptions of sky, snow, and stone, all playing their part in the author’s physical and spiritual journey. It can be difficult to read, and is not a book you should try to speed through.

2) Himalaya by Michel Palin

The author is a lifelong traveler and this book covers his journey through the Himalaya mountain range the surrounding areas. The novel is derived from his notes and journals along the way. There are many records of conversations, sights, sounds, and tastes. The tone is light-hearted and nonjudgmental. There are also some beautiful images of the region. This book is a chronicle of what he saw on his journey through this amazing part of the world.

3) Lost Horizon by James Hilton

A plane crashing in the Himalayas and the ensuing struggle for survival is a story that has become commonplace in all kinds of media. “Lost Horizon” is the organ of many of those tales and popularized the myth of Shangri-La. The survivors of a plane crash find themselves in the legendary paradise of Shangri-La. When the leader of this peaceful community falls ill, the survivors must make the journey home to the opening days of World War II. This book is a classic and is a must-read if you’ve ever been interested in the myth of Shangri-La.

4) Seven Years in Tibet by Heinrich Harrer

 

This novel is the memoir of Heinrich Harrer, one of the first Europeans to enter Tibet. After the outbreak of World War II, Harrer found himself imprisoned by British authorities as he travels through India. He escaped and crossed the Himalayas to reach the Forbidden City of Lhasa. This book depicts the people and nation of Tibet with great love. It is a look at the country as it has not been since 1950. Give it a read if you love travel, adventure, and learning new cultures. Buy now.

5) K2: Triumph and Tragedy by Jim Curran

K2 is the second highest mountain in the world and is much more dangerous than the nearby Mount Everest. Jim Curran came to the mountain in 1986 to work as a cameramen for a British climbing expedition hat filed to summit the mountain and stayed for the duration of the climbing season. 13 people died trying to complete the climb. Avalanches, falls, and oxygen deprivation devastated the climbers. However, in this book, there are also incredible stories of human endurance and heroism, including the author’s rescue of one man. This is a fascinating story of what is known as the 1986 K2 Disaster.

6) Annapurna by Maurice Herzog

This is the story of the author’s expedition to summit the as-of-yet unclimbed mountain Annapurna in 1950. The French expedition had to find the mountain and then chart a new route to climb it. The ascent was dangerous enough, but the descent was a nightmare, with the ravages of frostbite and snow blindness. The courage and companionship of the team is inspiring throughout the book, while the terrors of the Himalayas are on full display. Read it for a true adventure story.

7) A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby

When Eric Newby grew tired of his life in the family’s haute couture business, eh and a friend took off for a trek through the mountainous Hindu Kush. This travelogue is one of the best examples of travel writing of the last century. It’s charming tone, clever wit, and sense of adventure has cemented it as a classic. It’s a drily British take on a travelogue and is packed with standout characters. Eric Newby is often very self-deprecating and the ending is rather abrupt. Pick up this classic for a fun, unique read.

8) Nanda Devi: A Journey to the Last Sanctuary by Hugh Thompson

This is the story of the journey to the Nanda Devi Sanctuary, an isolated glacial basin surrounded by incredibly high peaks and a nearly impassable gorge. The climb is nearly impossible to pull off and the Indian government heavily restricts access to the Sanctuary, which has made the sanctuary one of the most pristine ecosystems in the world. This book tells both the story of the expedition as well as the politics and myths that surround the area. It also provides an interesting look at the team dynamics of this challenging expedition. This is an incredible book and is highly recommended.

9) Walking in the Himalayas by Levison Wood

The author is man considered by some to be the toughest man on television. This book is his chronicle of his 1,700 mile trek through the area around the Himalayas. This travelogue is incredibly hard to put down. The author describes numerous people and places that he encountered with fascinating details. It does start a bit slow, but be patient and you will be absolutely captivated.

10) Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer

This is the most well-known account of the 1996 Everest Disaster, where 12 lives were lost over the course of the climbing season. This book covers one specific expedition this year, which the author was present for, where 8 climbers in the party died. It is harrowing tale of human ambition and folly meeting the full brutality of nature in one of the most hostile environments on the planet. Read this to know the story of one of the largest tragedies to befall the climbing community in the past thirty years.

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