Looking for a tale of adventure? Nothing will satiate that craving like one of the mountaineering books listed below. Incorporating all the tragedy, triumph and beauty that mountaineering can bring. Sit back and become absorbed in a different world. A harsher one yes, but also a simpler one, a more invigorating one. Above all, a more fulfilled one.
7 Years in Tibet
Though not a true climbing memoir as the others on this list, it is an incredible adventure tale written by a renowned climber. There was also a little climbing involved during this ordeal. 7 Years in Tibet follows the life of Heinrich Harrer as he and several fellow prisoners escape from an India prisoner of war camp, fleeing into the unknown kingdom of Tibet. Harrer established a life in Tibet at a time when few Westerners had been privy to the nation’s inner sanctum. He eventually became a friend and mentor the young Dalai Lama. Great read if you have any interest in adventure, culture or pretty much anything else in life.
Touching the Void
You’ve probably seen the absolutely brilliant film adaptation. Well, this is what inspired it. The ultimate story of human endurance, Joe Simpson is one tough bastard. The story follows Joe Simpson and Simon Yates as they make the first ascent on the west face of Siula Grande in 1985. That was all well and good. trouble is, they ran into some serious trouble coming back down. A storm kicked up, and Simpson fell on the ice, driving his tibia through his knee. His leg was a serious mess, and the pair tried to descend as fast as they could with the bad weather getting worse. I won’t give away the results, though you probably already know what happened.
The 7 Summits
What served as the inspiration for this 7 Summits Project. The adventures of Frank Wells and Dick Bass to become the first to climb the highest peak on each continent. It certainly struck a cord. It was a little different in those days however, and I’m only talking 30 years ago. Bass and Wells were blamed as 2 of the instigators in causing the explosion of commercial guiding on Everest and indeed on the other 6 as well. To me though, their journey was one of challenging themselves to a pursuit that was completely outside their comfort zones. They had already achieved tremendous success in life, this wasn’t about ego or bragging rights (well maybe a little.) It was a quest they both fell in love with and enabled them a new form of fulfillment in life. I can certainly relate.
The Goodreads Review sums this one up pretty well: “In 1950, no mountain higher than 8,000 meters had ever been climbed. Maurice Herzog and other members of the French Alpine Club had resolved to try. Their goal was a 26,493-foot Himalayan peak called Annapurna. But unlike other climbs, which draw on the experience of prior reconnaissance, the routes up Annapurna had never been analyzed before. Herzog and his team had to locate the mountain using sketchy, crude maps, pick out a single, untried route, and go for the summit. Annapurna is the unforgettable account of this dramatic and heroic climb, and of its harrowing aftermath. Although Herzog and his comrade Louis Lachenal reached the mountain’s summit, their descent was a nightmare of frostbite, snow blindness, and near death. With grit and courage manifest on every page, Herzog’s narrative is one of the great mountain adventure stories of all time.”
Being an Australian, I had to include a book written by Australia’s finest mountaineer; Andrew Lock. While Lock may not be a Hemmingway in his use of the English language, it’s a far better read than many of the works written by mountaineers turned authors. His dry wit and sarcasm blends well with the brutal reality of the life he chose to ensure over 2 decades. Perhaps no other mountaineering books I’ve read have adequately demonstrated the harsh and ruthless nature of high altitude mountaineering. At the end of each chapter, Andrew mentions what happened to the climbers mentioned throughout their subsequent climbing careers. There were few occasions where a death wasn’t the result.
No Shortcuts to the Top
For eighteen years Ed Viesturs pursued climbing’s holy grail: to stand atop the world’s fourteen 8,000-meter peaks, without the aid of bottled oxygen. But No Shortcuts to the Top is as much about the man who would become the first American to achieve that goal as it is about his stunning quest. As Viesturs recounts the stories of his most harrowing climbs, he reveals a man torn between the flat, safe world he and his loved ones share and the majestic and deadly places where only he can go.
A preternaturally cautious climber who once turned back 300 feet from the top of Everest but who would not shrink from a peak (Annapurna) known to claim the life of one climber for every two who reached its summit, Viesturs lives by an unyielding motto, “Reaching the summit is optional. Getting down is mandatory.” It is with this philosophy that he vividly describes fatal errors in judgment made by his fellow climbers as well as a few of his own close calls and gallant rescues. And, for the first time, he details his own pivotal and heroic role in the 1996 Everest disaster made famous in Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air.
In addition to the raw excitement of Viesturs’s odyssey, No Shortcuts to the Top is leavened with many funny moments revealing the camaraderie between climbers. It is more than the first full account of one of the staggering accomplishments of our time; it is a portrait of a brave and devoted family man and his beliefs that shaped this most perilous and magnificent pursuit” Taken from Goodreads.
K2: The Savage Mountain
The world’s second highest mountain is renowned for its consistently poor weather and very short windows of opportunity, which, in conjunction with the high technical difficulty, make K2 the hardest climb on the planet. More than a century of attempts have resulted in a small number of summits (in comparison to Everest for example), along with many dramatic retreats, the majority of which have become epics in mountaineering history and literature. It is a beast of a mountain, defeating many of the greatest climbers to ever live. The common thing conjoining all these stories is the frighteningly big loss of life. K2 is also one of the deadliest mountains. In the light of such inglorious reputation, the events endured by the 1953 American expedition and portrayed in The Savage Mountain must surely qualify as one of the greatest survival stories of all times.
Are there any classics I’ve missed that you’d add to this list? Let me know in the comments below…
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”- Dr Seuss
Dr Seuss was one wise motherfucker.
Anyone who knows me or has read this blog probably realises it doesn’t take much to get me ranting and raving about how important reading is.
There are very few activities I feel have as much to offer as reading a book (depending on the book of course..not sure if there’s a whole lot of benefit in reading much of the modern romantic fantasy bandied about). There are positive correlations between time spent reading and income, social IQ, academic success, resistance to depression and even mathematics ability.
Instead of harping on any longer, I’ll give you 8 damn good reasons why reading benefits you..
Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it. –P.J. O’Rourke
I don’t believe anything stimulates the mind the way reading does.
Particularly if you are reading an in-depth book or a topic that lies outside your current knowledge sphere, you are forced to stop regularly and consider the arguments and points of view that are presented to you. This promotes critical thinking, the act of digesting the information that has been presented and deliberating over how it fits into your world view.
I think this particularly applies to biographies.
Essentially, you are digesting a condensed version of a persons entire life, the experiences they’ve had, their successes, their short-comings and the lessons they’ve learnt. All this is passed on to you.
You have the ability to learn from some of the most incredible individuals throughout history, absorbing their wisdom as you read, often directly from their own thoughts.
In this way, you can be mentored by Bill Gates, Michael Jordan or Nelson Mandela, without ever actually meeting them.
The ability to spin a great yarn is a powerful attribute to hold. Whether it’s building relationships, impressing people at a party or telling the story of your life or business, quality storytelling will get you a long way in life. What better way to learn than from the masters- Mark Twain, Fyodor Dostoyesvsky and Ernst Hemingway could certainly teach you a thing or two. Just study their works..
Your vocabulary expands as you read more, improving both your oral and written presentation. A larger word database allows you to get your message across much more effectively.
“My alma mater was books, a good library…. I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity.” — Malcolm X
Very few have had the ability to tell a story the way Malcom X did..
Just like your legs and biceps, the brain is a muscle that requires stimulation for it to grow and expand.
When focused on a book, “parts of the brain that have evolved for other functions—such as vision, language, and associative learning—connect in a specific neural circuit for reading, which is very challenging,” says Ken Pugh, PhD, president and director of research of Haskins Laboratories, which is devoted to the science of language and affiliated with Yale. “A sentence is shorthand for a lot of information that must be inferred by the brain.”
It can also reduce or prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s and Dementia as we age: “More frequent cognitive activity across the life span has an association with slower late-life cognitive decline”, states a study published in Neurology.
The best cognitive activity? You guessed it.. time to read more.
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”
― George R.R. Martin
Fiction authors are often some of the most observant people around. Diving into their work can provide valuable insights on human nature. It allows the reader to get inside the head of people from all walks of life, viewing the world from a different perspective.
Don’t know what it would be like living with a mental illness? Read Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis.
Want to understand how Richard Branson views the world? Read his biography: Losing My virginity.
“Understanding others’ mental states is a crucial skill that enables the complex social relationships that characterize human societies,” authors Kidd & Castano wrote in a report for Science magazine. Literary fiction in particular encourages ‘Theory of Mind’ “the human capacity to comprehend that other people hold beliefs and desires and that these may differ from one’s own beliefs and desires.”
Fictional reading also promotes empathy.
“No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.” — Confucius
If you need to educate yourself in a specific area, reading is one of the best ways to do so (probably second to hands on experience). For example, if you are learning how to market your business effectively, read The 22 immutable laws of marketing. Books contain a more in-depth and comprehensive study than any other medium.
They are also great for general knowledge. A greater understanding of how the world is (e.g history, geography, economics, politics) will make a more well-rounded person and a much better conversationalist.It gives you a lot of confidence in making decisions when you have a more thorough understanding of how things work.
In these times of facebook news-feeds, the 24 hour news-cycle and the constant bombardment of marketers from ll diretions, our ability to concentrate for long stretches has declined significantly. We really are turning into the ADD generation.
Reading has the opposite effect.
Sitting down to read an in-depth non fiction or novel requires concentration, the ability to block out external stimuli to focus on the words in front of you. The next step is absorbing those words and forming them into cohesive thoughts. I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of reading 1 page over and over and still having no idea what it actually says..
This one no doubt, will take some time. If you’re not used to channeling your focus for long periods of time, there will be an adjustment phase. You can’t expect to sit down and read War and Peace right off the bat.
A recent study at the University of Sussex suggest that reading for as little as 6 minutes can reduce stress levels by upto 68%.
I think this particularly applies to fiction, which takes you out of your own world and transports you into another. If you have a head full of thoughts buzzing around your head as you are trying to sleep, try reading a chapter of a novel. (This only applies to physical books. The light emitted from ebooks is not conductive to a sound sleep..)
Hopefully by now I have convinced you that reading benefits you in so many ways.
There’s plenty of recommendations on this site for what to read, including weekly reviews from my 52 Book Challenge. Maybe it’s something you will consider for yourself as next year’s resolution..
Anyone who knows me well will know I’m an avid reader. I make no secret of that fact and will bring up the topic of books I’m reading whenever possible. I try and average a book a week (a goal of mine this year was to get through 52..), reading through a range of very diverse topics from self-help to mountaineering to 18th century classic fiction. More so than for mere entertainment, I read for a variety of reasons; to be inspired, to be motivated, to take a break from reality. Most of all however, I read to learn. The very best way to achieve all these goals? Read Biographies.
With biographies, you are reading about the very best to have graced their respective fields (For the most part, these days there seem to be a number of biographies out from people who have achieved very little in life..). Rather than someone simply telling you how to do something, you are being shown exactly how someone has achieved the highest level of success. They show you it can be done. It also allows the reader to interpret the lessons themselves, allowing for a much deeper understanding while also knowing that what they have learnt is truly possible to achieve.
I’m a big believer in action over words and only listening to those who have actually put into action the lessons you are trying to learn. The number of ‘gurus’ out there is staggering. Social Media certainly hasn’t contributed positively to this phenomenon. The number of inspirational quotes and calls to action from those who have never practiced what they preach seems to be growing exponentially. In my mind, it’s only wise to learn from those who have previously accomplished. There is no better way to do this than by reading biographies.
“The best and only thing that one artist can do for another is to serve as an example and an inspiration” – The War of Art
Here are a few great one’s I’ve read to start you off with..
For the last 6 months or so I’ve been working on putting together an e-book with detailed information on everything you need to know on climbing the 7 Summits. I was planning on releasing it a month ago and selling it for $4 or $5 bucks. Something kept holding me back though.. I couldn’t work out what it was. Today I finally realised why, I would feel like a hypocrite.
I’ve always been adamant about never taking advice from someone who hasn’t done what it is they are advising about.. I’ve always learned most from biographies, where the author has truly lived what they are writing. That I find, is where the best lessons lie. Now here I was, going to do exactly what I have been against my whole life. I was writing a guide on how to climb the 7 Summits, when I haven’t accomplished the goal myself.. Therefore, I’ve decided against the idea of publishing the ebook.
Instead, I will upload all the information that I’ve spent countless hours researching to my site, 100% free. All the info is from experts and only the most credible sources, with links where appropriate. Instead of charging, I simply ask that if you find the content worthwhile, consider donating a few dollars to the 7 Summits Project. All proceeds will go towards funding education projects in Nepal (and all donations are tax deductible 😉
I’ll put all the stuff up over the next few weeks so hopefully you’ll find some use for it and all that time I spent doesn’t go to waste!
This was a post originally intended for my other blog over at deadat30. I didn’t think it was relevant to this site, intended purely for content relevant to the 7 Summits Project.
I realised however, that what I’m intending to do with this project is to promote education and it’s importance, particularly to developing minds. What better way to self-educate than by reading some of the seminal works written by some of the worlds greatest minds and observers of human behaviour.
This is by no means a be-all and end-all list I’ve put together. It is simply 30 books I have read that have shaped how I view the world and have influenced my mindset and the context of my own standing in life. I want to pass that on in the hope that they will bring the same to your own life. There’s a pretty diverse range below and I guess that sums up the way I usually read.
So without further ado…
What do you think? Anything you’d add or leave off this list? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
There are literally dozens more books I could’ve added to this list but I have limited it to 30 to fit the title ’30 books to read before 30′. Another list may be coming in future..