Raju HK is an adventure sports enthusiast. His passion for trekking and outdoor sports led him to start Adventure Worx. Being an avid reader, Raju is well known amongst his peers for his vast knowledge in the field of trekking and mountaineering.
From time to time our trekkers ask us for book suggestions. So when Raju visited our Bangalore office, we knew that he was the right person to share an authoritative list of books you can read during lockdown as the second wave of Covid-19 hits or country.
Famous writer Stephen King had once said, “Books are uniquely portable magic”. He got it right.
I owe my love for the outdoors, my introduction to the world of hiking and climbing to books.
The book that motivated me to explore the outdoors and the trekking world was an account of first ascent of Everest. I have long since forgotten the name of the author and the title of the book — but I remember the picture of Everest on the cover with an inset of Ed Hillary (sadly no Tenzing!) peeking among the pile of old Reader’s Digest in my house.
I remember the exhilaration in reading about the adventure on a mountain that people thought was too high to climb. The adrenaline of an adventure that was not mine, but I could still experience it from my armchair.
A few years later, my brother lent me Rosy Is My Relative by Gerald Durrell and Born Free by Joy Adamson which influenced my interest in wildlife. Books became my refuge for the time I wasn’t in the outdoors.
There are, of course, no substitutes to feeling the sun on your face, breathing fresh air, walking on trails or listening to birds chirp — but we can always indulge in a bit of armchair adventure by reading books on high adventure and wildlife.
Here are some of my favourite books on mountaineering and adventure that have the power to transport you!
1. Kim / Rudyard Kipling – This is an excellent fictional tale to start off with. It story connects directly with the Himalaya, high adventure, unmapped areas, spying and international intrigue, all in our backyard.
2. The Mount Everest Recon / Eric Shipton – After many attempts and misfires, Eric Shipton and co pioneered the route that was used later by Tenzing and Hillary to reach the summit of Everest. Shipton gives a frank account of the entire process. The book is a super read on finding the mountain, tracing the maps and looking for logical routes to the top.
3. Annapurna: The First Ascent / Maurice Herzog – This book records the first ascent of Annapurna by a French team. It narrates the travails they faced during the attempt of this difficult mountain.
4. Blank On The Map / Eric Shipton – This book is a pioneering epic of travel, mapping and route finding on unexplored areas of northern Himalayas – the Shaksgam valley and Karakoram mountains, while living off the land.
5. Nanda Devi / Eric Shipton-Tilman– Nanda Devi is ringed by high ridges preventing access to the mountain itself. While many attempts were made to find a route in to the inner sanctuary, Eric Shipton and Tillman drove a route through the feared Rishi Gorge. Nandi Devi was later scaled by Tilman and Odell.
6. White Spider / Heinrich Harrer – A gripping account of the first ascent of the much attempted north face of Eiger. While many teams had come and tried to scale the face, Harrer and co found the key to unlocking a logical route and completed the climb. Today this face is climbed in a matter of hours.
7. Seven Years In Tibet / Heinrich Harrer – When the German national (and alleged Nazi sympathiser) Harrer and co were trapped in India during the start of World War Two, the British naturally imprisoned them. A few of them escaped, but most were caught and brought back to prison. Harrer eluded capture and did an arduous hike to reach the roof of the world – Tibet. Tibet was out of bounds to all outsiders – however, he managed to sneak in and become a confidant of the then Dalai Lama. This book was made into a movie with Brad Pitt embodying Harrer’s adventures.
8. I Chose To Climb / Chris Bonington – This is an account of Sir Chirs Bonington’s many hard climbs on ice and rock along with the likes of Hamish Machines, Don Whillans and Ian Clough.
9. Everest The Hard Way / Chris Bonington – An exciting account of the first ascent of a different face of Everest than the traditional ridge routes. It was climbed by a team of talented climbers from UK & Sherpas.
10. Everest: The Unclimbed Ridge / Chris Bonington – Chris and his team attempted one of the last ridges which was first attempted long ago by the British, including George Mallory. The book narrates their ordeal as the expedition had to be abandoned after two climbers vanish on upper ridges of the mountain.
11. Touching the void / Joe Simpson– A hair-raising tale of human will and endurance on a climb that goes wrong on the descent. The author breaks both his legs. His sole teammate lowers him down almost all the way but things go wrong. Still a man with two legs broken and solo, he manages to come back alive, heals and then gets back to climbing.
12. Throne room of the Mountain Gods / Galen Rowell – A top notch mountain photographer, Galen Rowell traces the history of climbing K2 along with their own attempt of climbing the savage mountain with breathtaking pictures.
13. K2: Triumph & Tragedy / Jim Curran – A tale of the 1986 attempt on K2- the savage mountain where many climbers lost their lives.
14. Paths of Glory / Jeffrey Archer – a short but interesting biography on George Mallory, the enigmatic but talented climber who vanished on Everest years ago.
15. Into Thin Air / Jon Krakauer – A journalist on his guided ascent on Everest in 1996, the year where many climbers lost their lives due to a terrible storm. This is a controversial account where he accuses ace mountain guide Anatoli Boukreev of not doing his job during the storm.
16. The Climb / Anatoli Boukreev – This book is a rebuttal to Jon Krakauer’s accusation in Into Thin Air where Boukreev strives to prove not only did he save many lives during the storm but did so with great risk to his own life..
17. Last Hours On Everest / Graham Hoyland – A climber who was just behind the storm-hit teams, managed to summit Everest in fairly clear weather. Later, he dug out information which proved that the Imax shooting team led by Ed Viesters knew that the storm was coming yet did not share it with other climbers.
18. Into The Silence / Wade Davis – Covers the entire history of attempts by the British on Everest along with the 1924 attempt from which Mallory and Irvine never returned.
19. Shining Mountain / Peter Boardman – A tale of two superb climbers, Peter Boardman and Joe Tasker summiting Changabang’s (within the Nanda Devi Sanctuary) sheer face.
Here are some of my favourite authors on wildlife:
Born Free, Living Free, Forever Free / Joy Adamson– A diary account of fostering three lion cubs and releasing them into the wild. Frankly, all of her books are worth reading.
Jim Corbett – He brings the old jungles of India alive with his narrative, all of his books are collectibles and worth reading again and again.
Gerald Durrell – His wordplay brings all of the creatures he has met into real life. A dedicated wild creature conservation man who ultimately setup a successful captive breeding centre on Jersey Islands to ensure that our vanishing wildlife is preserved for eternity.
Kenneth Anderson – The South Indian version of Jim Corbett who lived in Namma Bengaluru, but roamed the south Indian jungles. His books tell a story of how we have lost what used to be huge tracts of wildlife preserve to todays concrete/human jungle. Worth reading all of his books. His son, Donald Anderson who was also a hunter, still lives in Bangalore (at least I hope so)
There are way too many books to put in this list but these are my top picks. What about you? What are your favourite outdoor books? Share it with us in the comments below!