Raju HK is an adventure athlete. His passion for trekking and outdoor sports led him to start Adventure Worx. As an avid reader, Raju is known among his colleagues for his extensive knowledge of trekking and mountaineering.
From time to time our hikers ask us for book suggestions. When Raju visited our Bangalore office, we knew he was the right person to share an authoritative list of books to read during the lockdown as the second wave of Covid-19 hits or countries.
F.The famous writer Stephen King once said: “Books are uniquely portable magic”. He did it right.
I owe my love for nature, my introduction to the world of hiking and climbing to books.
The book that motivated me to explore nature and the world of trekking was a report about the first ascent of Everest. I’ve 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 by Ed Hillary (unfortunately no Tenzing!), The one between the pile of old Reader’s Digest in my house peeked. I remember the exhilaration reading about the adventure on a mountain that people thought was too high to climb. The adrenaline of an adventure that wasn’t mine, but I could still experience it from my armchair.
A few years later my brother loaned me Rosy Is My Relative from Gerald Durrell and Born Free from Joy Adamson, which influenced my interest in wildlife. Books became my refuge when I was not outdoors. There’s no substitute, of course, for feeling the sun on your face, breathing fresh air, walking on trails, or hearing birds chirping – but we can always indulge in a bit of armchair adventure by reading books about adventure and wildlife .
Here are some of my favorite mountaineering and adventure books that have the power to transport you!
1. Kim / Rudyard Kipling – This is an excellent fictional story to start with. This story connects directly with the Himalayas, high adventure, unmapped areas, espionage and international intrigue in our back yard.
2. Mount Everest Recon / Eric Shipton – After many attempts and failures, Eric Shipton and Co pioneered the route that was later used by Tenzing and Hillary to reach the summit of Everest. Shipton gives an open account of the entire process. The book is great read when it comes to finding the mountain, following the maps, and looking for logical routes to the top.
3. Annapurna: the first ascent / Maurice Herzog – This book documents the first ascent of Annapurna by a French team. It tells the difficulties they faced while trying this difficult mountain.
4. Blank on the map / Eric Shipton – This book is a groundbreaking epic for traveling, mapping and route finding in unexplored areas of the Northern Himalayas – the Shaksgam Valley and Karakoram Mountains while living on the land.
5. Nanda Devi / Eric Shipton-Tilman– Nanda Devi is surrounded by high ridges that prevent access to the mountain itself. While many attempts were made to find a way into the inner sanctuary, Eric Shipton and Tillman drove a path through the dreaded Rishi Gorge. Nandi Devi was later scaled up by Tilman and Odell.
6. White spider / Heinrich Harrer – An exciting report about the first ascent of the much-tried north face of the Eiger. While many teams had come and tried to scale the face, Harrer and Co found the key to unlocking a logical route and finished the climb. Today this face was climbed in a few hours.
7. Seven years in Tibet / Heinrich Harrer – When the German citizen (and alleged Nazi sympathizer) Harrer and Co were trapped in India at the beginning of the Second World War, they were of course imprisoned by the British. Some of them fled, but most were caught and returned to prison. Harrer escaped capture and made an arduous hike to reach the roof of the world – Tibet. Tibet was inaccessible to all outsiders – but managed to sneak in and become a confidante of the then Dalai Lama. This book was made into a film with Brad Pitt who embodied Harrer’s adventures.
8. I chose Climb / Chris Bonington – This is a report on Sir Chir’s Boningtons many tough climbs on ice and rock alongside the likes of Hamish Machines, Don Whillans and Ian Clough.
9. Everest the hard way / Chris Bonington – An exciting report about the first ascent of another face of Everest than the traditional ridge routes. It was climbed by a team of talented UK & Sherpas climbers.
10. Everest: The Unclimbed Ridge / Chris Bonington – Chris and his team tried one of the last ridges first tried a long time ago by the British including George Mallory. The book tells of their ordeal when the expedition had to be canceled after two climbers disappeared on the upper ridges.
11. Touching the Void / Joe Simpson– A hair-raising story of human will and perseverance on an ascent that goes wrong on descent. The author breaks both legs. His only teammate lowers it almost all the way, but it goes wrong. Still a man with two broken legs and Solo, he manages to come back alive, heal, and then climb again.
12. Throne Room of the Mountain Gods / Galen Rowell – Galen Rowell, a world class mountain photographer, traces the history of K2 climbing along with her own attempt to climb the wild mountain with breathtaking images.
13. K2: Triumph & Tragedy / Jim Curran – A story about the 1986 attempt on K2 – the wild mountain where many climbers lost their lives.
14. Paths of Fame / Jeffrey Archer – a short but interesting biography about George Mallory, the enigmatic but talented climber who disappeared on Everest years ago.
15. In the air / Jon Krakauer – A journalist on his guided climb up Everest in 1996, the year many climbers lost their lives in a terrible storm. This is a controversial report accusing ace mountain guide Anatoly Boukreev of not doing his job during the storm.
16. The rise / Anatoly Boukreev – This book is a refutation of Jon Krakauer’s allegation in In thin air where Boukreev tries to prove he not only saved many lives during the storm, but did so at great risk to his own life.
17. Last hours on Everest / Graham Hoyland – A climber who was standing right behind the storm teams managed to climb Everest in fairly clear weather. He later dug up information proving that the Imax shooting team led by Ed Viesters knew the storm was coming, but did not share it with other climbers.
18. Into the silence / Wade Davis – Covers the full history of the British attempts at Everest along with the 1924 attempt that Mallory and Irvine never returned from.
19. Shining Mountain / Peter Boardman – A story of two great climbers, Peter Boardman and Joe Tasker, who climbed Changabangs (in the Nanda Devi Sanctuary) bare face.
Here are some of my favorite wildlife authors:
Born free, live free, forever free / Joy Adamson– A diary report on the care and release of three lion cubs. In all honesty, all of her books are worth reading.
Jim Corbett – He brings the old jungle of India to life with his story, all of his books are collector’s items and always worth reading.
Gerald Durrell – His play on words brings all the creatures he has met into real life. A dedicated conservation officer who ultimately set up a successful prisoner breeding center in the Jersey Islands ensuring our vanished wildlife is preserved for eternity.
Kenneth Anderson – The South Indian version of Jim Corbett, who lived in Namma Bengaluru but roamed the South Indian jungle. His books tell a story about how we have lost what used to be huge areas of nature reserves to today’s concrete / human jungle. It is 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 far too many books to include on this list, but these are my top tips. What about you? What are your favorite outdoor books? Share it with us in the comments below!
What should you do now
1. If you want to read how Indiahikes got into the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek, visit this page.
2. If you have book recommendations you want to share, leave a comment.
3. If you want to see the 13 best Himalayan hikes in India, get your PDF here.
4. If you ended up here by chance and are actually looking for some hikes, check out our upcoming hikes page.