Below are my favourite top ten travel, nature and adventure books from the last 11 months of lockdown.
I read a lot anyway but the lockdowns have enabled me to fully indulge myself and revisit some favourite books and find some new and delightfully inspiring reads.
All of them have had me itching to get back out and walk, have adventures and climb, travel and explore. If we can’t get out we can at least dream and plot and plan.
The Magicians Glass
I bought and read this book when it was first published but early on in the first lockdown I reached for it again. Eight essays by Sheffield writer Ed Douglas including on the loss of Toni Egger on Cerro Torre, Tomaz Humar, Kurt Albert, Patrick Edlinger and the Uli Steck controversy.
My favourite is Lines of Beauty: the Art of Climbing. A study of artists and climbing including Andy Parkin, Julian Heaton Cooper, Jim Curran, Richard Long and Hamish Fulton.
Also keep an eye out for Ed’s latest book Himalaya.
In 1963 Dervla Murphy bicycled from Ireland to India. Armed with a pistol she passed through Europe in a particularly harsh winter, then Iran and Afghanistan followed by long arduous detours through the mountains of Northern Pakistan including Swat and Gilgit.
‘For it is not death or hardship that is a fearful thing, but the fear of death and hardship’.
Magic and Mystery in Tibet
Alexandra David-Neel was a French opera singer who in 1911 told her husband that she was off for a short visit to India and didn’t come back until 1925. She spent those years travelling through India, Nepal and Tibet delving deeply into Buddhism. She spent time meditating in Himalayan caves and learning ‘The art of warming oneself without fire up in the snows’.
Steve McCurry took what is probably the most famous portrait in the world, the now-legendary ‘Afghan Girl’ which appeared on the cover of National Geographic in 1985.
This book documents a 30 year career predominately focused on Asia including Afghanistan, India, Yemen and Tibet. Each chapter is dense with photography and documents, notes and ephemera. Makes me want to head back out into the world with my camera.
The Nature of Snowdonia
This is the revised and expanded 2nd edition of the utterly essential resource for anyone involved in any of the Mountain Training walking awards. Even though the book is Snowdonia biased a vast chunk of the book is transferable to other UK upland regions.
Full of easily digested info on birds, flowers, fungi, geology and scattered with those nuggets of knowledge that every Lowland, Hill and Moorland and Mountain Leader craves.
Doug Scott’s recent death saw me reaching for two books that he authored. The astounding book Himalayan Mountaineer, a pictorial account of his climbing career and this account of his first ascent of the Ogre with Chris Bonington in 1977.
It is a book of two halves. Part one is a biography of the mountain and a history of exploration in the region. Part two describes the first ascent and the epic that began when Doug Scott broke both his legs just below the summit. One of the great epic mountaineering stories of all time.
‘In that careless moment I lost control’
No Map Could Show Them
The second Sheffield based author on this list is the climber, runner and award winning poet Helen Mort. Poems from Stanage edge to the Himalaya via the European Alps.
‘When we climb alone
en cord ee feminine ,
we are magicians of the Alps –
we make the routes we follow
The Book of Trespass
This book begins and ends in two of my favourite places. The book starts with tromping through the heather on Kinder Scout and finishes in Sheffield describing the recent tree protests. In between these stories the Book of Trespass roams England and covers a vast range of land ownership based issues including witches, slavery, gipsies, poaching, the landed gentry, ravers and ramblers.
The Seabird’s Cry
The extraordinary lives of seabirds including Gannets, Puffins, Cormorants, Shags and the mighty Albatross. Beautifully illustrated it begins with the tale of one Fulmars 3,900 mile journey from Orkney to the other side of the Atlantic and back again to get a bite to eat.
Winner of the Jefferies Award for nature writing 2017 and the Wainwright Prize 2018.
Award winning writer Robert Macfarlane’s 2019 book on nature and place via the Earth’s underwood. A deep dive into darkness, burial, melting glaciers, the Parisian catacombs, fungus and the myths of the underworld.
A lyrical international Journey that’s leads to a moving conclusion.
‘Potawatomi, a Native American language of the Great Plains region, includes the word puhpowee, which might be translated as ‘the force which causes mushrooms to push up from the earth overnight’
All the books on this list can be found and bought here at https://uk.bookshop.org/shop/beyondtheedge. If you buy books from this link we earn a small commission and 10% goes to independent bookshops.