The Ideal Climbing Library

Natalie always dreamed of having a traditional library of hard bound books, and I realized that was something I really wanted too. I suppose the rationale is that when I am not surrounded by mountains I want to be surrounded by books.

Books and periodicals about climbing — especially early mountaineering adventures and modern alpine ascents — have been something that I have collected since I was 17. It wasn’t a disciplined pursuit. It happened quite accidentally and I didn’t recognize that I was a collector until Natalie and I noticed that my modest library was outgrowing its shelves.

But the volumes I own are a hodge podge of topics from various hiking and climbing guides from North America to stories of trekking across Tibet. There are also classics like Maurice Herzog’s Annapurna and most of David Roberts’ books. There are also a handful of American Alpine Journals, some because I wanted that year, and other because I donated money to the local AAC Section for a new projector and I was gifted several AAJs that I didn’t already own to say thanks.

Despite the collection, this is hardly the right combination of titles to support my writing on this blog, let alone support my ambitions for greater knowledge on certain subjects and regions. So I have been taking a less is more approach to thin out the shelves and to make me consider whether I need that text. I decided Peaks of Glory, the over sized coffee-table book by Italian Stefano Ardito, could go because it wasn’t a primary source and really didn’t say anything that I couldn’t find in one of my other volumes or the Internet. One down. That analysis may also be key to selecting new books.

I have also been considering what subjects I need to focus my energy, space and ability to acquire. I jotted down several lists and tried to prioritize my interests:

  • Classic narratives
  • Alaskan narratives and guides
  • Adirondack history
  • Cascades narratives and guides
  • Patagonia narratives and guides
  • Canadian narratives and guides
  • Himalayan and Karakorum narratives
  • Alpine narratives

I also wrote down the kinds of books I would want to include and what I want to work to acquire first:

  • American Alpine Journals
  • Narratives
  • Guide Books
  • Maps
  • Volumes with notable photography from an area of interest

Earlier this year, I was given a copy of Jennifer Lowe-Anker’s book Forget Me Not, which was on my list to acquire and I will keep it. Plus I was given two books from Michael Ybarra’s library from his family (I really should tell you more about those books sometime.)

I also purchased Mellor’s climbing guide to the Adirondacks and finally bought my own copy of Boukreev’s Above the Clouds and also my own copy of Kiss or Kill. (I don’t think I need to say the author for that one; email me if I do, or just look it up, then get a copy and study it.)

So the vision of my library and it’s many parts are coming together. Planning is taking a while, but that’s part of the fun. It’s like packing for that big, long awaited trip to sacred Yosemite.

Here are several books that are on my short list to acquire:

  • Minus 148º by Davidson
  • Alaska Ascents by Sherwonit
  • The Ascent of Denali by Stuck
  • Not Without Peril
  • Mountains of the Mind by MacFarlane
  • The Mountains of My Life by Bonatti
  • The White Spider by Harrar
  • Fifty Classic Climbs by Roper and Steck

The list is longer, and the topics of climbing are broader than what I listed, but these are the subjects and regions that drive me.

I appreciate you stopping by for a read once again. If you enjoyed this post, please consider following The Suburban Mountaineer on Twitter and Facebook.

Climbing matters, even though we work nine to five.


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