Mountainfilm Reading List: Who Are Your Favorites?

As attendees of Mountainfilm in Telluride know, the festival is not just about film. It also celebrates artists and authors, and we usually hand over the main stage to someone with a knack for words on paper. Some recent literary luminaries from that stage include Terry Tempest Williams, John Valliant and Pico Iyer.

With the holidays on tap, we put a call out to list of some of the best Mountainfilm books. We were inspired by our friends at Banff, who presented a panel called The Best Mountain Book Ever Written at their 2012 festival. Banff’s programming mission hews more closely to alpinism, so their choices reflect that focus, while Mountainfilm in Telluride’s interests are broader.

Of course,that only makes this assignment that much more foolhardy. As it was, one judge in Banff said that their task was “a utopian and elusive project,” while another — Bernadette MacDonald, an author herself (and a guest/judge at our 2012 festival) argued that “it is irresponsible for us to do this.”

So foolishness and irresponsibility be damned, let’s do this. But to do it right, it can’t be our recommended reading list. We need your suggestions for what you think is the best Mountainfilm book, and we hope you’ll consider several factors: literary achievement, adventure factor and how much this book inspired you.

To get rolling, the list of the top books from the Banff panel is below (note the preponderance of Canadian authors). It includes everything from frequent Mountainfilm guest Wade Davis’s masterwork on George Mallory to Into Great Silence to Purgatorio by Dante (who always has some sort of lame excuse for not being able to come to Mountainfilm).

Surprisingly, one of the best-selling mountaineering books, Into Thin Air, did not make the Banff honor roll, but is in the top ten of National Geographic Adventure’s list of the 100 Greatest Adventure Books of All Time. Many of the authors on the Nat Geo list are also major historical figures: Teddy Roosevelt, Charles Darwin, Henry Stanley, Beryl Markham and Marco Polo.

So get to work and let us know what books best embody Mountainfilm. And if you think someone on your holiday shopping list might enjoy one of these tomes, get on down to your local bookstore.

From Jon Popowich

Starlight and Storm by Gaston Rébuffat

Conquistadors of the Uselessby Lionel Terray

The White Spider by Heinrich Harrer

Beyond the Mountainby Steve House

The Seventh Gradeby Reinhold Messner

A Hunter of Peace/Old Indian Trails of the Canadian Rockiesby Mary T.S. Schäffer-Warren

Song of the Mountainby Gustavo Brillembourg

From Stephen Venables

The Ascent of NandaDevi by Bill Tilman

That Untravelled Worldby Eric Shipton

One Man's Mountainsby Tom Patey

Summits and Secretsby Kurt Diemberger

Sacred Summitsby Peter Boardman

Thin Airby Greg Child

From Bernadette McDonald

Conquistadors of the Uselessby Lionel Terray

Deep Play by Paul Pritchard

The Mountain of My Fearby David Roberts

Postcards from the Ledge by Greg Child

The Ascent of Nanda Deviby Bill Tilman

Kiss or Killby Mark Twight

Touching the Void by Joe Simpson

Where the Mountain Casts Its Shadow by Maria Coffey

K2: The Story of the Savage Mountainby Jim Curran

Solo Faces by James Salter

Learning to Breatheby Andy Cave

From Geoff Powter

Kiss or Kill by Mark Twight

And One for the Crow by John Redhead

Mountain of My Fearby David Roberts

The Totem Poleby Paul Pritchard

A Slender Threadby Stephen Venables

In the Throne Room of the Mountain Gods by Galen Rowell

Touching the Voidby Joe Simpson

From Harry Vandervlist

Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everestby Wade Davis
The Black Grizzly of Whiskey Creek by Sid Marty

Freedom Climbers by Bernadette McDonald

The Hidden Mountain / La Montagne Secrète by Gabrielle Roy

The Mountain of My Fearby David Roberts

Purgatorioby Dante

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