CRITIQUES DE LIVRES
What are the most important Mountaineering Books ?
This may be a subject for endless discussions...
Of course, one should start with Jacques Perret's " Guide des Livres sur la Montagne et lAlpinisme " (Editions de Belledonne 1997). In his guide, which describes approximately 5000 books (!), Jacques Perret mentions those which are more particularly sought after, because of their importance or their rarity. But the list is a long one ! It includes not only books in French, but also the most important books in English, German and Italian.
W.R. Neate, in "Mountaineering and its literature" (Cicerone Press 1978) also mentions the 400 books thought to be the most interesting (only in english, of course) and gives a "short" list of the 50 books considered to be the best: it is still quite a lot !
The american bookstore Michael Chessler posts on his site the list of the "100 Most Important Books on Mountaineering", according to his customers. This list is included here (with Mike's authorization !), with a few added personal comments, and the titles of the french version of the book - when it exists...
Yves Ballu, in "Les Alpinistes" (Arthaud 1984) offers a list of 350 titles, among which approximately 45 are set aside as being more important. Many non-french books are also listed.
Sylvain Jouty et Roger Frison-Roche, in "Histoire de l'Alpinisme" (Arthaud 1996) lists approximately 100 important books, including more recent titles. English and German books are mentioned as well.
A storekeeper in Grenoble (in the French Alps) gave me the list of the ten most important books, according to his customers.
Here is his list:
- " Les Alpinistes Célèbres " (Mazenod 1956): a very nice large format book, giving biographies of the pioneers of mountaineering. In French, and not easy to find
- Etienne BRUHL: " Accident à la Meije "(J. Susse 1946): an excellent thriller (in French).
- Marcel COUTURIER: " Le Gibier des Montagnes Françaises "(Arthaud 1964). In my opinion, the interest of this book is mostly its rarity, but, to me, the subject seems to be a bit peripheral to mountaineering...
- Giusto GERVASUTTI: " Montagnes, ma Vie " (Arthaud 1949) translated as "Gervasutti's Climbs". I quite agree: Gervasutti is quite a man !
- Louis LACHENAL: " Carnets du Vertige " (ed P. Horay 1956. The new expanded edition published in 1996 by Guerin fueled a controversy. See "True Summit", by David Roberts). Not translated into English. Louis was with Maurice Herzog on the summit of Annapurna, the first eight-thousander. A fantastic climber.
- Tita PIAZ: " Le Diable des Dolomites " (Arthaud 1963). An italian figure ! The book has not been translated into English.
- H.B. de SAUSSURE: " Voyage dans les Alpes ". The story of the scientist who financed the first ascent of Mont-Blanc (August 8, 1786). Very rare (and very expensive !)
- Georges SONNIER: " Meije "(Lib. des Alpes 1952). An excellent writer, author of several books (" Où règne la lumière ", " Terre du Ciel ", " Eiger ", " Un Médecin de Montagne ", " La Montagne et lHomme "), all of them very well written, but not translated into English;
- Emil ZSIGMONDY: " Les Dangers dans la Montagne " (Fischbacher 1886). Very difficult to find ...
Now, it is for every reader to make his own opinion...