If you’re planning a trek to Everest Base Camp then these are the top 5 books that you should read! These books provide a history of Everest Expeditions, Sherpa culture, a description of the trek itself, and the tragic story of the 1996 expedition.
The books aren’t listed in order, except that I would suggest reaching “Touching My Father’s Soul” first as it provides a good mix of Everest history and Sherpa culture.
- Touching My Father’s Soul by Jamling Tenzing Norgay
- Doofus Dad Does Everest Base Camp by Mark E. Johnson
- Trekking Nepal: A Traveler’s Guide by Stephen Bezruchka and Alonzo Lyons
- Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
- High Adventure: The True Story of the First Ascent of Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary
- More great reading options are included below!
#1 Touching My Father’s Soul by Jamling Tenzing Norgay
If you only have time to read a single book, I encourage you to dive into this one. It provides a history of Everest expeditions while also providing background and context for Sherpa culture and their Buddhist beliefs.
As I was prepping for my trek, I created what I called my “Everest Google Book.” It contained all the information I could think of that I would want to know on my trek but that I wouldn’t have access to. The bones of my Google book was based on Jamling’s story of his summit in 1996.
Interestingly, his summit of Everest was the same season as the 1996 tragedy. His book provides another viewpoint of the events that led up to the death of 8 climbers. Also, he’s a motivational speaker if you ever want to book him!
#2 Doofus Dad Does Everest Base Camp by Mark E. Johnson
I highly suggest reading this book! It’s not a literary work of art and it’s not going to win any awards (sorry Mark!), but it provides a day-to-day account of what it’s like to be a “normal” person on the trek. It describes the terrain, what the elevation change actually feels like around Namche Bazaar – ha!, how altitude sickness and other ailments are a natural part of the trek, and how lay people were able to overcome these challenges on the trek. It even described some Sherpa trekking tips like eating garlic soup everyday to help acclimate!
#3 Trekking Nepal: A Travelor’s Guide by Stephen Bezruchka and Alonzo Lyons
A friend of mine is from Nepal and her sister-in-law works in the tourism industry in Kathmandu. She sent me this book (all the way from Nepal!!) and it’s a great source for any trek in Nepal. It gives information on different treks in the country, cultural destinations, food suggestions, and much more.
My favorite part about the book is that it gives details of different plants and animals that you’ll see on an individual trek, so you’ll know some of the natural history before you get there!
#4 Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
Jon Krakauer, a writer, was invited to join a well-know and respected guide on an Everest expedition in 1996. Little did he know that he’d be writing the last story of many hopefully climbers as they tried to summit Mount Everest.
It’s a tragic story. Well written, engaging, and educational, but tragic. He provides a little history on Everest expeditions and describes the different camps and treks between those camps in detail. I’ve read the book and listened to the audio version. I prefer the book because it includes maps and I can slow down enough to get a sense of where I am (as a reader) on Everest during the journey. But the audio version is great for a road trip… assuming you can drive and cry.
#5 High Adventure: The True Story of the First Ascent of Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary
I feel like this is a must read since Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first to people to stand on the top of the world. The book is written by Hillary so it only includes his account of the expedition. Norgay wrote a book of his account – sadly, it’s hard to find.
This book describes how Hillary became interested in mountaineering and his adventures that led up to his Everest expedition. Then it goes into detail of each push up the mountain, each camp established, the toil that the lack of oxygen has on every aspect of their being – physically, mentally, emotionally, etc., and even the foods that they ate to keep them fueled and hydrated. (I’m bringing a mint cake with me on our trek so I can eat it at basecamp to celebrate. It’s the food that Hillary and Norgay ate at the summit and has been a popular “energy bar” for over a hundred years!)
Even though it wasn’t discussed in the book, I love how neither Hillary nor Norgay ever said who was at the top first. Even though all the credit went to Hillary, they both shared this impressive accomplishment and having a Sherpa on the summit was only fitting given that Everest is their home.
Great read with a lot of context on early Everest expeditions, mountaineering techniques of the day, gear and clothing of the day, and the overall culture of mountaineering in mid-century.
More Reads for Trekking to Everest Base Camp
If you have additional time, I would suggest reading:
- A Life on the Edge by Jim Whittaker
A Life on the Edge by Jim Whittaker.
Jim Whittaker was the first American to summit Mount Everest. This book provides memoirs of his Everest climb and many others.
Jim Whittaker is the reason I’m trekking to Everest Base Camp! I met him in 2002 when he came to speak at Philmont Scout Ranch. It was my first year working for Philmont. His book inspired me to learn more about adventuring in the great outdoors and began my interest in reading stories about Everest. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would have the opportunity to travel to Everest!
More Posts on Everest!
- Top 5 Books if You’re Trekking to Everest Base Camp
- How to Create Your Own Everest Google Book: For Those Trekking to Everest Base Camp
- Everest Expeditions & First Ascents: For Everest Base Camp Trekkers Wanting to Know More