This is a lovely book, one that touches and surprises like sunlight moving across a range of hills. As a child, staying in his grandparents' Scottish home, Macfarlane couldn't sleep one night and idly took down The Fight for Everest from the shelves. In the course of that moonlit night, an obsession was born - one that would lead him to scale mountains himself and ultimately result in this thoughtful meditation on our love of high and remote places. We love mountains, he believes, because 'ultimately. they quicken our sense of wonder. which can so easily be leached away by modern existence, and they urge us to apply that wonder to our own everyday lives'. This is a beautifully written, lyrical and intelligent study that could well appear on the Boardman Tasker shortlist.
Why do so many feel compelled to risk their lives climbing mountains? During the climbing season, one person a day dies in the Alps, and more people die climbing in this season in Scotland than they do on the roads. Mountains of the Mind is a fascinating investigation into our emotional and imaginative responses to mountains and how these have changed over the last few centuries. It is rich with literary and historical references and punctuated by beautifully written descriptions of the author's own climbing experiences. There are chapters on glaciers, geology, the pursuit of fear, the desire to explore the unknown and the desire to get to the summit, and the book ends with a gripping account of Mallory's attempt on Everest. Mountains of the Mind is a brilliant synthesis of climbing memoir and cultural history.