Skip to Content

Best Climbing Books 2023: Reviews & Buyer’s Guide

With numerous books out there about rock climbing, it isn?t easy to choose the ones you would enjoy and would be worth your money and time. We have curated a list of the best climbing book?that are loved for their ability to induce mental strength, provide information or inspiration by giving insight into famous climbers? lives.

If you have just recently entered the world of climbing literature, look no further. Start your journey to climbing with these ultimate tales of adventure (only from the English literature).

Top 15 Best Climbing Books 2023

1. Vertical Mind

Vertical Mind: Psychological Approaches for Optimal Rock Climbing by Don McGrath and Jeff Elison (2014) Paperback

In this mental-training book, Jeff Elison and Don McGrath teach climbers the importance of the mind to climb better while having fun. The book teaches how recent research in psychology and brain science could help you train your mind and body better. This retraining can improve climbing performance and help reach higher levels.

They also demonstrate how to prepare yourself to overcome anxiety and fears that hold you back. In the end, they teach fellow climbers how to help each other improve and engage in co-creative coaching.

With several easy-to-follow stepwise practical drills and exercises that make climbing much easier, the Vertical Mind helps you have fun climbing and let go of fears holding you back.

2. The Rock Warrior’s Way – Mental Training For Climbers

The Rock Warrior's Way: Mental Training for Climbers

The Rock Warrior covers mental training in a unique approach by Arno Ilgner to improve strength, technique, and flexibility in your performance. Ilgner combines his extensive climbing experience with essential elements borrowed from sports psychology and the rich ?warrior? literature.

It is a comprehensive program that includes guidance on risk assessment, information gathering, motivational analysis, and mental focus unified in an approach to life. The concepts that are tied together are not revolutionarily new but the down-to-earth presentation is what makes it so tangible and read-worthy.

Some of the major tenets it explores are using mindfulness to recognize where your ego gets in the way of assessing the risk and situation accurately and let your ability have fun. One of the best rock climbing books, The Rock Warrior also encourages you to embrace and fully engage in the chaotic moments outside of your comfort zone.

3. Drawn – The Art Of Ascent

Drawn: The Art of Ascent

This graphic adventure by artist and rock-climber Jeremy Collins delves into the charm of the wild outdoors.

He traveled to China, Venezuela, Canada, and the United States with a bunch of climbing partners and shared his art, exploits, and discoveries about balancing the peace of home and adventure of wildernesses.

Drawn: The Art of Ascent features Jeremy?s drawings from the sketchbooks he carried along on the climbs. They are mostly mixed media of watercolor, charcoal, and pencil with photographs and torn paper with hand-written texts.

4. Camp 4 – Recollections Of A Yosemite Rockclimber

Camp 4: Recollections of a Yosemite Rockclimber

California?s Yosemite Valley used to be the hub for the finest rock climbers back in the 1960s. Young nonconformists channeled their energies toward the untouched walls here attracting more climbers from around the world to explore what all the fuss was about. This created the Golden Age of Yosemite climbing.

The author, also a climber, Steve Roper lived in the Yosemite Valley for almost a decade. He describes his take on this Golden Era?s best climbers and the motivation behind their achievements in Camp 4. Filled with a mixture of hilarious and inspiring stories of the most riveting controversies and the most significant climbs of a legendary era, Camp 4 offers a definitive history of the period.

5. High Infatuation – A Climber’s Guide To Love And Gravity

High Infatuation: A Climber's Guide to Love and Gravity

A collection of vivid, intimate essays and poems based around universal themes of life, personal empowerment, friendship, love, and more bound together by the common thread of climbing. The author, Steph Davis was an aspiring concert pianist and lawyer who quit both music and law university to become a ?dirtbag climber?.

As a reward for her perseverance and courage, she is now a high-profile athlete with many widely acclaimed sponsors. In High Infatuation, you sit in the tent with her in the mountains of Patagonia, through weeks of rain, snow, sleet, and wind, waiting for the weather to improve.

Then you race up a rock wall of Yosemite?s El Capitan within a day and go through more such adventure stories that reveal Davis? soul. This remarkable woman?s journey of ambition, independence, compassion, and safety is what High Infatuation is about.

6. Alone On The Wall

Alone on the Wall

Alex Honnold, probably the world?s most famous adventure athlete was not known beyond his limited circle of hardcore climbers just a few years ago. This rise in fame was entirely justified by the expertise he proved in several climbing styles with shattering speed records. He has pushed beyond the limits of the accepted forms of climbing and won awards in every discipline he has pursued.

In Alone on the Wall, he recounts seven of the most extraordinary climbs of his brilliant career. Every climb is described in reflective passages that throw light at what was going on in his mind during these difficult times.

He expresses each jitter and excitement he felt waking up on the morning of a climb, each self-criticizing thoughts he jotted down in his climbing journal, and shares his secrets of fear-management. Award-winning author David Roberts narrates each chapter of Alex?s tremendous accomplishments in his own voice.

7. Psychovertical


IN this highly entertaining and gripping story by Kirkpatrick, a dyslexic lower-class kid spends days clinging to huge stone faces thousands of feet above. The author uses his own 12-day experience of climbing the Reticent Wall solo that helped him understand and express the struggles of growing up poor and with dyslexia which dwindled his self-confidence.

You don?t need to be a climber to enjoy his style of storytelling that is honest, raw, humorous, and sometimes self-deprecating. Psychovertical is a Boardman Tasker Prize winner, a recognition that marks the best of mountaineering literature. The book has picturesque descriptions of every scene and climb that wonderfully grips your heart with every next page.

8. Learning To Fly – A Memoir Of Hanging On And Letting Go

Learning to Fly: A Memoir of Hanging On and Letting Go

World-renowned free climber Steph Davis offers a ?thrilling and infectiously interesting? memoir according to San Francisco Book Review. The book features Steph rediscovering herself through loss, love, and the joy of letting go. She also shares the effect of her husband?s tragic accident on her climbing and flying. She is famous in the climbing community for ascending some of the most awe-inspiring peaks.

After the fallout of her marriage and the crashing of her career, she set off on a quest for a new identity with her beloved dog, Fletch. This is when she discovered skydiving. When compared to the usual climbing she was used to, falling from an airplane was entirely antithetical but she persevered and tried to turn every jump into an opportunity to fly.

As she opened herself to falling, even in the midst of a heartbreak, she found the strength to open herself to love again and met someone who shared the same passion for life. Learning to Fly has gorgeous black and white photos as an account of her fascinating transformation into a woman who discovers new hope and joy in letting go.

9. The White Spider

The White Spider

Written by an Austrian mountaineer, The White Spider is the captivating story of the author?s ascent of the Eiger. It also examines their other successful as well as unsuccessful attempts. The book is well researched, very thorough, and offers some beautiful descriptions.

Heinrich writes about many of his inspiring attempts between 1935 and 1962. His writing style is very graphic with descriptions of waterfalls, rocks, and ice that keep you hooked throughout.

10. Touching The Void – The True Story Of One Mans Miraculous Survival

Touching the Void: The True Story of One Man's Miraculous Survival

Climbing partners, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates met with a disaster when they reached the top of Andes? 21,000-foot peak. Simpson broke his leg after plunging off the ice ledge and was faced by a raging blizzard in the darkness. Yates closely escaped death in an attempt to lower his partner to safety but ultimately had to cut the rope.

The three days that followed posed to be an impossibly grueling ordeal for both of them. Yates was consumed with grief and guilt, thinking Simpson was dead and Simpson, alive but crippled, was starving and extremely frostbitten. He crawled over the cliffs and canyons to reach the base camp at the last moment, reuniting with Yates. Touching the Void is a true testament to their courage, friendship, and inspiring tale of fear, suffering, and survival.

11. Into Thin Air

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster

Mountaineer and journalist Jon Krakauer writes a chilling account of the disaster at Mot. Everest in May 1996 where eight people died and countless were left with heavy memories. Into Thin Air takes a detailed and honest look at the interactions involved and events that gave rise to the tragedy.

The author addresses several controversial questions surrounding the disaster from a fair perspective. There is a unique humility that can be noticed clearly in the illustrations of his researched claims supporting his version of assessment of the more controversial disputes.

For example, Krakauer highlights the commercialization of the Everest expeditions which, he speculates, caused a compromise of crucial safety measures by the guiding services.

12. Annapurna – A Woman’s Place

Annapurna: A Woman's Place

Thirteen women from San Francisco set out to the Nepal Himalayas in August 1978 to become the first Americans and the first women to climb the treacherous slopes of Annapurna. Annapurna: A Woman?s Place, published in 1984, is the first account of mountaineering through the perspective of women written by the leader of the expedition, Arlene Blum.

It narrates the dramatic story full of storms, logistical problems, hazardous ice climbing, terrifying avalanches, and conflicts and reconciliations within the group. But the triumph also brought some tragedy along with the death of two of their team members. Filled with descriptions of courage, skill, humor, and passion, Annapurna has become a recognized classic.

13. Espresso Lessons From The Rock Warrior’s Way

Espresso Lessons From The Rock Warrior's Way

You might have guessed from the name, Espresso Lessons is a follow-up to Arno Ilgner?s book The Rock Warrior. It serves as a ?how-to? application guide to complement his previous book. It teaches you how to apply the mental fitness concepts to specific and concrete practical climbing situations.

It teaches the method to develop a stronger mind to assess the risk, effectively take them on, and cope with the inevitable chances of falling. Every climber knows the importance of mental strength which is sometimes even more crucial than physical toughness.

Espresso Lessons offer tangible methods of strengthening your mind while climbing. Make sure you have read Rock Warrior?s Way first to get the best out of this one.

14. The Mountain – My Time On Everest

The Mountain: My Time on Everest

Another captivating non-fiction book, The Mountain takes you on a journey to the world?s highest mountain Everest. Ed Viesturs and David Roberts provide insights on their own and several other climbing expeditions.

This book serves as an intensely interesting refresher to brush up on your historical knowledge of Everest expeditions. It includes accounts of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, Mallory and Irvine, Rob Hall and Scott Fischer to inspire you with stories of the first successful summits.

15. One Man’s Mountain – Essays And Verses

One man's mountains: essays and verses;

One Man?s Mountain pays tribute to Tom Patey, the great Scottish climber who died in May 1970 in a rappelling accident. The book was published soon after his death by compiling some of his finest prose writing, much sought after songs in his witty satire, establishing a classic in mountaineering literature.

Patey?s dry humor approach to the anecdotes of first ascents in the Alps, the Himalayas, Scotland, and Norway capture his tremendous enthusiasm for climbing and life in general. His philosophies and experiences are so universal that it will remain a climbing favorite. This book is both a celebration and memorial of one of the most brilliant and charismatic climbers of Britain.

Now that you have added your choice of the best rock climbing books to your cart, here are some tips to take care of them when they arrive.

It might seem simple, but wait till you get into the specifics. Just to give you an idea, did you know a book can get roughed up just by opening it on a table? This can flatten the spine and stretch the binding. You should rather place your book o a rolled-up towel or cradle it in your hands or lap so that the book opens only part way.

This might seem excessively cautious to some. People even read during their meals. However, it is never a bad idea to be careful, especially if it is a book you treasure. Hardcore book lovers even store their favorites behind glass doors (remember Joe Goldberg?) Therefore the extent of care that you take depends entirely on how much you value your books.

Place Of Storage

Dampness and insects are two of the greatest rivals of books apart from the obvious problems like drips and floods. A highly humid environment leads to the growth of mildew. Beetles, silverfish, and even pests like termites are very likely to chew into warm, damp, dirty, and dark books.

These problems can be prevented by storing books in frequently used rooms, unlike a basement that gets clammy and cold. On the other hand, an attic can be too hot. Keeping your books in a regularly cleaned room makes it easier to detect an insect infestation before it gets out of hand.

The main rooms of the house also have a moderate temperature and humidity that is good for books. You should store valuable vintage books in a humidity low enough to prevent mildew but not make it too dry. Extreme dryness affects the leather making it dry out and crack. Store your bookshelves away from fireplaces, radiators, or any such heat source.

Even the light should be taken into a consideration. Ultraviolet light from halogen and fluorescent bulbs and the sun bleaches the color of book covers. The effects show worst on leather covers, cloth bindings, and paper dust jackets, and on the color red. Use incandescent light and keep the drapes pulled for good protection of rare and collectible books. You could also go for LED lights as they don?t usually emit UV rays.

Arranging Your Books

Keep books in cupboards or bookshelves instead of plastic boxes. If you want to protect them as valuable objects, sort them according to size to evenly spread the pressure on the spines. A tall book will warp if placed in between short ones.

However, if the order of sorting depends primarily on the reference or pleasure of reading, it is more sensible to arrange them by genre, title, or author- whichever seems more convenient to you. Keep them horizontally in short stacks or upright but not packed too tightly.

It is also a good idea to insert pieces of synthetic felt in between to protect the covers. Remember not to use wool for this purpose as it can attract insects.

Some experts suggest lining up books towards the front of the shelf which helps give a tidier look and lets air circulation at the back. Others push them all the way back to avoid any dust from collecting. Either way, line up the entire shelf or use smooth-sided bookends to prevent from leaning. Do not overstuff the shelves

While pulling a book out, avoid pulling at the head cap or the top of the spine. This can cause it to break. Grip the center of the spine, push the neighboring books if required or push the book out from behind. You could also press the top edge of the book gently with a finger and tip it slightly toward you.

Protecting Books While You Read

It is no surprise that oily hands ruin the book. The oil builds up on the pages and eventually forms dark stains. Experts earlier recommended cotton gloves for rare books but it made the fragile pages more prone to tearing.

Now it is advised to wash your hands first to keep the pages clean. Do not snack on munchies while reading. If you are hungry, keep the book aside and use a paper bookmark instead of leather or metal or any other material that could leave a residue- not even Post-It notes.

If you have a collectible book that has a dust jacket on, set the jacket aside while reading. Alternatively, you can add an extra acid-free cover over it for protection.

Cleaning Books

When it comes to books, cleaning usually means dusting them. Use a microfiber dusting cloth instead of an old-fashioned feather duster to hold the dust better. Some experts use a vacuum with an attached brush. Dusting by hand works just fine if your books are slightly dusty. If there is a lot of dirt, a vacuum will work better. However, avoid vacuuming an old book as it could be fragile.

It isn?t always possible to clean dirty pages. The process takes a lot of time and doesn?t completely remove old fingerprints or oil stains. There is also an added risk of the paper tearing up. Therefore, it is better to leave valuable books as is. But if you are adamant about cleaning the pages, use a vinyl block eraser for spot-cleaning and a vulcanized rubber sponge for the margins. Strictly avoid using granulated vinyl erasers as the particles can make their way into the binding.

Repairing Books

If a page from a school book accidentally rips, it is a common instinct to repair it yourself. However, when the same happens in a valuable or collectible book, it is best to leave it to the skilled hands of professionals. Some experts even suggest not doing anything to truly appreciate its age, the trials, and tribulations the book has gone through in its life.