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Mountains of the Mind

Mountains of the Mind

Written by Roberet Macfarlane

Narrated by James A. Gillies


Mountains of the Mind

Written by Roberet Macfarlane

Narrated by James A. Gillies

ratings:
3/5 (153 ratings)
Length:
9 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Jun 18, 2019
ISBN:
9781515919162
Format:
Audiobook

Description

The basis for the new documentary film, Mountain: A Breathtaking Voyage into the Extreme.

Combining accounts of legendary mountain ascents with vivid descriptions of his own forays into wild, high landscapes, Robert Macfarlane reveals how the mystery of the world's highest places has come to grip the Western imagination—and perennially draws legions of adventurers up the most perilous slopes.

His story begins three centuries ago, when mountains were feared as the forbidding abodes of dragons and other mysterious beasts. In the mid-1700s the attentions of both science and poetry sparked a passion for mountains; Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Lord Byron extolled the sublime experiences to be had on high; and by 1924 the death on Mount Everest of an Englishman named George Mallory came to symbolize the heroic ideals of his day. Macfarlane also reflects on fear, risk, and the shattering beauty of ice and snow, the competition and contemplation of the climb, and the strange alternate reality of high altitude, magically enveloping us in the allure of mountains at every level.

Publisher:
Released:
Jun 18, 2019
ISBN:
9781515919162
Format:
Audiobook

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Reviews

What people think about Mountains of the Mind

3.2
153 ratings / 11 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (4/5)
    The peak is Everest, Mallory on Everest. Our route takes us through Petrarch, Shelley, Johnson... how did we, western culture I suppose, become so fascinated, entranced, by mountains, by climbing up mountains? Macfarlane does a very good job of factoring out the components, curiosity, competition, conquering, contemplating... all combined to drive Mallory to his doom. Very well written, of course. A nice combination of personal experience with cultural history.
  • (4/5)
    Very pleasantly surprised to find that Macfarlane named Simon Schama's Landscape and Memory, one of my favourite books, as an inspiration for this one.
  • (5/5)
    As ever, Robert McFarlane's writing is beautiful and stimulating. I had not realised that he was a climber so this book combines two of his passions, climbing and wild places and a third, which I have now discovered is George Mallory, Another reviewer, Sarah O'Toole summed up my feelings about this book better than I can "His use of language to bring me into regions explored, read about and imagined often took my breath away, engaging all the senses and making me wonder what these marvels would be like to experience first hand." - I could never have climbed but I now feel I understand much Excellent.
  • (3/5)
    An early book from Robert McFarlane that shows his talent emerging. Too structured, too reliant on other sources, extracts and summaries. His editor told him to include more 'I' and he was right. Odd glimpses of his later descriptive talents but not many. He can go too far towards sentimentality and nostaligia sometimes but he takes the trouble to see what is around him which many don't.
  • (5/5)
    This is subtitled "A History Of A Fascination", which perfectly captures the subject.

    Macfarlane evocatively describes how Romantic ideas about nature and the Victorian drive for exploration, combined with new ideas about deep time and geology, replaced the medieval view of mountains as bleak and haunted wastelands. The culmination of the book is Mallory's expeditions to Everest, which bring together all of these themes.

    A climber himself, Macfarlane is utterly brilliant at describing the experiences of travelling in high altitudes, the incredible beauty of the places and the fascination, and outright obsession, that they have inspired.
  • (3/5)
    A gorgeous meditation on just what mountains mean to us. Lyrical and beautiful
  • (5/5)
    I never knew I was interested in mountains and mountaineering until I read this. At times he's quite profound.
  • (4/5)
    A cultural history/autobiographical memoir of mountains as human fascination. Macfarlane's crisp, lyrical writing is a real delight, and I'm quite looking forward to more of his books. 
  • (4/5)
    Three centuries ago, no one was interested in mountains and other wild places. The land could not be cultivated, nor was there any point in possessing them and the people who inhabited these heights were considered a lesser human. They were considered no go areas. But in the middle of the Eighteenth century, this perception of the mountain began to change. The premise of the sublime, the balance point of fear and exhilaration that could be achieved when climbing, coupled with the sense that the mountains were much, much older than previously thought, meant that the great thinkers of the age became interested in the how and why they were formed.

    And so begins Macfarlane’s mountain adventure. He writes about the forces that make mountains and the glaciers that populate them. There is lot on our perception of them too, the overcoming of the fear that these immense heights can bring, the fixation of getting to the summit of these peaks. These beautiful peaks can be deadly too, the Alps claim one climber a day during the season, and less people die on Scottish roads than they do in the mountains. But those that conquer the peaks are shown the magnificence and beauty of the world beneath their feet.

    Macfarlane ends with an gripping account of Mallory and his obsession with the highest peak in the world, Everest. An avid climber and adventurer, who climbed various peaks including setting one of the hardest routes up Pillar Rock in the lakes. Starting in 1921, he was a member of three expeditions to Nepal where they explored various potential routes up the mountain. No one had tried to climb at this altitude before, and there were an number of fatalities and numerous cases of frostbite, before he returned in 1924 for the final attempt. On the 8th June Mallory and Irvine start for the final ascent. As they do a fine mist descends around them, and they are last seen moving along a ridge as the mist swirls around them.

    I have been meaning to read this book for absolutely ages. Macfarlane is one of my favourite writers, and I have read all hi others, but not this, his first. He manages to weave together the mindset of the people that climb these peaks with the cultural history and deep geological time of these places. The writing is lyrical, poetic and engaging, and he describes what he sees with beautiful prose so you can drink in he view too. But in that beauty is danger too; no climb, even in summer is risk free, and even though mountains can bring exhilaration to your life, they can claim it too. For me it is a solid four, not as good as his later books though.
  • (4/5)
    Macfarlane explores how the fascination with mountains first developed by noting the history and literature of this subject as well as by describing his own mountain climbing adventures and then ending with the story of Mallory's attempt to climb Mt Everest. He describes Mallory's fascination with Everest as partly due to "the emotional traditions which he inherited and cultivated" which Macfarlane has talked about in the first part of the book.The book is very well written and researched, but for me goes on a little too long on explicating the history of thoughts about mountains. It works best when he writes about Mallory's three attempts to climb Everest and why we are fascinated by mountains today. He says "At bottom, mountains, like all wildernesses, challenge our complacent conviction - so easy to lapse into- that the world has been made for humans by humans...."One forgets that there are environments which do not respond to the flick of a switch or the twist of a dial, and which have their own rhythms and orders of existence...."mountains refute our excessive trust in the man-made. They pose profound questions about our durability and the importance of our schemes."
  • (3/5)
    The book is so full of interesting facts laid out in such detail as to be like a play. However, the narrator was obnoxious in his Shakespearian delivery and almost ruined it for me.