Oct 1, 2010 10:24:57 AM
Tibet: travel books to read before you go
This excerpt from Lonely Planet’s Tibet guide provides a selection of travel literature to get you in the mood for your trip.
Literature on Tibet is abundant. Quite a bit of it is of the woolly ‘how to find enlightenment in the mysterious Land of Snows’ variety, but there is still a lot of very good stuff about.
Seven Years in Tibet by Heinrich Harrer, translated from the German in 1952 and made into a film in 1997, is an engaging account of Harrer’s sojourn in Tibet in the final years before the Chinese takeover.
Magic and Mystery in Tibet by the French Tibetologist Alexandra David-Neel has the lot for the starry-eyed dreamer – flying nuns, enchanted daggers, ghosts and demons, and also some interesting background information on the mystic side of Tibet. Another good David-Neel title to look out for is My Journey to Lhasa.
A Mountain in Tibet by Charles Allen is a superbly crafted book that centres on the holy Mt Kailash and the attempts of early European explorers to reach it and to determine its geographical significance. It’s a must for anyone heading out to western Tibet.
Allen builds on this work with his Search for Shangri-La in which he returns to western Tibet to examine the region’s pre-Buddhist history and mythology, focusing on Bön.
The Heart of the World by Ian Baker is an account of several explorations into the physical and spiritual landscapes of the Pemako region of southeastern Tibet, and the Tsangpo gorges in particular. Part-scholar, part-mystic and part-nutcase (Baker’s trekking supplies included alchemical foods and magic Tantric pills), Baker makes for a fascinating and erudite literary companion for the journey into one of Tibet’s remotest regions.
The Siege of Shangri-La by travel journalist Michael McRae takes a wider (and sometimes testosterone-drenched) look at the explorations, recent and historical, of the Tsangpo gorges, with good sections on early botanists Frank Kingdon-Ward and FM ‘Hatter’ Bailey.
Travelers’ Tales Tibet is an entertaining compendium of travel writing on Tibet by such authors as Pico Iyer, Peter Hessler and Alexandra David-Neel.
More travel literature reading lists for other destinations can be found here.