Four books on George Mallory to read before ‘Paths of Glory’

November 25, 2011

by Nimish Dubey

His effort on Everest in 1924 might have cost him his life, but it made George Mallory a legend. Speculation is rife as to whether he actually made it to the top or failed while doing so, and almost every year an author tries to unravel the mystery of what has now become known as Mallory’s Last Climb.  Jeffrey Archer has been the latest to try his hand at solving the Mallory mystery with his “fiction-inspired-by-history” Paths of Glory. But as with all fictional books that revolve around history, we would recommend you do a spot of background reading on the historical event before reading Archer’s speculative account of it. Well, we would recommend you try one of these four books to get a better idea of what Archer is writing about.

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The Second Death of George Mallory by Reinhold Messner: One mountaineering legend writing about another. It seldom gets better than this. Mind you, if you are not a mountaineering fanatic, you might struggle with some of the passages and with Messner’s near-crazed devotion to mountains.

Last Climb: The legendary Everest Expeditions of George Mallory by David Breashears and Audrey Salkeld: Not as poetic and sensitive as Messner’s work but scores on detail and some amazing photography. Well, it is from National Geographic, after all.

Ghosts of Everest: The search for Mallory and Irvine by Jochen Hemmleb, Larry A. Johnson, Eric R. Simonson and William E. Nothdurft:  As the name indicates, this is a book about the search for the bodies for Mallory and Irvine in 1999, seventy five years after they disappeared. Contains some stunning photographs as well as speculation about what might have happened on the mountain in 1924

The Wildest Dream by Peter and Leni Gillman: The standard biography, using material found in the letters on Mallory’s body in 1999. The perfect book for those looking for a detailed explanation of Mallory’s obsession with Everest. Some might get put off a bit by the excessive psychoanalysis at times, but the book remains very readable.

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