1. This Game of Ghosts by Joe Simpson
What do you think it does to your mind when you dangle from a loose peg for 12 hours on the north face of Aiguille du Dru? Amongst other stories, Joe Simpson shares what must be just a tiny glimpse into his thoughts as he recounts how the pillar of rock on which they were bivvied on the side of the iconic peak above the Chamonix valley, collapsed in the middle of the night and fell to the bottom of the mountain. 'This Game of Ghosts' was the follow-up book to Simpson's mountaineering classic, 'Touching the Void'.
2. Against the Wall by Simon Yates
Simon Yates (I’d suggest unfairly) is perhaps most popularly known to the public as ‘the man who cut the rope’ in Joe Simpson’s 1998 bestseller ‘Touching the Void’. Yates' own book 'Against the Wall', his first of 3 books from his climbing career, recounts a first ascent of one of the tall pepper-pot-shaped peaks in Southern Chilean Patagonia. It’s full of detail about what life is like living and climbing on a 4,000ft big wall (which we learn, by the challenges he overcomes, is not always fun).
3. Deep Play: Climbing the World's Most Dangerous Routes by Paul Pritchard
Paul Pritchard was on the first ascent of the Central Tower of Torres del Paine that Simon Yates wrote about in 'Against the Wall'. Paul is an excellent writer on his own account, sharing stories and anecdotes from climbing on the slate quarries of Dinorwig in Wales, the sea cliffs of Gogarth, all the way to Mount Asgard in Baffin Island in a book that won the prestigious Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature. I particularly enjoyed Paul's account of a planned day out winter climbing in Scotland with Slovenian hardman Silva Karo.
4. Thin Air: Encounters in the Himalayas by Greg Child
Not the book about the 1996 Everest disaster by Jon Krakauer but hugely descriptive narrative by the Australian climber Greg Child of climbing in the high-altitude mountains of the Karakorum range in Pakistan. Greg climbed K2 in 1990 and he narrates this and other expeditions to 8000m peaks and technical climbs in the Karakorum, including Broad Peak, Shivling and Gasherbrum IV. There's plenty of anecdotes of his fellow climbers (including Georges Bettembourg and Doug Scott) and the level of detail he shares of the local lives and landscapes in this part of the world as he journeys into the mountains is fascinating.
5. Total Alpinism by Rene Desmaison
An excellent autobiography by French alpinist Rene Desmaison that includes a gripping account of his 2-week long winter climb on the Grandes Jorasses in 1971 with a young Serge Gousseault. I remember reading those enthralling chapters well into the early hours of the morning.