2014 Year-End Book Review

Ok, you’ve got one week until Christmas. Game face.

Your spouse/partner/sibling/parent is a climber/skier/runner and you haven’t done anything for them yet. Or maybe, you have all of your shopping done and it’s time to give yourself a little reward…a little something to keep you occupied when you’re hanging with the in-laws. I’m here to help you out.

Lots of blogs like to post a list of Christmas items this year. I’ll let you in on a little secret: it’s because they get a cut of the pie. Commissions keep outdoor blogs alive, this one included. But I object a bit to the blatant Christmas slutting, so I’ve bagged my redundant list in favor of a book list from 2014. Full disclosure: these links do generate a commission if you buy something, but lets just say that I’m not getting rich when I get 6% of a book sale. If you’d rather, you can go search for the books on Amazon and cut me out.

The books are here because I like them. I’ve read them. I recommend them to friends, and I recommend them to you. And better than new ski straps or a chalk bag, books let you give an enabling gift of stoke (even just to yourself). So, without further ado, here are my seven picks for this year.

Training for the New Alpinism – Steve House and Scott Johnston

Training for the new alpinism

“A manual for the climber as athlete.”

This is an amazing book for climbers, but I think that this is an amazing book for almost any athlete. Never have I seen training theory so clearly and cohesively presented in writing. Steve and Scott tackle nutrition, athletic and technical training, programming, and mental tactics with clarity and insight.

Steve’s many years of climbing and Scott’s experience with olympic cross-country skiing making this an invaluable resource.Whether you’re a climber or a runner, the information in this book is useful and clear. It’s also far from boring– taking clues from Mark Twight’s Extreme Alpinism, the book mixes in photos and stories from climbers epic-ing and triumphing around the world. It will make you want to train and show you how to do it effectively.


Run or Die – Killian Jornet

Run or die

Anyone who knows me well probably knows that I’m a Kilian junkie. I’m not alone in this– pretty much anyone in the ultra-running or skimo community will probably know his name, as he has come to dominate both of these sports and has won all of their major titles.

In recent years, his Summits of My Life project has taken those skills into the alpine, setting new standards for human-powered sport on Kilimanjaro, Denali, and Mont Blanc, among others. His book is a fun read, though admittedly not the best writing to ever land on my desk. It describes his life and his progress up until the SOML project, and provides inspiring insight into some of his crazier runs.

I would have enjoyed more exploration of his mindset and his emotions, as well as insight into his current projects, but that may have to wait until the next book. Still, for anyone who likes to move fast and push well into the tired-zone, this is an inspiration.


Eat and Run – Scott Jurek

Eat and Run

Scott Jurek is a legendary ultra-runner also known for being a devout vegan. Normally, this would turn me off, as I’m a devout carnivore, but the close link between food and performance that he makes in this book about his career is anything but preachy.

The book follows the arc of his career, his pivotal races, victories, and failures, and unlike the Kilian book, the writing is pretty good. This book made me want to go out a run, which is all that I can ask for. Scott’s perspective is healthy and worthy of emulation, and his book really captures the jovial community of ultra-running

Bonus: he includes some vegan recipes. If you try them, let me know how they turn out.


Becoming a Supple Leopard/Ready to Run – Kelly Starett

Becoming a Supple Leopard

My girlfriend thinks that Kelly Starett (aka K-Star) is a meat head. That might not be far from the mark.

Kelly is, however, a doctor of physical therapy and the founder of Crossfit San Francisco, one of the first Crossfit gyms in the nation. He is known as the founder of the MobilityWOD (Workout Of the Day), a free daily video dedicated to mobility and functional movement.

Becoming a Supple Leopard is a reference tome that describes the principles of functional movement and it also catalogs mobility exercises to target any muscle group of the body. The underlying idea is that every athlete should have the ability to self-diagnose and resolve injuries and pain that they encounter in their training. The book itself is huge, beautiful, and full of well-executed illustrative photos. There’s nothing meat-head about it.

Ready to Run is a distilled form of BASL, designed for the runner who doesn’t necessarily want to delve deeply into the theory. It’s closer to a 12-step program and contains just a selection of concepts and exercises to both resolve and prevent movement dysfunctions common to runners. This would be a great gift for your running friend with knee pain (which is pretty much everyone).


Fifty Classic Ski Descents of North America – Chris Davenport and Art Burrows

50 classic ski descents of north america

Chris Davenport, a ski mountaineer known for skiing Colorado’s fourteeners, joined a lengthy tradition of classics coffee-table books with this tome for skiers and riders. It’s a drool-worthy catalog of couloirs and faces with enormous color photos and stories from scores of influential skiers. What’s more, unlike, say, Fifty Classic Climbs, most of the lines are accessible to people of sound mind and legal standing.

This book doesn’t just collect dust on my coffee table; it’s usually splayed open to my next area of travel, feeding me ideas and stoke. With funny and gripping stories from the likes of Sage Cattabriga-Alosa and Andrew McLean, it also makes for a good cover-to-cover read. I’d give this one to the ski tourist closest to your heart: they want it; they just haven’t bought it yet.


Fred Beckey’s 100 Favorite North American Climbs – Fred Beckey

Fred beckey's 100 favorite north american climbs

Much like Chris’ book above, Fred’s book is enormous and beautiful. As the O.G. of american alpine climbing, Fred has more FAs to his name than anyone else I’ve ever heard of. A collection of his 100 favorite climbs is like a bucket list of wines from a master sommelier– not something to be taken lightly.

Each climb comes with a route description, beautiful photo, background on the first ascent or early days, and well-drawn topo. I’ve taken photographs of the topos on climbs, and I’m always excited to try another of his recommendations or to read his account of routes that I’ve climbed. This book never sits idle long.

Like the Smileys tackling 50 Classic Climbs, it’s only a matter of time until someone sets out to climb the hundred. Anyone to do so won’t have the first though– Fred’s done them all.


Feed Zone Portables – Biju K. Thomas and Allen Lim

feed zone portables

I move around a lot, which means that I eat a lot. While I like gels, blocks, and other manufactured energy foods for some uses, they just don’t taste as good when your eating your twentieth gel in ten hours, and they’re too expensive for me to use on my everyday training trips.

Enter chef Biju. Coming from a background working with professional cyclists, he has developed foods that are easy to make in the average kitchen and are easy to pack for your runs, rides, tours, or climbs. I like the blueberry-chocolate sticky rice blocks, and the baked eggs with cheese and bacon, but if those don’t sound good to you, you’ll find 73 other recipes to suit your tastes. Save some money and improve the taste of your food!

Thanks for reading! If you do really have to buy your girlfriend a thermos, or some ski straps for you dad, you can also support Mountain Lessons by shopping through a link like the one below. Cheers! and Happy Holidays!

Category: Gear & Reviews


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