Becoming a Mountain

Becoming a Mountain : Himalayan Journeys in Search of the Sacred and the Sublime

4.06 (164 ratings by Goodreads)
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Hailed as a "wondrous book" by Gretel Ehrlich, and winner of the Kekoo Naoroji Book Award for Himalayan Literature, a journey of healing that becomes a pilgrimage for the soul. Stephen Alter was raised by American missionary parents in the hill station of Mussoorie, in the foothills of the Himalayas, where he and his wife, Ameeta, now live. Their idyllic existence was brutally interrupted when four armed intruders invaded their house and viciously attacked them, leaving them for dead. The violent assault and the trauma of almost dying left him questioning assumptions he had lived by since childhood. For the first time, he encountered the face of evil and the terror of the unknown. He felt like a foreigner in the land of his birth. This book is his account of a series of treks he took in the high Himalayas following his convalescence--to Bandar Punch (the monkey's tail), Nanda Devi, the second highest mountain in India, and Mt. Kailash in Tibet. He set himself this goal to prove that he had healed mentally as well as physically and to re-knit his connection to his homeland. Undertaken out of sorrow, the treks become a moving soul journey, a way to rediscover mountains in his inner landscape. Weaving together observations of the natural world, Himalayan history, folklore and mythology, as well as encounters with other pilgrims along the way, Stephen Alter has given us a moving meditation on the solace of high places, and on the hidden meanings and enduring mystery of mountains.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 288 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 23mm | 340g
  • United States
  • English
  • B&W photos
  • 1628729090
  • 9781628729092
  • 1,451,916

Review quote

"A rich, satisfying memoir that plumbs the depths--and acknowledges the limits--of both man and mountain. There are many treasures to discover in this insightful memoir of hiking and healing in the Himalayas. . . . [Alter] convincingly brings to life the culture, terrain, flora and fauna of the Himalayas . . . [and] offers a multifaceted consideration of life's tough truths and stunning splendors"--Kirkus Reviews, starred review "Climbing out of the ache and nightmare of a vicious, life-threatening attack at his home in the Indian hill town of Mussoorie, Stephen Alter writes beautifully of his forays into the Himalaya. By turns rigorous and enlivening, his ascents, circumnavigations, and retreats deliver him back to himself, refreshed, chastened, healed, and fully alive. A wondrous book."--Gretel Ehrlich, author of Facing the Wave "In the tradition of the best nature writers, Stephen Alter combines an intimate knowledge of the landscape and a scrupulous attention to detail with a profound awareness of its sublime and sacred nature that underlies and unites it all."--Anita Desai, author of The Artist of Disappearance "Becoming a Mountain is a gorgeous piece of writing: Richard Haliburton's thrilling adventure stories combined with Annie Dillard's close observation of nature combined with Anne Morrow Lindbergh's quiet philosophical and personal reflection. I don't think anyone could write about a personal journey through nature more beautifully or thoughtfully."--Alan Lightman, author of Mr g and Einstein's Dreams "No writer describes a Himalayan quest with greater insight and clarity than Stephen Alter, whose Becoming a Mountain is a lovely and compelling book, a delight to read. Alter seeks spiritual solace on treks among such high Himalayan peaks as Nanda Devi and Kailash. His radiant vision of the mountains includes the joy of walking, natural history, violent storms, and local myths and religious ceremonies, all filling him with bliss and exhilaration, as they do the reader."--George B. Schaller, vice president of Panthera and author of Tibet Wild "I had the good fortune to grow up with Steve Alter in the Himalayas. The mystery and majesty of that place stay with you forever. His own experiences there have been unimaginably difficult . . . and unimaginably wonderful. In this book he beautifully illuminates the power of those mountains to heal, and to inspire."--Chris Anderson, TED Curator "Beautifully written . . . a source of joy to anyone interested in knowing about Nature and our connection with it, especially if mountains are involved."--Bani Sodermark,
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About Stephen Alter

Stephen Alter is the author of fifteen works of fiction and nonfiction. His honors include a Guggenheim fellowship and a Fulbright award. He was writer-in-residence for ten years at MIT and directed the writing program at the American University in Cairo. He is founding director of the Mussoorie Writers' Mountain Festival. He resides with his wife in Mussoorie, India.
Alan Lightman is a physicist, novelist, and science writer. His books include Einstein's Dreams and Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine..
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Rating details

164 ratings
4.06 out of 5 stars
5 37% (61)
4 38% (63)
3 19% (31)
2 4% (7)
1 1% (2)
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