Stephen Alter’s Wild Himalaya: A Natural History of the Greatest Mountain Range on Earth

Editor | Non-fiction
The Himalaya span a distance of roughly 2,500 kilometres in length and between 350 and 150 kilometres in breadth, rising to a maximum height of almost 9 kilometres above sea level. In Wild Himalaya, award-winning author Stephen Alter brings alive the greatest mountain range on earth in all its terrifying beauty, grandeur and complexity. Travelling to all the five countries that the Himalayan range traverses—India, Pakistan, Bhutan, Nepal and China— Alter braids together on-the-ground reports with a deep understanding and study of the history, science, geology, environment, flora, fauna, myth, folklore, spirituality, climate and human settlements of the region to provide a nuanced and rich portrait of these legendary mountains.
Adding colour to the narrative are riveting tales unearthed by the author of some of the range’s most storied peaks—Everest or Chomolungma, Kanchenjunga, Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, Nanga Parbat and others.
The book is divided into eight sections which delve deep into particular aspects of the Himalaya. ‘Orogenesis’ explores the origin, evolution, geology, geography and other such core aspects of these mountains; ‘The Third Pole’ concerns itself with weather, glaciers, wetlands and rivers; ‘Flora Himalensis’ details extraordinary Himalayan plants and trees; ‘Winged Migrants’ goes deep into the world of Himalayan birds and insects; in ‘Mountain Mammals’ we cross high passes and go above the treeline in search of brown bears, blue sheep and snow leopards; ‘Ancestral Journeys’ takes a close look at human settlement in the Himalaya and stories of origin and migration, both ancient and contemporary; ‘At the Edge of Beyond’ recounts epic adventures and great mountaineering feats; and, finally, ‘In a Thousand Ages of the Gods’ the author examines the essence of Himalayan art, folklore and mythology as well as enigmatic mysteries such as the existence of the Yeti, along with key questions of conservation.
Although there have been hundreds of books, and some masterpieces, about one or the other aspect of the Himalaya, not one of them has come close to capturing the incredible complexity and majesty of these mountains. Until now. In Wild Himalaya, Stephen Alter, who considers himself an endemic species (having spent most of his life in these mountains), gives us the definitive natural history of the greatest mountain range on earth.
About the author
Stephen Alter is the author of more than fifteen books of fiction and non-fiction. His honours include a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Fulbright award. His recent memoir, Becoming a Mountain, received the 2015 Kekoo Naoroji Award for Himalayan literature. He was writer-in-residence for ten years at MIT and directed the writing programme at the American University in Cairo. He is founding director of the Mussoorie Writers Mountain Festival.e.

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