What's on Your Bookshelf? Article

© Natalie Berry

Ian Fenton kicks off a new series discussing our home libraries...


One for the bibliophiles... During the pandemic, reading has provided an escape from the stress and uncertainty of the COVID-19 lockdowns. While unable to climb, many of us have sought refuge in books to let our imaginations return to the mountains. In this new series, we take a look at some collections of climbing and non-climbing literature. It's unlikely that any could rival David Price's enviable library (UKC article) in scope and scale, but there are no doubt some cherished collections with interesting titles to be shared.

Ian Fenton's book shelf.  © Ian Fenton
Ian Fenton's book shelf.
© Ian Fenton

First up: climbing instructor Ian Fenton, who kindly suggested the idea for a series on bookshelf-nosing...


How is your bookshelf organised?

I would be lazy and have them quite random, but my wife Bev likes a bit of tidiness, so they are arranged according to size, and then secondly by author. So there's a tip to authors: please produce your books in the same format!

Which do you think is the most valuable book on your shelf?

I guess I have never bought a book for its value, only because I wanted to read it. It is said that Extreme Rock is quite valuable due to the loss of the printing plates, but I still pick it up regularly so it would never go up for sale.

What was the first climbing book you bought?

I'm not too sure about this – my school used to get Climber and Rambler every month, and it was binned after a month, so I grabbed them. I used to have them all from my school days, but gave them to Awesome Walls Sheffield for brew-time reading when they opened. I think my first bought book would be either Don Whillans', Joe Brown's, or Chris Bonington's biography, although Burnley library had a brilliant climbing and mountaineering section, so many were borrowed from there.

Which is the oldest book?

This is definitely La Chaîne du Mont-Blanc, I think it was published in 1928. I used to look for second-hand books, as I love the character they seem to ooze; who has owned them, why did they own them and what have they done? I have reeled this in in recent times.

La Chaîne du Mont Blanc.  © Ian Fenton
La Chaîne du Mont Blanc.
© Ian Fenton

Which is the the last book you bought?

Well, if you include guidebooks, Kalymnos by Rockfax, part of the planning for later this year. Other than that, I guess the latest Hard Rock. I'm still planning to do a few of these this year, and I've not done one of the new routes in this edition, so that means planning a Scottish mountain trip either this spring or autumn.

Which is the last fiction book you read?

Hitman Anders and the Meaning of it All by Jonas Jonasson, I enjoyed the strange links in The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared and this is similar. The 'many crates of Moldovan red wine' sounded interesting and to be tested whilst reading in an evening.

And the last non-fiction book?

Well, discounting guidebooks this must be Man vs Ocean by Adam Walker. What can you say about this? Best summed up by its own description: 'In 2007 Adam, then a toaster salesman, was inspired by a film about a man attempting to change his life by swimming the English Channel to try to emulate the feat.' He does, then moves on to try to complete the 'Ocean's Seven' challenge. Open water swimming is expanding, this moves towards its limits.

Which is your favourite book on the shelf?

I guess I would have to try to slip a few in here! All the Hard, Classic, Extreme, Alpine Rock etc. series would have to be in there, motivation and pleasure for forty-odd years. I always enjoy re-reading any/all of Martin Moran's books and having seen him lecture at Burnley Mechanics (all the best lectured at either Burnley Library, or later Burnley Mechanics) he inspired me to believe I could make a living in the outdoors. Alison Hargreaves' A Hard Day's Summer I always enjoy, and slightly more recently any of Nick Bullock's always bring either sweaty palms or a chuckle.

The inevitable Desert Island question: if you could choose only one book, which would you take with you?

I could cheat and select an omnibus! If I did it would be the The Boardman Tasker Omnibus, but really I flip-flop between five of my climbing books: Learning to Breathe by Andy Cave, The Push by Tommy Caldwell, Echoes by Nick Bullock, A Hard Day's Summer by Alison Hargreaves and Alps 4000 by Martin Moran. So which to take? Definitely Alps 4000 by Martin Moran – it inspires me, motivates me to travel through Europe, and gets me thinking about getting out my bike, but most importantly it's an understated, rarely acknowledged and stunning achievement.

What will you read next?

Well with the way travel is going at the moment I think we are planning a Scotland trip in May, so I think maybe Gary Latter's Scottish Rock version two will be ordered in the near future, as I do like to read and plan. The only problem being time, money, ability and aches and pains! Other than those, no problem, many more books and adventures...

Love books? Take part in our UKC Book Club thread. Also, if you've got an impressive or interesting book collection you'd like to share, get in touch!



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21 Jan

Interesting theme. Here's my current collection (minus guidebooks).

The inspiration station.

21 Jan

Mountaineering and non-mountaineering - not very methodical and often get put back in a different place! These are some of the mountaineering ones.

21 Jan

Nice idea! Here’s the mostly climbing bookshelf in my office. There are four other non-climbing ones...

22 Jan

Does everyone tidy their bookcase before posting?

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