What's on Your Bookshelf? #3 Article

Mountain Leader and trail running coach Rachel Sheldrake shares some picks from her home climbing library...

Rachel Sheldrake's climbing bookshelf.  © UKC Articles
Rachel Sheldrake's climbing bookshelf.

How is your bookshelf organised?

As well as all of our mountain-related books, my husband and I have books on running, cycling, triathlon, travel and more, and we are big map addicts too, so that's quite a lot to organise! Maps and mountain books live on one set of shelves (with a special section for his beloved Munro books); everything else is on the shelves on the other side the room, organised by sport. My work-related running books have a shelf of their own, next to my desk and my 'waiting to be read' pile is stacked up there too.

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

It probably has very little monetary value at all, but 'The Adventure Alternative' by Colin Mortlock has brought massive value to my life in so many ways. I devoured it as a young, impressionable Outdoor Education student, and the principles and theories of the benefits of having adventure in our lives remain at the heart of my life and work today. For the £6.95 it cost me from Fred Holdsworth's bookshop in Ambleside, I'd say I've had pretty good value for money.

What was the first climbing book you bought?

It's not strictly a climbing book as such, but 'Mountaincraft and Leadership' by Eric Langmuir was the first book I purchased to learn about ropework, knots, belaying and everything else I needed to know. It was my bible then as I learned my craft in the mountains, and I still refer to it from time to time even now.

Which is the oldest book?

I bought Wainwright's 'The Eastern Fells' back in 1986 when I moved to Ambleside as a very excited student who'd never been to the Lake District before. I fell in love with the detail of the words and illustrations, and it helped me to learn my way around my new neighbourhood very quickly. In my head I can't help but read it in Wainwright's voice!

Which is the last book you bought?

'The Lost Art of Running' by Shane Benzie – and it was such an interesting and useful read. I learned so much about the human body, how it moves thanks to connectivity and elasticity, and what we can do to improve that. It's one of those books that I just couldn't put down!

Which is the last fiction book you read?

Having enjoyed his well-known book 'The Kite Runner', I went on to read 'A Thousand Splendid Suns' by Khaled Hosseini, a story of love and friendship in Kabul, Afghanistan. It's a pretty gripping read and a bit of a tear-jerker too.

And the last non-fiction book?

I've just finished reading 'The Miracle Pill' by Peter Walker. Written during the first lockdown, it's a fascinating, and frightening, insight into the impact of falling physical activity levels on the state of our nation's health and well-being. Walker presents a strong argument as to how increasing our daily movement levels even just a little could have a really positive impact on health. I thought I was a pretty active person until I read this, but it's helped me to see how I could and should do so much more. This is one of those books I think everyone needs to read.

Which is your favourite book on the shelf?

This was such a hard one to choose! There were some strong contenders, with several books that have really captured and engaged me over the years. I could have chosen 'One and Two Halves to K2', James Ballard's gripping take of taking his young children to visit the mountain where their mother lost her life. Equally, I loved John Ridgway's 'Road to Elizabeth', an epic tale of an adventure in the Peruvian Andes. But in the end, I've settled on 'Clouds From Both Sides' by the late Julie Tullis. In my younger years I spent hours and hours lost in that book, in total and utter awe of what she had achieved as a climber. I wanted to be like her.

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

I've read it so many times already and would happily read it over and over again, so for this I choose 'Feet in the Clouds – a Tale of Fell Running and Obsession' by Richard Askwith. Easy to read, his experiences really resonate with me, and every time I read it, I learn something new about fell-running. It's everything I want in a good book, and if I was to write one myself, I'd want it to be like this.

What will you read next?

Next on my pile is 'The Living Mountain' by Nan Shepherd. Staying in Braemar last autumn, the cottage owners had kindly left a pile of mountain-related books by the bed and it caught my eye. I didn't get a chance to read it then (because of another book mentioned above!) but a kind friend has just passed her copy to me so I'm looking forward to getting stuck into an insight into Cairngorm life.

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18 May

What a great set of books. I'd have real difficulty deciding on what would be mine!

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