From ancient times, visitors coming to Nepal have been fascinated by Nepal’s unique beauty and culture. Nepal has inspired several personal accounts, some of them very scholarly, and some quite personal. From among hundreds here are some of the noteworthy memoirs of Nepal.
An account of the Kingdom of Nepaul
By William Kirkpatrick
Colonel William Kirkpatrick was the first European to officially enter Nepal, in 1793 AD, as a head of an East India Company mission. And since that was before the people of Nepal decided how their country would be spelled in English, Kirkpatrick’s spelling held sway for a long time. First of all, this book not only introduced Nepal to the outer world at a time when little was known about the Himalayan kingdom, it also laid the foundations for western scholarship of Nepal for generations to come. Many successive writers even borrowed the book’s title and wrote their accounts of the kingdom of ‘Nepaul.’
By Thomas Bell
The exotic country of Nepal continues to fascinate and lure many, and the latest to join this crowd is the young writer Thomas Bell. His extensively researched book has been praised by many for its astute handling of information. A memoir in parts and a history book, this book takes a meandering walk through the timeline of Kathmandu. It begins even before human settlement in Kathmandu, and ends in recent times. Its languid language makes it a pleasure to read for the layperson, and it is treasure trove of information for specialists.
Don’t let the goats eat the loquat trees
By Thomas Hale
While most historical books about Nepal are scholarly, in modern times we have also had writers who see the humorous side of being in a completely alien culture. Every gesture has an uncertain meaning, and the locals are not as pleasant as described in idealistic books. The viewpoint of Dr. Thomas Hale, a missionary and a doctor, are very engaging for local and foreign audiences alike. Read this book to find out how the things that are taken for granted in one culture can seem completely baffling to an outsider.
Lost on Everest: The Search for Mallory and Irvine
By Peter Firstbrook
Even before Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hilary conquered the tallest mountain in the world, many attempts had been made on Mt. Everest. The most famous of them continues to be the attempt by Mallory and Irvine. Many people still believe that the duo managed to climb the mountain, and since they were only seen climbing up and their bodies were never found, the mystery endures to this day. Mallory’s words “because it’s there,” in response to why he wanted to climb the mountain, have given this story a soul and have immortalized him. This book traces several facets of Mallory and Irvine’s journey.
Nepal: Historical study of a Hindu Kingdom
By Sylvain Levi
Sylvian Levy was one of the first few foreigners allowed into Nepal before it opened to the world in 1950. Levy’s visits to Nepal were concluded before 1928, at the prime of the Rana era. As such, his account of Nepal is not just a work of literature but also of history. Levy was famously known to be more knowledgeable in Sanskrit than priests, and is supposed to have recognized several architectural treasures that were ignored by the contemporary society. His writing was backed up by extensive research and scholarship. Though many of his pronouncements remain debated, the book is still read for its historical values.
Into Thin Air
By John Krakauer
In modern times, books about Nepal have mostly tended to focus on its mountains. Into Thin Air is perhaps the most famous example of this. A tragedy in 1996 when eight mountaineers died on Everest caught the attention of the world. Krakauer was a part of the ill-fated expedition, and was able to write a firsthand account of it. The book attracted a lot of controversy from mountaineers, dealing with a sensitive subject as it did. But it also highlighted Nepal and the dangers associated with mountaineering as a sport.