Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Ascent of Rum Doodle” as Want to Read:
The Ascent of Rum Doodle
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Ascent of Rum Doodle

3.75  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,055 Ratings  ·  126 Reviews
First published in 1956, The Ascent of Rum Doodle quickly became a mountaineering classic. As an outrageously funny spoof about the ascent of a peak in the Himalayas, many thought it was inspired by the 1953 conquest of Everest. But Bowman had drawn on the flavor and tone of earlier adventures, of Bill Tilman and his 1937 account of the Nandi Devi expedition. The book’s ce ...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published October 1st 2001 by Random House UK (first published January 1st 1956)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Ascent of Rum Doodle, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Ascent of Rum Doodle

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,218)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jun 02, 2012 Jogle rated it really liked it
For reasons associated with but not limited to having no friends, I arrived one night alone and at very short notice in Kathmandu. The prehistoric taxi from the airport was assembled from many previously fossilised taxis, and after only a few hundred exhilarating yards, violently disassembled on unsurprisingly crashing into what I assumed was the target motorcycle. The ensuing melee moved almost seamlessly into my trek on foot, carrying a rucksack (passably similar to an American ‘backpack’) con ...more
Oct 11, 2012 Rhys rated it it was amazing
The second funniest work of fiction I have ever read... It's a good example of British surrealism. The British never really regarded surrealism as a serious artform and most examples of British surrealism are in fact strange comedies with no especial interest in the concerns of the original Surrealists (Freudian psychology, automatic writing, unpalatable honesty regarding sexual desires, etc).

This novel stands comparison with *Three Men in a Boat* or *Diary of a Nobody* but it's much more extrem
The Ascent of Rum Doodle is a parody on mountaineers and as with all parodies there are people who love them and others who really don't see anything in them. I'm a bit in the middle of these two. The writing was over the top and there were lots of funny paragraphs - I just didn't laugh as much as I had hoped. My expectations were very high, especially because Bill Bryson in the foreword calls this the funniest book he ever read. It is funny, just not as funny as I thought. Sometimes it was also ...more
I love the serendipity of books. 1 month ago I discover this obscure and forgotten spoof on my bibliophilic son's ever growing bookshelves. Today I find a reference to it in another book I am reading... !

In this age of political correctness and sensitivities to all kinds of imagined slights The Ascent of Rum Doodle could never be written.for this reason alone it deserves to be rediscovered and celebrated. Thank God for a time when people could see the funny side of things without taking offence
Gary Hoffman
Jan 04, 2014 Gary Hoffman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, humor
An overlooked classic. Read it in a single sitting. Extremely silly, in a good way, and often funny enough to bring tears.
Dec 25, 2013 Jamie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Absolutely hilarious, giggled like a schoolgirl all the way through. I'm off to meditate on the responsibilities of leadership...
A classic British comic novel about a shambolic Himalayan mountaineering expedition. Perhaps a forgotten classic - it's been familiar to me for a long time and I didn't know it wasn't well-known until I read Bill Bryson's introduction. He compares it with Diary of a Nobody - the narrator is similarly incompetent, though perhaps marginally less pompous. (There's an awful lot happening, so less time to be so.) There's also a touch of Goonish / Pythonesque surrealism and a dash of Ealing charm. And ...more
Jan 29, 2014 Eric rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of farcical humor
Shelves: humor, audiobooks
I added this book to my to-read shelf after reading this blog post. After reading it, I fully endorse it as worthy of adding to your to-read shelf as well.

The premise is straightforward. Binder -- who is, to give a modern equivalent, very similar to Michael Scott from The Office -- is leading an expedition to ascend to the top of the Rum Doodle mountain peak. His companions include a translator that appears to not know the native language, a doctor who remains sick with various maladies, a navig
Sep 24, 2014 Ilona rated it it was ok
Shelves: gave-up-on, humour, 2014
I think Bill Bryson is one of the funniest authors out there. Bill Bryson thinks Rum Doodle is one of the funniest books out there. Therefore, I should find Rum Doodle extremely funny, right?


That was my reasoning when I picked the book up from the library, but no. I could see where the humour was, for sure. I smiled regularly for the first two or three chapters. I probably would have kept smiling if I'd kept reading, but the story didn't grip me, and the humour wasn't sufficient to keep me
Tiago Vitória
Apr 16, 2015 Tiago Vitória rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mountaineers
I have to be really honest about this book. I couldn't enjoy it. To be honest, Bowman's style of writing it is really tiring and I was often drifting with my focus on the book. Although I have to say that's probably my problem and not Bowman's. As a matter of fact his writing is surprisingly good and very well polished. What I did not like about the book it's the fact that almost every part of it seems like a sitcom, everything is happening and nothing seems to happen. The characters are dull an ...more
Mar 23, 2016 Alistair rated it really liked it
Rum Doodle is one of the funniest, silliest (in the best sense!) books I've ever read. Bill Bryson's commendation on the cover is spot on: "One of the funniest books you will ever read." A spoof of the mountaineering community in the early 20th century, Bowman's deadpan style of delivery is a sheer delight. Take just one passage; one of the has had a fixation with fiancees ever since a child(!?) To distract his attention his parents give him a catapult. "Except for the additional expenses of bro ...more
Dieses Buch ist einfach unglaublich lustig! Freunde des trockenen und subtilen Humors werden an dieser Bergsteigergeschichte definitiv ihren Spaß haben. Ich kann es nur empfehlen. Leider ist es relativ kurz :/
Jan 26, 2011 Mimi rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2011
Loaned to me by a friend who said, "this book is very funny." I couldn't agree with the assessment more. It was a good treadmill read, although I nearly fell off a couple of times.
Dec 19, 2014 Erasergirl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am delighted to find that after 37 years as a used bookseller, i can still discover a new favorite book and fall in love. Though I am slightly embarrassed that I am only discovering Rum Doodle NOW, but perhaps books come along in your life just when you need them. The Ascent of Rum Doodle can only be described as a Good Show epic running on all cylinders. The conquering of a mountain has never and will never be this funny. Give this book to someone whose never ending devotion you wan to earn, ...more
S.P. Moss
Jul 23, 2014 S.P. Moss rated it really liked it
'The team spirit remains first-rate and the porters are splendid.'

A little gem of a book, this is a spoof on British mountaineering literature of the early to mid 20th century. It's purportedly written by the leader of the expedition, an endearingly clueless character who carries on regardless (and oblivious) to the obvious disdain in which he's viewed by his team. These include the usual suspects of scientist, photographer, route-finder, translator, doctor and Army
Jun 02, 2014 A.K. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a farcical story of a group of "climbers" setting out to tackle the daunting (and imaginary) summit of Rum Doodle. It's told in first person by a decidedly non-omniscient narrator who observes the laziness and bickering of his climbing team with unfailingly naive goodwill. I enjoyed the dry, subtle humor--laugh-out-loud in many places. A bit slow at times, but all-in-all a funny read. I'd probably give it 3.5 stars if I had the option, but it deserves to be rounded up rather than down.
Apr 22, 2014 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best comic novels I have ever read. Extremely well observed and deserves to be thought of as one of the true classics of comic literature along with P.G.Wodehouse. I particularly loved the leader of the expedition who exemplifies the stereotype of the optimistic but not at all worldly British ex-public schoolboy.
Jul 05, 2014 Ape rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
Suitably silly book sending up the good old sort stereotypical English gentleman adventurer. This little band are off to climb Rum Doodle in Yogistani, convinced of their superiority in all things - thank goodness the porters were there to keep an eye on them! It's a funny read although I got a little weary of it towards the end, despite it not being that long. Not sure why, maybe I'm not enough of a mountaineer to enjoy, or maybe the repetition of the leader having to ask everyone about his fia ...more
Mar 27, 2015 Susan rated it really liked it
They are an odd and pretty inept bunch. the guide who cannot find his way anywhere, the interpreter who seems to spend all his time offending the locals by his mispronunciation, the doctor who succumbs to every illness real and imaginary and a totally useless leader who spends all his time sorting out issues and not being much of a leader as they all take advantage of his as a soft touch.

It is written as a kind of 'Jeeves and Wooster' humour and in the same langiage/tone. Wittiy and totally unbe
Dec 01, 2009 Joe rated it really liked it
Shelves: nepal
You will find this book promnently on the front shelf of every bookstore in Thamel, the neighborhood of Kathmandu where all the mountaineers stay when in town, going to- or coming-back. Wonderful parody.
Ein Buch über die Herausforderungen der Natur und der unbedingte Wunsch des stolzen Menschen (bzw. hier: Mannes), jegliche Herausforderung sofort als persönlich Beleidigung des eigenen Mut und Überlegenheit anzunehmen.
Bowman ist sich aber durchaus bewußt, dass sogar der stolzeste und nobelste Mann nach und nach zu einem egoistischen Menschen werden kann, der immer versuchen wird, den Weg des geringsten Widerstandes zu gehen, wenn widrige Umstände nichts anderes zulassen.
Der Chef der Expidition
Jan 19, 2014 Chrystal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
While reading this book, be prepared for the question to be asked of you repeatedly, "What is so funny?"
Dec 07, 2012 Nicole rated it really liked it
It wasn't hilarious, but it was amusing. Short read as well.
Chris Amies
Aug 21, 2013 Chris Amies rated it really liked it
The story of the attempt to conquer the world's highest mountain, the 40000-and-a-half-foot Rum Doodle. Featuring a navigator who keeps getting lost, a physician who is always sick, and a supporting (often literally) cast of porters who speak in belches. Then there is the food prepared by the dreaded Yogistani Cook, Pong -- who can even make a ghastly mess out of high-quality tinned provisions.

Well, yes, it is a spoof, as though you hadn't guessed. For some reason given the British fondness for
Ian Russell
This is the second novel in a row I’ve spent too long reading. At a little over 130 pages, I think an experienced eye could manage this in one or two sessions, and would be better for it. I thought the story would make a good half-hour comedy drama for TV or radio; it’s the kind of situation humour that’s sketched out around a handful of running gags; the bad food, the unsuitability of each character for his assigned specialism, the question of fiancées, and the number 153.

That’s not to say I d
Jun 13, 2009 Nikki rated it it was amazing
It is difficult to sustain parody through the length of a novel, even a short (171 pages) one such as The Ascent of Rum Doodle. Yes W. E. Bowman's subtle humor seldom palls and indeed the book grows funnier the further one reads.
The Ascent of Rum Doodle purports to be a report of a British mountain-climbing expedition, and the tone is perfect. Although it was published not long after the conquest of Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, it is said to have been inspired by an earlier
Aug 22, 2015 Henry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This without a shadow of a doubt is the funniest book I've read. I believe I can understand as well as to why exactly it never reached the dizzy heights which it deserves to be acknowledges as it was ahead of its time.

In many ways the premise is simple. The Doctor who's ill, the navigator who gets lost, the cook whose meals are inedible, but it's Bowman's writing that makes it feel fresh and a delight to find out what happens next.

It's the first time I have had truly uncontrollable laughter and
Arunn Narasimhan
May 10, 2014 Arunn Narasimhan rated it really liked it
A farce and a parody (of course, on mountain climbing) mixed disproportionately, resulting in being neither in the end, but providing few good laughs throughout. The books is a forgotten classic, the only one from the author it seems, with the surviving copy obtained from his wife by Bill Bryson for making a reprint. Certainly worth a read for that effort by Bill for whom the book was a childhood delight.
Jan 15, 2015 Teresa rated it really liked it
Shelves: humor
I'm not sure that my review could do this book justice. The quote by Bill Bryson is the on that sums it up for me. "One of the funniest books you will ever read." That is a pretty bold statement and I was skeptical. However, I laughed out loud in about every chapter. Although it's written about a mountain climbing event, it absolutely pertains to any team or committee pursuit. Having the "photographs" and "real life" drawings in the middle just as though it was a true documentary made it even fu ...more
Feb 22, 2016 Julie rated it liked it
While this isn’t ‘one of the funniest books you will ever read’ as Bill Bryson suggests in his introduction to my Pimlico edition of The Ascent of Rum Doodle, it does have its moments. It’s a great idea – mountaineering literature being ripe for parody, but the jokes (largely focused on individual character traits of the expedition members) are stretched rather thin by the end.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 73 74 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Augustus Carp, Esq. By Himself Being the Autobiography of a Really Good Man
  • No Bed for Bacon
  • The Harpole Report
  • Ennui
  • Mister Johnson
  • Slouching Towards Kalamazoo
  • Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House
  • The Polyglots
  • Towards the End of the Morning
  • The Wimbledon Poisoner
  • Brewster's Millions
  • According to Queeney
  • A Fairy Tale of New York
  • Pictures from an Institution
  • The Adventures of Gil Blas
  • The History Man
  • Whisky Galore
  • England, Their England

Share This Book