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The Snow Leopard

4.12  ·  Rating Details ·  8,603 Ratings  ·  601 Reviews
In the autumn of 1973, the writer Peter Matthiessen set out in the company of zoologist George Schaller on a hike that would take them 250 miles into the heart of the Himalayan region of Dolpo, "the last enclave of pure Tibetan culture on earth." Their voyage was in quest of one of the world's most elusive big cats, the snow leopard of high Asia, a creature so rarely spott ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 334 pages
Published 1979 by Bantam (first published August 30th 1978)
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    Joan O'Connor This book was the reason why I went to Nepal as a 20-something, hiking the Himalayas on my own, sleeping in tea-houses, eating dahlbat everyday and…moreThis book was the reason why I went to Nepal as a 20-something, hiking the Himalayas on my own, sleeping in tea-houses, eating dahlbat everyday and still reminiscing 30 years later about the best time in my life. This book will spark that interest in you and prompt you to search yourself.(less)
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    Community Reviews

    (showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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    Nov 27, 2015 Darwin8u rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: aere-perennius, 2014
    “The sun is roaring, it fills to bursting each crystal of snow. I flush with feeling, moved beyond my comprehension, and once again, the warm tears freeze upon my face. These rocks and mountains, all this matter, the snow itself, the air- the earth is ringing. All is moving, full of power, full of light.”
    ― Peter Matthiessen, The Snow Leopard


    I'm a little embarrassed to say I hadn't paid attention to much of Matthiessen's work before he died. I had Shadow Country on my shelf and every intention o
    Apr 06, 2016 Cody rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    This is one of the more beautifully written books I can remember reading. Descriptions of the flora, fauna and Himalayan villages were all very well done. Matthiessen's writing made it very easy for me to imagine the high reaching peaks and snow covered passes that gave the expedition so much trouble. His descriptions of the villages really made me pause to consider the hardships that such a life would entail. We also get to meet some fun characters along the way. GS is an interesting guy, but i ...more
    Lisa (Harmonybites)
    May 09, 2012 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
    Recommends it for: Those Who <i>Love</i> Pop Mysticism
    Matthiessen's The Snow Leopard is his account of his two months in Nepal. He was invited along by field biologist George Schaller on his expedition to study Himalayan Blue Sheep--and perhaps catch a glimpse of the elusive snow leopard. (Said in the book to consist of only 120 remaining individuals. Thankfully, at least according to the Wiki, the current population is estimated to be in the thousands.) So on September 28 of 1973 "two white sahibs, four Sherpas, fourteen porters" assembled to make ...more
    Grace Johnson
    Aug 09, 2008 Grace Johnson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    Recommended to Grace by: Simon Avery
    I really took my time with this book. I didn't want to be disturbed by the sounds of subway trains, interrupted by phone calls or daily trivialities. This wasn't a read I just 'fit in' but truly savored. And oh, my heart hurts a little now that it is over. It is a slow book, and thus may not appeal to those looking for action or conclusion even. It is a book that celebrates the spark of life that propels us towards transcending our heavy human existence in pursuit of something...more. Here, the ...more
    Mar 02, 2010 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

    A masterpiece of travel and nature writing that gloriously transcends both genres. This is one of the best books I've ever read in the English language. Yes, that's right. I'm including a quote at the end of this review so you can see what I'm talking about. When you get to that quote, try reading it aloud. The beauty of those words spoken will break your heart.

    At age 46, in 1973, Peter Matthiessen walked, with biologist George Schaller, from Kathmandu to the Crystal Mountain in Tibet and beyond
    David Schaafsma
    I have taken months since reading it to finally write this (long) review, 3/11/16:

    Here's some selections from the Book, so you can see his spirit, his Buddhist nature, and his love of language, without my intervention or commentary:

    “The secret of the mountain is that the mountains simply exist, as I do myself: the mountains exist simply, which I do not. The mountains have no "meaning," they are meaning; the mountains are. The sun is round. I ring with life, and the mountains ring, and when I can
    Aug 15, 2013 Jessica rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: travel-writing
    I don't want it to seem like I didn't enjoy this book. I did. You do get a feel for how liberating, calming, centering, that it would be to walk out of the modern world to the cold and quiet mountains and let it all go…all the complications and illusions of life. He is a student of zen Buddhism and is trying to write a zen Buddhist book. I think if this were a different book I would like it better…but these people, this place…his attempt to be 'zen' all the time, it just feels detached and that ...more
    Nov 30, 2015 Carol rated it liked it
    The Hook - Peter Matthiessen passed away April 5, 2014 at the age of 86. I had read some of his fiction, loving the way his adventuresome novel Far Tartuga (1975) made me feel. I decided it was time to give this memoir, The Snow Leopard (1978) recounting his climb of Mount Everest in search of Blue Sheep and a quest to spot the elusive snow leopard a try.

    The Line – On Acceptance
    In its wholehearted acceptance of what is, this is just what Soen Roshi might have said: “I feel as if he had struck m
    Sometimes it's not till I finish a book that I realize how much I am in love with it. That's the case with this lovely travelogue, which smartly does not pretend to be anything that it is not. It's not given any frills or decoration, other than beautiful and inimitable descriptions of nature. It is a humble record of a man's journey through the Himalayas and his concurrent spiritual journey. To ask after the object of the journey is missing the point—and I hope this doesn't sound cheesy, as it d ...more
    Oct 05, 2011 Thalia rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
    I started reading this book, expecting to enjoy it. I love travelogues, natural history and animal discoveries, studying animal behavior... and I put this book down. Matthiessen's tone drove me bonkers. I may try it again later. He is not a lens through which to observe a part of the's all about him, and, quite frankly, I found him boring.
    Nuria Castaño monllor
    "Crezco en estas montañas como el musgo. Estoy hechizado. Los cegadores picos nevados y el aire sonoro, el ruido de la Tierra y los cielos en silencio, las aves sepultureras, los animales míticos, los estandartes, los grandes cuernos y las antiguas piedras labradas, los tártaros toscamente tallados, con sus trenzas y sus botas de fabricación casera, el hielo plateado en el Río Negro, el Kang, la Montaña de Cristal. También estoy enamorado de los milagros corrientes: el murmullo de mis amigos al ...more
    Mar 04, 2009 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    Read this, which I've had for years, in 3 days. Brilliant, vivid account of Matthiessen's journey with a biologist and a team of porters and sherpas through the quiet, snow-covered and strange Himalayas. The biologist is seeking to observe the rutting of the region's unique blue sheep. Matthiessen is seeking an encounter with the more secret snow leopard, a not-so-vieled metaphor to the real substance of the journey, which is a quest for enlightenment. Interwoven are reflections on the history o ...more
    Jun 18, 2008 Kara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    FIVE STARS AND BEYOND! This memoir chronicles, in the form of a daily log, the months-long trek Matthiessen took in the Himalaya with legendary wildlife biologist George Schaller. GS had planned the expedition to observe montane wildlife - primarily the snow leopard and its prey, the blue sheep. PM, a student of Buddhism, made the journey as a kind of pilgrimage after the death of his wife. Their ultimate destination was a range so remote it was nearly impenetrable by travelers and its villages ...more
    Lars Guthrie
    Feb 03, 2009 Lars Guthrie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    Cliches become cliches because of their truth. So noting that the journey is more important than the destination fits here, in a book whose title refers to the author's quest to view the snow leopard in its Himalayan habitat during a perilous late fall journey to the remote Dolpo region of Nepal, an area so far from the rest of the world that the author's traveling companion notes the total absence of machine sound, even the engine noise of a plane. Matthiessen fails to see the snow leopard, but ...more
    Jun 28, 2012 Sylvia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    Recommends it for: everyone who like travel stories with a deeper background
    This one of those books, that make you think deeply about the greatness of nature and how small mankind is. I'll make this book one of my all time favorites, because when I finished it, I wanted to start reading it again. There's so much in it to think about and so much that I missed reading this first time.
    I have a crush on countries with mountains, and especially those with snowcovered caps. Whenever I'm is Switzerland, or Norway I'm enjoying the great glaciers: those mighty rivers of ice.
    This is a beautifully written book of Matthiessen's journey to the roof of the world in Nepal. He is travelling with George Schaller, primarily to look for and study the wild blue sheep of the region. Whilst they are on there, they are hoping to spot a snow leopard, a rare almost mythical creature, that Schaller has glimpsed very occasionally.

    Matthiessen is a Zen Buddhist, and this for him is as much a spiritually journey as a physical one, and he uses the metaphorical journey to look back at ev
    Kevin Lawrence
    Dec 22, 2014 Kevin Lawrence rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    Read years before as a young man interested in travel/nature writing: recently, I lost one of my beloved dogs and so I read this again more as a journey about mourning and exploring Buddhist principles. Really a beautiful book that one can get a good feel for by sharing a haiku written by the field biologist Matthiessen accompanies through this Himalayan region:

    Cloud-men beneath loads.
    A dark line of tracks in Snow.
    Suddenly nothing.
    Jul 06, 2010 Melanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    I read this in Laos but lost it somewhere in Muang Khua, so had to wait until returning home to read the last 100 pages. Reading this while eating alone in restaurants gave the impression of a conversation with Matthiessen that stopped and started with my meals, and also lying in bed. Such an ideal way to read this book. It taught me some about Buddhism, about which I am extremely ignorant, and motivated me to learn more from different sources. In Nong Khiaw, a roach as big as a mouse crawled un ...more
    Josh Hogan
    Mar 23, 2009 Josh Hogan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    Matthiessen's book is now on my favorites list. The book is successful on many levels. First, this book is gripping as a travelogue, full of vibrant images and an otherworldly quality. Secondly, the book serves as an exploration of the author's struggle to come to terms with his wife, Deborah Love's, death the year before as well as his own fear of inadequacy as a father (e.g., he seems to struggle with the very fact that he has left his children for this epic journey to Inner Dolpo). Finally, M ...more
    This is a much revered book which I was looking forward to reading. It’s not a climbing book, though the long trek two man expedition contains its fair share of ardours that you’s expect to find at Himalayan altitudes. And actually, of course, the expedition is one of many men, the porters and Sherpas too. I would mention only that the attitude to the latter sometimes left me with a bad taste. With Matthiessen was zoologist George Schaller, and the prime purpose was to study the Himalayan bharal ...more
    May 12, 2011 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: favorites
    Just a beautiful book.

    Part personal memoir, part natural expedition, part cultural immersion. He takes the reader on his exploration and discoveries in Buddhism, mindfulness, sense of the moment. I can definitely see why people are so attracted to the Buddhist path.

    He writes with beautiful emotion, I experienced his joy when he thought of his children, his sorrows when he thought of his second wife, his frustration with his struggles along the path of Buddhism.

    The snow leopard takes on a mythica
    Feb 15, 2009 Theresa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: non-fiction
    For those who read this book a long time ago, when it won the National Book Award in 1978, and for those who have never availed themselves of the pleasure, I must break my lame habit of not reporting and encourage you to read (or re-read) this book. Peter Matthiessen treks with his biologist friend, GS, to the inner Dolpo region of the Himalaya - GS, to study the mating habits of the bharal ( a rare breed of "blue" sheep), and Matthiessen, to find himself after the death of his wife, nine months ...more
    Thanks to the stranger who left this book on the top of a trash can. I walked passed it once in the morning, then came back and still saw it there in the afternoon. Couldn't help it, I took it with me.

    I like it, in some way, and dislike it, in some other way. In the end I'm perplexed.

    The Snow Leopard has a great writing. It is quite beautiful and you want to merge into those mountains. Matthiessen is able to generate the atmosphere of western Tibet out of his words. It feels so quiet, just wind,
    Wow. What can I say about this stunning, luminous book? It deserves the accolades it received. It demonstrates that its author was a Great American Writer. It was published in 1978 but has not become tarnished over time. If it has been sitting on your shelf or your to-read list, you won't regret cracking it open. It is the kind of book you can read slowly over a long period. Even though there is a sustained narrative, each short journal entry (it is a travelogue basically, but one infused with m ...more
    What a versatile metaphor the snow leopard is: a rarely-seen predator you go on a quest to find by trekking into difficult, inhospitable territory; a hard-to-see feline that watches you closely, knowing where you are, but who you might miss even if you were looking right at it; an animal that could kill or maim you if it wanted but really just wants you away from its regular blue sheep prey, and an irresistible quarry for you, even if only to glimpse it for a few seconds, since those few moments ...more
    Howard Mansfield
    This is a great book. What’s at stake here is not seeing the famously elusive snow leopard, and not the physical rigors of the high-altitude trekking, but Matthiessen’s soul. He’s fighting not to fight, trying to get clear, to see things as they really are. He attains this sweet state momentarily, producing some of the most exalted passages in the book. The Zen teachings he seeks to embody are not unlike the snow leopard itself. They are known to be in the region, are seldom seen, but are one of ...more
    Arun Divakar
    Jul 27, 2011 Arun Divakar rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: favorites
    Traversing the mountainsides in the relative warmth of the huddle of human bodies in a closed vehicle, I heard the wind whipping outside. The valleys were green after the onset of the rains and the water in the river had a shade of turquoise to it. Far away on the mountainsides appearing and re appearing in the mist were the herds of Yak. There were dwellings of men scattered among the valleys and it always surprised and excited me to know of humans who lived amidst so much silence. On the slick ...more
    Roger Bailey
    This book was not what I was expecting. I was expecting a book about the biology, behavior and ecology of the snow leopard. What it was actually about was, first, a travelog, second, a popularized survey of the anthropology of the people who live in the range of the snow leopard and, a distant third, some mention of the wildlife of the Himalayas and there was more discussion of Himalayan goats than of snow leopards. This is not necessarily a bad thing because I might very well have read it anywa ...more
    May 18, 2010 Tony rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: science-nature
    "When you are ready," Buddhists say, "the teacher will appear."

    Jottings. Musings. This had moments of insight, but not enough of them for me. I understand the metaphor: that we don't always find what we seek, even if we get damn close; even if our neighbor, friend, lover does. And that maybe it is the journey which counts. Yet there seemed something contrived, Western about Matthiessen's reflections. I wanted to know more about the mountains, not the mountains as metaphor. Matthiessen seemed tor
    Jan 03, 2009 Donna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: essays-ideas
    I heard a recent interview with Peter Matthiessen, which inspired me to read the classic that made him revered among nature enthusiasts and spiritual seekers-of-meaning. I have found the book to be more of a meditation than an objective account of a journey, and I'm slowly absorbing it, a few passages at a time.

    It's interesting, sometimes even inspiring, but in terms of holding interest, I find it less than compelling. A stream-of-consciousness chronicle, it's a series of closely related observ
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    Monkeys and Mount...: * Book for January: The Snow Leopard 2 9 Feb 06, 2016 03:50AM  
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    Peter Matthiessen is the author of more than thirty books and the only writer to win the National Book Award for both non-fiction (The Snow Leopard, in two categories, in 1979 and 1980) and fiction (Shadow Country, in 2008). A co-founder of The Paris Review and a world-renowned naturalist, explorer and activist, he died in April 2014.
    More about Peter Matthiessen...

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    “The secret of the mountain is that the mountains simply exist, as I do myself: the mountains exist simply, which I do not. The mountains have no "meaning," they are meaning; the mountains are. The sun is round. I ring with life, and the mountains ring, and when I can hear it, there is a ringing that we share. I understand all this, not in my mind but in my heart, knowing how meaningless it is to try to capture what cannot be expressed, knowing that mere words will remain when I read it all again, another day.” 47 likes
    “And only the enlightened can recall their former lives; for the rest of us, the memories of past existences are but glints of light, twinges of longing, passing shadows, disturbingly familiar, that are gone before they can be grasped, like the passage of that silver bird on Dhaulagiri.” 45 likes
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