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The Snow Leopard

4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  6,873 ratings  ·  502 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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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Lisa (Harmonybites)
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
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 of getting to it soon, but didn't realize he had this whole other nonfiction output. I read the Snow Leopard after I read his obit three weeks ago and discovered he was the only person (?) to win the National Book Award for BOTH fiction and nonfiction. OK, so, maybe it was time to throw off my veil of ignorance and start reading some Matthiess ...more
Grace Johnson
Aug 09, 2008 Grace Johnson rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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

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
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
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
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
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.
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
Lars Guthrie
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 5 of 5 stars  ·  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.
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
Paul Cheney
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
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
Kevin Lawrence
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.
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
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
Josh Hogan
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
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,
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
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
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
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
This book had nothing to do with snow leopards. So it was, in that sense, not what I wanted or expected. The book is a mediocre travelogue, and only barely a piece of naturalist writing.

Matthiessen is writing about a spiritual journey, about buddhism, and about Zen, which he overly simply almost equates with the Buddhism he encounters in Tibet. I have read a bit of Zen material, am very interested in it, and meditate regularly myself. This however, did not lead to my being interested in the aut
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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
Arun Divakar
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
The author journeys across the Himalaya into Tibet facing the mountains and his true self. High in the mountains, awesome in their stillness and silence and yet vibrating with energy, Emptiness is only an illusion that contains all Life. Looking through clear air at a landscape of snow and rocks shimmering in the sunlight the author perceives his own reflection as he takes part in the perpetuating life, but realizes that he’s unable to completely abandon his thought habits and freely follow the ...more
Nov 19, 2008 Patricia rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: travelers, hikers, explorers, Buddhists
I discovered a lot about myself by reading this book; one, I love learning about the spiritual experiences of authors, two, I love learning about people that culturally different than me, and three, I don't particularly like reading about the particulars of the terrain. I don't think I would have had the same response has I read this book thirty years ago. I know a little about spiritual development and Buddhism, so I appreciated the author's comments about both. However, I was, as usually, disa ...more
Eugene Miya
To set my context: I read this book a long time ago (about 1980) with interests in Nepal and Pakistan for travel and going climbing. I had rough geography and history "lessons" reading Herzog (acquaintances went there), Everest accounts, and Karakorum expeditions. I grew up in a US community where Buddhism is quite common (typified by my friend Alan, now a dentist).

Matthiessen sounds whiny. I'm almost unable to fathom why readers like this book. Sure, I'm sorry he lost his wife. My opinion of th
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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...
Shadow Country In the Spirit of Crazy Horse At Play in the Fields of the Lord In Paradise Killing Mister Watson

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“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.” 36 likes
“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.” 28 likes
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