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The Living Mountain: A Celebration of the Cairngorm Mountains of Scotland

(The Grampian Quartet #4)

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  2,599 ratings  ·  375 reviews
The Living Mountain is a lyrical testament in praise of the Cairngorms. It is a work deeply rooted in Nan Shepherd's knowledge of the natural world, and a poetic and philosophical meditation on our longing for high and holy places. Drawing on different perspectives of the mountain environment, Shepherd makes the familiar strange and the strange awe-inspiring. Her sensitivi ...more
95 pages
Published October 27th 1977 by AberdeenUniversity Press
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Kris
One autumn afternoon, about ten years ago, I sat on a mountainside in Colorado surrounded by aspens. As the wind blew, I could hear the leaves rustle, first from far away, then closer and closer, until I felt the wind in my hair, with leaves rustling loudly overhead. Then slowly, the rustling moved further away, until the sequence started again. Sitting, listening with all my senses, made me feel a part of the mountain. I could smell the autumn leaves, feel a slight chill in the air, hear and fe ...more
Spencer Orey
Mar 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, birds
This was gorgeous, short, and profound. It's like a long prose poem, based on numerous trips into the mountains.

I think the Robert Macfarlane quote on the back of the book sets it up really nicely: "Most works of mountain literature are written by men, and most of them focus on the goal of the summit. Nan Shepherd's aimless, sensual exploration of the Cairngorms is bracingly different."

I've never really thought about mountains before. I've lived near mountains, or at least near enough to see the
...more
Caroline
Apr 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Cairngorm mountains of Scotland, explored in extraordinary depth, and over many years, by the poet, novelist and academic Nan Shepherd. She wrote four books in six years, and then there was nothing. She didn't publish another book for 43 years. She wrote The Living Mountain in the last years of The Second World War - and then it was put away in a drawer for 40 years. It was finally published by Aberdeen University in 1977.

Each chapter covers a different facet of the mountains -"The Plateau
...more
Ken
Mar 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nan Shepherd logged decades in Scotland's Cairngorms, a mountain range in that country's northeast, and wrote a book about her relationship with those mountains in the 1940s. The Living Mountain did not see print, however, until the 1970s. And now, among a subset of nature-writing fans, it is a mini-classic of sorts, a Scottish Walden born of the mountains instead of a pond.

Will you like it? We all love the natural world, as a rule, but the true test is how much you love description. Though ther
...more
Marc
Jun 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At first glance, this seems like a deceptively simple and modest book: Nan Shepherd describes her experiences and explorations in the Cairgorm Mountains in northeastern Scotland, a region she has lived in for decades, in the first halve of the 20th century. The Cairgorms is in essence a huge granite plateau (one of the highest in Europe), with a few bulges, cut through by unsightly rivers, some lochs and especially overgrown with heather. All in all a very scanty landscape where the wind is the ...more
Brian Robbins
Mar 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: natural-world
Considering it was barely 100 pages long, this book took a long time to read, even taking into account the 2 week break when I left it behind when going on holiday. It took time because it deserved time - to give it a thoroughly focused, slow reading. The chapters layered different aspects of the Cairngorms, one on top of another. beginning with the geology and overall structure of them, she worked through a variety of natural aspects of them, leading up to plants, birds & man.

However, this was
...more
Chrissie
The full title of this book is The Living Mountain: A Celebration of the Cairngorm Mountains of Scotland. The author and poet, Nan Shepherd (1893-1981), was born, spent much of her life and died in Aberdeen, Scotland. Her Alma mater was Aberdeen University and after graduation she lectured English at the Aberdeen College of Education. Aberdeen was home to Nan and the Cairngorm Mountains, sixty-six miles distant, might be called her “back yard”.

Here in this book she writes of what she has experi
...more
Rebecca
This is something of a lost nature classic that has been championed by Robert Macfarlane (who contributes a 25-page introduction to this Canongate edition). Composed during the later years of World War II but only published in 1977, it’s Shepherd’s tribute to her beloved Cairngorms, a mountain region of Scotland. But it’s not a travel or nature book in the way you might usually think of those genres. It’s a subtle, meditative, even mystical look at the forces of nature, which are majestic but al ...more
Fiona
It’s hard for me to rate this because I know how revered Nan Shepherd’s writing is. Perhaps if I knew the Cairngorms better, I would have enjoyed this more. I’ve read many books about places I’ve never visited though and that hasn’t made a difference to me. 4 stars because the writing is sometimes beautiful but it’s just not for me.
Jennifer
Feb 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This slim book of essays is an account of Nan Shepherd's lifelong explorations of the Cairngorm mountains of Scotland. The Living Mountain is not a memoir (we learn little about Nan Shepherd beyond who she is when she's in the Cairngorms). Nor is it an adventure story filled with triumph and camaraderie and testosterone. It is perhaps described best as a love story between one person and a place.

It's become increasingly rare to have an intimate and lasting relationship with a wild space. If you
...more
Sean Blake
I'm a bit embarrassed when I say that I haven't explored much of Scotland, my home country. The parts I have explored have been incredible. The Isle of Harris (Western Isles) is one of my most recent explorations of Scotland, and what a beautiful part of the world it is. The edgy and cragged land of greens and greys, the long, winding single roads on the twisted hills, the purest, clearest waters, a piece of land far from conventional settlements.

Nan Shepherd's The Living Mountain has got me wan
...more
Paul
Dec 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Cairngorms are a mountain range roughly in the middle of Scotland, it is can be a breathtaking beautiful part of the world, but in bad weather can be harsh, unforgiving and unrelenting. This was a part of the world that Shepherd loved and lived close to all her life.

It is a short book, originally written during the Second World War, containing 12 chapters centred around aspects of the mountain range. She writes about the quality of the light up in the mountains, the water, how the landscape
...more
Hugh
A perfect miniature of nature writing, this book encapsulates a wide range of experiences amassed over years of exploring the high Cairngorms.
Olly L-J
Nov 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful tribute to the Cairngorm mountains.
This short book is beautifully written by someone who not only knew the mountains inside and out but is also passionate about walking and our relationship to the natural world.
Jaimella Shaikh
Jan 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Living Mountain is a poetic and philosophical account of the author's decades of wandering in the Cairngorms. Genre-defying, at times aimless, it is an intensely lyrical piece of writing, full of humility. Shepherd asserts that 'knowing another is endless' and over the years her wanderings took her across the plateaus and 'inside' the nooks and crannies of the hills. Not for her a quick tick of the summit.

I read this book before a winter climbing trip to the Cairngorms, and know I will revis
...more
Philippe
This is an attempt to experience and sing the living, total mountain. Not as a thing, or even as an ecosystem, but as a pulsating holon, of which the tiniest slivers of light and matter reflects the delicacy and wonder of the whole. Human beings who want to experience the grace of partaking in this web of life have to hone their humility, patience and quiescence, their powers of observation, curiosity and willingness to stray from the beaten path. And so the mountain turns into a metaphor for ou ...more
Radiantflux
25th book for 2020.

A beautiful short meditation of the Scottish Cairngorm mountains.

3-stars.
Terri
Where was my epiphany? I am sure it said on the tin that I was due one and I feel rather ripped off.
There is no doubt that The Living Mountain is a nice bit of writing and there were moments when I felt transported to the Cairngorms and into Shepherd's inner most musings on nature.
This is why I sat for so long on my rating. 3 or 4 star? What should it be? What did it deserve? Does the fact that I want to give it an uninspired 3 star mean that I am somehow less than cerebral and lacking depth o
...more
rosamund
Apr 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Now and then comes an hour when the silence is all but absolute, and listening to it one slips out of time. Such silence is not the a mere negation of sound. It is like a new element, and if water is still sounding with a low far-off murmur, it is no more than the last edge of an element we are leaving, as the last edge of land hangs on the mariner's horizon.

The reader of The Living Mountain is slowly submerged into a way of being new to them: to look at the natural world with absolute clarity
...more
Philippa
Sep 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
How to describe this book, which defies definition or genre to be something entirely its own. Robert Macfarlane who writes the forward ponders wether it is a geo-poetic quest, and I think this is the description that most appeals to me. It is nature writing, yes, but also an exploration of the self - how one discovers oneself in nature, and discovers nature as a force that shapes us - through contact or lack there of. Shepherd laments the lost art of communing with nature, and it was something t ...more
Melody
Sep 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Nan Shepherd loves to be high. If I didn't want to go to Scotland before I'm very keen now to go specifically to Cairngorms National Park. Nothing is overlooked. Everything bears some sort of spiritual punch. A meditation.
Graychin (D. Dalrymple)
In Celtic folklore and myth people go striding through the woods or climbing up a mountain only to pass some invisible frontier and suddenly find themselves in the land of Faerie. It’s dangerous and there’s no guarantee of return. You may go mad and find yourself risking life and limb for baubles.

So, at least, it seems to anyone observing your enchantment from the outside; so it will seem to you when you’re back again in your right mind and the world of men. But you’ll count the days until you
...more
Sophy H
Nov 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nature lovers, walkers, outdoorsy types, prose lovers
Nan Shepherd is my new Elizabeth Strout is my new Ellen Meloy!!

This book is one of my ultimate favourites of this year.

Nan Shepherd has a natural talent for writing about the outdoors. Her writing is simple, raw and honest, yet infinitely sublime. She details the inclemency of the Scottish Cairngorms and the hardiness of its older inhabitants (an old widow who is nearly blind living on a farm in the wilds of the hills but won't move to somewhere nearer to people because she's always been there
...more
Kirsty
Sep 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up at the GoMA library simply because I remembered that it is one of Ali Smith's favourites. It is hailed as 'one of the masterpieces of twentieth-century nature writing', a genre which I definitely want to read more of. In The Living Mountain, written during the Second World War and first published three decades later, 'Shepherd describes her journeys into the Cairngorm mountains of Scotland. There, she encounters a world that can be breathtakingly beautiful at times and shockingl ...more
Richard Newton
This is quite simply a perfect piece of literature. It is compelling, magical, mesmerising, and an absolute pleasure to read. Read this because you love nature, or the moutains, or read it simply because it is a brilliant piece of writing. If I had to get rid of most of my books and could only keep a handful, this book would be in that handful - because it is also a text to return to time and again.

Once again finding a book by chance in a good bookshop has proven the way to find unexpected gems.
Jason
Dec 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015, walking
Beautifully written, when you read a book like this you expect to see photos dotted throughout the book, but this has none, luckily Nan Shepherd does an amazing job describing everything that instantly you can picture the scene down to the smallest details.

One thing you take away from this book is just how much Nan loves the Cairngorns she has lived there all her life and I don't blame her. One day I hope to visit this area and walk in her footsteps for a while.

Elena T
Aug 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A tiny work of art, limpid and wise. A love story about a woman and the mountain range she chose to go back to, again and again. Best read in wild, lonely places.
Nathalie (keepreadingbooks)
I think Nan Shepherd’s nature writing is the closest I have come to another author reminding me of the genius that is Mary Oliver. Delightfully poetic, but not too much. Deep and honest and filled with wonder for the natural world. I dislike flowery language, and luckily, Shepherd can paint the most striking pictures with the simplest words.

While reading The Living Mountain I kept thinking how I was looking forward – already! – to rereading it, to know it more intimately by going back and disco
...more
Susan
Mar 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Precisely the balm I needed while sheltering in-place. To be transported to this wild so completely was a gift, simple as that. Sometimes the language was otherworldly, Middle Earthen. Sometimes it was tongue-twisted and fable-like, a jabberwocky of tumbling place names. I was reminded too of Norman Maclean and the rock of his beloved river. Even the forward by Robert Macfarlane and afterword by Jeanette Winterson added to the sublime reading experience. I will return to this slim book and hope ...more
Andy
Jan 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A little gem of a book, steeped in the outdoor life and full of simple, philosophical wisdom.
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Nan (Anna) Shepherd was a Scottish novelist and poet. She was an early Scottish Modernist writer, who wrote three standalone novels set in small, fictional, communities in North Scotland. The Scottish landscape and weather played a major role in her novels and were the focus of her poetry. Shepherd also wrote one non-fiction book on hill walking, based on her experiences walking in the Cairngorms. ...more

Other books in the series

The Grampian Quartet (4 books)
  • The Quarry Wood
  • The Weatherhouse
  • A Pass in the Grampians

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