High Peaks Pure Earth presents the Winter 2021 Tibet Reading List! We’ve updated the previous Summer Reading List to include over 20 more titles covering the span of the entire Tibetan Buddhist world.
If you think we’ve missed anything or if you have a particular recommendation please feel free to get in touch with us, it’s impossible for us to keep track of all Tibet-related publications! You’re also welcome as always to write your own short reviews in the comments section or on your social media, just tag us so that we see it or use the hashtag #TibetReadingList.
We’ve continued to add links to Bookshop.org, if you buy books linked from our site, we may earn a small commission and at the same time, their fees support independent bookshops! Where publications are not available on Bookshop, Amazon links are provided for convenience.
See below for the new books added to the existing Tibet Reading List. For ease, we have again (broadly) categorised them. For books not directly about Tibet but may include Tibet or be of general interest, we have created a new section at the bottom called Special Mentions.
Happy reading this winter and please stay safe!
“My Son of Tibet – Never Give Up!” By Soenam T. Jamyangling
Launched in October 2021, “My Son of Tibet – Never Give Up!” is the autobiography of the Chairman and Founder of The Swedish Tibetan School and Culture Society, Soenam T. Jamyangling.
From the book’s description:
“My son of Tibet – never give up, never forget Tibet!” Those final words of Lodru-la to her beloved son Soenam Jamyangling in March 1959 are what sustained and encouraged him through some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable. Born in a small village in the hills close to Lhasa, as a child Soenam Jamyangling made the perilous journey over the Himalayas to freedom in India with some of his cousins and uncles. His life’s journey took him to Denmark, Iran, back to India and finally to Sweden. Despite personal tragedies and severe illnesses, he never for a moment forgot his Tibetan roots. His overwhelming desire was to provide education to the millions of children in his beloved country. With the help of his organisation, The Swedish Tibetan Society for School and Culture, he successfully built 108 schools and libraries in all regions of Tibet. Soenam takes us through his remarkable life with characteristic humour and enthusiasm. His wish is that this book will help to encourage his fellow countrymen and keep the struggle for Tibet alive.
The book is available via the web shop of The Swedish Tibetan School and Culture Society: https://tibet-school.org/se-f-rstasida-ii/st-d-oss/Katselshop
“The Life and Times of George Tsarong of Tibet, 1920-1970: A Lord of the Traditional Tibetan State” By Paljor Tsarong
From the Lexington Books website:
Centuries have passed since the demise of many precapitalist agricultural states. Despite the British invasion of 1903 and the Chinese invasion in 1950, the Tibetan state continued to fully function until 1959. For this reason, this biography of George Tsarong not only provides new and in-depth perspectives on the life of an official of the Tibetan state, but it will also contribute to the comparative study of precapitalist states. This book weaves together history and biography to narrate the life of an aristocratic state official, his education and social life, his registration and entrance into a civil service career. It also describes the various personal and state political intrigues he was involved in and the many grand ceremonies that dominated the life of a state official. George Tsarong’s story is also the story of the fall of this traditional state and the complex social and psychological aspects of occupation, resistance, and exile.
Order from Bookshop here: https://bookshop.org/a/15321/9781793641779
“Tales of a Mad Yogi: The Life and Wild Wisdom of Drukpa Kunley” By Elizabeth Monson
From the publisher’s website:
The fifteenth-century Himalayan saint Drukpa Kunley is a beloved figure throughout Tibet, Bhutan, and Nepal, known both for his profound mastery of Buddhist practice as well as his highly unconventional and often humorous behavior. Ever the proverbial trickster and “crazy wisdom” yogi, his outward appearance and conduct of carousing, philandering, and breaking social norms is understood to be a means to rouse ordinary people out of habitual ways of thinking that leads them toward spiritual awakening.
Elizabeth Monson has spent decades traveling throughout the Himalayas, retracing Drukpa Kunley’s steps and translating his works. In this creative telling, she has reimagined his life based on historical accounts, autobiographical sketches, folktales, and first-hand ethnographic research. The result, with flourishes of magical encounters and references to his superhuman capacities, is a poignant narrative of Kunley’s life, revealing to the reader the quintessential example of the capacity of Buddhism to skillfully bring people to liberation.
Order from Bookshop here: https://bookshop.org/a/15321/9781611807059
“Finding Buddhist Paths in 21st Century: Dealing and Overcoming Worldly Distractions” By Tashi Gelek
Published by Balboa Press in August 2021, “Finding Buddhist Paths in 21st Century: Dealing and Overcoming Worldly Distractions” by Tashi Gelek is a book offering simple, genuine, and effective methods and paths for those who may be deluded by worldly distractions or distracted from practicing a Buddhist path.
The author describes himself as “a modern-day highly educated business person struggling to find time to practice a Buddhist path.”
Order from Bookshop here: https://bookshop.org/a/15321/9781982270728
“Gongga Laoren (1903-1997) Her Role in the Spread of Tibetan Buddhism in Taiwan” By Fabienne Jagou
From the Brill website:
The book provides a new angle at looking at Sino-Tibetan relations by bringing issues of gender, power, self-representation, and globalization. Gongga Laoren’s life, actions and achievements show the fundamental elements behind the successful implementation of Tibetan Buddhism in a Han cultural environment and highlights a process that has created new expectations within communities, either Tibetan or Taiwanese, working in political, economic, religious and social contexts that have evolved from martial law in the 1960s to democratic rule today.
Order from Bookshop here: https://bookshop.org/a/15321/9789004465749
“Divine Messengers: The Untold Story of Bhutan’s Female Shamans” By Stephanie Guyer-Stevens and Francoise Pommaret
From the Shambhala website:
As mystics, healers, and travelers to the netherworld, female shamans continue to impact the spiritual lives of the Bhutanese. These divine messengers act as mediums for local spirits, cure diseases through prayer, and travel to the realm of the dead. They are sometimes referred to as “sky-goers,” “reincarnations,” or “returners from the beyond,” and their stories are intimately connected with the Buddhist ideas of karma and rebirth.
Journalist Stephanie Guyer-Stevens and anthropologist Françoise Pommaret traveled to the Himalayas to meet seven living Bhutanese female shamans and to help make their stories known. Stephanie and Françoise offer an intimate narrative of these shamans’ spiritual experiences and important roles in society. This book also provides an overview of the history of this tradition and a translation of an autobiography of the famous eighteenth-century divine messenger, Sangay Choezom. This insightful and sensitive account is a rare look inside the world of these brave women.
Order from Bookshop here: https://bookshop.org/a/15321/9781611809183
“The Buddhist Nuns’ Ordination in the Tibetan Canon” By Carola Roloff
From the Hamburg University website:
Professor Roloff has offered an enormous gift to Vinaya scholars, to scholars of Tibetan Buddhism, to the monastic community, to scholars of women in religion, and most of all to Buddhist women both lay and monastic with the publication of Buddhist Nuns‘ Ordination in the Tibetan Canon. The editions and translations of important texts concerning the ordination of women are erudite, comprehensive and clear. They will be invaluable primary resources for anyone interested in the issue of the restoration of the Tibetan nuns’ full ordination lineage. Prof. Roloff’s analysis of the legal and religious issues, and her argument for the procedure for the restoration of this lineage is meticulous and convincing, setting a new standard for argument in this important debate.
Jay L Garfield, Doris Silbert Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Philosophy and Buddhist Studies, Smith College and the Harvard Divinity School
Order from Amazon here: https://amzn.to/3ytu2BY
“Lamrim Year: Making Life Meaningful Day by Day” By Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche
From the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive website:
This unique study program provides a 365-day outline of the graduated path in a clear, practical format that is suitable for both individual and group practice.
The daily quote and text have been selected from four decades of teachings by Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche, both published and unpublished, and offer a taste of their teaching style and scope. Each day’s teaching concludes with a recap summarizing the main points for reflection.
The interdependent elements of Lamrim Year are designed to support meditators of various capabilities in establishing and maintaining regular lamrim study and practice until stable realizations are achieved.
Order from Amazon here: https://amzn.to/3ysLmXX
“Copper Mountain” By Thubten Samphel
Published by Blackneck Books in December 2021, “Copper Mountain” by Thubten Samphel is a novel about mining in contemporary Tibet.
Description by Blackneck Books:
A mega mining corporation plans to excavate the foremost holy mountain on the Roof of the World. Though backed by the full apparatus of the colonial power, the miners and their state-of-the-art equipment are outfaced by a small group of multi-cultural meditators armed with nothing but ancient wisdom and courage. How does this battle involving murder, intrigue, denouncement, co-option and spiritual endurance end?
Copper Mountain deals with devastating environmental issues now facing the world and the crucial politics surrounding reincarnation. Centred on Mt. Kailash, a sacred location for Buddhists, Hindus and Jains, Thubten Samphel’s novel is a sharp meditation on a culture that nurtured its environment and resisted assaults by a resource-hungry authoritarian state. This is as contemporary and topical as any book produced in English by any Tibetan author today.
Visit the TibetWrites website to see all titles: https://www.tibetwrites.in/blackneck/ To order, please email: blackneckbooks [@] tibetwrites.in
“Land of Mercy: A Tale of the Three Jewels of Tibet” By Fan Wen
From the book’s description:
“Land of Mercy” is a magical intriguing tale of love, greed, betrayal, sacrifice and spiritual quest which starts from the conflict between two prominent families living beneath the snow mountain of Eastern Tibet and ends in a journey in pursuit of personal salvation, self-worth and enlightenment. Steeped in the magical lore of Tibetan Buddhism, the author Fan Wen brings his readers into a world of magic and mystery where there are no limits to human capability and where legend, myth and history intertwine and enthrall. An unforgettable must read for all those who are fans of epic human struggle and who are fascinated by and especially fond of the Tibetan people, their faith and their culture.
Order from Amazon here: https://amzn.to/3y5TeOM
“Songs from Dewächen” By Bhuchung D. Sonam
Published in December 2021 by Blackneck Books, “Songs from Dewächen” by Bhuchung D. Sonam is a collection of around forty poems about dogs.
From the book description:
The verses are revulsive, angry, satirical and subversive. At a time when everything seems to implode, there is still the faint light of poetry anchoring the writer’s displaced self and perhaps the detached conscience of others.”
Visit the TibetWrites website to see all their titles: https://www.tibetwrites.in/blackneck/ To order, please email: blackneckbooks [@] tibetwrites.in
“A Life with Alexandra David-Néel” By Fred Campoy
From the Discovery Publisher website:
In 1959, the young Marie-Madeleine entered the service of a peculiar old woman whose strong character has overwhelmed her most dedicated previous employees. This uncharacteristic woman is none other than Alexandra David-Néel, an explorer, philosopher, writer, who was, in 1924, the first Western woman to enter Lhasa, the heart of Forbidden Tibet. In a seemingly frightful scrapyard where the memories of fourteen years spent in Asia are piled up, Marie-Madeleine finds herself plunged in the exceptional life of the famous adventurer, going from her conversion to Buddhism to her meeting with the Dalai Lama. Although the old woman is as unbearable as fascinating, a strong bond with the young employee will gradually develop…
Based on Marie-Madeleine Peyronnet’s account 10 Years With Alexandra David-Néel, this work, written and illustrated by Frédéric Campoy and Mathieu Blanchot, is far more than an illustrated version of her book: it is ten years of collaboration and relationship between Alexandra and Marie-Madeleine that come to life before our eyes. The authors perfectly convey the characters and humor through exciting dialogues and vibrant graphics.
Order from Bookshop here: https://bookshop.org/a/15321/9781788945110
Politics and History
“The Fractured Himalaya: India China Tibet 1949-62” By Nirupama Rao
From the Penguin India website:
Nirupama Rao, a former Foreign Secretary of India, unknots this intensely complex saga of the early years of the India-China relationship. As a diplomat-practitioner, Rao’s telling is based not only on archival material from India, China, Britain and the United States, but also on a deep personal knowledge of China, where she served as India’s Ambassador. In addition, she brings a practitioner’s keen eye to the labyrinth of negotiations and official interactions that took place between the two countries from 1949 to 1962.
The Fractured Himalaya looks at the inflection points when the trajectory of diplomacy between these two nations could have course-corrected but did not. Importantly, it dwells on the strategic dilemma posed by Tibet in relations between India and China-a dilemma that is far from being resolved. The question of Tibet is closely interwoven into the fabric of this history. It also turns the searchlight on the key personalities involved-Jawaharlal Nehru, Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai and the 14th Dalai Lama-and their interactions as the tournament of those years was played out, moving step by closer step to the conflict of 1962.
Order from Amazon here: https://amzn.to/3m8kVSh
“Tibet: A History Between Dream and Nation-State” By Paul Christiaan Klieger
From the Reaktion Books website:
The history of Tibet has long intrigued the world, as well as the dilemma of its future – will it ever return to independence or will it always remain part of China? Is a ‘Tibet outside of Tibet’ a viable expression of self-determination? How will the succession of the aging and revered Dalai Lama affect Tibet and the world?
A great empire from the seventh to ninth centuries; in 1249, then a territory of the Mongol Empire that annexed China itself in 1279, Tibet reclaimed its independence from China in 1368. The Manchus later exerted their direct influence in Tibetan affairs but by 1840 Tibet began to resume its independent course until communist China invaded in 1950. Since that time, Tibetan nationalism has been maintained primarily by over 100,000 refugees living abroad.
Order from Bookshop here: https://bookshop.org/a/15321/9781789144024
“Conflict in a Buddhist Society: Tibet under the Dalai Lamas” By Dr. Peter Schwieger
From the University of Hawaii Press website:
Although this era can be clearly delineated as a distinct period in the history of Tibet, many questions remain concerning the specific form of rule established. Author Peter Schwieger attempts to make transparent the complexity and dynamics of the Dalai Lamas’ domination using the work of sociologist Niklas Luhman (1927–1998) as his theoretical starting point.
Schwieger begins by asking the crucial question of how Tibet’s society dealt with conflict. The chapters that follow answer this question from various perspectives: history and memory; domination; hierarchy; center and periphery; semantics; morality and ethics; ritual; law; and war. Each reveals a different avenue for cross-cutting discourses in the historical and social sciences. Together, they provide a comprehensive picture of how conflicts were portrayed in Tibet society and how the manner in which they were handled stabilized the country for a considerable time but were ultimately unsuccessful in the face of radical upheavals in its environment.
Order from Amazon here: https://amzn.to/3s8JL8H
“Sons of Sikkim – The Rise and Fall of the Namgyal Dynasty of Sikkim” By Jigme N. Kazi
Published by Notion Press in October 2020, “Sons of Sikkim – The Rise and Fall of the Namgyal Dynasty of Sikkim” by Jigme N. Kazi is a history of Sikkim’s Namgyal Dynasty, which ruled the former Kingdom of Sikkim for more than 300 years (1642-1975).
From the Notion Press website:
The main purpose of writing this book is to give the ordinary people – in Sikkim and elsewhere – a glimpse of Sikkim’s history: its origin in the 13th century, advent of the Namgyal Dynasty in mid-17th century, invasion of neighbouring countries in the 18th and 19th centuries, and finally, the emergence of the kingdom as a democracy in the 20th century, leading ultimately to its present status – the 22nd State of India.
There are very few books dealing on the above subjects in great detail in one book. Most books on Sikkim’s history and politics are either one-sided or fail to present a holistic view of Sikkim. A book such as this is perhaps written for the first time by a Sikkimese and from the Sikkimese perspective. History is not always written by the victors; at times, as in this case, it is written by its victims.
Empires fall, civilizations crumble but the human spirit, which fights against all kinds of oppression and exploitation, cannot be extinguished so easily. More than anything else, the story of the Sons of Sikkim is a story worth telling; a story of a small Himalayan kingdom and its people’s struggle to survive in the face of great odds.
Order on Amazon here: https://amzn.to/3DXSrkq
“The Mandala Kingdom: A Political History of Sikkim” By Alex McKay
Published by Rachna Books in October 2021, “The Mandala Kingdom” spans centuries and lays bare the story of Sikkim and its making. Drawing upon numerous sources, historian Alex McKay forensically traces the circles of political influence which shaped Sikkim.
From the Rachna Books website:
Erudite, painstaking and thoroughly accessible, The Mandala Kingdom is essential reading, for scholars of history and for those curious about Sikkim—an erstwhile, ancient kingdom and the last addition to the Indian union.
Alex McKay is a historian specialising in the Indo-Tibetan world, where he has spent many years, travelling and working. Originally from New Zealand, he has a B.A.(Hons.) in Religious Studies and History and a Ph.D. in South Asian History from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS, London University). A retired lecturer and research fellow at SOAS and the International Institute for Asian Studies in Leiden (The Netherlands), he has authored or edited a number of books and over forty articles on Indo-Tibetan history and culture.
Order from Rachna Books here: https://rachnabooks.com/product/the-mandala-kingdom/
“Wangdu’s Diary” By Wangdu
Published by Blackneck Books in May 2021 and translated into English by Bhuchung D. Sonam, “Wangdu’s Diary” is a record of the daily programs as documented by Wangdu, a member of the Third Fact-finding Mission to Tibet in 1980.
Visit the Blackneck Books website to see all titles: https://www.tibetwrites.in/blackneck/ To order, please email: blackneckbooks [@] tibetwrites.in
“All Roads Lead North: China, Nepal and the Contest for the Himalayas” By Amish Raj Mulmi
From the Hurst website:
During the June 2020 territorial dispute over Kalapani, India blamed tensions on a newly assertive Nepal’s deepening relations with China. But beyond the accusations and grandstanding, this reflects a new reality: the power equations in South Asia have been redrawn, to make space for China.
Nepal did not turn northwards overnight. Its ties with China have deep historical roots built on Buddhism, dating to the early first millennium. While India’s unofficial 2015 blockade provided momentum to the rift with Delhi, Nepal has long wanted deeper ties with Beijing, to counteract India’s oppressive intimacy. With China’s growing South Asian and global ambitions, Nepal now has a new primary bilateral partner–and Nepalis are forging a path towards modernity with its help, both in the remote borderlands and in the cities.
All Roads Lead North offers a long view of Nepal’s foreign relations, today underpinned by China’s world-power status. Sharing never- before-told stories about Tibetan guerrilla fighters, failed coup leaders and trans- Himalayan traders, Nepal analyst Amish Raj Mulmi examines the histories binding mountain communities together across the Sino-Nepali border. Part history, part journalistic account, Mulmi’s is a complex, compelling and rigorously researched study of a small country caught between two neighbourhood giants.
Order from Amazon here: https://amzn.to/3DXz0s4
“ངའི་དེབ་དང་པོ། (My First Book)” By Red Balloon Books
Red Balloon Books is an individual initiative by two Tibetan women Phuntsok Yangchen and Tenzin Tselha and who published their first book titled ངའི་དེབ་དང་པོ། (My First Book) in October 2021. This is a set of five board books consisting of Alphabets, Animals, Colors, Numbers and Vegetables. The books are filled with colorful pictures and uses uchen and umay fonts.
The set is being sold at a minimal cost of INR 350 inside India. For outside India, a set costs USD 25 plus shipping. Orders can be made via Facebook (Red Balloon Books) and Instagram (red.balloon.books) or via emailing ghangmarpedeb [ @ ] gmail.com
“Dekyi’s Dream” By Caryn Hartman, Lexi Vay and Tashi Dekyid
From the book’s description:
Dekyi is tired of feeling lost and alone. On her walk home from school she encounters something special, which sends her on a journey through the mountains of Tibet and back to her heart. Join Dekyi as she remembers what makes her feel most alive.
Order from Amazon here: https://amzn.to/3dwiJzx
Manjushri Education Board Books
These five board books were published earlier this year in Dharamsala, India by Manjushri Educational Services. More information, including how to order, can be found on their Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/manjushrieducation/
“Lithium: The Global Race for Battery Dominance and the New Energy Revolution” By Lukasz Bednarski
Published by Hurst in April 2021, “Lithium: The Global Race for Battery Dominance and the New Energy Revolution” By Lukasz Bednarski travels from the salt lakes of the Tibetan plateau, where Chinese government-linked companies extract lithium, to Argentina, Chile and Bolivia, which hold the world’s biggest resources of the mineral. It reveals superpowers’ struggle to secure strategic supplies, and the astonishing efforts of lone-wolf inventors and entrepreneurs.
“Speak Not” By James Griffiths
Published by Zed Books in October 2021, “Speak Not: Empire, Identity and the Politics of Language” By James Griffiths explores the challenging environment for minority languages to survive in the face of a handful of hegemonic ‘super-tongues’. James Griffiths reports from the frontlines of the battle to preserve minority languages, from his native Wales, to Hawai’i, Tibet, southern China and Hong Kong.
“In the Camps: China’s High-Tech Penal Colony” By Darren Byler
Published by Columbia Global Reports in October 2021, “In the Camps: China’s High-Tech Penal Colony” By Darren Byler uncovers how a vast network of technology provided by private companies–facial surveillance, voice recognition, smartphone data–enabled the state and corporations to blacklist millions of Uyghurs because of their religious and cultural practice starting in 2017.
“Suncranes and Other Stories: Modern Mongolian Short Fiction” Translated By Simon Wickhamsmith
Published by Columbia University Press in July 2021, “Suncranes and Other Stories” showcases a range of powerful voices and their vivid portraits of nomads, revolution, and the endless steppe. For all English-speaking readers curious about Mongolia’s people and culture, Simon Wickhamsmith’s translations make available this captivating literary tradition and its rich portrayals of the natural and social worlds.
“The Rule of Laws: A 4,000-Year Quest to Order the World” By Fernanda Pirie
Tibetan Translations by Blackneck Books
A special mention for these two Tibetan translations from Blackneck Books. “Great Expectations” translated into Tibetan by Pema Tsewang Shastri and a Tibetan translation of “The Adventures of Pinocchio” by Kunchok Rabten aka Rangthar.
Visit the TibetWrites website to see all titles: https://www.tibetwrites.in/blackneck/ To order, please email: blackneckbooks [@] tibetwrites.in
Tibetan Translations by Latse Project
The Latse Project has been publishing works in Tibetan translation as part of their “108 Translations Project”. The project was initiated in 2015 by H.H. The Karmapa Orgyen Trinley Dorje. Born of a concept developed during a translators’ workshop held at Latse and presided over by His Holiness, the 108 Translations project seeks to promote Tibetan language use and literacy, while giving Tibetan readers greater access to knowledge and world literature. Pictured above are the Tibetan translations of “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen, translated by Ashul Tsering Kyi, and “Don’t Worry, Be Grumpy: Inspiring Stories for Making the Most of Each Moment” by Ajahn Brahm, translated by Pema Tsewang Shastri. For more titles and information, visit: https://www.latse.org/108-translations
“The Snow Leopard’s New Friend” (Tibetan Language Edition) By Michael Buckley
This children’s book suitable for pre-teens, ages 8 to 12, was released in September 2021 in Tibetan translation by the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamsala, India.