High Peaks Pure Earth Winter 2023 Tibet Reading List

High Peaks Pure Earth presents the Winter 2023 Tibet Reading List! We’ve updated the previous Summer Reading List to include over 15 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, you are supporting independent bookshops! Where titles are unavailable on Bookshop, we have added links to Amazon for convenience.

For ease, we have (broadly) categorised the titles, and then listed them alphabetically by author’s first name. For books not directly about Tibet but may include Tibet or be of general interest, we have placed them in the section towards the end called Special Mentions. Do look out for the titles which are Open Access and a section on titles not in the English language.

In addition to the publications below, don’t miss the latest editions of these online journals Himalaya Special Issue – Writing with Care: Ethnographies from the Margins of Tibet and the Himalayas, Journal of Tibetan Literature and Yeshe – A Journal of Tibetan Literature, Arts and Humanities.

Happy New Year and See You in 2024!

Contents hide

Politics, History and Non-Fiction

“The Geopolitics of Melting Mountains: An International Political Ecology of the Himalaya” By Alexander Davis

Available on Amazon here: https://amzn.to/3RHEnEu

Published in May 2023 by Palgrave Macmillan Singapore, “The Geopolitics of Melting Mountains: An International Political Ecology of the Himalaya” by Alexander Davis addresses the urgent need for rethinking the geopolitics and ecology in the Himalaya, by emphasising the entanglements between these two factors. Read a book review on the Tibetscapes website here.

From the publisher’s website:

Most international relations analyses of the Himalaya emphasize the central role of the region’s states and their great power struggles. By reducing the region to its state actors, however, we miss the intense more-than-human diversity of the region, and the crucial role that the mountains play in the global environment.

In doing so, the book makes a major contribution to international relations theory by drawing on insights from international political ecology. It first theorises international political ecology and examines the Himalaya as a global region, before moving looking at the international aspects of political ecology in the Himalaya through key areas of the mountains where international politics and ecology are deeply, inextricably linked. It presents three detailed case studies of different environmental and political issues in the Himalaya: icecaps (the India-China-Pakistan boundary dispute in the western Himalaya), foothills and forests (the Nepal-Bhutan-Sikkim borderlands), and rivers (the India-China Bangladesh dispute over the Brahmaputra River basin). Each case study draws on a mix of source materials including fieldwork, government sources, foreign policy discourse, Himalayan ethnographies, and environmental and ecological sciences scholarship.

Available on Amazon here: https://amzn.to/3RHEnEu

“Far From the Rooftop of the World: Travels among Tibetan Refugees on Four Continents” By Amy Yee

Available on Bookshop here: https://uk.bookshop.org/a/4863/9781469675510

Published by the University of North Carolina Press in October 2023, “Far From the Rooftop of the World: Travels among Tibetan Refugees on Four Continents” by Amy Yee spotlights stories of Tibetans in exile.

From the University of North Carolina Press website:

In 2008, the Chinese government cracked down on protests throughout Tibet, and journalist Amy Yee found herself covering a press conference with the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, his exile home in India. She never imagined a personal encounter with the spiritual leader would spark a global, fourteen-year journey to spotlight the stories of Tibetans in exile. As she documents how Tibetans live between worlds, Yee comes to know ordinary but extraordinary people like Topden, a monk and unlikely veterinary assistant; Norbu, a chef and political refugee; and Deckyi and Dhondup, a couple forced to leave their middle-class lives in Lhasa. Yee follows them to other parts of India and across oceans and four continents where they forge new lives while sustaining Tibetan identity and culture.

Weaving a sweeping travel narrative with intimate on-the-ground reportage, “Far from the Rooftop of the World” tells these stories and others against the backdrop of milestones and events in Tibet’s recent history – many memorable, too many tragic. The resulting portrait illuminates the humanity, strength, and perseverance of a people whose homeland is in crisis.

Q&A with author Amy Yee on NPR: https://www.npr.org/2023/12/20/1220150536/q-a-author-amy-yee-on-tibetan-refugees-in-far-from-the-rooftop-of-the-world

Available on Bookshop here: https://uk.bookshop.org/a/4863/9781469675510

“Shépa: The Tibetan Oral Tradition in Choné” By Bendi Tso, Marnyi Gyatso, Naljor Tsering, Mark Turin, Members of the Choné Tibetan Community

Published in October 2023 by Open Book Publishers, this book contains a unique collection of Tibetan oral narrations and songs known as Shépa, as these have been performed, recorded and shared between generations of Choné Tibetans from Amdo living in the eastern Tibetan Plateau.

From the publisher’s website:

Shépa: ‘explanation’ or ‘elucidation’ in Tibetan. A form of oral poetry sung antiphonally in a question-and-answer style. Presented in trilingual format — in Tibetan, Chinese and English — the book reflects a sustained collaboration with and between members of the local community, including narrators, monks, and scholars, calling attention to the diversity inherent in all oral traditions, and the mutability of Shépa in particular.

From creation myths to Bon and Buddhist cosmologies and even wedding songs, Shépa engages with and draws on elements of religious traditions, historical legacies and deep-seated cultural memories within Choné and Tibet, revealing the multi-layered conceptualization of the Tibetan physical world and the resilience of Tibetan communities within it. This vital and unique collection, part of the World Oral Literature Series, situates Shépa in its ethnographic context, offering insights into the preservation and revitalization of intangible cultural heritage in the context of cultural Tibet, Indigenous studies and beyond.

Scholars and students in the fields of anthropology, linguistics, ethnic and minority relations, critical Indigenous studies, Tibetan studies, Himalayan studies, Asian studies and the broader study of China will find much to reward them in this book, as will all readers interested in the documentation and preservation of endangered oral traditions, intangible cultural heritage, performance and textuality, and Tibetan literature and religions.

Note this title is Open Access and available from the publisher’s website for download here.

“A Comprehensive Survey of Rock Art in Upper Tibet, Vol. II. Central and Western Byang thang” By John Vincent Bellezza

Published in November 2023 by Archaeopress, “A Comprehensive Survey of Rock Art in Upper Tibet, Vol. II.” by John Vincent Bellezza, is the second of five volumes that comprehensively document rock art in Upper Tibet.

From the publisher’s website:

[The book] examines a panoply of graphic evidence found on stone surfaces, supplying an unprecedented view of the long-term development of culture and religion on a large swathe of the Tibetan Plateau. The pictographs (rock paintings) and petroglyphs (rock carvings), host sites, and descriptions and analyses presented are the direct result of intensive fieldwork conducted by the author in Upper Tibet between 1995 and 2016. Information on rock art production techniques, subject identification, thematic class, mode of presentation, physical condition, estimated age, and relative location are supplied for each piece of rock art. In addition to the datasets, the book offers rock art site descriptions and assesses the cultural, religious and artistic development of these locations.

Note this title is Open Access and available for download here.

“Histories of Tibet: Essays in Honor of Leonard W. J. van der Kuijp” By Kurtis Schaeffer, Jue Liang and William McGrath (Eds.)

Available on Bookshop here: https://uk.bookshop.org/a/4863/9781614297840

Published in July 2023 by Wisdom, this volume is made up of thirty-four essays that follow the particular interests of Leonard van der Kuijp, whose groundbreaking research in Tibetan intellectual and cultural history imbued his students with an abiding sense of curiosity and discovery.

From the Wisdom website:

As part of Leonard van der Kuijp’s research in Tibetan history, he patiently and expertly revealed treasures of the Tibetan intellectual tradition in fourteenth-century Tsang, seventeenth-century Lhasa, or eighteenth-century Amdo. The thirty-four essays in this volume follow the particular interests of the honoree and express the comprehensive research that his international cohort has engaged in alongside his generous tutelage over the course of forty years. His inquisitiveness can be experienced through every one of his writings and can be found as well in these new essays in intellectual, cultural, and institutional history by Christopher Beckwith, Yael Bentor, the late Hubert Decleer, Franz-Karl Ehrhard, Jörg Heimbel and David Jackson, Nathan Hill, Isabelle Henrion-Dourcy, Matthew Kapstein, Todd Lewis, Kurtis Schaeffer, Peter Schwieger, Gray Tuttle, Pieter Verhagen, Michael Witzel, and others.

Available on Bookshop here: https://uk.bookshop.org/a/4863/9781614297840

“The Tibetic languages: an introduction to the family of languages derived from Old Tibetan” By Nicolas Tournadre and Hiroyuki Suzuki

Published in September 2023 by LACITO-Publications, “The Tibetic Languages: an introduction to the family of languages derived from Old Tibetan” focuses on the Tibetic-speaking area nowadays located in six countries: China, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Myanmar. Some of the smallest languages are seriously endangered, and likely to disappear soon.

From the publisher’s website:

In the first chapters, sociolinguistic and anthropological aspects of the Tibetic societies are presented, as well as information about the main religions of the Tibetic area – Buddhism, Bön, and Islam. The book includes a presentation of the main phonological and grammatical characteristics found in the Tibetic languages, and also provides information about the Tibetan script and the written languages used in the area.

A whole chapter is devoted to dialectology and the presentation of the main linguistic characteristics for each section of the Tibetic area – Southeastern, Eastern, Northeastern, Central, Southern, South-western, Western, and Northwestern.

The book also includes a historical and comparative dictionary presenting the main lexical differences between the modern languages, as well as their etymologies in Classical Tibetan. It presents the lexical correspondences between the major Tibetic languages: Central Tibetan, Tsang, Amdo, Kham, Dzongkha, Lhoke (Sikkim), Sherpa, Balti, Central Ladaks, Purik and Spiti. In order to explain the interactions with other language families, we have provided a presentation of the contact languages, which essentially belong to other Tibeto-Burman branches, as well as Sinitic, Mongolic, Turkic, Indo-Aryan, Iranic, Germanic (English) and Burushaski language families.

This work includes three appendices. The first two deal with toponymic information and provides the names of the main mountains, rivers and lakes of the Tibetic area. The third appendix includes several detailed maps presenting the locations of the Tibetic languages and dialects. It also offers maps of the natural and human environments, as well as the administrative units of the area.

Note this title is Open Access and available for download here.

“The Beggar Lama: The Life of the Gyalrong Kuzhap” By Tenzin Jinba

Available on Amazon here: https://amzn.to/3TEWYUg

Published in October 2023 by Columbia University Press, “The Beggar Lama” is the story of the Gyalrong Kuzhap, a Tibetan Buddhist polymath and reincarnated lama who has led a remarkable life through the vicissitudes of the twentieth century.

From the publisher’s website:

Born in 1930 in Tsanlha, Gyalrong, on the easternmost fringes of the Himalayan-Tibetan Plateau, [Gyalrong Kuzhap] would go on to become a monk, a Communist official, a professor of Tibetan studies, and a leader in the Tibetan cultural survival movement in China.

Drawing on hundreds of hours of in-depth and open-ended conversations over more than a decade, Tenzin Jinba presents the Gyalrong Kuzhap’s life story. The Beggar Lama chronicles his journeys—from Gyalrong to Lhasa, from steadfast Communist to critic of the Chinese regime, from scholar to activist—painting a compelling portrait of an influential and unconventional figure. In so doing, the book shows how the Gyalrong Kuzhap’s tale intertwines with larger social and political developments, providing a wide-ranging history of Tibet, the Sino-Tibetan borderlands, and China over the past century.

The Beggar Lama shares the Gyalrong Kuzhap’s insightful and often critical views on Tibetan cultural and religious institutions, the Chinese Communist Party’s social and political agendas, Tibetan studies in China, and the prospects for Tibetan cultural rebirth. Above all, it is a story of hope in dark times, as the Gyalrong Kuzhap seeks with his “last breath” to prevent Tibetan culture and memory from vanishing.

Available on Amazon here: https://amzn.to/3TEWYUg

Literature, Religion and Art

“Himalayan Art in 108 Objects” By Karl Debreczeny and Elena Pakhoutova

Available on Bookshop here: https://uk.bookshop.org/a/4863/9781785514524

Published in July 2023 by ‎Scala Arts & Heritage Publishers Ltd, “Himalayan Art in 108 Objects” is the first full-illustrated introductory book about the story of Himalayan art and cultures and published as part of the Rubin Museum’s Project Himalayan Art, which also includes and extensive digital platform and traveling exhibition designed to expand knowledge and understanding of Himalayan art and cultures.

From the Rubin Museum website:

In this beautifully illustrated volume, the fascinating story of Himalayan art is illuminated through a selection of significant objects from the Neolithic era to today. Paintings, sculptures, drawings, textiles, architectural structures, and more serve as a guide to the historical traditions, rituals, social practices, and art forms from Tibetan, Indian, Nepalese, Bhutanese, Mongolian, and Chinese regions, emphasizing cross-cultural exchange with Tibet at the center. Photographs and essays bring each object to life, introducing readers to the diversity and uniqueness of Tibetan, Himalayan, and Inner Asian art and practices, while highlighting the importance of the region in understanding broader Asia. Selected and authored by an international group of scholars and curators, these 108 objects offer an accessible introduction to this rich yet underrepresented field. This highly anticipated publication is part of the Rubin Museum’s Project Himalayan Art, an initiative to cultivate resources for teaching and learning about Himalayan art and cultures.

Available on Bookshop here: https://uk.bookshop.org/a/4863/9781785514524

“Buddhist Masculinities” By Megan Bryson and Kevin Buckelew (Eds.)

Available on Amazon here: https://amzn.to/3THh8gG

Published by Columbia University Press in September 2023, “Buddhist Masculinities” is a transdisciplinary book bringing together essays that explore the variety and diversity of Buddhist masculinities, from early India to the contemporary United States and from bodhisattva-kings to martial monks.

From the publisher’s website:

While early Buddhists hailed their religion’s founder for opening a path to enlightenment, they also exalted him as the paragon of masculinity. According to Buddhist scriptures, the Buddha’s body boasts thirty-two physical features, including lionlike jaws, thighs like a royal stag, broad shoulders, and a deep, resonant voice, that distinguish him from ordinary men. As Buddhism spread throughout Asia and around the world, the Buddha remained an exemplary man, but Buddhists in other times and places developed their own understandings of what it meant to be masculine.

Buddhist Masculinities adopts the methods of religious studies, anthropology, art history, textual-historical studies, and cultural studies to explore texts, images, films, media, and embodiments of masculinity across the Buddhist world, past and present. It turns scholarly attention to normative forms of masculinity that usually go unmarked and unstudied precisely because they are “normal,” illuminating the religious and cultural processes that construct Buddhist masculinities. Engaging with contemporary issues of gender identity, intersectionality, and sexual ethics, Buddhist Masculinities ushers in a new era for the study of Buddhism and gender.

Listen to a podcast conversation between Jue Liang and the book’s editors Megan Bryson and Kevin Buckelew: https://newbooksnetwork.com/buddhist-masculinities

Available on Amazon here: https://amzn.to/3THh8gG

“Tibetan Mustang: A Cultural Renaissance” By Luigi Fieni and Kenneth Parker

Available on Bookshop here: https://uk.bookshop.org/a/4863/9783777441979

Published in August 2023 by Hirmer Verlag, “Tibetan Mustang: A Cultural Renaissance” is a photo book documenting the cultural revival of “the hidden kingdom” of the Himalayas.

From the publisher’s website:

Photographers Luigi Fieni and Kenneth Parker document the cultural revival of Tibetan Mustang “the hidden kingdom” of the Himalayas. A restoration project of its sacred temple murals directed by Luigi Fieni over more than 20 years has reawakened Buddhist traditions.

The kingdom of Mustang, where Tibetan Buddhist tradition continues, is emerging as a beacon of community-directed art conservation and resurgent culture. Sacred temples dominate the medieval capital Lo Monthang. Following centuries of deterioration a mural restoration project has taken place over more then 20 years. The book features a foreword by HH Sakya Trichen and essays by Luigi Fieni and Amy Heller.

Available on Bookshop here: https://uk.bookshop.org/a/4863/9783777441979

“The Tragedy of the Modom House” By Modom Lodro Chotso, Translated by Matthew Akester

Available via Blackneck Books

Published in December 2023 by Blackneck Books, “The Tragedy of the Modom House” by Modro Lodro Chotso and translated by Matthew Akester, encapsulates the gripping and tumultuous journey of Modom Lodro Chotso, the central character and her family, navigating the tumultuous landscape of Tibet under the Chinese occupation in the region of Kham Dagyab following the invasion.

The title was launched in Dharamsala on December 15, 2023 at an event which was covered by Phayul.

The title is available via Blackneck Books social media accounts.

Non-English Language Titles

“De Rode Kogel: Berichten uit bezet Tibet” By Christa Meindersma

Available on Amazon here: https://amzn.to/3TZjQOL

Published in March 2023 in the Netherlands by Querido, “De Rode Kogel” (The Red Bullet) by Christa Meindersma are memoirs of the author and her lifelong connection to Tibet and Tibetans. Christa Meindersma spent two years working in Tibet between 1986 and 1988 and was shot during a peaceful demonstration in Lhasa in December 1988. In the book, Meindersma writes about the Tibetans who touched her in her life: an activist, a spy, a lover, a nun, a political prisoner, a poet, a teacher, the Dalai Lama.

After leaving Tibet, she testified before the European and national Parliaments and in the media about the situation in Tibet. Christa Meindersma served for twelve years as a negotiator and political advisor of the United Nations in the Balkans, Asia, Africa and New York. She was Director of the Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development and preceding that, she was cofounder and deputy director of the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies.

Find more information about the title (in Dutch) on the publisher’s website here.

“Amnyé Machen, Amnyé Machen” By Tsering Woeser, Translated by Brigitte Duzan and Valentina Peluso, edited with annotations by Katia Buffetrille.

Available on Amazon here: https://amzn.to/3RI1ajs

Published in August 2023 by Editions Jentayu, this volume presents 83 narrative poems by Tsering Woeser in French language. The poems were translated by Brigitte Duzan and Valentina Peluso. Tibet scholar Katia Buffetrille edited and annotated the text. The poems were composed during a pilgrimage to Amnyé Machen in 2018.

Read a piece in Global Voices interviewing those involved in this book project here.

Younger Audiences

“Tenzin Celebrates” By Monique Tekstra-van Lochem, Illustrations By René Speelman

‘Tenzin celebrates’ is a richly illustrated children’s book. Tenzin is a special boy. He is from Tibet, but he lives in a monastery in India. That is where he learns to be good and kind, but it is not that easy.

On the last page of this book there is included background information for the reader about Tibetan monasteries and the lives of children within these monasteries.

Find more information about the title here: https://www.antropokids.nl/shop/tenzin-celebrates-childrens-book-in-english/

“The Little Sheep & Friends” By Rinchen Tara

Available on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0CJH7S5QY

Published in September 2023, “The Little Sheep & Friends” is a bilingual children’s book in Tibetan and English by Rinchen Tara. The story is about a little sheep who lives in the highlands of Tibet and has many friends. Through the bilingual book, young readers will learn how to count and recognize the names of colors in both Tibetan and English.

See the author’s Instagram post announcing the publication here.

Special Mentions

“The Secret History of the Mongols” By Christopher P. Atwood:


“Sparks: China’s Underground Historians and Their Battle for the Future” By Ian Johnson:


“The Nirvana Express: How the Search for Enlightenment Went West” By Mick Brown:


“Territorializing Manchuria: The Transnational Frontier and Literatures of East Asia” By Miya Qiong Xie:


“Waiting to Be Arrested at Night: A Uyghur Poet’s Memoir of China’s Genocide” By Tahir Hamut Izgil, translated by Joshua L Freeman:


“A Chinese Rebel beyond the Great Wall: The Cultural Revolution and Ethnic Pogrom in Inner Mongolia” By TJ Cheng, Uradyn E. Bulag, and Mark Selden:


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *