As vast as its rolling highland plateaus are the mountains of books available on Tibet, and their topics and viewpoints are as divergent as its flora and fauna. From photos of nature to academic analyses, from historical narratives to gripping autobiographies, the market is awash with lush choices. If you are intrigued by the “Land of Snows” and its people and you hanker to know and see much more than you can imagine, read on.
Of the wildlife, real people and raw beauty of this land, My Tibet (162 pages, University of California Press, US$45) has it. The stunning photographs by Galen Rowell and the personal and absolutely disarming commentary by the Dalai Lama himself make this book rare and captivating. A similar effort is Tibet (192 pages, Shambhala, US$55). Its photos, covering the same range of subjects, are by Kazuyoshi Nomachi. Don’t worry. Tibet is plenty big enough for more than one photographer, and Nomachi’s imagery is distinctive. Along with the descriptive text and appendices, a forward by His Holiness and an interview with him make this offering a well rounded resource.
Arguably the region’s most compelling photographer, Thomas L. Kelly of Nepal, presents one of the most objective overviews of Tibetan lifestyle, culture and religion in Tibet: Reflections From the Wheel of Life (204 pages, Abbeville Press, US$55). This work includes rare photos of a wide range of modern Tibetans and refugees as well as powerful historical images and colorful narrative text. Kelly’s photos of The Hidden Himalayas (200 pages, Abbeville Press, US$50) reveal the rich hidden world of the Humla district of northwestern Nepal. It’s not Tibet, but the people and the landscape are indistinguishable, and Kelly’s images are stunning.
Hopping back across the Himalayas from Humla, we land at the foot of Mt. Kailas. No tome reveals this hallowed destination more beautifully than The Sacred Mountain of Tibet, On Pilgrimage to Kailas (127 pages, Park Street Press, US$24.95), which documents the ongoing feats of pilgrimage by Buddhists, Hindus, Jains and Bonpos. Tibet: Enduring Spirit, Exploited Land (192 pages, Heartsfire Books, US$29.95), just released, includes color photographs in a sensitive exploration of Tibet’s nomads and farmers and the environmental wisdom they have acquired through the centuries.
Studious souls will find solace with Religions of Tibet in Practice (560 pages, Princeton University Press, US$60). Professor Donald S. Lopez is the editor of this landmark, photo-less anthology of Tibetan spiritual practices, prayers and texts. His recent study, Prisoners of Shangri-La, (272 pages, University of Chicago Press, US$25) is a timely, in-depth cultural history of the West’s fascination with Tibetan Buddhism. The Bon Religion of Tibet (155 pages, Shambhala Publications, US$55), a fully illustrated scholarly work by Norwegian Per Kv¾rne, is a rich, detailed study of the Bon tradition [see page 28], focusing on the art and iconography of Bon Deities.
Following the Tibetan refugees into India is World Peace Ceremony, Bodh Gaya (249 pages, Dharma Publishing, US$35). Geared for Buddhist practitioners, it is a colorful documentation of the yearly massive gathering of Lamas in Bodh Gaya.
Haven’t found what you wanted yet? Then curl up and hear His Holiness tell his own life story in his inimitably lovable and humorous way in Freedom in Exile: The Autobiography of the Dalai Lama (288 pages, HarperCollins Publishers, US$22.95). He’ll en- chant you, as he does most everyone. But before you buy anything, you must consider the absolutely riveting true-life story of bona fide yoga in the Tibetan tradition. You will find this as nowhere else in Tibet’s Great Yogi: Milarepa (315 pages, Oxford University Press, US$9.95). This release, edited by W.Y. Evans-Wence, is the one to get.
OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS, 200 MADISON AVENUE, NEW YORK, NEW YORK 11016 USA; WISDOM PUBLICATIONS, 361 NEWBURY STREET, BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS 02115 USA; ABBEVILLE PRESS, 22 CORTLANDT STREET, 32ND FLOOR, NEW YORK, NEW YORK 10007 USA; UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS, 2120 BERKELEY WAY, BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA 94720 USA; SHAMBHALA PUBLICATIONS, 300 MASSACHUSETTS AVENUE, BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS 02115 USA; DHARMA PUBLISHING, 2425 HILLSIDE AVENUE, BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA 94704 USA; HEARTSFIRE BOOKS, 500 NORTH GUADALUPE STREET, SUITE G-465, SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO 87501 USA; PARK STREET PRESS, ONE PARK STREET, ROCHESTER,
VERMONT 05767 USA