For even the most dedicated climbers, summer in the Northeast generally involves a few beach days. Luckily, climbers can keep their tips tough and fingers of steel strong by flipping the pages of a book while sitting in the sand this summer. Avoid bad beach reads like a first-time belayer at the gym and get stoked with one of these classic climbing books.

Credit: Tim Peck

Valley Walls: A Memoir of Climbing and Living in Yosemite by Glen Denny

Valley Walls transports readers into the golden age of Yosemite climbing—the late 1950s and early 1960s—through the words and images of iconic climber and photographer, Glen Denny. More than merely putting the reader in the Valley, on El Cap, and at Camp 4, Denny introduces the reader to some of the giants of Yosemite climbing (including Warren Harding, Royal Robbins, Chuck Pratt, and Layton Kor) in a way that showcases their legendary personalities and highlights their friendships and partnerships.

Valley Walls is composed of 21 essays, each with an accompanying black-and-white photo, following Denny from when he first showed up to Yosemite as someone “who knew nothing about real climbing” to being a member of the third party to ever climb The Nose—in record time, no less. While much of the book centers on climbing, some of its most memorable moments focus on the daily life of Yosemite climbers, from meals in the Yosemite cafeteria to campfires in Camp 4.

Feeding the Rat: A Climber’s Life on the Edge by Al Alvarez

Despite the incredible achievements of the British mountaineer Mo Anthoine, he isn’t well known in the United States, especially compared to his climbing partners and mountaineering legends like Doug Scott, Chris Bonnigton, and Joe Brown. This is likely because not enough people have read Al Alvarez’s biography of him, Feeding the Rat.

In Feeding the Rat, Alvarez, a close friend and sometime climbing partner of Anthoine, shares plenty of epic adventure stories, including an account of the first ascent of the Ogre and the eight-day crawl Doug Scott had off the mountain after breaking both his legs. In addition to taking readers to the Karakoram, the book follows Anthoine on climbs in Wales, the Dolomites, the Andes, and the Himalayas. While Feeding the Rat places the spotlight primarily on climbing and adventure, it also explores friendship, what attracts climbers to the sport, and what climbers gain when pushing their limits.

What does feeding the rat mean? You’ll need to read the book to find out.

Kiss or Kill: Confessions of a Serial Climber by Mark Twight

Kiss or Kill is a collection of 25 of Mark Twight’s essays that he wrote largely for outdoor-focused magazines over a fifteen-year period that roughly coincided with the apex of his climbing career. There are a lot of reasons why Kiss or Kill stands apart from other mountain literature, but the most immediately recognizable is its tone. Twight’s writing harnesses the dread, rage, fear, and drive of the punk music that inspired the author’s climbs. Lyrics from musical artists like Skinny Puppy, Henry Rollins, and Joy Division populate his writings and undergird his motivations. So, too, do quotes from philosophers like Nietzsche and artists like Gauguin.

Published in 2001, Kiss or Kill is now more than two decades old, with some essays dating back to the early 1980s at what was an exciting inflection point in climbing. Twight’s writing itself departs from the classic climbing writing that precedes it—he’s opinionated, brash, elitist, and honest. He also abandons many of the tropes that defined the genre; courage and daring are replaced with competitiveness, emotional turmoil, and nihilism, all characteristics that defined Twight’s cutting-edge climbs. The book was written when the sport had slowly started to enter the mainstream, and one of the essays recounts a trip to Antarctica to climb icebergs to capture “dramatic footage” for a cigarette company.

While Kiss or Kill feels unique in its voice and ideas, the book explores some common themes of climbing literature, like why people climb and the bonds formed among climbers. It’s definitely worth checking out.

A Bolt from the Blue: The Epic True Story of Danger, Daring, and Heroism at 13,000 Feet by Jennifer Woodlief

A Bolt from the Blue is more of a classic climbing tale—think Into Thin Air, but a few thousand feet above one of the country’s most expensive mountain towns, Jackson Hole. The book recounts a lightning strike on the Grand Teton that killed six climbers on the mountain’s Upper Exum Ridge as well as the rescue of five other climbers stranded on the mountain by the Jenny Lake Rangers.

The book does an extraordinary job of providing a detailed account of the event while introducing the reader to the stranded climbers and sharing their perspective of events. The book also explores lightning strikes, what goes into being a member of an elite search and rescue team, and provides insight into how complicated rescues are conducted in the mountains. In A Bolt From the Blue, readers leave with an intimate introduction to the rescuers and the challenges facing them as they attempt this daring rescue.

Although the book is filled with details about everything from the Tetons to one of the Jenny Lake Ranger’s cookie recipes, the book never bogs down and is a page-turner from beginning to end.

Credit: Tim Peck

The Impossible Climb by Mark Synott

If you’re into rock climbing, you’ve likely seen the Oscar-winning documentary Free Solo detailing Alex Honnold’s jaw-dropping ropeless ascent of El Cap—but have you read the book about it?

Written by New Hampshire’s Mark Synott, The Impossible Climb details Honnold’s iconic ascent but dives deeper than the film, exploring Alex Honnold’s unique personality, drive, and what makes him capable of such astonishing feats. It also explores the business of climbing and the life of professional climbers, a topic also touched on briefly in Mark Twight’s Kiss or Kill.

The Impossible Climb also details Synott’s life, posing a contrast to Honnold’s. Synott has been a member of The North Face athlete team since the late 1990s and has first ascents everywhere from Baffin Island to the Karakoram to Borneo—making him a capable narrator and highlighting just how astounding Honnold’s climb is.

While the book covers Honnold’s free solo, the characters around it, and Yosemite itself more in-depth than the movie, it shares with the film the ability to make your palms sweat with anxiety and to generate the simultaneous emotions of wanting to put the book down and read the next page.

Do you have a favorite climbing book? If so, tell us what it is in the comments below!