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Publisher's Summary

In this masterpiece of nature writing, beautifully narrated by Oscar-winning actress Tilda Swinton, Nan Shepherd describes her journeys into the Cairngorm mountains of Scotland. There she encounters a world that can be breathtakingly beautiful at times and shockingly harsh at others. Her intense, poetic prose explores and records the rocks, rivers, creatures and hidden aspects of this remarkable landscape.

Shepherd spent a lifetime in search of the ‘essential nature’ of the Cairngorms; her quest led her to write this classic meditation on the magnificence of mountains, and on our imaginative relationship with the wild world around us. Composed during the Second World War, the manuscript of The Living Mountain lay untouched for more than 30 years before it was finally published.

©2019 Nan Shepherd (P)2019 Canongate Books Ltd

What the critics say

"The finest book ever written on nature and landscape in Britain." (Guardian

"Reading [The Living Mountain] seems to me to explain why reading is so important. And odd. And necessary. And not like anything else. There is no substitute for reading." (Jeanette Winterson)

"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." (Robert MacFarlane)

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What listeners say about The Living Mountain

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A Celebration of the Familiar

Nan Shepherd spent a lifetime walking into the Cairngorms and despite their familiarity she came to understand that "knowledge never displaces mystery". She has a Buddhist way of appreciating the connectedness of all things including the physical presence of the mountain and the life that inhabits them. Tilda Swinton performs it beautifully, reading it simply without getting in the way of the words. I find myself listening to it repeatedly while I am walking the forest I live in and it has a very calming effect on me, encouraging me be more attentive and mindful to my surroundings. I have lived in a forest setting for over 40 years and I have struggled to express why I have so enjoyed the way the area has slowly evolved as has my relation to it. Nan has given me a language to understand this. It is not really necessary to listen to it in any chronological way as it is not a story but a variety of ways of looking at the same thing through different lenses.
The forward by Robert MacFarlane is a bit academic but does bring some insights into to Nan Shepherd's life and place this book in its place in Outdoor Literature. Jeanette Winterson's contribution is more a celebration of reading than focused on this particular book but is insightful as well.

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  • Betsy Fowler
  • 2019-06-10

Timeless evocation of a mountain range

Nan Shepherd's classic work on the Cairngorm range is beautifully read by Tilda Swinton with the ecstasy of the writer herself. (Only a Scot could tackle all the Gaelic names so nicely!) Because the style is poetic and meditative, however, it should probably be read rather than heard. The superb Robert MacFarlane (from whom I first learned of the book) adds context to the work, and Jeanette Winterson contributes a personal perspective.

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  • Jessica Snickidy
  • 2020-05-23

Was not expecting this

Was not expecting to be ‘pulled into’ this writing. I believe this book is a gift. Thank you Nan and thank you God.

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  • Ellen Fremedon
  • 2020-05-03

Luminous

This book is the most luminous and numinous I have read in a long time. Tilda Swinton is wonderful.

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  • N.S.C.
  • 2021-12-16

A pinnacle of nature writing, brilliantly read

My highest recommendation if you might enjoy 20th century nature writing and poetically descriptive nonfiction. The audiobook performance by Swinton brings out the best in this powerful text by Shepherd, and the essays by Macfarlane and Winterson are great and beautifully read by the authors as well.

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  • John
  • 2021-04-26

Beautifully done

Beautifully written and read book and afterwards do justice to this well-crafted look at how we are in nature and how nature is in us.

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  • Chanda Richardson
  • 2022-06-15

A hidden Scottish treasure …

The Living Mountain was so much more than I expected. While traveling through Scotland and looking for a book more about the local area that we were in I stumbled on to this recommendation and came away with something special. Nan Shepherds observational weaving of her time in the Cairngorms takes you to the quite spots on the mountain as well as in yourself. She allows the reader inside a piece of Scotland that few are able to see experience.

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  • Donna Andrews
  • 2022-04-24

Wonderful

The language is gorgeous, and Tilda Swinton brings exactly the right voice and humor and lilt, with a Scottish accent only where necessary, and it is necessary to hear how the place names are pronounced. I don’t always find being read to better than reading, but in this case it was. It’s also a perfect book for dipping back into the narration because the chapters have titles so I can dip back to the chapter about animals or about senses any time. I will definitely listen to this again.

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  • R. Luskey
  • 2022-03-29

Absolutely wonderful

A wonderful reading of a fantastic book. Tilda Swinton’s voice is perfect for this. The afterwords by Macfarlane and Winterson are equally powerful and amazing. Absolutely worthy of multiple listens.

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  • Marshmallow
  • 2022-02-24

Perfection

This production is unusual. The readers and the material are excellent. If one knows the printed book it would surely add to the enjoyment of it, or if one has encountered the work for the first time through having it read aloud by Tilda Swinton, this is a great gift. I listen to it again and again.

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  • Elka
  • 2022-02-17

Not merely a book! Experience this. Savor this.

To know a place, and feel a place in your soul and have it transcend you...what a gift. Nan Shepherd exquisitely accounts her love affair with the Cairngorms, and Tilda Swinton's velvet narration enhances this gossamer tale.