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Alex's Holiday Reading List

Alex's Holiday Reading List

Books about the environment, energy access, the economy, and outdoor exploration have all influenced the creation of the Honnold Foundation, and the evolution of Alex's approach to the world. For Alex and the rest of the HF team, one of the best ways to spend a mandatory rest day is sitting down with a good book.

“I read all these books during my Free Solo movie tour,” Alex says about his newest book recommendations. “So at least being a movie star is good for something! I'm getting an education!”

 

 

Homo Deus, by Yuval Noah Harari

Alex says: “Brad Gobright recommended this to me a long time ago and I finally read it while flying too much for Free Solo screenings. I didn't really love it— it felt too futuristic and speculative. Too far out and unfounded. But gives you things to think about for sure.”

IndieBound / Amazon

The Long Walk, by Sławomir Rawicz

Alex says: “This is an epic story about a Polish POW escaping a Russian labor camp during World War II. I thought this was amazing as I read it until I mentioned it to Jimmy Chin, who told me that it was all fake. Sadly, after researching it a bit, i discovered that Jimmy was right. I wouldn't encourage anyone to read it, since it's fake…”

IndieBound / Amazon

21 Lessons for the 21st Century, by Yuval Noah Harari

Alex says: “I liked this book much more than Homo Deus. In fact, it felt like it was the book that I was expecting from Homo Deus. It seemed more relevant and more important for my own life. I rather enjoyed it.”

IndieBound / Amazon

The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander

Alex says: “This book was given to me by a friend whose copy had tons of underlined and highlighted passages. It made an already incredibly powerful book even more meaningful.  This book fundamentally changed the way I think about crime and incarceration in the United States. I'd strongly encourage every US citizen to read it.”

IndieBound / Amazon

Are Prisons Obsolete, by Angela Davis

Alex says: “Short answer: yes. This was a good follow up to The New Jim Crow and posed more questions about the United States justice system. Or lack thereof.”

IndieBound / Amazon

Karakoram, by Steve Swenson

Alex says: “Steve is one of the kindest men in climbing, and it was a pleasure to read his book about 30 years or so of climbing experience in the Karakoram. His expeditions and climbs are inspiring in their own right, but the life he's lived outside of climbing is maybe more impressive. And I'm hoping to climb in Pakistan this year so this was a great primer.”

IndieBound / Amazon

Measure What Matters, by John Doerr

Alex says: “This was given to me at a business event. I found it not super useful for my personal life— it probably means more to someone starting a tech company. It's all about Objectives and Key Results, which help organizations like Google align around goals. But for an individual, I think it's probably easier to just write a to do list in a journal.”

IndieBound / Amazon

Winners Take All, by Anand Giridharadas

Alex says: “This was given to me at an event by someone who thought it would be important for me to read. It was his library book, so I plowed through it in three days to make sure he could return it on time. As he predicted, it was thought provoking and relevant for me. Definitely worth a read for anyone in a position of privilege. “

IndieBound / Amazon

Prisoners of Geography, by Tim Marshall 

Alex says: “Geography determines much about global politics, and this book helps untangle the mess. I really enjoyed it and felt like I learned a lot. Made me want to learn more about geopolitics.”

IndieBound / Amazon

Factfulness, by Hans Rosling

Alex says: “I think this is a pretty darn good book. My biggest take away is probably to think about the world in terms of 4 levels of development, instead of trying to break it down into west/global south or developed/developing or whatever else. It has plenty of good ideas that are well presented.”

IndieBound / Amazon

Energy and Civilization: A History, by Vaclav Smil

Alex says: “This seems like it should be extremely boring since it's basically a textbook about energy use through the ages. But it's actually surprisingly readable and interesting. It's the first Smil book that I've read, I doubt it will be the last.”

IndieBound / Amazon

 

Want more?

If you’ve already powered through this reading list and are hungry for more, never fear! Alex and the HF team have plenty more recommendations for you. Or, if there’s a recommendation you’re dying to share with Alex, pass it along! If he likes it enough, your title might make its way onto the next book list.

 

Alex's Reading List

Alex's Reading List

Books about the environment, energy access, the economy, and the way we eat have all influenced the creation of the Honnold Foundation, and the evolution of Alex's approach to the world. Here at HF, we're strong believers in the power of a good book-- and so we've selected 23 of Alex's favorites (and some color commentary) to give you a peek behind the scenes.

"If you look at all the books together," Alex says, "it gives a pretty good sense of how my brain works now.”

Looking for more recommendations? We’re adding new titles all the time! Click here to explore fresh picks from Alex’s Book List.

 

 

CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

THE WORLD WITHOUT US, BY ALAN WEISMAN

Alex says: "I think about this book a lot. It’s interesting to imagine how the world would heal without us..."

IndieBound / Amazon

 

THE SIXTH EXTINCTION, BY ELIZABETH KOLBERT

Alex says: "Very depressing. Educational, but depressing."

IndieBoundAmazon

 

OVERVIEW: A NEW PERSPECTIVE OF EARTH, BY BENJAMIN GRANT

Alex says: "I loved this book, and follow @dailyoverview on Instagram. It helps give a global perspective."

IndieBound / Amazon

 

THE RAMBUNCTIOUS GARDEN: SAVING NATURE IN A POST-WILD WORLD, BY EMMA MARRIS

Alex says: "I actually think of this book more than I expected to when I first read it - the idea of our random extra spaces (think highway medians) being nature really sunk in.

IndieBound / Amazon




MONEY AND HOW WE SPEND IT

THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING: CAPITALISM VS CLIMATE, BY NAOMI KLEIN

Alex says: "Depressing. Good, but grim. Kind of like the economic version of The Sixth Extinction."

IndieBound / Amazon

 

THE BETTER WORLD SHOPPING GUIDE: HOW EVERY DOLLAR CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE, BY ELLIS JONES

Alex says: "My sister bought this for me and signed it with the inscription: For Alex - In case you ever start giving a shit. Love, Stasia.” It was the beginning of a long process in which I’ve given more and more shits.

IndieBound / Amazon

 

BUILT TO LAST: SUCCESSFUL HABITS OF VISIONARY COMPANIES, BY JIM COLLINS

Alex says: "I read Jim’s books because I once saw a quote where Tommy Caldwell said that Jim was his favorite author. That was before I knew Tommy really well so I couldn’t ask him about it - all I could do was read all the books. It's also worth saying that Jim Collins, besides being the best selling business author of all time or something like that, has also free soloed The Naked Edge (5 pitch 5.11c). Whoa!""

IndieBound / Amazon

 

LET MY PEOPLE GO SURFING: THE EDUCATION OF A RELUCTANT BUSINESSMAN, BY YVON CHOUINARD

Alex says: "I have a ton of respect for Yvon both as a climber and a businessman. He’s definitely lived his life correctly."

IndieBound / Amazon






WHAT WE EAT

IN DEFENSE OF FOOD: AN EATER’S MANIFESTO, BY MICHAEL POLLAN

Alex says: “Eat real food, mostly plants, not too much.” I think of that all the time. Words to live by."

IndieBoundAmazon

 

EAT AND RUN: MY UNLIKELY JOURNEY TO ULTRAMARATHON GREATNESS, BY SCOTT JUREK

Alex says: “I’m good friends with Scott and his wife so I’m biased, but I found this book to be an inspiring tale of veganhood. Scott’s the man!”

IndieBound / Amazon

 

EATING ANIMALS, BY JONATHAN SAFRAN FOER

Alex says: “This book made me care more about animal rights than anything else I’ve read. I’d already been vegetarian for years when I read it, but it made me appreciate the suffering of animals a lot more.”

IndieBound / Amazon

 

THE DORITO EFFECT: THE SURPRISING NEW TRUTH ABOUT FOOD AND FLAVOR, BY MARK SCHATZKER

Alex says: "I remember nothing about this. Maybe the book is as empty as a Dorito..."

IndieBound / Amazon

 

ADVENTURE & EXPLORATION

BARBARIAN DAYS, BY WILLIAM FINNEGAN

Alex says: "A true surfing lifer! Makes me hope that I can have that kind of love for climbing my whole life. This book was Jimmy Chin’s - I borrowed it in Antarctica after I finished all of mine... the beauty of real, paper books."

IndieBound / Amazon

 

WITH BARE HANDS: THE TRUE STORY OF ALAIN ROBERT, THE REAL-LIFE SPIDERMAN, BY ALAIN ROBERT

Alex says: "This book was either translated to English by Google or by someone who didn’t actually speak English. But thankfully I speak French, so it made some sense anyway. But the climbing is amazing."

IndieBound / Amazon

 

TO BE BRAVE, BY ROYAL ROBBINS

Alex says: "Royal is a total legend and I bought this book at a talk that he gave. It’s too bad that he didn’t have enough time to write more of his story before he died."

Amazon

 

THE ENDURANCE: SHACKELTON’S LEGENDARY ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION, BY CAROLINE ALEXANDER

Alex says: "This is possibly the greatest adventure tale of all time. Must read!"

IndieBound / Amazon

 

NO PICNIC ON MT. KENYA, BY FELICE BENUZZI

Alex says: "I read this right before climbing Mt Kenya. It was the proper primer. Made me grateful that I didn’t have to escape from a POW camp before undertaking my climb..."

IndieBound / Amazon

 

QUEEN MAUD LAND ANTARCTICA, BY IVAR TOLLEFSEN

Alex says: "I read this in Antarctica and we referenced the photos all the time for beta and route descriptions. It’s a great, readable account of the first climbing trip to Queen Maud Land."

Amazon

EVERYTHING ELSE

LIGHTING THE WORLD, BY JIM ROGERS AND STEPHEN P. WILLIAMS

Alex says: "A good reminder that there are 1 billion people on earth without access to power and that we should be doing something about it. Which is a big part of why I started the Honnold Foundation."

IndieBound / Amazon

 

LETTER TO A CHRISTIAN NATION, BY SAM HARRIS

Alex says: "I loved this book - I wish I could give a copy to everyone in America. It’s freakin’ genius. I read it in a sitting. Two different times."

IndieBound / Amazon

 

WEEP NOT, CHILD, BY NGUGI WA THIONG’O

Alex says: "I rarely read fiction. When I do, I make sure it’s depressing African fiction while on an expedition in Africa. But it was quite moving."

IndieBound / Amazon

 

RULES FOR A KNIGHT, BY ETHAN HAWKE

Alex says: "Conrad Anker gave me this book and it’s freakin’ great. I’ve read it several times and given a few copies to friends. It makes me want to be a better knight."

IndieBound / Amazon

 

ASTROPHYSICS FOR PEOPLE IN A HURRY, BY NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON

Alex says: "Fun, easy reading that reminds us of our place in the universe."

IndieBound / Amazon

 
Photo by Stephen Trimble
 

WANT MORE?

Download Alex's complete reading list, including 80 additional titles not listed here.