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What Climber Tommy Caldwell Is Reading Right Now

Five favorite books from the Dawn Wall pioneer and aspiring environmentalist

Here's Tommy Caldwell's book list for when he's not climbing. (Corey Rich/Red Bull)
Book club

You probably know Tommy Caldwell for his pioneering ascent of El Capitan’s Dawn Wall, the blankest section on Yosemite’s marquee granite monolith and, at 5.14d, possibly the world’s hardest big wall. His years-long assault on the route with climbing partner Kevin Jorgensen is the centerpiece of the Sender Films feature documentary “The Dawn Wall,” whose one-night theatrical release last month was so successful, a nationwide encore screening has been added for October 8

“It’s been a trip,” says Caldwell, adding that the ensuing media tour has left him with a lot of time on airplanes and trains. “It’s given me a lot of time to read, which I don’t often get at home with the kids.” Here are the books he’s carrying with him while he promotes the film.

‘The Nature Fix’ by Florence Williams ($18)

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(Courtesy W. W. Norton & Co.)

“I spend so much time outside, and I know it brings me peace and energizes my mind and body, but this has the actual data and science on benefits to spending time in nature. It discusses nature-deficit disorder in kids, which reinforces the way my wife, Becca, and I raise our kids, Fitz and Ingrid: most days, we’re outside at least some of the day. We’re also renting out our house soon and going on the road for a year, so we can travel and get Fitz and Ingrid outside as much as possible before they start school. Fitz would be starting kindergarten this year, but we’re going to homeschool him for this year. Except I call it World School.”

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‘Let my People Go Surfing’ by Yvon Chouinard ($17)

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(Courtesy Penguin Books)

“I’ve been a Patagonia ambassador for nine years now, and I love it. They have a greater goal than the bottom line and they’re not just in the business to make money. Athletes are becoming more involved in advocacy, and Patagonia, along with Protect Our Winters and the American Alpine Club’s Climb the Hill event, has given us avenues to do that.”

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‘The World Without Us’ by Alan Weisman ($11)

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(Courtesy Picador)

This one was a recommendation from Alex Honnold. It’s about what the world would look like without people, which is good baseline knowledge for when you’re trying to be an environmentalist and think about positive ways we can impact the environment or reverse the damage we’ve done in the past.”

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‘My Absolute Darling’ by Gabriel Tallent ($16)

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(Courtesy Riverhead Books)

“I don’t read a lot of fiction, but Gabriel—a climber himself—describes scenes more vividly than any author I’ve ever read. The subject matter [the isolation and abuse of a child] is intense and can be hard to read, but it’s an extraordinary book, one of those you can’t stop thinking about when you put it down.”

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‘Missoula’ by Jon Krakauer ($23)

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(Courtesy Doubleday Publishing)

“I read all the Krakauer books. This one is about rape in America in general, but especially cases at the University of Montana between 2008 and 2012. He profiles the people involved, telling their stories and talking about how their lives were affected. It’s really poignant given some recent current events. I’m very much a privileged white male, a one-percenter, and I think there’s a responsibility to try and better understand these issues in this day and age.”

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Books I Read to My Kids

“I’m reading all the kids’ books with Fitz and Ingrid too—Harry Potter, all the Roald Dahl books, that sort of thing. We do a lot of reading to each other when we’re driving. Quite honestly, that’s the majority of the reading I do. That’s probably why the rest of the list is so heavy—I need to create balance.

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Filed To: Books / Nature / Climbing / El Capitan / Environment
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