"Luminous Mountains, the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California," photos and text by Tim Palmer (Heyday Books/Yosemite Association, $19.95, 176 pages)
Coffee table books come and go, mostly on view for a few months and then retired to book cases. This one is in a different category, combining excellent photography with first-person writing about the California peaks and experiences in roaming them. The inside front and inside back covers are excellent, detailed and helpful in following the text. You don't get to the text until page 15, but the trip to there is stunning with photos of golden peaks, roiling waters, rainbows, flowers, snow-blanketed hillsides.
The first chapter is about a climb of Pyramid Peak, the sentinel to the west from Carson City. It's a demanding climb but the views are worth it (as many of us would agree). It's a satisfactory introduction to the Sierra Nevada.
The chapters range on, with incredible photos that urge one to find that place and enjoy it in real life. There's issues of conservation, of intrusive city smog. Most of all there is an invitation to explore these places and these sites.
The final chapter is about a climb of Mount Whitney, highest peak in the Sierra. It's a gentle chapter and a fitting close. It too leads us to imagine what it would be like to, if not follow in Pallor's climbing, at least sample some of them. This is a marvelous work, one that will not just sit on the coffee table but will be admired and enjoyed time after time.