News » Features

Wintry Reads

When the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful ...


They say freezing to death is not entirely uncomfortable. The extremities shut down first, and all warmth recedes toward the heart fading to a deep, cold, permanent sleep. Reading, too, is not entirely uncomfortable, but it's nothing like freezing to death. In fact, reading is good for you. Reading about winter extremes whilst safely hunkered down by a warm fire is a fine way to imagine people's experiences with brutal cold, biting winds, arctic air, and frostbitten bodies.

The Future of Ice: A Journey into Cold

by Gretel Ehrlich

In December 2002, Ehrlich embarked on a mission to experience the extremes of winter before global warming takes its toll and renders the season unrecognizable. She backpacked through the glaciers of the southern Andes, wintered in a Wyoming cabin and sailed on an Arctic research ship. Although full of global warming facts, this book is less about science and more about a poetic meditation on deep cold and the ecological significance of winter.

In the Ghost Country

by Peter Hillary

A memoir of extraordinary depth and searing honesty, In the Ghost Country is a chronicle of profound isolation, grief, and loneliness. It is the story of Peter Hillary's 1998 physical and emotional journey across the icy wastes of Antarctica to retrace the South Pole route that killed Robert Falcon in 1912. Wrought with horrendous barriers, Hillary's trek across the blank slate of the Antarctic snowballs into a hallucinogenic pilgrimage in which the ghosts of lost friends and loved ones appear and accompany him.

Winter Dance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod

by Gary Paulsen

Fueled by a passion for running dogs, Gary Paulsen entered the Iditarod--the 1150-mile winter sled-dog race between Anchorage and Nome--in dangerous ignorance and with fierce determination. Winterdance is his account of this seventeen-day battle against Nature's worst elements and his own frailty. Paulsen and his team of dogs endured snowstorms, frostbite, dogfights, moose attacks, sleeplessness and hallucinations in the relentless push to go on, and readers are invited to relive their struggle with maps and color photographs.

Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica

by Sara Wheeler

Antarctica is the coldest, windiest, driest place on earth, an icy desert of unearthly beauty and stubborn impenetrability. For centuries it has captured the imagination of our greatest scientists and explorers, lingering in spirit long after their return.

This is a book about the call of the wild and a country that exists most vividly in the mind. Wheeler spent seven months in Antarctica, and in addition to chronicling her own encounters with the people and the place, she brings the past alive through vivid stories about the heroes of polar exploration: Shackleton, Scott, Amundsen, and others who practically become secondary characters in Wheeler's account. But it is her interactions with the living people who make up the community--scientists, drifters, and dreamers who have settled this forbidding landscape--that make Terra Incognita a rare and worthy book.

The Snowflake: Winter's Secret Beauty

by Kenneth Libbrecht

John Muir called them snow flowers. Thoreau described them as sweepings from the floor of heaven. For ages, snow crystals have captured the attention of poets and writers, and in the last few decades, scientists have learned much about these seemingly simple but incredibly complex, minute wonders. Now available to layman, their findings are packaged in an elegant and splendidly designed book. Author and researcher Kenneth Libbrecht clearly explains the processes by which crystals are formed and how to identify major types, and Patricia Rasumussen's exquisite and mesmerizing photography reminds us why these sweepings of heaven continue to astonish and amaze. Winner of the 2004 National Outdoor Book Award.