Our 2021 Winter Reading List
Ice in its many forms is paradoxical: solid but shapeshifting, hard but fragile, frigid but insulative… and its presence (or absence) adds dimensions to both outdoor recreation and the cultures of people who live in harmony with it. That’s why these books about cold weather adventure vary so widely.
From dog sledding to glacier skiing, ice climbing to avalanche rescue, these books delve into many different kinds of cold-weather pursuits—and inevitably, many also touch on aspects of climate while examining the forces affecting these fragile frozen places on earth—whether that’s Indigenous Arctic culture or a melting glacier.
Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube by Blair Braverman (2016)
A young musher leaves her home in California for adventures in Norway and Alaska with her dog sled team. This book recounts surviving blizzards and collapsing snow caves, physical exhaustion in the extreme temperatures, and a tempestuous relationship with a fellow dog sled driver as Braverman navigates through her youth in frigid landscapes.
Ice Diaries: An Antarctic Memoir by Jean McNeal (2016)
Maritime-born novelist and short story writer Jean McNeal spent a year as writer-in-residence at an Antarctic survey station. This book is a combination of reflections on that experience (as well as travels to Greenland, Iceland, Norway, and South Africa) that examines our fascination with ice and the lifelong effects of growing up in cold places.
The Right to Be Cold by Sheila Watt Cloutier (2016)
Penned by one of the foremost Indigenous environmental and human rights advocates in the world, this memoir of growing up in the traditional ice-based hunting culture of an Inuit community in Nunavik, serves also as a deeply informed examination of safeguarding Inuit culture, the Arctic, and the planet.
Higher Love: Skiing the Seven Summits by Kit DesLauriers (2015)
Kit DesLauriers was the first person to ski from the summit of each continent’s highest mountain after climbing it. It’s a true adventure narrative of what she experienced on all seven continents over two years.
Into the Planet: My Life as a Cave Diver by Jill Heinerth (2019)
This book begins inside the deep frigid veins of an Antarctic iceberg, where Jill Heinerth is fighting currents to resurface from the first-ever dive of this kind. While the memoir takes readers to warmer places too—the chapters about the cold dives are some of the most captivating.
Ada Blackjack: A True Story of Survival in the Arctic by Jennifer Niven (2003)
The remarkable true story of a young Inuit woman who survived six months alone on a desolate Arctic island in 1921.
Stories of Ice: Adventure, Commerce, and Creativity on Canada’s Glaciers by Lynn Martel (2020)
With perspectives from a mother/daughter duo skiing icefields to scientists studying glacial biofilms (among many others), Lynn Martel writes a meticulously researched journalistic examination of Canada’s disappearing glaciers to understand their secrets and ponder their future.
Raising Ourselves: A Gwitch’in Coming of Age Story from the Yukon River by Velma Wallis (2002)
Velma Wallis (author of Two Old Women) writes this memoir about growing up in the 1960s and 70s in a Gwich’in village at a major point of cultural transition as Wallis’s ancestral way of life has been impacted by two generations of colonial interference. It’s a gritty, sobering, honest, and still hopeful reflection on her difficult early years in remote Alaska.
No Horizon is So Far: Two Women and Their Historic Journey Across Antarctica by Liv Arnesen, Ann Bancroft, and Cheryl Dahle (2003)
Two former school teachers, one American and one Norwegian, set off to become the first women to cross the continent of Antarctica on foot. Their 94-day journey over 1,700 miles was broadcast to three million children following their adventure via satellite phone and Web.
Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq (2018)
A genre-blending book by an internationally-acclaimed Inuit throat singer, Split Tooth moves between fiction and memoir, poetry and prose, to tell a story through the eyes of a girl growing up in Nunavut in the 1970s.
Go Find: My Journey to Find the Lost—and Myself by Susan Purvis (2018)
A story of training herself and her black lab, Tasha, in avalanche rescue. She documents her own certifications as the first female team in a male-dominated community, with the difficulties (and humorous moments) of training her dog along with herself.
The Sun is a Compass: A 4,000-Mile Journey into the Alaskan Wilds by Caroline Van Hemert (2019)
An ornithologist sets off to be guided by birds and follow the trails of animals via a 4,000-mile rowboat, ski, foot, raft, and canoe journey from the Pacific rainforest to the Alaskan Arctic with her husband.
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What other winter adventure books are on your list?