The best books to read if you want to get to know Greenland

Christoffer Petersen Author Of Seven Graves, One Winter
By Christoffer Petersen

Who am I?

Since reading Jack London’s stories as a child I have been addicted to the far north. I have spent a good chunk of my life exploring the Arctic, including the seven years my wife and I lived in Greenland. I worked as a teacher in remote settlements. Jane worked in medical centres and small hospitals. We experienced life in Greenland from all angles. While in Greenland, I read for a Master of Arts in Professional Writing. Since returning to Denmark I draw on my experiences to shape crime and thriller stories through which I hope to bring Greenland to life. I am English. I often pretend to be Danish.

I wrote...

Seven Graves, One Winter

By Christoffer Petersen,

Book cover of Seven Graves, One Winter

What is my book about?

Seven Graves, One Winter is a crime story about identity set in Greenland’s capital city of Nuuk, and in a remote settlement in the far north. It features recently retired police constable David Maratse as he adapts to the life of a subsistence hunter and fisherman after several years of police service, only to be unwittingly drawn into a murder investigation when he discovers the body of a young woman caught on his line.

Part hunter, all heart, Maratse is ably assisted by Constable Petra ‘Piitalaat’ Jensen in this authentic political crime thriller set in the stunning but brutal Arctic.

The books I picked & why

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Smilla's Sense of Snow

By Peter Høeg,

Book cover of Smilla's Sense of Snow

Why this book?

A passenger in Chicago O’Hare International Airport pressed a battered paperback copy of this book into my hands as I boarded my plane. I was in my early and impressionable twenties, on my way back to the UK, and had no idea that my life was about to change. It’s that kind of book. I knew next to nothing about Greenland, and even less about Denmark. Smilla’s Sense of Snow introduced me to the people, the culture, and the messy history that connects the two countries all wrapped up in a thrilling page-turner. I inhaled it on the flight home, and thus began my journey to Greenland.

The Snow People

By Marie Herbert,

Book cover of The Snow People

Why this book?

Marie Herbert’s book is exceptional as it documents a period of time in the life of an Arctic explorer’s wife. Marie didn’t stay at home when her husband Wally Herbert travelled to the far north of Greenland to live with the Inuit. She went with him. In addition to the incredible insights Marie records about Inuit life in the harsh Arctic during her time on Herbert Island, The Snow People is a very personal book for me. Marie Herbert wrote the acknowledgments for the book in May 1973. I was born in August of the same year, and thirty-seven years later I would stare at the same island from my kitchen window when I lived in Greenland. A truly magical and, for me, prophetic read.

A Nature and Wildlife Guide to Greenland

By Benny Génsbøl,

Book cover of A Nature and Wildlife Guide to Greenland

Why this book?

My copy of Génsbøl’s nature guide is well-thumbed. I often used it to find out what I was eating. That’s right; it is a nature guide, packed with fabulous illustrations–better than photographs–that allow for easy identification of the flora and fauna of Greenland, but I also used it to identify what I was eating when invited to an Inuit hunter’s kaffemik–a celebration of culture, tradition, and food wrapped up in a birthday or child’s confirmation party. The guide is an indispensable companion for anyone travelling to the Arctic, and Greenland in particular. But it is equally enjoyable, perhaps even more so, when sitting in a favourite armchair with a favourite beverage in familiar surroundings, dreaming of the far north.

Eskimo Poems from Canada and Greenland

By Knud Rasmussen, Tom Lowenstein (translator),

Book cover of Eskimo Poems from Canada and Greenland

Why this book?

I tracked down a 1973 hardback edition of this book because I fell in love with it. The publication date, the year of my birth, was an added bonus. I borrowed Lowenstein’s translation of material collected by Knud Rasmussen, the famous polar explorer, from the library. As soon as I read the preface, I knew I had to own it. It’s an owning kind of book. Inuit poems are raw like the environment they are birthed in – the words and the people. Some might call the poems simplistic, but having lived in the Arctic, I know that even the simplest things can be challenging, and often life-threatening. The poems in this book capture another world that is so very far removed from our own and yet startlingly vibrant and important. 

The Arctic: A History

By Richard Vaughan,

Book cover of The Arctic: A History

Why this book?

Not only is Vaughan’s book full of history and exciting and romantic names, it is the perfect introduction to a fabulous part of the world, and a snapshot of what once was, and what might never be again, as the Arctic is subject to constant change–climatically and politically. This is another well-thumbed book of mine. It is a go-to book for facts and details. It’s not a page-turner, but more of a returner–I imagine many readers, like me, returning to this book with a query to be answered, or a historical itch to be scratched. 

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Greenland, the arctic, and the Inuit?

5,810 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Greenland, the arctic, and the Inuit.

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