Arctic Dreams

By Barry Lopez,

Book cover of Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape

Book description


'A master nature writer' (New York Times) provides the ultimate natural, social and cultural history of the Arctic landscape.

The author of Horizon's classic work explores the Arctic landscape and the hold it continues to exert on our imagination.


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Why read it?

5 authors picked Arctic Dreams as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Barry Lopez was a nature writer and environmentalist.

He died on Christmas day 2020, and although we are fortunate to have his valedictory book Horizon, published when his traveling days were pretty well behind him, Arctic Dreams is the real deal, with Lopez as raconteur, but practitioner too, thoroughly in his element.

Lopez writes about exploration and the aurora, animals and the weather, ice and myth and survival and joy. He’s effortless. You’ll learn more than you knew there was to know about the high north, and the pleasure is in the learning.

If you must cut to the…

From Bill's list on to understand the high north.

After I graduated from college, I moved to Alaska as an AmeriCorps volunteer teaching adult education classes. Of course, I read every book I could find about Alaska and the arctic, and to this day, Barry Lopez’s classic Arctic Dreams remains one of the best books I’ve ever read. Lopez’s lyrical prose, immersive story-telling, and impeccable research helped me learn as much about the Arctic as I did about the writing craft. Even if you’ll never travel north, this book is simply fantastic. 

I was the Arctic bureau chief (a one-person show) for a now long-forgotten news chain, living in the Northwest Territories of Canada when Lopez was there collecting stories for this book. It was fun to read because I had visited many of the places he explored and knew almost all of the scientists he profiled. What the book lacks because of its largely Eurocentric view of the polar world is made up by the fact it turned so many people onto the much neglected polar world.

From Edward's list on nature and the environment.

If you read one book about the Far North, this should be it. Lopez is a scientist who examines every facet of this northern ‘wasteland’ and man’s relationship with it, and turns conventional thinking upside-down. His revelations amaze and enchant, his perceptions will double your thinking and, if this wasn’t enough, his writing is so beautifully crafted it scintillates with all the magic of ice. Few can match his ability to represent an unloved place and people with such passion and understanding. A breath-taking classic.

From Alastair's list on the Far North.

Arctic Dreams is a classic, and for good reason. At a sentence level, it’s hard to surpass Lopez’s powerful, precise evocations of places, people, and the relationship between the two. It is also bracingly unsentimental but generous, curious, and suffused with profound moral insights into the nature of being alive, all told through explorations of Arctic places and pasts. Along the way, Lopez guides you through the natural histories of caribou, polar bears, sea ice, and the Arctic from many kinds of human histories, from Inuit to shipwrecked Europeans. It’s a book that teaches you how to see the world…

From Bathsheba's list on humans and their relationship with nature.

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