100 books like Finding Franklin

By Russell A. Potter,

Here are 100 books that Finding Franklin fans have personally recommended if you like Finding Franklin. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Erebus: One Ship, Two Epic Voyages, and the Greatest Naval Mystery of All Time

Katie Daysh Author Of Leeward

From my list on to get lost at sea with.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an author of queer historical fiction and I love to explore stories set on the sea. I adore the drama of it, the beauty, the awe, the timelessness, and the wild backdrop that allows characters to confront themselves and their journeys. Having lived by the sea all my life on an island rich with nautical and smuggling history, it has never been far away from me. I like to read a mixture of fiction and non-fiction; both have strongly influenced my own writing. The books on this list capture the diverse reasons I am drawn to sea tales!

Katie's book list on to get lost at sea with

Katie Daysh Why did Katie love this book?

As well as the characters who populate nautical stories and the sea itself, ships have such a vivid voice.

This non-fiction book follows HMS Erebus from her early journey to Antarctica to her eventual disappearance in the Canadian Arctic. I have a small obsession with polar exploration and this book captures the drama, the terror, and the mystery of it.

Michael Palin’s sensitivity to the historical issues and the real figures is very moving, especially the moment when the primary documents stop and all that is left to tell these men’s tales is a note in a desolate cairn.

I want to also sneakily recommend AMC’s adaptation of Dan Simmons’s The Terror, a TV show based on these events, which has some of my favourite writing in any piece of media.

By Michael Palin,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Erebus as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

_______________
THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER: the remarkable true story of the exploration ship featured in The Terror

In the early years of Queen Victoria's reign, HMS Erebus undertook two of the most ambitious naval expeditions of all time.

On the first, she ventured further south than any human had ever been. On the second, she vanished with her 129-strong crew in the wastes of the Canadian Arctic, along with the HMS Terror.

Her fate remained a mystery for over 160 years.

Then, in 2014, she was found.

This is her story.
_______________
Now available: Michael Palin's North Korea Journals
_______________…


Book cover of Frozen in Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition

Ken McGoogan Author Of Searching for Franklin: New Answers to the Great Arctic Mystery

From my list on lost Franklin Expedition.

Why am I passionate about this?

I did not set out to write six books about Arctic exploration. By the mid-1990s, while working full-time as a journalist, I had published three novels. I proposed to become a celebrated novelist. But then, during a three-month stint at the University of Cambridge, I discovered Arctic explorer John Rae–and that he had been denied his rightful recognition by Charles Dickens and other leading Victorians. I researched Rae’s story, marked his greatness in the Arctic, and celebrated him in Fatal Passage. It took me two decades and five more Arctic books to solve the great mystery while also publishing ten books on other subjects. Call me a compulsive scribbler. 

Ken's book list on lost Franklin Expedition

Ken McGoogan Why did Ken love this book?

This is the classic introduction to Franklin’s 1845 expedition. On Beechey Island, Owen Beattie conducted autopsies on the bodies of the first three sailors to die. John Geiger tells the story so clearly that he opens the door to interpretations at odds with his own.

At the northern tip of King William Island, believing he had no option, Franklin turned southwest into “the continuously replenished pack-ice.” He sailed into a lethal trap, one “made all the more cruel with the realization that the route along the eastern coast of the island regularly clears during the summer.” Here, I realized that Geiger was referencing the strait John Rae discovered in 1854, which, fifty years later, Roald Amundsen would vindicate as the final link in the first navigable Northwest Passage. 

By Owen Beattie, John Geiger,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Frozen in Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“A remarkable piece of forensic deduction.”—Margaret Atwood 

The internationally-bestselling account of the Franklin’s doomed Arctic expedition, and the thrilling scientific investigation that spurred the decades-long hunt for its recovery—now with a new afterword on the discovery of its lost ships: Erebus and Terror.

“Chilling . . . will keep you up nights turning pages.”—The Chicago Tribune

In 1845, Sir John Franklin and his men set out to “penetrate the icy fastness of the north, and to circumnavigate America.” And then they disappeared. The truth about what happened to Franklin’s ill-fated Arctic expedition was shrouded in mystery for more than a…


Book cover of James Fitzjames: The Mystery Man of the Franklin Expedition

John Wilson Author Of North with Franklin: The Lost Journals of James Fitzjames

From my list on the Lost Franklin Expedition.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been a Franklin geek for three decades and five of my fifty published novels and non-fiction books excavate the story of the greatest disaster in Arctic history. Reading Fitzjames’ letters for my first book introduced me to a friend I would have enjoyed going for a beer with and one of the greatest thrills of my life was waking one morning in September, 2014 to learn that the wreck of Fitzjames’ ship, Erebus, had been discovered. I am still excited to live in a time when the mystery might finally be solved—perhaps Fitzjames’ original journal lies amid the water-logged timbers off the shore where so many died.

John's book list on the Lost Franklin Expedition

John Wilson Why did John love this book?

Although James Fitzjames left many letters little was known about his early childhood and family background until Battersby researched this biography. Fitzjames was a charismatic personality who won awards for bravely, led an expedition to survey a route through the Middle East and fought in China in the Opium War. He seemed destined for great things in the British Navy, but through it all he hid a dark secret about his parentage. Fitzjames’ letters are filled with humour, lively anecdotes and character sketches of his fellow officers. They inspired the novel, North with Franklin, and this book makes an entertaining companion to that work.

By William Battersby,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked James Fitzjames as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

James Fitzjames was a hero of the early nineteenth-century Royal Navy. A charismatic man with a wicked sense of humour, he pursued his naval career with wily determination. When he joined the Franklin Expedition at the age of 32 he thought he would make his name. But instead the expedition completely disappeared and he never returned. Its fate is one of history's last great unsolved mysteries, as were the origins and background of James Fitzjames - until now. Fitzjames packed a great deal into his thirty-two years. He had sailed an iron paddle steamer down the River Euphrates and fought…


Book cover of Unravelling the Franklin Mystery 5: Inuit Testimony

Ken McGoogan Author Of Searching for Franklin: New Answers to the Great Arctic Mystery

From my list on lost Franklin Expedition.

Why am I passionate about this?

I did not set out to write six books about Arctic exploration. By the mid-1990s, while working full-time as a journalist, I had published three novels. I proposed to become a celebrated novelist. But then, during a three-month stint at the University of Cambridge, I discovered Arctic explorer John Rae–and that he had been denied his rightful recognition by Charles Dickens and other leading Victorians. I researched Rae’s story, marked his greatness in the Arctic, and celebrated him in Fatal Passage. It took me two decades and five more Arctic books to solve the great mystery while also publishing ten books on other subjects. Call me a compulsive scribbler. 

Ken's book list on lost Franklin Expedition

Ken McGoogan Why did Ken love this book?

First published in 1991, this book draws on Inuit oral history to challenge the “standard reconstruction” of how the Franklin expedition played out, presenting a more complex narrative. A master mariner, Woodman not only repeatedly searched King William Island for relics and bones but was the first to do an in-depth analysis of the unpublished Inuit testimony gathered by Charles Francis Hall with the help of Tookoolito. 

Woodman deduced that after the abandonment, some of Franklin’s men returned to the ice-locked vessels. Intensely focused and detailed, this book speaks to aspiring experts–and, for me, drew attention to the need for a broad, accessible survey of Arctic exploration highlighting the Indigenous contribution.  

By David C. Woodman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Unravelling the Franklin Mystery 5 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

David Woodman's classic reconstruction of the mysterious events surrounding the tragic Franklin expedition has taken on new importance in light of the recent discovery of the HMS Erebus wreck, the ship Sir John Franklin sailed on during his doomed 1845 quest to find the Northwest Passage to Asia. First published in 1991, Unravelling the Franklin Mystery boldly challenged standard interpretations and offered a new and compelling alternative. Among the many who have tried to discover the truth behind the Franklin disaster, Woodman was the first to recognize the profound importance of Inuit oral testimony and to analyze it in depth.…


Book cover of The Discovery of Slowness

Carl Honoré Author Of In Praise of Slow: Challenging the Cult of Speed

From my list on slowness.

Why am I passionate about this?

Writer, broadcaster, speaker. I used to be stuck in fast forward, rushing through life instead of living it. I finally realised I needed to slow down when I started speed reading bedtime stories to my son: my version of Snow White had just three dwarves in it! I went on to slow down – and became, in the words of CBC Radio, “the world's leading evangelist for the Slow Movement.”

Carl's book list on slowness

Carl Honoré Why did Carl love this book?

A gripping novel based on the life and death of John Franklin, a 19th century Arctic explorer. Franklin was by nature slow, and therefore out of step with the times. At school, other kids teased him for never having a ready comeback. Later, slowness became his superpower, a source of deep thinking, care, and wisdom. Franklin was an early avatar of the Slow movement!

By Sten Nadolny,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Discovery of Slowness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Framing the life of the nineteenth-century explorer Sir John Franklin, this novel explores not only the adventures of his career, but also enters a world where the quality of life is considered in "slow motion", where ordinary experience becomes wholly new and unexpected.


Book cover of The Last Viking: The Life of Roald Amundsen

Buddy Levy Author Of Empire of Ice and Stone: The Disastrous and Heroic Voyage of the Karluk

From my list on polar exploration, expeditions, and survival.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been passionate about Polar exploration since I was a boy. My father was a Nordic Olympic skier who introduced me to the exploits of Norwegian and Scandinavian explorers when I was very young. Later, I traveled to Greenland in 2003 and was blown away by the remoteness, the dramatic ice and mountains, and the incredible toughness of the people who have explored the regions and carved out life there.

Buddy's book list on polar exploration, expeditions, and survival

Buddy Levy Why did Buddy love this book?

I love a great cradle-to-grave biography, and gives the life story of Roald Amundsen, in my opinion, the greatest Polar explorer in history. I gained so much insight into the man who was driven to explore the most extreme places on earth, the Polar regions.

I relished the deep insights into Amundsen’s character and personality, which helped me better understand one of the more misunderstood figures in exploration history.

By Stephen Bown,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Last Viking as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Last Viking unravels the life of the man who stands head and shoulders above all those who raced to map the last corners of the world. In 1900, the four great geographical mysteries- the Northwest Passage, the Northeast Passage, the South Pole, and the North Pole- remained blank spots on the globe. Within twenty years Roald Amundsen would claim all four prizes. Renowned for his determination and technical skills, both feared and beloved by his men, Amundsen is a legend of the heroic age of exploration, which shortly thereafter would be tamed by technology, commerce, and publicity. Feted in…


Book cover of The Voyage of the Narwhal

Cynthia Reeves Author Of The Last Whaler

From my list on survival in extreme polar environments.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve had a lifelong passion for all things Arctic that began in childhood as I devoured many tragic tales of doomed Arctic explorers. This fascination later merged with concern for human impacts on this fragile ecosystem. Though I hate the cold and suffer from vertigo, I participated in the 2017 Arctic Circle Summer Solstice Expedition that sailed Svalbard’s western shores. Among other experiences, I witnessed a massive glacier calving and walked on an ice floe. Determined to fully absorb Svalbard’s setting for my creative work, I spent two subsequent residencies in Longyearbyen—one in the dark season and one as the light returned—and I signed on for another expedition to circumnavigate the archipelago.

Cynthia's book list on survival in extreme polar environments

Cynthia Reeves Why did Cynthia love this book?

Like Brockmeier’s book, this book is in my top-five all-time novels. I can fall in love with a novel purely for its language, and Barrett’s ability to describe the settings her characters encounter is unparalleled. It, too, has a rare polar setting, this time aboard the ship the Narwhal bound for the Arctic in 1855 to find the remains of a previous, lost expedition. So visceral are her descriptions that they put me right back in the Arctic.

She’s also masterful at interleaving science and history with her characters’ desires without becoming didactic. One of her protagonists, the scholar-naturalist Erasmus Darwin Wells, screens the world and his philosophical musings through the lens of his scientific inclinations. I admire novels that manage to teach me something while not feeling as if the author is desperate to cram all the research s/he has acquired into the book. Barrett succeeds in avoiding this…

By Andrea Barrett,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Voyage of the Narwhal as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Capturing a crucial moment in the history of exploration-the mid-nineteenth century romance with the Arctic-Andrea Barrett's compelling novel tells the story of a fateful expedition. Through the eyes of the ship's scholar-naturalist, Erasmus Darwin Wells, we encounter the Narwhal's crew, its commander, and the far-north culture of the Esquimaux. In counterpoint, we meet the women left behind in Philadelphia, explorers only in imagination. Together, those who travel and those who stay weave a web of myth and mystery, finally discovering what they had not sought, the secrets of their own hearts.


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

Bill Murray Author Of Out in the Cold: Travels North: Adventures in Svalbard, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and Canada

From my list on to understand the high north.

Why am I passionate about this?

There’s nothing like personal experience. You have to read the literature, it’s true. That’s how we’ve all met here at Shepherd. But you have to roll up your sleeves and get down to visiting, too, if you want to write about travel. I first approached the Arctic in 1991 and I return above sixty degrees north every year, although I must confess to a secret advantage; I married a Finn. We spend summers at a little cabin north of Helsinki. I know the region personally, I keep coming back, and I invite you, whenever you can, to come up and join us!

Bill's book list on to understand the high north

Bill Murray Why did Bill love this book?

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 chase with these five books, Arctic Dreams is the book, because Barry Lopez got things right.

By Barry Lopez,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Arctic Dreams as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

**AS HEARD ON BBC RADIO 4**

'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.

WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY ROBERT MACFARLANE

Lopez's journey across our frozen planet is a celebration of the Arctic in all its guises. A hostile landscape of ice, freezing oceans and dazzling skyscapes. Home to millions of diverse animals and people. The stage to massive migrations by land, sea and air. The setting of epic exploratory…


Book cover of White Eskimo: Knud Rasmussen's Fearless Journey into the Heart of the Arctic

Caroline McCullagh Author Of Quest For The Ivory Caribou

From my list on adventure in the Arctic and Antarctic.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a teenager, I started reading about people who lived in marginal places, such as the Eskimos of the far north and the Kung San of South Africa. Living a middle-class American life it was difficult for me to understand how people could not only live in those places but also love them. After I raised my children, my husband encouraged me to return to college, and I did, majoring in anthropology. I learned about the deep connections that bind all people—love of home and family. By learning about other people’s lives, much of what confused me about my own fell away. 

Caroline's book list on adventure in the Arctic and Antarctic

Caroline McCullagh Why did Caroline love this book?

Inuit and Danish in heritage, Knud Rasmussen is one of the major stars of Arctic research. He led one of the most famous explorations of northern Canada, The Fifth Thule Expedition, and documented the lives and culture of the people who lived there.

This modern biography doesn’t have the drama and excitement of firsthand accounts, but it’s comprehensive and well-written. It has many interesting details of the lives of both Rasmussen and Peter Freuchen. Additionally, it gives readers a look at the larger context of politics and exploration in the first half of the 20th century.  

By Stephen Bown,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked White Eskimo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Among the explorers made famous for revealing hitherto impenetrable cultures,T. E. Lawrence and Wilfred Thesiger in the Middle East, Richard Burton in Africa,Knud Rasmussen stands out not only for his physical bravery but also for the beauty of his writing. Part Danish, part Inuit, Rasmussen made a courageous three-year journey by dog sled from Greenland to Alaska to reveal the common origins of all circumpolar peoples. Lovers of Arctic adventure, exotic cultures, and timeless legend will relish this gripping tale by Stephen R. Bown, known as "Canada's Simon Winchester."


Book cover of Icebound: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World

Buddy Levy Author Of Empire of Ice and Stone: The Disastrous and Heroic Voyage of the Karluk

From my list on polar exploration, expeditions, and survival.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been passionate about Polar exploration since I was a boy. My father was a Nordic Olympic skier who introduced me to the exploits of Norwegian and Scandinavian explorers when I was very young. Later, I traveled to Greenland in 2003 and was blown away by the remoteness, the dramatic ice and mountains, and the incredible toughness of the people who have explored the regions and carved out life there.

Buddy's book list on polar exploration, expeditions, and survival

Buddy Levy Why did Buddy love this book?

I was bowled over by Icebound, mainly because of how much I did not know about the intrepid Dutch navigator William Barents, for whom the Barents Sea is now named. It’s a deeply human story of early exploration (mid-1590s), disaster, and survival on the frozen wastes of Nova Zembla (Russian high Arctic).

I was deeply impressed by Pitzer’s astounding research. 

By Andrea Pitzer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Icebound as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the bestselling tradition of Hampton Sides’s In the Kingdom of Ice, a “gripping adventure tale” (The Boston Globe) recounting Dutch polar explorer William Barents’ three harrowing Arctic expeditions—the last of which resulted in a relentlessly challenging year-long fight for survival.

The human story has always been one of perseverance—often against remarkable odds. The most astonishing survival tale of all might be that of 16th-century Dutch explorer William Barents and his crew of sixteen, who ventured farther north than any Europeans before and, on their third polar exploration, lost their ship off the frozen coast of Nova Zembla to unforgiving…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in explorers, the arctic, and the Northwest Passage?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about explorers, the arctic, and the Northwest Passage.

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