The best books about Antarctica

8 authors have picked their favorite books about Antarctica and why they recommend each book.

Soon, you will be able to filter by genre, age group, and more. Sign up here to follow our story as we build a better way to explore books.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission (learn more).

Skating To Antarctica

By Jenny Diski,

Book cover of Skating To Antarctica

This isn’t a traditional travel book and not a traditional memoir about depression, but a combination of both. Her journey to Antarctica becomes a metaphor for her mental health struggles throughout her life, starting from childhood. 

What I love about this book, and her writing in general, is the dark humour, her acerbic observations and true understanding of how paralysing and perilous depression can be. She understands how painful depression is, the depths it can take you to and seeing your own darkness reflected by someone else is both comforting and validating.


Who am I?

I’m a Brighton based writer. I’ve lived with bloody depression and frigging anxiety, since a child. I’m the founder of The Recovery Letters project, which publishes online letters from people recovering from depression, addressed to those experiencing it. It was published as a book in 2017 and Cosmopolitan named it "One of the 12 mental health books everyone should read". I also edited What I Do to Get Through: How to Run, Swim, Cycle, Sew, or Sing Your Way Through DepressionMy fourth book, How to Tell Anxiety to Sod Off, is due out in 2022.


I wrote...

How To Tell Depression to Piss Off: 40 Ways to Get Your Life Back

By James Withey,

Book cover of How To Tell Depression to Piss Off: 40 Ways to Get Your Life Back

What is my book about?

Trying to manage the range of symptoms that depression throws at you is like navigating the dark ocean floor when you are without a torch and don't know how to swim. How do you manage something that feels utterly unmanageable? How do you get through each day when depression is telling you you're a worthless lump of camel spleen? What you need is a guide. A really good one. You need to know what works and what to do.

This book gives you 40 ways to get to a better place with depression. They are born out of the author's personal experience of clinical depression and his many years of working as a counsellor helping people with their mental health. James lives with depression and knows its lies, the traps it makes and how to dodge when it starts spitting bile in your face. Nice, eh?

South!

By Ernest Shackleton,

Book cover of South!: The Story of Shackleton's, 1914-1917

Ernest Shackleton was Scott’s rival and companion, the one who was smart enough not to die. A later Antarctic explorer, Sir Raymond Priestly, famously said, “For scientific discovery give me Scott. For speed and efficiency of travel, give me Amundsen. But when disaster strikes and all hope is gone, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton.” Shackleton’s last expedition was the stuff of legend. His ship the Endurance was trapped in the ice for ten months, and finally crushed by the ice and sunk. Shackleton marshalled his men to march across the floes dragging their boat, and then they sailed across the polar seas to Elephant Island where they finally were rescued more than two years after they set out. It’s an almost unbelievable feat.


Who am I?

I'm a science fiction writer. If you write about time travel, one of the things you have to worry about is changing the past, the ‘gun for a dinosaur’ effect. If you go to the past and kill that dinosaur, will it affect the present? Maybe that dinosaur was the ancestor of all mammals. So, if you want to steal something from the past and bring it to now, you have to choose carefully. Something that has left no biological footprint. When I got that far, I remembered that Titus Oates walked off into the storm in Antarctica, never to be seen again, to save his companions. His body is still out there, frozen in a glacier … or is it?


I wrote...

Revise the World

By Brenda Clough,

Book cover of Revise the World

What is my book about?

He said, “I am just going outside and may be some time.” He went out into the blizzard and we have not seen him since. On March 16, 1912, British polar explorer Titus Oates commits suicide by walking out of his tent into an Antarctic blizzard, to save Robert Falcon Scott and the other members of the English exploration team. His body is never found — because he was snatched away into the year 2045 by scientists experimenting with a new faster-than-light drive.

The first section of this novel appeared as a novella in Analog Science Fiction magazine (April 2001) under the title “May Be Some Time.” It was a finalist for both the Nebula and the Hugo awards.

The Coldest March

By Susan Solomon,

Book cover of The Coldest March

Author Susan Solomon is a senior scientist with the US National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration. She has uncovered what I believe is the real reason why Scott’s party couldn’t stagger back to safety. In the polar regions, the reason is always the climate. Even if you prepare carefully and well, sometimes it’s just too cold for human life. Scott and four companions were fighting an unbeatable foe, and they knew it. They died gallantly anyway, which is why a hundred years later we haven’t forgotten them. Solomon’s book came out in 2001, and she brings the tools of modern climate science to bear on Scott’s fate.


Who am I?

I'm a science fiction writer. If you write about time travel, one of the things you have to worry about is changing the past, the ‘gun for a dinosaur’ effect. If you go to the past and kill that dinosaur, will it affect the present? Maybe that dinosaur was the ancestor of all mammals. So, if you want to steal something from the past and bring it to now, you have to choose carefully. Something that has left no biological footprint. When I got that far, I remembered that Titus Oates walked off into the storm in Antarctica, never to be seen again, to save his companions. His body is still out there, frozen in a glacier … or is it?


I wrote...

Revise the World

By Brenda Clough,

Book cover of Revise the World

What is my book about?

He said, “I am just going outside and may be some time.” He went out into the blizzard and we have not seen him since. On March 16, 1912, British polar explorer Titus Oates commits suicide by walking out of his tent into an Antarctic blizzard, to save Robert Falcon Scott and the other members of the English exploration team. His body is never found — because he was snatched away into the year 2045 by scientists experimenting with a new faster-than-light drive.

The first section of this novel appeared as a novella in Analog Science Fiction magazine (April 2001) under the title “May Be Some Time.” It was a finalist for both the Nebula and the Hugo awards.

At the Mountains of Madness

By H.P. Lovecraft,

Book cover of At the Mountains of Madness

Horrors in Antarctica again, but this time designed to frighten. Along with a detailed description (maybe too detailed) of what the well-equipped Antarctic expedition needed to survive a journey to the Southernmost Continent back in 1930, Lovecraft introduces us to gibbering horrors from beyond the stars. What differentiated much of Lovecraft’s fiction from that of his contemporaries was that his space aliens were neither friend nor foe. Reflecting the author’s view of a terrifyingly vast and cold cosmos, they were largely indifferent to us. Mostly, they could care less if we chose to interact with them or their minions or their artifacts. When we did, it never ended well.

No matter how intelligent or well-intentioned or just plain curious the protagonists of Lovecraft’s stories might be, in his tales humans were just something to be swept aside like so many microbes. John W. Campbell later made use of a similar…


Who am I?

I started collecting science fiction as a teenager. As a collector, as opposed to just a reader, you come in contact with stories that considerably predate what you find for sale in stores. This led me to books from the 1930s and much earlier. John Taine was one of only two SF writers I encountered from the 1920s and 30s whom I still found enjoyable (and exciting) to read (the other was E.E. “doc” Smith).


I wrote...

Triplanetary: Science Fiction, Adventure, Space Opera

By E. E. 'Doc' Smith,

Book cover of Triplanetary: Science Fiction, Adventure, Space Opera

What is my book about?

The argument rages: did Dune influence Star Wars and if so, how much? Or was the primary influence on Star Wars the Flash Gordon movie serial? Or 2001: A Space Odyssey? The question is moot, since the granddaddy of them all was the Lensman series of novels.

The first of these, Triplanetary, appeared in the Jan-April 1934 issues of Amazing Stories. It’s all there: multiple intelligent alien species, an evil empire bent on galactic domination, people with heightened mental abilities, gigantic battles in space; all set against a vast galactic background. The science is primitive and so are some of the characters, but the action and scope carries you along. When much of science fiction was struggling to tell stories inside the solar system, Smith was ranging across the entire galaxy. Adjusted and fixed up, all six of the main Lensman novels are still readily available—and for a reason.

How Did It All Start? Where Did We Come From?

By Biku Ghosh,

Book cover of How Did It All Start? Where Did We Come From?

This fascinating book presents science side by side with creation stories drawn from every part of the world. Ghosh’s scientific explanations of the origins of our universe are succinct and clear. He tells us what is known about our beginnings, what is supposed, and what we do not know and may never understand. And he lays out creation stories from many parts of the world along with information about the cultures from which those stories came. How Did It All Start? is perfect for older children or for adults who want to deepen their understanding of both the science and the myths that surround our beginnings.


Who am I?

My expertise on the origins of our universe comes out of fascination, nothing more. I am a long-time children’s writer who began my approach to this topic with awe. Just awe. In order to write The Stuff of Stars I read widely to expand my own understanding. A single line in this text can come out of hours of reading. The books I’m suggesting here, though, are not the scientific ones that informed my telling. Rather, I have searched out books that are exceptionally creative, accessible, interesting. Some are for the very young and some for those who share their learning with the very young.  


I wrote...

The Stuff of Stars

By Marion Dane Bauer, Ekua Holmes (illustrator),

Book cover of The Stuff of Stars

What is my book about?

Before the universe was formed, before time and space existed, there was...nothing. But then...Bang! Stars caught fire and burned so hot that they exploded, flinging stardust everywhere. And the ash of those stars turned into planets. Into our Earth. And into us. In a poetic text, Marion Dane Bauer takes readers from the trillionth of a second when our universe was born to the singularities that became each one of us. Ekua Holmes’ illustrations capture the void before the Big Bang and the ensuing life that burst across galaxies. A seamless blend of science and art, this picture book reveals the composition of our world and beyond — and how we are all the stuff of stars.

Up to This Pointe

By Jennifer Longo,

Book cover of Up to This Pointe

Most books about grief deal specifically with the death of a loved one, but grief isn’t just about death—it’s about major loss. For some of us that might mean the loss of a friendship or relationship or job. In this book, the main character is facing the loss of a lifelong dream.

Despite what TV shows and self-help books tell us, success is not a simple matter of dedication and hard work. Sometimes we don’t achieve our dreams, and stories like this remind us that "failure" is okay, that we have options, that we can choose to pursue the thing we love in a different way, or choose to love something else, or maybe we'll have to take a break to heal and reflect before we choose anything at all. The universe might steal away a dream, but we remain in charge of our happiness.


Who am I?

I knew when I was in elementary school that I wanted to be a therapist when I grew up, but I took a slight detour after finishing a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology to work as a line cook, retail manager, veterinary assistant, freelance editor, and registered nurse before finding my way back to graduate school. I also released ten young adult novels, many of them populated by characters struggling with mental illness. I understand anxiety, survivor’s guilt, grief, and loss as both a counselor and a human being, and I selected these books because they resonated deeply with me. I hope readers find comfort and connection in their pages.


I wrote...

Girl Against the Universe

By Paula Stokes,

Book cover of Girl Against the Universe

What is my book about?

Sixteen-year-old Maguire has emerged unscathed from multiple tragedies that left others wounded or dead and is (not) dealing with the past by blaming herself. Her survivor’s guilt is so strong she’s decided she’s bad luck and that she must isolate herself from the rest of the world to protect people. But that’s difficult to do when your mom won’t homeschool you and your therapist convinces you to join the tennis team, and you really, really want to be able to get on a plane to attend a memorial service for your brother and father.

Balancing realism and hope, Girl Against the Universe is a funny and uplifting story about a girl with PTSD who learns how to make her own luck, with a little help from the people who love her.

Below Zero

By Dan Smith,

Book cover of Below Zero

This is a book for older readers who love action and adventure. All of Dan Smith’s books are dynamic and engrossing stories, but as I’ve always been drawn to colder climates, I think this is my favourite. The breathless action takes place at Outpost Zero in Antarctica where secrets and all kinds of new technology are discovered. 

I’m a huge film fan and could definitely imagine this as a big-screen blockbuster. But be warned: be prepared for thrills and chills!


Who am I?

I didn’t read much when I was young. But I’ve always loved stories, and found them in TV, films, and comics. It wasn’t until I was older that I found that books can contain the most amazing adventures that connect with your imagination and makes them seem even more real than on the big screen. Discovering children’s books with my daughter, and writing my own, I wished I could have read more when I was young. I try my best to encourage young people to find the joy in reading, in the hope that they don’t miss out on all those amazing stories.


I wrote...

The Great Chocoplot

By Chris Callaghan,

Book cover of The Great Chocoplot

What is my book about?

What if chocolate vanished – forever? Wouldn’t that be awful? Especially for Jelly and her family. They live in Chompton-on-de-Lyte, home of the famous Blocka Choca bars. If this disaster happens, it’s not just people’s taste buds that will suffer, it’s local families and jobs.

But Jelly is suspicious. Soon a trail of clues leads her to a posh chocolate shop nearby. The pompous owner seems weirdly smug despite his failing business. Is the Chocopocalypse really coming – or is there a chocoplot afoot? 

No Horizon Is So Far

By Liv Arnesen, Ann Bancroft, Cheryl Dahle

Book cover of No Horizon Is So Far: Two Women and Their Historic Journey Across Antarctica

This book is hard to find, but it was in the Tompkins County Jail Library and I fell in love on the first page, when the authors began describing the process of finding the inner strength to finish a seemingly impossible journey.  In their case, the journey was an Antarctic expedition—but the words felt surprisingly germane to my own journey through the legal system.

“Success on an expedition (as in life),” the authors wrote, “isn’t about brute strength, or even endurance, but resilience: the ability to remind oneself, over and over, of the joy of living, even amid the greatest hardship.”

I copied those words into the inside of a notebook and read them back to myself again and again until I’d nearly memorized them. Before jail, it wasn’t even the sort of thing I would have typically read. But being locked up forced me to try out books I…


Who am I?

Now, I’m a journalist who covers prisons—but a decade ago I was in prison myself. I’d landed there on a heroin charge after years of struggling with addiction as I bumbled my way through college. Behind bars, I read voraciously, almost as if making up for all the assignments I’d left half-done during my drug years. As I slowly learned to rebuild and reinvent myself, I also learned about recovery and hope, and the reality of our nation’s carceral system really is. Hopefully, these books might help you learn those things, too.


I wrote...

Corrections in Ink: A Memoir

By Keri Blakinger,

Book cover of Corrections in Ink: A Memoir

What is my book about?

Growing up, Keri Blakinger threw herself into competitive figure skating with an all-consuming passion that led her to nationals. But when her skating career suddenly fell apart, that meant diving into self-destruction. For the next nine years, Keri ricocheted from one dark place to the next: living on the streets, selling drugs and sex, and shooting up. Then, on a cold day during her senior year, the police caught her walking down the street with a Tupperware full of heroin.

Her arrest made the front page of the local news and landed her behind bars for nearly two years. Along the way, she met women from all walks of life. Keri came to understand how broken the justice system is and who that brokenness hurts the most.

Endurance

By Alfred Lansing,

Book cover of Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage

Shackleton’s voyage to the Antarctic is spellbinding, sweeping over me like a tsunami. It begins with the loss of the Endurance, crushed in the ice: “she seemed a huge creature suffering and gasping for breath, her sides heaving against the strangling pressure.” An odd narrative with a huge cast of characters and reconstructed from logbooks, notes, and memories of survivors, what is the secret of its success? I have never read a story in which the elements of the natural world exerted such a continuous challenge. Nature sinks the ship, sends a leopard seal loping across the ice in pursuit of a crew member, attempts to freeze the men to death, blocks all escape routes in ice, then, when they do take to the boats, pulls out all the stops in its efforts to swamp the boats with wind, waves, cold, ice, rocks, bergs. Lansing captures the extremes that…

Who am I?

After writing and editing fifty books and being the recipient of a dozen national and international literary awards, it’s obvious that I’m not so much a travel writer as a writer who travels a lot and is sometimes compelled to share what he discovers, or fails to discover, along the way. I’m not one of those “lonely tourists with their empty eyes / Longing to be filled with monuments,” that poet P.K. Page describes. I constantly ask myself: “What compels you to abandon the safety and comforts of home for the three Ds of travel: Danger, Discomfort, and Disease?” Itchy feet, insatiable curiosity, or the desire to step outside the ego and the routines of daily life? All of the above. I avoid the Cook’s Tour, travel light, and live on the cheap. 


I wrote...

Kingdom of Ten Thousand Things: An Impossible Journey from Kabul to Chiapas

By Gary Geddes,

Book cover of Kingdom of Ten Thousand Things: An Impossible Journey from Kabul to Chiapas

What is my book about?

Confucius said those who live within four seas are brothers (or sisters). I take this as gospel, so I could never accept Columbus as the first outsider to reach the Americas. As a kid, I found glass Japanese fishing floats on the beaches in Vancouver carried over here by the Kuroshio Current, so why not boats, explorers, crazy individuals like myself arriving here by accident or design?

Then I discovered the story of Huishen in the records of the Liang Dynasty, an Afghan Buddhist monk, who sailed 20,000 li (7000 miles) to the east in 458 A.D., more than a thousand years before Columbus. I cashed my advance and picked up a visa to Kabul from the Taliban embassy in Islamabad so I could follow Huishen’s ostensible route over the Himalayas to China, across the Taklamakan Desert, then over the Pacific to Canada, the U.S., and Latin America. One thing I hadn’t anticipated along the way was 9/11.

Alone on the Ice

By David Roberts,

Book cover of Alone on the Ice: The Greatest Survival Story in the History of Exploration

If you like books about epic expeditions, along the lines of Shackleton's Endurance, when the grand explorers of the early twentieth century had yet to reach the most remote regions of the world—books filled with more danger than fiction authors could imagine for a plot—tales of endless grit and survival—then you’ll love Alone on the Ice.

Combining his mountaineering expertise with his writing talent, author David Roberts brings you along with Douglas Mawson and his entire crew on the most incredible polar expedition, a complex story that involves sub-stories about other explorers and expeditions. (Mawson was a crew member on one of Shackleton’s early expeditions who almost reached the South Pole.) Unpacking the details takes a little time, but once you get acquainted with all these incredible people, you won’t put the book down. We modern adventure-seekers have a lot to learn from these pioneers. 

A gripping story…


Who am I?

An ultra-endurance athlete, world adventurer, and award-winning author, Jean-Philippe Soulé has a passion for people, travel, culture, mountains, oceans, jungles, and the rest of the great outdoors. Inspired by Jacques Cousteau and other grand explorers before him, Jean-Philippe spent his childhood navigating life-changing experiences and pursuing personal achievements. After two years in the elite French Special Forces Mountain Commandos, driven by his desire for adventure, his yearning to discover new lands and culture, and his heartfelt interest in meeting diverse peoples, he left his native France to travel the world. This quest morphed him from a starry-eyed child to a recognized explorer, but only at the cost of abandoning the conditioning of the modern world and daring to do the impossible: a lesson he hopes will encourage others who refuse to accept being told “they can’t.”


I wrote...

Dancing with Death: An Inspiring Real-Life Story of Epic Travel Adventure

By Jean-Philippe Soulé,

Book cover of Dancing with Death: An Inspiring Real-Life Story of Epic Travel Adventure

What is my book about?

Dancing with Death combines themes from all the books listed below - Travel, Adventure, Culture, Endurance, Grit, Survival - in a transformational journey of self-discovery best described by these quotes:

An unforgettable escapade of ultimate danger and discover...” - Joel Dennstedt (author), Readers’ Favorite

"What the power of human will can accomplish is inspiring, emotional, and empowering.” - The Book Review Directory

Dancing with Death is a tale of adventure, sacrifice, and physical endurance with amazing cultural encounters all wrapped in good old-fashion storytelling. Two men, three years, seven countries, 3000 miles...

Or, view all 30 books about Antarctica

New book lists related to Antarctica

All book lists related to Antarctica

Bookshelves related to Antarctica