The most recommended books about the arctic

Who picked these books? Meet our 62 experts.

62 authors created a book list connected to the arctic, and here are their favorite arctic books.
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Book cover of Arctic & Antarctic

Alicia Klepeis Author Of Penguins & Polar Bears: A Pretty Cool Introduction to the Arctic and Antarctic

From my list on the polar regions for children.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a geographer and the author of more than 170 (mostly nonfiction) books for kids. I began my career at the National Geographic Society and have worked on a variety of projects for them over the last three decades. I also taught middle-school geography for years. In addition to my featured book, I have written numerous magazine articles on topics related to polar regions—from Siberia’s Eveny people to climate change in the Arctic. I am the author of Living in the Arctic and several books on countries in the polar regions. I was recently interviewed by PBS Books for my book on Benjamin Franklin’s scientific work.

Alicia's book list on the polar regions for children

Alicia Klepeis Why did Alicia love this book?

I have always found the Eyewitness series of books to be very appealing and this one is no exception. Because every two-page spread can stand alone, readers can read the book from cover to cover or just dive into whatever sections or topics are most appealing to them. I find myself captivated by the high-quality photographs throughout, whether of colorful sea stars living in the cold waters around Antarctica or a fuzzy moose calf living in the Arctic. As a geographer, I find this book to stand out because it covers animals and plants of the polar regions, as well as what life in these harsh regions is like for both native peoples of the Arctic and explorers in both polar zones.

By Barbara Taylor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Arctic & Antarctic as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

Enter the faraway world of the Earth's frozen poles and learn about amazing human and animal life that thrives at subzero temperatures--from a 4,000-year-old Eskimo tribe to king penguins, who dive deep into frigid seas filled with icebergs the size of Massachusetts.


Book cover of After Nature

Joseph Leo Koerner Author Of Bosch and Bruegel: From Enemy Painting to Everyday Life

From my list on against writers’ block.

Why am I passionate about this?

My father was an artist who painted passionately, almost always outdoors. When I told him I wanted to become an art historian, he was sad partly because he hated art historians, but mainly because he imagined me chained (as a writer) to a desk, rather than marching the countryside looking for things to paint or draw. Like most writers, I sometimes get seriously bogged down, and his sadness comes back to haunt me. But then I pick up a book that, in just a few pages, puts my writing back on track, gladdening my father’s ghost.

Joseph's book list on against writers’ block

Joseph Leo Koerner Why did Joseph love this book?

Prose turned into poetry, history made uncanny, this slim volume by the master of cryptic visual illustration is an incredibly useful prompt for how to get one’s own writing going on a new and stranger track. Along the way, Sebald (author of The Emigrants and Austerlitz) delivers yet another powerful suite of stories entwining art and life.

By W.G. Sebald,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

After Nature is the very first literary work by W. G. Sebald, author of Austerlitz

'The greatest writer of our time' Peter Carey

After Nature by W.G. Sebald, author of Austerlitz, is his first literary work and the start of his highly personal and brilliant writing journey.

In this long prose poem, Sebald introduces many of the themes that he explores in his subsequent books. Focusing on the conflict between man and nature, each of the three distinct parts of After Nature give centre stage to a different character from a different century - the last being W.G. Sebald himself.…


Book cover of Night Without End

Geoff Loftus Author Of Murderous Spirit

From my list on thrillers to read on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a thriller writer, I have a simple goal: I want to entertain. I'm not the kind of writer whose name is coupled with the Pulitzer Prize or the National Book Award. I write the kind of stories people read to divert themselves on a rainy afternoon or on the beach or on airplanes. My hope is that I can divert and delight my readers. Help them forget the real world for a while. Give them an enjoyable reading break. If people have fun while reading my thrillers, I've done my job.

Geoff's book list on thrillers to read on a rainy Saturday afternoon

Geoff Loftus Why did Geoff love this book?

Alistair MacLean’s thrillers have been a guilty reading pleasure of mine since high school, when MacLean churned out bestsellers like The Guns of Navarone and Where Eagles Dare every year. MacLean creates tough, grim heroes who do whatever they have to do to get the job done. The writing is clumsy but effective, with heavy-handed humor and world-weary cynicism. The women are barely defined. And yet...

The plot, mood, and setting of each book provide one heck of an adventure. Like the crash-landing of a passenger airliner on the Greenland ice cap in Night Without End. A nearby team of scientists rushes to save the survivors. Among whom are the murderous criminals who caused the plane crash. A thoroughly riveting tale of survival in an Arctic wilderness.

By Alistair MacLean,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Night Without End as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the acclaimed master of action and suspense. The all time classic.

400 miles north of the Arctic Circle, an airliner crashes in the polar ice-cap. In temperatures 40 degrees below zero, six men and four women survive.

For the members of a remote scientific research station who rescue them, there are some sinister questions to answer - the first one being, who shot the pilot before the crash?

Then, with communications cut and supplies running low, the station doctor must lead the survivors on a desperate bid to reach the coast, knowing all the while that there is a…


Book cover of North Pole: Nature and Culture

Karen Oslund Author Of Iceland Imagined: Nature, Culture, and Storytelling in the North Atlantic

From my list on why anyone would want to freeze in the Arctic.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in Los Angeles, California, which is frequently imagined as well as experienced. As a child, we lived by the beach and in the foothills of Angeles National Forest. The leaps of faith you make in this landscape were always clear: earthquakes, wildfires, and mudslides occur regularly. The question asked often about the Arctic: “why on earth do people live there?” applies also to California: life in beautiful landscapes and seascapes is risky. Then, I made my first trip to Iceland alone in 1995, and have now been to Iceland ten times, Greenland twice, and Nayan Mar, above the Russian Arctic Circle, each time with fascination.

Karen's book list on why anyone would want to freeze in the Arctic

Karen Oslund Why did Karen love this book?

This book has beautiful illustrations and completely covers the history of both European and native conceptions of the North Pole from the ancient times to the present day in just 254 pages.

People believed the most amazing things about the North Pole in the past, including that it was an ice-free fruitful paradise! Why? 

By Michael Bravo,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In North Pole, Michael Bravo explains how visions of the North Pole have been supremely important to the world's cultures and political leaders, from Alexander the Great to neo-Hindu nationalists. Tracing poles and polarity back to sacred ancient civilizations, this book explores how the idea of a North Pole has given rise to utopias, satires, fantasies, paradoxes and nationalist ideologies, from the Renaissance to the Third Reich.

The Victorian conceit of the polar regions as a vast empty wilderness, and the preserve of white males battling against the elements, was far from the only polar vision. Michael Bravo shows an…


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 A Country Called Childhood: Children and the Exuberant World

Steven Nightingale Author Of The Hot Climate of Promises and Grace: 64 Stories

From my list on by or about world-changing women.

Why am I passionate about this?

The first person I ever trusted in the world was a high-school English teacher, a woman named Margaret Muth. She plucked me out of a trash-can, literally and figuratively. When I was seventeen years old, she told me: “Books will teach you. They will help you. Choose books the way you choose the risks you take in life: do it patiently, thoughtfully. Then give yourself to them with a whole heart. This is how you learn.” This is one sentence, from one teacher, given to a teenager of decidedly crude and primitive material—one sentence that changed his whole life for the better. Bless her. 

Steven's book list on by or about world-changing women

Steven Nightingale Why did Steven love this book?

It is something of a commonplace that the most important subjects in life are somehow the least amenable to the long essay. Where are the great books on love, grace, revelation, understanding, or peace? 

And what about childhood? Everyone has one, and many people want to be parents, but where are the transformative and indispensable books on this subject? Now we have one, at last, this capacious, passionate, searching, learned book, by one of the most gifted prose stylists writing in English in the present day. It’s beautiful to read, and essential for our cultural moment. 

By Jay Griffiths,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Country Called Childhood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

While traveling the world in order to write her award winning book Wild, Jay Griffiths became increasingly aware of the huge differences in how childhood is experienced in various cultures. One central riddle, in particular captured her imagination: why are so many children in Euro-American cultures unhappy – and why is it that children in traditional cultures seem happier?

In A Country Called Childhood, Griffiths seeks to discover why we deny our children the freedoms of space, time and the natural world. Visiting communities as far apart as West Papua and the Arctic as well as the UK, and delving…


Book cover of The North Water

Nanine Case Author Of Cannibal King

From my list on adventure capturing the challenges of the unknown.

Why am I passionate about this?

Some look through the glass and admire what lies beyond. I look beyond the glass and imagine what's ahead. What is an adventure? It's an encounter with the unexpected, an exquisite moment in time that can never be repeated, those memorable chapters in our personal story that cause us to go to the attic and lift the lid of the trunk. I've lived the experiences in my books because I walked the beaten paths where those stories were born and embraced the culture that colors the pages. I'm an intrepid traveler and adventurer with still a few personal chapters to write. As I look beyond the glass, I wonder… Will my trunk ever be full?

Nanine's book list on adventure capturing the challenges of the unknown

Nanine Case Why did Nanine love this book?

I am particularly drawn to stories about early adventures at sea. 

Life on a whaling ship was difficult and bred all manner of contemptible acts by the crew. When the journey was ill-fated, like the one in this book, it pointed the spotlight directly on the tainted core of ship life. 

This book introduced the greedy side of the 1800s whaling industry and told the story surrounding the doomed whaling ship and the ship’s drug-addicted surgeon. It presented the raw side of humanity and what lengths desperate men resort to in order to survive. It was shades of whaling seamen Herman Melville and John Rumell’s experiences surviving with savages. 

The story was riveting and begged the question: Who are the real savages?

By Ian McGuire,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The North Water as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2016
A NEW YORK TIMES TOP TEN NOTABLE BOOK 2016

A ship sets sail with a killer on board . . .
1859. A man joins a whaling ship bound for the Arctic Circle. Having left the British Army with his reputation in tatters, Patrick Sumner has little option but to accept the position of ship's surgeon on this ill-fated voyage. But when, deep into the journey, a cabin boy is discovered brutally killed, Sumner finds himself forced to act. Soon he will face an evil even greater than he had encountered at the…


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 The Flight of the Eagle

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?

I’m obsessed with the story of S. A. Andrée and his ill-fated attempt to sail over the North Pole in the balloon Eagle in 1897. My bookshelf is jammed with non-fictional accounts of this flight—and the tragedy that befell the three men aboard.

Because much is unknown about exactly what happened to these men, Sundman created this fictional story of the flight, from its takeoff on Danes Island on the western side of Svalbard to the balloon’s crash onto the ice near the North Pole to the men’s perilous journey over ice ending on Kvitøya (White Island) on the eastern side of Svalbard. Doubly tragic: they were so painfully close to salvation but unable to cross the sea to a more hospitable landing site on Svalbard.

I’m also incredibly curious about why explorers risk their lives for uncertain gain. This novel helps reveal the daring but also narcissistic motivations of…

By Per Olof Sundman, M. Sandbach (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Text: English, Swedish (translation)


Book cover of The Last Bear

Terry Lynn Johnson Author Of Ice Dogs

From my list on featuring an adventurous journey.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve spent my life journey so far in the outdoors of northern Ontario, Canada. Before I became a conservation officer, I worked for twelve years in a wilderness park as a canoe ranger. I also had eighteen sled dogs and taught dogsledding and winter survival. I’ve always been drawn to reading adventure stories, so when I finally became an author (in my forties. It’s never too late), I naturally wrote the kind of books that I grew up reading. Now I love that I get to share my passions with readers.  I hope you find some books of interest on this list and join me on a journey into a new adventure.

Terry's book list on featuring an adventurous journey

Terry Lynn Johnson Why did Terry love this book?

I love books that show a bond between humans and animals. Especially well-researched books. And this story certainly captures it all with a sweet encounter between a lonely polar bear and a girl. Between the environmental tidbits, the plight of polar bears, and also the unique storyline, this book should be on everyone’s radar. 

By Hannah Gold,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Last Bear as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Imagine making friends with a polar bear... The Last Bear is perfect for readers of 8+, beautifully illustrated throughout by Levi Pinfold - winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal and illustrator of Harry Potter 20th anniversary edition covers.

WINNER OF THE 2022 BLUE PETER BOOK AWARD
WINNER OF THE 2022 WATERSTONES CHILDREN'S BOOK PRIZE
SHORTLISTED FOR CHILDREN'S FICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR AT THE BRITISH BOOK AWARDS 2022
SHORTLISTED FOR THE INDIE BOOK AWARDS 2022

"This is an important first novel, important for us, for polar bears, for the planet. It is deeply moving, beautifully told, quite unforgettable." Michael Morpurgo.…