The best books about the Arctic Circle

2 authors have picked their favorite books about the Arctic Circle and why they recommend each book.

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Frankenstein

By Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley,

Book cover of Frankenstein: Or `The Modern Prometheus': The 1818 Text

Frankenstein is a breathtaking tribute to the unbridled power of science to test humanity’s limits—ethically, morally, and philosophically. “I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel,” says the creature on realising its flawed conception and lack of choice to be what it is. I love exploring this debate between intent and result in my own writing too, between why something might be created but then how it comes to be used. We are all flawed creatures, so the novel’s spine-tingling exploration of self-judgment also resonates. Its wondrously inhospitable and hauntingly cold settings—framed with its opening onboard a ship bound for the North Pole, and closing with the creature alone in the Arctic—only serve to embellish the thrill of this classically suspenseful and poignant novel.


Who am I?

I’m an award-winning speculative fiction author who loves logic and reason, so when philosophising over life’s greatest mysteries I often layer debate with scientific knowledge, and I found my way to the afterlife theories behind Towards White in my late teens. I was reading English at university at the time, but it wasn’t until I went to Iceland in 2001, and fell in love with the stark beauty of its lonely lava plains, steamy natural springs, glaciers, and auroras, that I was inspired to turn my ideas into a story. I then spent years thoroughly researching my theory, and wove it into a grippingly suspenseful arctic adventure. I hope you enjoy reading the result!


I wrote...

Towards White

By Zena Shapter,

Book cover of Towards White

What is my book about?

They know what’s going to happen to you…after you die.

Scientists in Iceland think they’ve figured out one of our greatest mysteries—where the electrical energy in our brains goes after we die. According to the laws of physics, one form of energy must always become another form. So the electrical energy in our brains and nervous system can't simply disappear... But when ex-lawyer Becky Dales travels to Iceland to track down her missing brother, she doesn't care about the groundbreaking discoveries or the positive thinking practiced by the Icelanders—she just wants her brother back. Having stumbled on something she thinks the Icelandic government wants covered up, Becky must piece together the answers fast…before she becomes a victim herself.

Marie Potter and The Campervan of Doom

By Brian Burke,

Book cover of Marie Potter and The Campervan of Doom

Brian and his wife Marie (pronounced Marry) embark on a two-year epic road trip around Europe in Gemima the Hymer, an RV who would definitely have preferred to stay at home.  

Even without a Camper Van of Doom, resilience and a sense of humour are essential travel companions. With the scrapes these two get in, they needed plenty of both. I laughed out loud at the imaginative turns of phrases used to describe the tribulations, destinations, and people they met. This book stands out as one of the funniest I’ve ever read.


Who am I?

I'm Jackie, and I quit work in 2016 to hit the road permanently with my husband and four dogs, so road tripping is close to my heart. Initially, we were Adventure Caravanners, who aimed To Boldly Go Where No Van Has Gone Before. Now, we’re at large in a self-converted six-wheel army lorry, with Mongolia in our sights. I have published four books Fur Babies in France, Dog on the Rhine, Dogs ‘n’ Dracula, and Pups on Piste, all within one of my favourite genres; light-hearted travel memoirs. My forthcoming books will chronicle a tour of Poland in a pandemic and our new life as Trucking Idiots.


I wrote...

Year 1 - Fur Babies in France: From Wage Slaves to Living the Dream

By Jacqueline Lambert,

Book cover of Year 1 - Fur Babies in France: From Wage Slaves to Living the Dream

What is my book about?

Have you ever thought of giving up work and heading off into the sunset with surfboards on your roof? If you answer 'Yes' – or you just like dogs, travel, or recreational vehicles, this book is for you.

Year 1 – Fur Babies in France follows the true story of how my husband Mark and I accidentally bought a caravan – then decided to rent out the house, sell most of our possessions and tour Europe full-time with our four dogs, Cavapoodles Kai, Rosie, Ruby, and Lani. Described as ‘Laugh out loud funny and a great travel guide’, discover whether we survive the breakages and near-death experience to find peace and tranquillity on the back roads of France – with a bit of windsurfing thrown in!

Ice Station Zebra

By Alistair MacLean,

Book cover of Ice Station Zebra

I know an action-adventure novel by Alastair Maclean is an odd choice for someone who thrives on romantic suspense, but I have loved his books since I came upon them in the library. His words, his stories grabbed me from the first sentence. The hard part was picking which book to recommend. I have loved most of his books, but Ice Station Zebra holds a special place in my heart. I grew up in Northern Wyoming, where the winters are cold and “ice station zebra” became a catchphrase for really cold in my family. And every time I used the catchphrase, well, I had to go re-read the book again. And if it is a hot day? I promise it will make you shiver with cold.


Who am I?

I feel like I’ve read all of my life—though I know at some point someone had to teach me—but stories and storytelling are in my DNA. The first four books were my writing “primers.” I learned more about storytelling from them than any how-to book. They also fueled my passion to write in different genres. You will notice the words “blush free” in some of my recommendations. That is because I love well-told stories that live between prim and steamy, books where I don’t have to flip past the steamy stuff to get back to the story. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have!


I wrote...

Relatively Risky: The Big Uneasy Book One

By Pauline Baird Jones,

Book cover of Relatively Risky: The Big Uneasy Book One

What is my book about?

Get lost in the no-holds-barred Big Uneasy, blush-free romantic suspense series! Enjoy the rapid pace and humorous stories filled with lovable characters that will have you taking an armchair trip to the mysterious city of New Orleans! 

Into the Wild

By Jon Krakauer,

Book cover of Into the Wild

Why do we make decisions that put our lives at risk? Why do we have such a deep connection with nature? To what lengths would we go to find peace, especially when recovering from a traumatic relationship? I love exploring questions such as these in what I read and in the stories I write, and this extraordinary mixed-genre non-fiction account of self-discovery abounds with philosophical and suspenseful debate, constantly driving us towards its ending in a lethal Alaskan wilderness. As well as the book’s sublime depictions of the unconquerable nature of snowy mountains, glaciers, and rivers, what I loved most about this story is its presentation of the illusory nature of self-reliance. However much we might value independence and inner strength, we all need the help of others, even strangers, to live our best lives.


Who am I?

I’m an award-winning speculative fiction author who loves logic and reason, so when philosophising over life’s greatest mysteries I often layer debate with scientific knowledge, and I found my way to the afterlife theories behind Towards White in my late teens. I was reading English at university at the time, but it wasn’t until I went to Iceland in 2001, and fell in love with the stark beauty of its lonely lava plains, steamy natural springs, glaciers, and auroras, that I was inspired to turn my ideas into a story. I then spent years thoroughly researching my theory, and wove it into a grippingly suspenseful arctic adventure. I hope you enjoy reading the result!


I wrote...

Towards White

By Zena Shapter,

Book cover of Towards White

What is my book about?

They know what’s going to happen to you…after you die.

Scientists in Iceland think they’ve figured out one of our greatest mysteries—where the electrical energy in our brains goes after we die. According to the laws of physics, one form of energy must always become another form. So the electrical energy in our brains and nervous system can't simply disappear... But when ex-lawyer Becky Dales travels to Iceland to track down her missing brother, she doesn't care about the groundbreaking discoveries or the positive thinking practiced by the Icelanders—she just wants her brother back. Having stumbled on something she thinks the Icelandic government wants covered up, Becky must piece together the answers fast…before she becomes a victim herself.

Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow

By Peter Høeg,

Book cover of Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow

This is an unusual crime story set in Copenhagen, Denmark. It caused a sensation when it was published in 1992. The main character Smilla Jaspersen is a half Inuit scientist from Greenland, lonely and homesick in the big city. The death of an Inuit boy pulls her into a complex web of crime exposing Denmark’s complicated relationship with its protectorate Greenland. The title refers to the Inuit people’s understanding of their wintry habitat, and is a reminder of the threat to traditional lifestyles of many indigenous people. A thriller, but so much more. 


Who am I?

I am an accidental emigrant now living in Auckland, New Zealand. I arrived with my then husband and our three sons in 1990 for a three-year spell. And here I am with two sons now settled in New Zealand and one in Sweden and me in a very awkward split position between the two. I am also an accidental author as my first career was in law and finance. I am presently working on my seventh novel. My novels are what my publishers call literary fiction and they often involve characters who, like me, have no fixed abode. 


I wrote...

Astrid & Veronika

By Linda Olsson,

Book cover of Astrid & Veronika

What is my book about?

My first novel was published first in New Zealand and from there took on the world. The big test for me came with the publication in Sweden. I thought that perhaps my homesickness had made me idealize my home country and its people. But the reaction was overwhelmingly positive and Astrid and Veronika (Let me sing you gentle songs) is the bestselling first novel ever in both my home countries. When I first began receiving questions about my story, I struggled to give a reply. I hadn’t so much thought of it in that way while writing. What it was about. But it is a story of friendship. And to me it is a story about my love for my home country in the far north. 

Dark Matter

By Michelle Paver,

Book cover of Dark Matter

I'm a great fan of ghost stories, especially the disturbing, subtly creepy sort, ones which rely on the gradual building-up of tension rather than gore. Dark Matter is one of the best I've ever read. Hero Jack, who is already on the back foot because he is poor and everyone else is privileged, is part of an expedition to the Arctic Circle. Undeterred by the apparent unease of the captain who drops them off, the team arrive in Gruhuken, on the coast of Svalbard – the scene of an appalling past tragedy. The crew members succumb to accidents and illness, and finally Jack is left all alone as the Arctic night begins – a darkness that will literally last for months. I think this is one of those stories that genuinely couldn't be set anywhere else. The Arctic location with its endless dark is frightening all by itself, even before…


Who am I?

I write Gothic novels and short ghost stories, nearly always with a very vivid setting. One reviewer observed of my debut novel that the German town where it was set, Bad Münstereifel, almost felt like one of the characters in the book. For the last ten years I have lived in Scotland and much of my recent work is set here. I love to explore the derelict mansions that are dotted about the countryside, walk along the old railway line, or swim in the river. I'm fascinated by the way that traces of Scotland's history are visible in the landscape, and I write this into my books. 


I wrote...

Too Near the Dead

By Helen Grant,

Book cover of Too Near the Dead

What is my book about?

For Fen Munro and her fiancé James, it is a dream come true: an escape from London to a beautiful house in the stunning Perthshire countryside. Barr Dubh house is modern, a building with no past at all. But someone walks the grounds, always dressed in lavender. Under a lichenous stone in an abandoned graveyard, a hideous secret lies buried. And at night, Fen is tormented by horrifying dreams. Someone wants Fen’s happiness, and nothing is going to stop them – not even death...

Burial Rites

By Hannah Kent,

Book cover of Burial Rites

Although we all face challenges, some challenges are more often experienced by women than men, and vice versa. This foreboding and strikingly desolate novel depicts such insightful representations of the female experience that it’s hard to know what resonates more deeply—the factual basis that inspired the story, or the wild barren plains of Northern Iceland that hide philosophical mysteries of truth and sacrifice. Murder, executions, survival, love, and passion, all adorn the ongoing suspense of how the story’s inevitable conclusion will end.


Who am I?

I’m an award-winning speculative fiction author who loves logic and reason, so when philosophising over life’s greatest mysteries I often layer debate with scientific knowledge, and I found my way to the afterlife theories behind Towards White in my late teens. I was reading English at university at the time, but it wasn’t until I went to Iceland in 2001, and fell in love with the stark beauty of its lonely lava plains, steamy natural springs, glaciers, and auroras, that I was inspired to turn my ideas into a story. I then spent years thoroughly researching my theory, and wove it into a grippingly suspenseful arctic adventure. I hope you enjoy reading the result!


I wrote...

Towards White

By Zena Shapter,

Book cover of Towards White

What is my book about?

They know what’s going to happen to you…after you die.

Scientists in Iceland think they’ve figured out one of our greatest mysteries—where the electrical energy in our brains goes after we die. According to the laws of physics, one form of energy must always become another form. So the electrical energy in our brains and nervous system can't simply disappear... But when ex-lawyer Becky Dales travels to Iceland to track down her missing brother, she doesn't care about the groundbreaking discoveries or the positive thinking practiced by the Icelanders—she just wants her brother back. Having stumbled on something she thinks the Icelandic government wants covered up, Becky must piece together the answers fast…before she becomes a victim herself.

The World in the Viking Age

By Søren M. Sindbæk (editor), Athena Trakadas (editor),

Book cover of The World in the Viking Age

This well-written and well-illustrated book tells the story of Vikings, their ships, travels, and trade in the context of the global history of the ancient World – reaching from the Atlantic to China and from North Norway to Africa. The Vikings were far from the only great seafarers, warriors, and tradesmen of their time. They were part of far-flung networks, which also traded ideas. Contemporary travel accounts and recent archaeological investigations and finds are important components of this attractive book, written by international specialists.


Who am I?

Else Roesdahl has a life-long passion for Vikings. She is emerita professor of Medieval Archaeology at Aarhus University, Denmark, and has travelled all over the Viking world and taken part in many excavations. She has also organized major international Viking Exhibitions and published academic as well as popular books, for which she has been awarded several prizes.


I wrote...

The Vikings

By Else Roesdahl,

Book cover of The Vikings

What is my book about?

The Viking Age is shot through with the spirit of adventure. For 300 years, from just before AD800 until well into the eleventh century, the Vikings affected almost every region accessible to their ships, and left traces that are still part of life today.

Far from being just wild, barbaric, axe-wielding pirates, the Vikings created complex social institutions, oversaw the coming of Christianity to Scandinavia, and made a major impact on European history through trade, travel, and far-flung consolidation. This encyclopedic study brings together the latest research on Viking art, burial customs, class divisions, jewelry, kingship, poetry, and family life. The result is a rich and compelling picture of an extraordinary civilization.

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