The best books about Greenland

3 authors have picked their favorite books about Greenland and why they recommend each book.

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Land Under the Pole Star

By Helge Ingstad,

Book cover of Land Under the Pole Star

Why would I carry a one-kilo hardback around Greenland and Newfoundland on my back? Because Helge Ingstad was the archaeologist who discovered and excavated L’Anse Aux Meadowes, the first archaeological corroboration of Norse settlement in North America. Also because Land Under the Pole Star does the sort of sea exploration I have only dreamed about, following the Viking voyagers to Greenland and Vinland (wherever that was; personally I find Ingstad’s theories convincing). Not too colonial or patriarchal for modern sensibilities, Ingstad’s project is to relate the old Norse texts to what he finds on the ground. He’s an acute, sympathetic observer of Greenlandic life. I couldn’t have found a better guide, and if you like northern journeys with a scholarly purpose, this is the very book.


Who am I?

I first experienced the silvery light of the far north in Lapland in 1970 on a university expedition. I had never been anywhere wholly wild before. I was hooked. In the Faroes I discovered the true force of the Atlantic Ocean. The obvious place to settle was Shetland, where I worked in the library and discovered the sagas. Summers spent volunteering on a Viking excavation on the island of Papa Stour inspired my first novel. I became a historical novelist with a particular interest in the liminal spaces where peoples and cultures live on the edges Then came Greenland, Vinland, Hy Brasil… there is no end to exploration, even now.


I wrote...

The Sea Road

By Margaret Elphinstone,

Book cover of The Sea Road

What is my book about?

What was Gudrid really like? The sagas say she grew up by the volcano Snaefel, in a culture of feuding and farming in tenth-century Iceland. She was among the early Norse settlers of Greenland, and maybe the first European woman to give birth in North America. She had at least two husbands; she made her own pilgrimage to Rome. There are many strong women in the sagas, and Gudrid is a kinder character than most. However, as far as first-person narratives go, women’s voices are silent.

The Sea Road gives Gudrid her own voice, as she experiences the tensions between families, between desire and duty, pagan and Christian, her own people and the unknown Skraelings, and finally between the living and the dead. 

The Snow People

By Marie Herbert,

Book cover of The Snow People

Marie Herbert’s book is exceptional as it documents a period of time in the life of an Arctic explorer’s wife. Marie didn’t stay at home when her husband Wally Herbert travelled to the far north of Greenland to live with the Inuit. She went with him. In addition to the incredible insights Marie records about Inuit life in the harsh Arctic during her time on Herbert Island, The Snow People is a very personal book for me. Marie Herbert wrote the acknowledgments for the book in May 1973. I was born in August of the same year, and thirty-seven years later I would stare at the same island from my kitchen window when I lived in Greenland. A truly magical and, for me, prophetic read.


Who am I?

Since reading Jack London’s stories as a child I have been addicted to the far north. I have spent a good chunk of my life exploring the Arctic, including the seven years my wife and I lived in Greenland. I worked as a teacher in remote settlements. Jane worked in medical centres and small hospitals. We experienced life in Greenland from all angles. While in Greenland, I read for a Master of Arts in Professional Writing. Since returning to Denmark I draw on my experiences to shape crime and thriller stories through which I hope to bring Greenland to life. I am English. I often pretend to be Danish.


I wrote...

Seven Graves, One Winter

By Christoffer Petersen,

Book cover of Seven Graves, One Winter

What is my book about?

Seven Graves, One Winter is a crime story about identity set in Greenland’s capital city of Nuuk, and in a remote settlement in the far north. It features recently retired police constable David Maratse as he adapts to the life of a subsistence hunter and fisherman after several years of police service, only to be unwittingly drawn into a murder investigation when he discovers the body of a young woman caught on his line.

Part hunter, all heart, Maratse is ably assisted by Constable Petra ‘Piitalaat’ Jensen in this authentic political crime thriller set in the stunning but brutal Arctic.

A Nature and Wildlife Guide to Greenland

By Benny Génsbøl,

Book cover of A Nature and Wildlife Guide to Greenland

My copy of Génsbøl’s nature guide is well-thumbed. I often used it to find out what I was eating. That’s right; it is a nature guide, packed with fabulous illustrations–better than photographs–that allow for easy identification of the flora and fauna of Greenland, but I also used it to identify what I was eating when invited to an Inuit hunter’s kaffemik–a celebration of culture, tradition, and food wrapped up in a birthday or child’s confirmation party. The guide is an indispensable companion for anyone travelling to the Arctic, and Greenland in particular. But it is equally enjoyable, perhaps even more so, when sitting in a favourite armchair with a favourite beverage in familiar surroundings, dreaming of the far north.


Who am I?

Since reading Jack London’s stories as a child I have been addicted to the far north. I have spent a good chunk of my life exploring the Arctic, including the seven years my wife and I lived in Greenland. I worked as a teacher in remote settlements. Jane worked in medical centres and small hospitals. We experienced life in Greenland from all angles. While in Greenland, I read for a Master of Arts in Professional Writing. Since returning to Denmark I draw on my experiences to shape crime and thriller stories through which I hope to bring Greenland to life. I am English. I often pretend to be Danish.


I wrote...

Seven Graves, One Winter

By Christoffer Petersen,

Book cover of Seven Graves, One Winter

What is my book about?

Seven Graves, One Winter is a crime story about identity set in Greenland’s capital city of Nuuk, and in a remote settlement in the far north. It features recently retired police constable David Maratse as he adapts to the life of a subsistence hunter and fisherman after several years of police service, only to be unwittingly drawn into a murder investigation when he discovers the body of a young woman caught on his line.

Part hunter, all heart, Maratse is ably assisted by Constable Petra ‘Piitalaat’ Jensen in this authentic political crime thriller set in the stunning but brutal Arctic.

Eskimo Poems from Canada and Greenland

By Knud Rasmussen, Tom Lowenstein (translator),

Book cover of Eskimo Poems from Canada and Greenland

I tracked down a 1973 hardback edition of this book because I fell in love with it. The publication date, the year of my birth, was an added bonus. I borrowed Lowenstein’s translation of material collected by Knud Rasmussen, the famous polar explorer, from the library. As soon as I read the preface, I knew I had to own it. It’s an owning kind of book. Inuit poems are raw like the environment they are birthed in – the words and the people. Some might call the poems simplistic, but having lived in the Arctic, I know that even the simplest things can be challenging, and often life-threatening. The poems in this book capture another world that is so very far removed from our own and yet startlingly vibrant and important. 


Who am I?

Since reading Jack London’s stories as a child I have been addicted to the far north. I have spent a good chunk of my life exploring the Arctic, including the seven years my wife and I lived in Greenland. I worked as a teacher in remote settlements. Jane worked in medical centres and small hospitals. We experienced life in Greenland from all angles. While in Greenland, I read for a Master of Arts in Professional Writing. Since returning to Denmark I draw on my experiences to shape crime and thriller stories through which I hope to bring Greenland to life. I am English. I often pretend to be Danish.


I wrote...

Seven Graves, One Winter

By Christoffer Petersen,

Book cover of Seven Graves, One Winter

What is my book about?

Seven Graves, One Winter is a crime story about identity set in Greenland’s capital city of Nuuk, and in a remote settlement in the far north. It features recently retired police constable David Maratse as he adapts to the life of a subsistence hunter and fisherman after several years of police service, only to be unwittingly drawn into a murder investigation when he discovers the body of a young woman caught on his line.

Part hunter, all heart, Maratse is ably assisted by Constable Petra ‘Piitalaat’ Jensen in this authentic political crime thriller set in the stunning but brutal Arctic.

Chilly Winds

By Brooks B. Yeager,

Book cover of Chilly Winds

As with the previous book, this one too shows the author’s deep knowledge of the subject and his ability to weave that into a gripping thriller. Here too, you get both learning and titillation. In this book, Brooks Yeager, a former advisor to the Arctic Council and environmental negotiator, combines the high-stakes dynamics of international Arctic politics and many of the critical environmental issues facing us there and elsewhere, with other key ingredients such as well-constructed characters, lots of romance and an engaging plot to create a book you cannot put down.


Who am I?

I have always been interested in the environment, ever since I studied Human Ecology under Professor Roger Revelle at Harvard. Several summer jobs in the Arctic with the Geological Survey of Canada gave me an early appreciation of what climate change meant for the polar region, and a more recent visit to Greenland brought the environmental devastation there more into focus. Also, having escaped from Communist Hungary in 1956, I have keenly followed Russia and its superpower ambitions, so it was natural for me to combine these two areas of interest into an environmental thriller. I am now writing a sequel, Arctic Inferno.


I wrote...

Arctic Meltdown

By Geza Tatrallyay,

Book cover of Arctic Meltdown

What is my book about?

Arctic Meltdown, a gripping environmental thriller, is set against the backdrop of the melting polar icecap and the ensuing jostling for jurisdiction over additional seabed resources. Hanne Kristensen, a beautiful Danish geologist, has to contend with a corrupted UN process, China's growing interest in Arctic resources and maritime routes, Russian military aggression, and the resulting international tension to try to save the world from war and the Arctic from environmental catastrophe. A potential complication in this real-life situation is that resource-rich but population-poor Greenland is egged on toward independence from Denmark by Chinese money and Russian military domination—toward the eventual possible outcome of annexation. This is a book that presages what is actually happening in the Arctic today.

The Vinland Sagas

By Unknown, Magnus Magnusson (translator), Hermann Palsson (translator)

Book cover of The Vinland Sagas: The Norse Discovery of America

I love the sagas. They are stories first told a thousand years ago about the Norse settlers in Iceland. They are crisp, subtle, exciting with some excellent characters, especially the women. My favourites are the two Vinland Sagas, which describe the discovery of Greenland and then North America (Vinland) by Erik the Red and his family. This includes the wonderful Gudrid, who was born in Iceland, got married in Greenland, gave birth to a child called Snorri in Vinland, and then went on a pilgrimage to Rome. All in about 1000 AD! 


Who am I?

In 2009, when I decided to set a crime series in Iceland, I embarked on a decade of research into the country, its people, its literature, its culture, and its elves. I visited the country, I spoke to its inhabitants and I read books, lots of books – I couldn’t find an elf, but I was told where they live. I needed to understand its criminals, its victims, its police, and most of all my detective Magnus Jonson. These are the best books that helped me get to grips with Iceland.


I wrote...

Where the Shadows Lie

By Michael Ridpath,

Book cover of Where the Shadows Lie

What is my book about?

One thousand years ago: An Icelandic warrior returns from battle, bearing a ring cut from the right hand of his foe. Seventy years ago: An Oxford professor, working from a secret source, creates the twentieth century's most pervasive legend. The professor's name? John Ronald Reuel Tolkein. Six hours ago: An expert on Old Norse literature, Agnar Haraldsson, is murdered.

Everything is connected, but to discover how, Sergeant Magnus Jonson must venture where the shadows lie...

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. 

The Last Migration

By Charlotte McConaghy,

Book cover of The Last Migration

We are living through what some scientists have termed the ‘sixth mass extinction'. No matter if species belong in tropical rainforests of which I write, or the desolate arctic deserts Charlotte McConaghy describes so well, they are disappearing fast. This dystopic climate change story, which follows one deeply troubled young woman as she tracks a feathered migratory species, has the power to wake us from our slumber before it is too late. What I love the most are the rich and complex characters, who fall outside stereotypical boxes, and incredibly evocative descriptions of wild places. This really is a page-turner that left me wanting to sign petitions and join picket lines.


Who am I?

My parents took my brother and me out of school on April Fool’s Day 1979 (when I was 13). We spent the next eight years sailing from the UK to the Americas. Our ‘boat-schooling’ was informed by the world around us: trying to plot our position with sextant taught me mathematics; squinting at a scooped bucket of seaweed taught me about biodiversity; hunkering down in horrendous storms made me realise my insignificance; and finding a way to communicate in local markets took away my fear of difference. April 1st is my most significant anniversary. I'm indebted to my courageous parents for helping me understand I'm a small part of of an incredible planet.


I wrote...

Saving Sun Bears: One man's quest to save a species

By Sarah R. Pye,

Book cover of Saving Sun Bears: One man's quest to save a species

What is my book about?

When I met Malaysian ecologist Dr. Wong, I asked what she could do to help him save the Bornean rainforest. He replied, “do what you do best.” Those five powerful words sparked a Doctor of Creative Arts degree, an enduring friendship, and his award-winning biography, Saving Sun Bears

In this inspirational story, ‘papa bear’ (as he is known), tries to save the ‘forgotten bear’ from extinction. It’s a journey of leaky gum boots, remote helicopter expeditions, incense-smoked Buddhist temples, heart-pumping rejection letters, and momentous goodbyes. Wong’s quest takes him around the world, and in 2017 he is named a CNN Wildlife Hero - proving one person can make a difference.

Night Without End

By Alistair MacLean,

Book cover of Night Without End

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.


Who am I?

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.


I wrote...

Murderous Spirit

By Geoff Loftus,

Book cover of Murderous Spirit

What is my book about?

Jack Tyrrell was a burnout. A former Green Beret and U.S. Marshal, he’s become a drunken loser who accepted a bribe and was shot by the people who bribed him. Tyrrell survived. His wife, Maggie, did not. Five years after her death, Maggie appears to him as a ghost and offers him a chance to make things right. She introduces Tyrrell to Harry, who may literally be heaven-sent. Working with Harry, Tyrrell sets out to help a veteran who’s suffering from PTSD and has assassinated a pair of Wall Street CEOs. Action, murdered Wall Street titans, the Russian mafia, and a beautiful woman mix with questions regarding free will and moral behavior to give this thriller a spiritual edge. 

Red Rock

By Kate Kelly,

Book cover of Red Rock

I’m a sucker for a good opening and this book intrigued me from the beginning. Kelly does a great job in building the tension and setting her world up in the seemingly normal reactions of her characters and it was this that kept me reading. Even though the main character is only 14, and it’s targeted at young adults, I still enjoyed it as an adult. It does some great cli-fi storytelling without being preachy, which is great! 


Who am I?

As an author who, in my ‘other’ life, has studied psychology and social work, I love to write about the impact of change on individuals and communities – what do my characters grieve, what relationships become important to them, what are the roles or goals that motivate them now and what do they need to do to survive, both individually and in their new society. And I love to be able to write about a place – a location – that I know well, hence the Sunshine Coast Hinterland as a setting for The Rise. I hope you enjoy the books that I’ve recommended as much as I have!


I wrote...

The Rise

By Sue-Ellen Pashley,

Book cover of The Rise

What is my book about?

Katie James’ life is about to change . . . again. Having survived The Great Rise five years ago, which decimated the land, the former medical student has made a new life for herself under the leadership of the Authority. But her peaceful existence on the edge of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland is shattered when she discovers a body floating in the waves.

Unsure who she can trust, Katie embarks on a mission to discover the truth… even if it puts her on the same kill list. 

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