The best books about the Inuit

4 authors have picked their favorite books about the Inuit and why they recommend each book.

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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. 

Unikkaaqtuat

By Neil Christopher,

Book cover of Unikkaaqtuat: An Introduction to Inuit Myths and Legends

Living high in the world’s Arctic regions, Inuit civilization remained largely free of European influences until the twentieth century, allowing its traditions to remain relatively intact into the modern era. Like the Norse, Inuit are a people of wolves and sea monsters and giants. But while the Norse focus mainly on male gods and supernatural warriors, Inuit legends are full of female deities and resourceful humans, making for an arguably more relatable and compelling mythology. Neil Christopher’s immensely readable compendium of Inuit myths is a great introduction to this vibrant tradition.


Who am I?

Jordanna Max Brodsky is the author of the Olympus Bound trilogy, which follows the Greek goddess Artemis as she stalks the streets of modern Manhattan, and The Wolf in the Whale, a sweeping epic of the Norse and Inuit. Jordanna holds a degree in History and Literature from Harvard University, but she maintains that scholarship is no substitute for lived experience. Her research has taken her from the summit of Mount Olympus to the frozen tundra of Nunavut, and from the Viking ruins of Norway to Artemis’s temples in Turkey.


I wrote...

The Wolf in the Whale

By Jordanna Max Brodsky,

Book cover of The Wolf in the Whale

What is my book about?

A sweeping tale of forbidden love and warring gods, where a young Inuit shaman and a Viking warrior become unwilling allies in a war that will determine the fate of the new world.

A thousand years ago, Omat, born with the soul of a hunter and the spirit of the Wolf, journeys across the icy wastes, fighting for survival with every step. When Omat encounters Brandr, a wounded Viking warrior, they set in motion a conflict that could shatter their icy world... or save it.

Unravelling the Franklin Mystery, 5

By David C. Woodman,

Book cover of Unravelling the Franklin Mystery, 5: Inuit Testimony

Few of the early searchers for Franklin appreciated the value of the stories the local Inuit told about these strangers who had come to their land and died. Fortunately, some stories were written down and preserved and these, along with still circulating tales, proved crucial in the recent discoveries of the remarkably preserved wrecks of Erebus and Terror. Woodman painstakingly scoured archives collecting stories and fragments and painting a picture of the disaster much richer than the accepted theory. Unravelling the Franklin Mystery was also a major source of information for North with Franklin as well as being a strong reminder not to unthinkingly ignore stories different from our own.


Who am I?

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.


I wrote...

North with Franklin: The Lost Journals of James Fitzjames

By John Wilson,

Book cover of North with Franklin: The Lost Journals of James Fitzjames

What is my book about?

Somewhere on a barren Arctic shore in the summer of 1849, knowing he was dying, a British Naval officer wrapped his journal in sailcloth and buried it beneath a lonely pile of frost-shattered stones. He was the last of the 129 doomed men of Sir John Franklin's lost Arctic expedition. His name was James Fitzjames and for four years he had carefully recorded the expedition's achievements, hopes, and, as things began to go horribly wrong, the descent into madness and eventual death of his closest friends. This is his journal.

Based upon extensive research and Fitzjames’ actual letters, North with Franklin is a novelized reconstruction of the journal that we know Fitzjames kept, but which was lost with the doomed explorers. Through his eyes, we see the horror and tragedy that killed the entire expedition and created the greatest mystery of Arctic Exploration. A fictional companion to the ongoing archaeological work on the recently discovered wrecks of the Erebus and Terror.

Sweetest Kulu

By Celina Kalluk, Alexandria Neonakis (illustrator),

Book cover of Sweetest Kulu

I first saw this book about an Inuit newborn on a list of LGBTQ-friendly books because it welcomes a baby into the world without focusing on their gender. This is just one of many things I love about this bedtime poem. Kulu is a term of endearment for babies and young children in Inuktitut and the poem introduces Baby Kulu to the arctic summer. The animals and land share gifts such as love, patience, respect for animals, gentleness, and kindness. The beautiful illustrations in soft hues, convey the same gentle tone as the words, and lead the reader to feel embraced, adored, comforted, and ready to dream. The book is available in English, French, and Inuktitut. 


Who am I?

I am a mixed-race woman with a big, loving family who has always questioned the way things are and dreamed of a world where we all belong. I’m also the mom of a non-binary, queer adult child and work to support families with LGBTQ+ children. I love reading and talking with kids (and grown-ups too) about race, gender, and the power of being who we are. I also love dancing, butterflies, and hummingbirds.


I wrote...

One of a Kind, Like Me / Único Como Yo

By Laurin Mayeno, Robert Liu-Trujillo (illustrator),

Book cover of One of a Kind, Like Me / Único Como Yo

What is my book about?

I wrote this book so that children like mine can feel amazing being exactly who they are. It’s about Danny, who wants to be a princess in the school parade. Danny and mom venture out to find the perfect purple princess dress. They find lots of purple things, but will they find the right dress in time? The story is based on a multiracial intergenerational family and is bilingual in Spanish and English. 

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.

The Last Imaginary Place

By Robert McGhee,

Book cover of The Last Imaginary Place: A Human History of the Arctic World

This book by a distinguished Canadian archaeologist is the finest overview of the human history of the circumpolar region. Its twin concerns are the indigenous peoples of the Arctic and the impact of intruders from the south. It is unusual in its coverage of the Russian and Scandinavian Arctic. The excellent account of the Norse colonies in Greenland feeds into a compelling analysis (through the prism of trade goods) of Norse penetration into the territories of the Dorset and Thule peoples. 


Who am I?

I live in England but grew up in Canada, where my Grade 5 Social Studies teacher filled my head with stories of people and places, including the Vikings. In the early 1960s, I learned about the excavations at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland featured in Canadian newspapers. My first job was in Denmark, and I subsequently travelled in the Nordic homelands and settlement areas, including the Faeroes, Iceland, and Greenland, visiting museums and archaeological sites at every opportunity. Norse America is my 26th book, but it is both the one with the deepest roots in my own past and the one most engaged with contemporary concerns about race.


I wrote...

Norse America: The Story of a Founding Myth

By Gordon Campbell,

Book cover of Norse America: The Story of a Founding Myth

What is my book about?

The book presents the story of the Norse in North America as both fact and fiction, from the westward expansion of the Norse across the North Atlantic in the tenth and eleventh centuries to the myths and fabrications about their presence in Canada and the USA that have developed in recent centuries. The Canadian dimension includes accounts of real archaeology in L’Anse aux Meadows and Nunavut, and fake archaeology such as the Beardmore relics in Ontario and the Yarmouth stone in Nova Scotia. American content includes accounts of American runestones (notably the Kensington Runestone) and of the myth of a long-lived Viking settlement in what is now the United States. 

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