The best North Pole books

Who picked these books? Meet our 13 experts.

13 authors created a book list connected to the North Pole, and here are their favorite North Pole books.
Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission

What type of North Pole book?


Book cover of Letters from Father Christmas

Tim Slover Author Of The Christmas Chronicles: The Legend of Santa Claus

From the list on Christmas stories to read at a fireside.

Who am I?

When our two boys hit their difficult years around age seven or eight and the other kids at school were starting to doubt Santa Claus, they began to ask questions about how he operated. Luckily I had answers, which became, eventually, The Christmas Chronicles. Now that I was outed as a Santa supporter, I started doing Christmas readings here and there, including every year on a radio holiday show for Access Utah, a PBS affiliate. That’s given me the delightful task of seeking out all kinds of Yuletide literature. These are a few of my favorites. 

Tim's book list on Christmas stories to read at a fireside

Discover why each book is one of Tim's favorite books.

Why did Tim love this book?

Yes, that J.R.R. Tolkien. Each year he took a break from Middle-earth to write and illustrate incredible letters from Father Christmas to his and Edith’s four children, John, Michael, Christopher, and Priscilla. Being Tolkien, he created an entire polar world and history in the letters, which feature elves, goblins—who launch a major attack one year—and Father Christmas’s great assistant and companion, North Polar Bear. Here is a high Yuletide adventure from the fantasy Master, himself. And somehow reading it makes you feel more creative yourself.

By J.R.R. Tolkien,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Letters from Father Christmas as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This beautiful, deluxe slipcased edition of Tolkien's famous illustrated letters from Father Christmas to his children includes for the first time every available letter, picture and envelope that he sent them, reproduced in glorious colour. The perfect Christmas gift for Tolkien lovers of all ages.

This classic festive book of Tolkien's amazing Father Christmas letters written to his children between the 1920s and the 1940s has been reworked into a sumptuous, new deluxe edition. It contains brand new high-quality digital reproductions of his wonderful letters and pictures, including a number of them that have never been printed before, a revised…

North Pole

By Michael Bravo,

Book cover of North Pole: Nature and Culture

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

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

Who am I?

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

Discover why each book is one of Karen's favorite books.

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…

The Umbrella

By Ingrid Schubert, Dieter Schubert,

Book cover of The Umbrella

Yoeri Slegers Author Of Crocodile's Crossing: A Search for Home

From the list on travelling in different or strange circumstances.

Who am I?

I'm a Belgian illustrator and author of children's books. My mother works in a library so I was constantly in contact with books, especially children's books. Stories with beautiful pictures were always a big fascination of mine. Drawing keeps me looking for stories and stories keep me drawing. Everything is an inspiration: a funny moment, a good conversation, or just life. In my university, I renewed my passion for children's books thanks to my teacher Kris, also a children's book illustrator. In my final school years I got the chance to work with one of the best publishers in Belgium: De Eenhoorn (the unicorn) they gave me the chance to grow and...tell stories. 

Yoeri's book list on travelling in different or strange circumstances

Discover why each book is one of Yoeri's favorite books.

Why did Yoeri love this book?

I'm always attracted to drawings first. So a book with only drawings and your imagination is a plus for me. It's about a little black dog that finds a red umbrella that takes it around the world. With enough drawings designed to reel you in.

By Ingrid Schubert, Dieter Schubert,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A little dog finds an umbrella in the garden on a windy day.  The moment the dog picks up the umbrella, it catches the wind and pulls the dog skywards.  This is the start to fantastic journey around the world.  The wind carries the umbrellas and the dog all over the world, from the desert to the sea, from the jungle to the north pole.

Snow Man

By Malcolm Waldron,

Book cover of Snow Man: John Hornby in the Barren Lands

Lawrence Millman Author Of At the End of the World: A True Story of Murder in the Arctic

From the list on the North.

Who am I?

I’ve had a passion for northern places ever since I was a kid. I prefer locales that boast plenty of nature and not very many human beings. I’ve been to Greenland 15 times, but only once to Paris and never to Rome (Rome in New York State once). The more remote the locale, the better. Which is why I’ve only once been to Nuuk, Greenland’s capital, but several times to almost never visited villages in East Greenland.

Lawrence's book list on the North

Discover why each book is one of Lawrence's favorite books.

Why did Lawrence love this book?

Snow Man offers a portrait of John Hornby, an Arctic adventurer who had no interest in being the first person to visit the North Pole or traverse the Northwest Passage, but who simply wanted to hang out in the Arctic in order to experience both hardships and delight. The book’s story deals with Hornby’s overwintering in an esker in the Central Canadian Arctic with a total novice, an Englishman named Critchell-Bullock. This 1931 book had been neglected, so I got it back into print and I wrote an introduction to it.

By Malcolm Waldron,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Describes the year spent by Englishmen John Hornby and James Critchell-Bullock in the Barren Lands of Canada's Northwest Territories in 1924

The Arctic Grail

By Pierre Berton,

Book cover of The Arctic Grail: The Quest for the Northwest Passage and The North Pole, 1818-1909

Alastair Scott Author Of Tracks Across Alaska

From the list on the Far North.

Who am I?

For five years I hitchhiked round the world, for the most part in a kilt. I cycled 5000 miles behind the Iron Curtain before it fell and took a dog team across Alaska. I’ve sailed solo round Ireland and endured storms off Greenland. Currently, I’m cycling in stages from North Cape to Cape Town.  Unconventional travel has been a part of my life for forty years.  As a writer I try to inform and entertain, and my eye is drawn to quirky detail and humour.  I’m inspired by wild places and the people who live in them:  their customs and intrinsic wisdom.  In particular I’m fascinated by the Far North and have travelled extensively throughout this region.

Alastair's book list on the Far North

Discover why each book is one of Alastair's favorite books.

Why did Alastair love this book?

In the 19th century, it was believed that if a way could be found through North America’s ice barrier, beyond lay an open sea offering ships a shortcut to the Pacific.  The quest to find it became a litany of disaster, suffering, human spirit stretched to breaking point and heroic survival. Canada’s greatest historian, Pierre Burton, turns factual accounts into a riveting read, ‘a cliff-hanger with colorful characters’ as Newsweek described it. This is another book I hate to lend for fear I’ll never get it back.

By Pierre Berton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The complete saga of the pursuit for two of the world's greates geographical prizes - the elusive Passage linking the Atlantic, the Pacific, and the North Pole. Culled from extensive research of hand-written diaries and private journal The Arctic Grail is the definitive book on the age of arctic exploration and adventure.

Polar Express

By Chris Van Allsburg,

Book cover of Polar Express

Ross Greenwood Author Of The Santa Killer

From the list on Christmas nostalgia.

Who am I?

I’ve always loved Christmas books. As I’ve gotten older, part of the attraction around Christmas is the nostalgia. Recalling the excitement as a child, the anticipation, but also the people who are no longer with us. When I started out writing, I only ever envisaged doing one book, but a little bit of success snowballed. When I was looking for ideas, I noticed my last Barton book would be released just before Christmas, and The Santa Killer was born. I wanted to write a book like Christie’s where there was the emotions around murder and crime, but also the drama of Christmas. Hopefully it’s sad, exciting, and thrilling but also poignant.

Ross' book list on Christmas nostalgia

Discover why each book is one of Ross' favorite books.

Why did Ross love this book?

It’s the cover from the movie that I love the most, which my daughter has watched to death. My son’s just getting into reading, so he’ll be getting this to open on the big day. The train in the snow screams Christmas to me. Shame when he wanted a Nintendo Switch.

By Chris Van Allsburg,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Polar Express as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Discover The Polar Express, a true Christmas classic.
"Magical" Guardian
"Evocative and atmospheric" Sunday Times
"A thrilling tale" Independent
All aboard the Polar Express to the North Pole! Follow one boy's journey to receive a very special gift from Santa himself: a bell that only true believers in Father Christmas can hear ring. Discover the beloved Christmas classic that inspired the blockbuster family favourite movie starring Tom Hanks.

The True Story of Santa Claus

By Janet Giovanelli,

Book cover of The True Story of Santa Claus: The History, the Traditions, the Magic

D.W. Boorn Author Of The Big Secret: The Whole and Honest Truth About Santa Claus

From the list on Santa Claus and his history.

Who am I?

I was such a die-hard fan of Santa Claus as a kid, my mom had to debunk the myth two years in a row! Because, yeah, I heard you, but surely that was a bad attempt at humor last year. I won’t lie. It was traumatic. I wrote this book as a way to ease kids into the knowledge without anyone in the family feeling bad about it. It puts a great positive spin on this childhood rite of passage and empowers kids to get the info when they’re ready for it.

D.W.'s book list on Santa Claus and his history

Discover why each book is one of D.W.'s favorite books.

Why did D.W. love this book?

This is a beautiful book that delves into the origins of the Big Guy but also chronicles the contemporary images to which kids have been exposed. It’s filled with short magazine-like articles about pretty much anything you can think of that’s Santa related. Rudolph the Red nosed reindeer? Miracle on 34th street? How about Santa’s favorite cookie recipe? All there and SO much more! Clear a prime spot on the coffee table and wipe those fingers before you turn the page.

By Janet Giovanelli,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The True Story of Santa Claus as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

He's a symbol of hope and hapiness, of generosity and benevolence. Santa Clause is simply one of the most beloved legends ever embraced. The Story of Santa explores the history of Father Christmas. Who is he, really? Where did he come from? (His origins may surprise you!) Why does he fulfill our wishes? And what can we learn from him? 

He's become a ubiquitous figure during the Christmas season with his white beard, red suit, and prominent belly, but just how much do those celebrating the happy holiday really know about Santa Claus? Here is the whole story from the…

Farthest North

By Fridtjof Nansen,

Book cover of Farthest North: The Epic Adventure of a Visionary Explorer

Tyler LeBlanc Author Of Acadian Driftwood: One Family and the Great Expulsion

From the list on making you never want to step foot on a boat again.

Who am I?

I grew up on the tip of a peninsula jutting out into the raging Atlantic ocean. Both of my grandfathers spent their lives at sea. The power, and fear, that the ocean inspires has been a constant in my life, and most recently while working on Acadian Driftwood. Spending years working on a story so closely tied to tragedy, and the sea, I’ve consumed a lot of nautical disaster stories. While not everything on the list is a disaster (Nansen got his ship stuck in the ice on purpose) each story will make you rethink whether you ever want to head out to sea.  

Tyler's book list on making you never want to step foot on a boat again

Discover why each book is one of Tyler's favorite books.

Why did Tyler love this book?

Years before Shackleton and his crew became locked in the ice in Antarctica, Fridtjof Nansen his crew, and more than one hundred dogs got their ship stuck at the opposite end of the earth. But they did it on purpose. Before the modern understanding of oceanic currents, Nansen proposed that if he let his ship become locked in the polar ice, he and his crew would drift, very slowly, all the way to the North Pole. Three years later he and one other emerged shipless, frozen, and covered in walrus skin on a rocky island above the arctic circle. His ship? Safely on its way back to Norway. What happened in-between is almost unbelievable. 

By Fridtjof Nansen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"If Outside magazine had been around during the first turn of the century, Fridtjof Nansen would have been its No. 1 cover boy." The Chicago Sun-Times In September of 1893, Norwegian zoologist Fridtjof Nansen and crew manned the schooner Fram, intending to drift, frozen in the Arctic pack-ice, to the North Pole. When it became clear that they would miss the pole, Nansen and companion Hjalmar Johansen struck off by themselves. Racing the shrinking pack-ice, they attempted, by dog-sled, to go "farthest north." They survived a winter in a moss hut eating walruses and polar bears, and the public assumed…

The Road

By Jack London,

Book cover of The Road

Stephen Benz Author Of Topographies

From the list on the spirit of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.

Who am I?

Traveling, meeting people, hearing stories, learning about places and landscapes—this is what my writing is all about. Sometimes it takes the form of nonfiction, sometimes poetry. I’ve had a wandering spirit from early on, finding joy and wonder as a child while sitting in the backseat on road trips, or taking the bus cross-state, or (best of all) riding on a train going anywhere. Reading Kerouac’s On the Road brought everything together: heading out with no particular destination in mind other than finding oneself on the road. And then writing it all down, telling the story. Here are some books that have rekindled the Kerouac spirit for me.

Stephen's book list on the spirit of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road

Discover why each book is one of Stephen's favorite books.

Why did Stephen love this book?

Jack London lived and died before Kerouac was born, so it’s more accurate to say that On the Road channels the spirit of London’s book, published some 50 years before Kerouac’s masterpiece. The Road is a compelling memoir about tramping across the United States at the end of the nineteenth century. London anticipates Kerouac’s bohemian spirit as he rides the rails with vagabonds, hoboes, and tramps (as London explains, there’s a difference among them). To my mind, The Road is an underappreciated American classic, poetically evoking that quintessential American characteristic, restlessness—the deep-seated desire to “follow the breeze.” Fifty years later, Kerouac stuck out his thumb and followed in London’s footsteps.

By Jack London,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"I went on 'The Road' because I couldn't keep away from it; because I hadn't the price of the railroad fare in my jeans; because I was so made that I couldn't work all my life on 'one same shift'; because — well, just because it was easier to than not to."
Jack London's "road" is the railroad, and these reminiscences paint a vivid portrait of life in the United States during the major economic depression of the 1890s. His compelling adventures include a month-long detention in a state penitentiary for vagrancy, as well as his travels with Kelly's Army,…

Bernt Balchen

By Carroll V. Glines,

Book cover of Bernt Balchen: Polar Aviator

Robert O. Harder Author Of First Crossing: The 1919 Trans-Atlantic Flight of Alcock and Brown

From the list on aviation history from a triple-rated pilot.

Who am I?

Since I was old enough to get around under my own power, I wanted to be a pilot, a result of idol-worshiping my mother’s brother, Orvis M. Nelson, president of Transocean Airlines. His influence led to my being named a Distinguished Military Graduate in Air Force ROTC, navigator school (sadly, my eyes were slightly myopic), bombardier school (145 Vietnam War combat missions); then later a civilian private & commercial pilot with instrument and multi-engine ratings, and Certificated Flight Instructor (CFI). After settling for a business career rather than airline pilot, I now vicariously pursue my first love through writing.

Robert's book list on aviation history from a triple-rated pilot

Discover why each book is one of Robert's favorite books.

Why did Robert love this book?

My grandfather was born in Norway and growing up I identified with that heritage. Bernt Balchen was the greatest of all of Norway’s pioneering flyers. A stunningly handsome Viking, there was little he couldn’t do; a consummate “blind-flying” pilot, navigator, engineer, polar explorer, World War Two military leader, and, amazingly, a fine watercolor artist.

His critical contributions to Admiral Richard Byrd’s famous trans-Atlantic and Pole flights made Byrd very jealous. An adroit swindler, Byrd (Balchen proved he lied about being the first man to reach the North Pole) determined to ruin Balchen’s reputation (mostly successfully) because the Norwegian could prove Byrd faked the navigation records. Author Glines’ work is masterful; he roots out all these intrigues, while simultaneously recording all the incredible accomplishments of a great flyer.

By Carroll V. Glines,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

He set polar flight records, organized a series of daring wartime air operations, and became a leader in Arctic aviation. But despite these achievements, Norwegian-American aviator Bernt Balchen saw his public image and military career repeatedly undermined by his one-time mentor, the famous and influential Admiral Richard Byrd. In this new biography, Carroll Glines describes how Byrd's respect for Balchen's talents gradually eroded even as Balchen steadily gained a wider reputation for courage and technical skill. Glines contends that Byrd derailed Balchen's postwar promotion to brigadier general, forcing his retirement from the military in 1956. He also documents how Balchen's…