The best North Pole books

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

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The Arctic Grail

By Pierre Berton,

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

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.


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.


I wrote...

Tracks Across Alaska

By Alastair Scott,

Book cover of Tracks Across Alaska

What is my book about?

‘He arrived in Manley from Scotland with no dogs, no sled, and no experience. As a matter of fact, he’s so green that he calls a sled a sledge.’ This is how a local paper greeted Alastair Scott’s arrival in Alaska. Its cynicism was shared by nearly everyone to whom he announced his intentions: to acquire a dog team, learn the techniques on which his life and that of the dogs would depend, and then travel 800 miles in mid-winter along the line of the Arctic circle. Five months later he defied the cynics and Tracks Across Alaska is his extraordinary account.

Related with great humour and penetrating insight, at its heart, this is an evocation of wilderness Alaska, its history, the plight of its native peoples, and conversations with the state’s diverse inhabitants today: beaver trappers, F15 pilots, Iditarod winners, and recluses from all walks of life. And threaded throughout is the heartfelt bond that holds one man and eight dogs together in a beautiful yet unforgiving environment.

The Road

By Jack London,

Book cover of The Road

London is famous, not only for the gripping quality of his prose, but for his larger-than-life globe-hopping adventures. For me, The Road reduces all of that to a personal, intimate level. Though written over a hundred years ago, these experiences of the young London making his way as best he can, without means or motive – other than survival – echoes perfectly the plight, and the challenges, and the choices so many face today.


Who am I?

I began my writing career over forty years ago, pausing in boxcars, under streetlamps, and in hobo jungles to record the beats and rhythms of the road as I caught freight trains and vagabonded around the Pacific Northwest and Canada. In the years since, whether hiking the Camion de Santiago, traversing the length of Hadrian’s Wall, or backpacking in the high Sierra, I’ve been privileged to indulge my wanderlust all around the world, and to share those adventures with others.


I wrote...

The Last Professional

By Ed Davis, Colin Elgie (illustrator),

Book cover of The Last Professional

What is my book about?

This is a story of America! Lynden Hoover, a young man on the brink of a new beginning, cannot embrace it without confronting the traumas of his past. Help comes from The Duke, an old loner who calls America’s landscape his home. He clings to an honor code, but in fleeing from Short Arm, his merciless enemy, his code is being tested.

At the end of the 20th century few Knights of the Road still cling to their vanishing lifestyle. The Duke mentors Lynden, enlisting old traveling friends to keep himself and his apprentice just ahead of Short Arm’s relentless pursuit. When two of those friends are murdered, the stakes become life or death.

Letters from Father Christmas

By J.R.R. Tolkien,

Book cover of Letters from Father Christmas

That really amazing guy that wrote the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings wrote letters to his own kids every year as though they were from Santa Claus! For twenty years! These are those wonderful letters filled with North Pole shenanigans and mischief to fill little heads with wonder. Pictures of the original letters are included as well as great illustrations. An absolute holiday delight to look forward to sharing every year!

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.

I wrote...

The Big Secret: The Whole and Honest Truth About Santa Claus

By D.W. Boorn,

Book cover of The Big Secret: The Whole and Honest Truth About Santa Claus

What is my book about?

Ok, if you too have fallen into the parental Santa Claus trap, how DO you come clean with your kid when questions start? This book will A) Save you B) have you smelling like a rose and C) save the legend for younger siblings that still believe. Sheesh! That’s a tall order but multiple awards later and it is a must-have for every parent’s library. Share with the sprouts when the time is right.

The True Story of Santa Claus

By Janet Giovanelli,

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

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.

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.

I wrote...

The Big Secret: The Whole and Honest Truth About Santa Claus

By D.W. Boorn,

Book cover of The Big Secret: The Whole and Honest Truth About Santa Claus

What is my book about?

Ok, if you too have fallen into the parental Santa Claus trap, how DO you come clean with your kid when questions start? This book will A) Save you B) have you smelling like a rose and C) save the legend for younger siblings that still believe. Sheesh! That’s a tall order but multiple awards later and it is a must-have for every parent’s library. Share with the sprouts when the time is right.

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. 

I wrote...

Crocodile's Crossing: A Search for Home

By Yoeri Slegers,

Book cover of Crocodile's Crossing: A Search for Home

What is my book about?

Crocodile is tired, scared, and hopeful as he searches for his new home. Everything will be better where I’m going! he thinks. But where is that?

Crocodile’s Crossing: A Search for Home introduces children to the complex topic of immigration. Featuring bright artwork packed with playful details, this thoughtful tale sensitively portrays the challenges faced by refugees and other newcomers.

Snow Man

By Malcolm Waldron,

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

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.

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.

I wrote...

At the End of the World: A True Story of Murder in the Arctic

By Lawrence Millman,

Book cover of At the End of the World: A True Story of Murder in the Arctic

What is my book about?

We live in a time when violence in the name of religion is commonplace. But it’s not just a contemporary phenomenon. In 1941, the remote Belcher Islands in Hudson Bay experienced nine killings by newly converted Inuit on the assumption that the victims were Satan. A putative God and a putative Jesus were the primary killers.

In addressing these murders, I couldn’t write about the past without writing about the present, so the book also addresses our current obsession with all things digital and argues that this obsession is not unlike a destructive religion. As people walk along now, they pay attention only to their iDevices, not the natural world.

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