The best books about the Northwest Passage 📚

Browse the best books on the Northwest Passage as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Northwest Passage

Northwest Passage

By Kenneth Roberts

Why this book?

The author’s writing style is now somewhat outdated, but this book is still very worth the time and effort as Roberts weaves the exciting story of the fictional Langdon Towne through the making of America, from the perils of the frontier to the political squabbles of London. Along the way, he becomes the close friend of the larger-than-life character, Robert Rogers. Its breadth of action and depth of intensity make it a truly magnificent book.

From the list:

The best books on wartime historical fiction

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

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

By Pierre Berton

Why 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.

From the list:

The best books about the Far North

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Book cover of She Captains: Heroines and Hellions of the Sea

She Captains: Heroines and Hellions of the Sea

By Joan Druett, Ron Druett

Why this book?

Joan Druett is the dean of authors writing about women at sea. Her books bring to life not only the pirates and transgressive women, but the wives and daughters of sea captains who sailed alongside their men and shared the ship’s command and the global adventures. When I want good, historical data I turn to Druett and the tidbits she incorporates into her writing bring dry historical figures to life.

From the list:

The best books about women at sea through history (including some pirates)

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Book cover of Erebus: One Ship, Two Epic Voyages, and the Greatest Naval Mystery of All Time

Erebus: One Ship, Two Epic Voyages, and the Greatest Naval Mystery of All Time

By Michael Palin

Why this book?

Former Monty Python stalwart and accomplished travel writer, explorer, and presenter, Michael Palin, approaches the Franklin Mystery through the biography of one of the lost ships. Not only was Erebus John Franklin’s flagship but, along with the Terror, she circumnavigated Antarctica under James Ross between 1839 and 43. Using his travel writing skills, Palin takes the reader to Tasmania, the Falkland Islands, and the Canadian Arctic to sample the landscape and conditions faced by these early explorers and, in the process, gives the doomed ship as much personality as any of her illustrious crew.

From the list:

The best books on the Lost Franklin Expedition

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Book cover of The Discovery of Slowness

The Discovery of Slowness

By Sten Nadolny

Why this book?

A gripping novel based on the life and death of John Franklin, a 19th century Arctic explorer. Franklin was by nature slow, and therefore out of step with the times. At school, other kids teased him for never having a ready comeback. Later, slowness became his superpower, a source of deep thinking, care, and wisdom. Franklin was an early avatar of the Slow movement!

From the list:

The best books on slowness

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

Snow Man: John Hornby in the Barren Lands

By Malcolm Waldron

Why 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.
From the list:

The best out of the ordinary books about the North

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