The most recommended books about Svalbard

Who picked these books? Meet our 6 experts.

6 authors created a book list connected to Svalbard, and here are their favorite Svalbard books.
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Book cover of The Shark and the Albatross: A Wildlife Filmmaker Reveals Why Nature Matters to Us All

Jane Wilson-Howarth Author Of A Glimpse of Eternal Snows: A Journey of Love and Loss in the Himalayas

From my list on enjoying wildlife when travelling.

Who am I?

I put my hand where I couldn’t see it and was repaid for my foolishness by a scorpion sting. I was the doctor on an expedition to Madagascar and my friends thought their doctor was going to die. I was already fascinated with the ways animals interact with humans and this incident brought such reactions into sharp focus. Working as a physician in England, Nepal, and elsewhere, I’ve collected stories about ‘creepy crawlies’, parasites, and chance meetings between people and wildlife. Weird, wonderful creatures and wild places have always been my sources of solace and distraction from the challenging life of a working doctor and watching animals has taught me how to reassure and work with scared paediatric patients.

Jane's book list on enjoying wildlife when travelling

Jane Wilson-Howarth Why did Jane love this book?

In some travel writing, animals may be mentioned only in passing and are poorly observed, not so in this superbly written, sumptuous book. It is rich with icy imagery or steamy tropical atmosphere but there is humour, and how impressive that this successful wildlife cameraman and talented writer is so self-effacing. He seriously underplays the risks he faces, like his instructions if bitten by a seal on Bird Island: ‘Clean out the wound as much as you can with a scrubbing brush… and hope it is nowhere important… if it is really bad we’d have to radio for a ship to come and get you, but that could take weeks.’

Brilliant from beginning to end. I was totally immersed.

By John Aitchison,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For twenty years John Aitchison has been traveling the world to film wildlife for a variety of international TV shows, taking him to far-away places on every continent. The Shark and the Albatross is the story of these journeys of discovery, of his encounters with animals and occasional enterprising individuals in remote and sometimes dangerous places. His destinations include the far north and the far south, from Svalbard, Alaska, the remote Atlantic island of South Georgia, and the Antarctic, to the wild places of India, China, and the United States. In all he finds and describes key moments in the…


Book cover of A Woman in the Polar Night

Sarah Jane Butler Author Of Starling

From my list on solitude by one who fears and yearns for it.

Who am I?

In life and writing I’m torn between a desire for solitude and for connection with people. As a young woman I lived in a cottage miles from friends, working from home while my husband was at work, bringing up our first child. No email, no texting, few visitors. It was idyllic, and I was desperately lonely; that’s when I began to write. We moved, I found friends. But still I dream of solitude. Could I handle it now? It’s surely why I found myself writing a novel about a young woman who finds herself suddenly alone in the wild, with no friends – doesn’t everyone write about the things they fear? 

Sarah's book list on solitude by one who fears and yearns for it

Sarah Jane Butler Why did Sarah love this book?

What kind of person dreams of months of frozen winter darkness?

In 1934 Christiane Ritter set off for a remote hut in the Arctic with her husband and Karl, a hunter, to spend a year in the ice far from her luxurious city life in Austria.

She imagines a cosy retreat until she sees the hut and the horrifyingly basic conditions they’ll live in – just to get water for their first meal involves an hour and a half’s trek to a glacier, even the potatoes freeze, and she hadn’t expected to be left completely alone for weeks as the men go hunting.

It's beautiful though, and Ritter is resilient, which makes her description of the intensely disorienting experience of the season of winter darkness all the more powerful. I recommend reading this tucked up by a warm fire on a cold night!

By Christiane Ritter,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Woman in the Polar Night as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Conjures the rasp of the skin runner, the scent of burning blubber and the rippling iridescence of the Northern Lights..." Sara Wheeler, author of Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica

"Ritter manages to articulate all the terrible beauty and elemental power of a polar winter" Gavin Francis, author of Empire Antarctica

In 1934, the painter Christiane Ritter leaves her comfortable life in Austria and travels to the remote Arctic island of Spitsbergen, to spend a year there with her husband. She thinks it will be a relaxing trip, a chance to "read thick books in the remote quiet and, not least,…


Book cover of Dark Matter

Sharon J. Bolton Author Of The Split: A Novel

From my list on spine-tingling thrillers set on remote islands.

Who am I?

I love dark, creepy stories set on remote islands; I love writing them and I love reading them. There is something about an island that lends itself so well to the thriller. A closed community with its own set of rules, a far-flung location, probably at the vagaries of oceanic weather, poor communications, local people whose loyalties can’t always be trusted, few places to hide. When the sun goes down on an island there is often, quite literally, no way of escape. I’ve set some of my best books on islands (Sacrifice, Little Black Lies, The Split) and love all of the ones on this list. I hope you do too. 

Sharon's book list on spine-tingling thrillers set on remote islands

Sharon J. Bolton Why did Sharon love this book?

In 1937, 28-year-old Jack volunteers for a remote expedition to Gruhuken, the former whaling station on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard. He, his four companions, and eight huskies journey north through the brief Arctic summer, their spirits high. At first. As winter approaches, Jack’s companions are forced to leave, until he is utterly alone in a land of never-ending darkness. Bad enough, you might think, but as Jack learns, another presence shares his claustrophobic world of night-time, and the sea is icing over. Soon, it will be impossible to leave. Part horror, part ghost story, this is one of the creepiest tales I’ve ever read.  

By Michelle Paver,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'What is it? What does it want? Why is it angry with me?'

January 1937.

Clouds of war are gathering over a fogbound London. Twenty-eight year old Jack is poor, lonely and desperate to change his life. So when he's offered the chance to be the wireless operator on an Arctic expedition, he jumps at it.
Spirits are high as the ship leaves Norway: five men and eight huskies, crossing the Barents Sea by the light of the midnight sun. At last they reach the remote, uninhabited bay where they will camp for the next year. Gruhuken.
But the Arctic…