5 Books Set in Cold Places to Curl Up With This Winter

IMG_3884Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful.  And what makes a cold winter evening even better is a good book to curl up with (and perhaps also a glass or two of amaretto and ice). When the wind is howling and sleet lashing the window, snuggle into your favourite tartan jammies, and read all about the ice and snow from the warmth and comfort of your armchair.  With the radio playing softly in the background, lights sparkling on the Christmas tree, and someone bringing warm mince pies occasionally, I can’t think of a more perfect way to enjoy the books below.

 

The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard

In the introduction to this book, Cherry-Garrard notes: Polar Exploration is at once the cleanest and most isolated way of having a bad time that has been devised. As the youngest member of the team accompanying Robert Falcon Scott on his ill-fated attempt to reach the South Pole, Cherry-Garrard was one of only three survivors, and part of the rescue mission that discovered the frozen bodies of his colleagues. His account pieces together diary extracts from other team members, adding details of scientific endeavours and anecdotes of resilience and endurance in the frozen south.

Buy it here.

This Cold Heaven: Seven Seasons in Greenland by Gretel Ehrlich

Long fascinated by the icy landscapes and exotic culture, Ehrlich travels extensively in Greenland, meeting people walking the line between a traditional way of life and modern development. She draws heavily on the journals of Danish-Greenlandic explorer Knud Rasmussen from the 1920s and 30s, retracing expeditions by kayak and dogsled. The book combines travel diary with biography, ethnographic study and geography. 

Buy it here.

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A Winter Book by Tove Jansson

Finnish author Jansson is best known for the Moomin stories, and although this collection of short pieces is for adults, it captures the same feeling of childlike wonder her famous creations have for nature, landscape and life. The beautifully observed stories have a lightness of touch and at the same time a deep truth, making them a joy to read. For a bonus recommendation, seek out her short novel The True Deceiver as a follow up. 

Buy it here.

Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez

This book is difficult to summarise in just a short paragraph. It details Lopez’s travels in the High Arctic, meditating on the landscapes and wildlife, how we explain and interact with them, drawing on historical, cultural, philosophical and scientific significances. This is not an easy book to digest, but the sparklingly beautiful prose and interesting, informative subjects make you want to take your time, and enjoy the brilliance. Best dipped into over a series of winter afternoons. 

Buy it here.

Dark Matter by Michelle Paver 

A bone-chilling ghost story set in an abandoned whaling camp in the Spitzbergen archipelago, high in the Arctic, in the late 1930s. With thoughts of impending war not far from the collective consciousness, a British scientific expedition establish themselves in a remote corner, against the advice of the Norwegian administration. As the dazzling brightness of 24-hour daylight gives way to the creeping polar night, a growing unease builds in the team, but is the horror a presence in the darkness or the madness of isolation in a challenging environment?  Buy it here.

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Have you got any icy and snowy suggestions for a wintry reading list?

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you follow them to buy a book I recommend, I get a small payment from the company, at no charge to you whatsoever. It helps keep my book habit going.

Quite Interesting: Hirvikolari

An inevitability of travelling is picking up odd words and phrases in the various different languages you encounter.  And certain words and phrases can give you an insight into the local culture, environment or mindset, particularly those which don’t have a direct translation into your native tongue. Take for example, hirvikolari, a Finnish word that was used in a BBC news article the other week. The incident described wasn’t particularly newsworthy in international terms, describing a traffic incident in downtown Helsinki, but the word hirvikolari clearly tickled the writer enough to make it into a story for the UK.

Must dash, I have a meeting in the Helsinki office at 11am. Image from bbc.co.uk

A hirvikolari is a specific type of Finnish traffic accident involving an elk (also known as a moose in North America). Shambling slowly out of thick forest in the dark and onto quiet roads, the creature’s long legs and bulky body make a collision particularly dangerous for drivers.   Accidents are known to occur frequently enough that Scandinavian car manufacturers Volvo and Saab constructed their vehicles to cope with a “moose-crash”.

12 Days of Christmas #6: Reindeer

I love reindeer.  I’ve been to visit the reindeer herd that live on the Cairngorm plateau in Scotland, and I’ve seen some grazing in fields next to the Hringvegur (ring road) in the Eastfjords of Iceland.  I’ve been to Finnish Lapland and watched families take rides in reindeer-drawn sleds, and seen the Sami round-up pens in Kautokeino and Karasjok.

IMG_0491v2Skiing on the empty fells above Båtsfjord  a small herd of reindeer crossed over the crest of the hill to our front.  They continued down towards us, the only sound in the still* air was the soft crunch of snow under their feet.

*A tenuous link to Ailsa’s weekly travel theme of still.

You Shall Not Pass

I read recently in the Reykjavik Grapevine that a decision by the Icelandic Road Authority to erect some road signs in English might be breaking Icelandic law.  The authority replaced warnings with an English-language translation on a number of temporary signs advising of road closures in poor weather, after several incidents where foreign tourists became stranded, requiring costly rescue efforts.  In the land of ice and snow, weather-related road closures happen regularly, so it seems like a good investment to save money, and perhaps even lives, in the long term.

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Warning! Road blocked by snow. Obvious, or is it? Photograph from the Reykjavik Grapevine.

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