The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
This is the magical story of a couple who move to a homestead in Alaska in the 1920’s and a miracle happens. They are down on their luck and have been unsuccessful at having children. On the night of the first snow of the winter they build a small child in the snow and give her a scarf and mittens, a face and hair. It is a rare moment of happiness for the couple on the night of the first snow. The next morning the snow child is gone but left are boot prints in the snow and flashes of yellow hair in the woods. Based on a Russian fairy tale, this ultimately uplifting and brilliantly told story brings joy to the endless dark and frigid winter and will warm your heart. I simply adore this wonderful story of wilderness, survival, love and the inevitability of loss. Eowyn is not only a genius storyteller but also a bookseller at an independent bookstore in Alaska. Click on the link to order the book from her store.
In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides
This is the truly remarkable story of Captain DeLong and his mission on the USS Jeannette to reach the north pole in the late 1800’s. At the time there had been missions to the Arctic via Europe and Greenland but this was the first American mission through the Bering Sea between Russia and Alaska. No one had successfully reached the pole yet and there were many theories of what it would be like. Fans of Jules Verne may recognize the open polar sea theory in which it was believed that an ice free ocean surrounded the pole. DeLong and his crew never reached the pole and highly doubted the theory as they were stuck in pack ice for two freezing years. The ship finally yielded and sank to the bottom of the sea leaving the men alone on an epic journey over land. You can feel the unbearable cold these men suffered emanating from the pages of this amazing story.
The Way Winter Comes by Sherry Simpson
It seems that living in Alaska comes with a special connection to land and wildlife. Sherry shares her stories of living in a land of wolves, bears, otters, moose and raven. She does not shy away from the contradictions of living in such a place, it’s bounty of beauty and life bringing with it the harsh realities of death. These stories display her ability to explore these contradictions in sparse and concise prose that is beautiful to read. My favorite story in the collection is about her week long stay alone in a cabin on a secluded island. She playfully makes a list of creative ways she could die on the island, reads Moby Dick on the beach while listening to whales breach and contemplates life.
Winter World by Bernd Heinrich
Influenced by Jack London’s stories and his fascination with how the tiny golden crowned kinglet, no bigger than a hummingbird, survives through the rough Maine winters, Bernd goes on a mission to learn the intimate details of how evolution enables animals to cope with the winter world. Biologist by day, Bernd dives into the science behind why some animals stay active all winter and some hibernate or how tiny bugs survive freezing temperatures without their blood freezing. In true scientific form the book is full of notes from the field and lovely sketches by the author.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
This wintry classic was one of my favorite books growing up. I think everyone at some point in their life has pretended to discover a secret world with fantastical woodland creatures and delicious treats like turkish delight. Narnia is a chilly setting where it is always winter and never Christmas. With it’s fur coats, white witch, sleighs and evil wolves, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe may be the best winter adventure book of all time.