Friday, December 30, 2011

Arctic Books

Christmas, in our household, is a time of family and giving... giving books, that is. Lots and lots of books.

Here's my haul, with a delicious mound of Arctic-related books to add to my ever expanding library, as well as a bunch of map and Canadian history books.

I have a lot of reading ahead of me in 2012. I'll have my own reviews of these as I go through them so come back for my thoughts over the course of the new year. For now, I'll leave you with the publisher's summary.

Arctic Haul
Historical Atlas of the Arctic, Derek Hayes (2003)
The vast empty spaces of the Poles were the last frontier to be assailed by explorers intent on achieving a geographical goal. But long before the North Pole was finally attained, men sailed the seas searching for an easier and shorter path to the riches of the Orient. The mapmakers of the day translated sparse information into often fanciful, sometimes stunningly artistic maps.

Author Derek Hayes documents the international race for the Pole involving expeditions on foot, by hot air balloon and by airplane. Along with the detailed historical maps, Hayes provides insightful commentary, and describes the aspirations and motivations of explorers and the harsh realities they faced. Hayes also presents a number of revealing and often beautiful scientific maps produced at a time when the military and those in search of oil probed the ocean and the ice of the arctic frontier.

Arctic Giants, Neil Christopher(2011)
This book is the only full-length volume on the giants of the North. It is based on Inuit oral tradition and has been extensively and meticulously research. These authentic myths will take you back to a dangerous time of epic battles, shape-shifting animals and dark magic. For hundreds of years these Inuit legends have been carried down from generation to generation, whispered quietly in the night. Unsparingly told in the vein of the Brothers Grimm, this powerful cultural legacy is bound to become part of Canada''s fairy tale canon. This rich and dramatic Arctic folklore with its spectacular illustrations will cast a spell on children and adults alike.

The Magnetc North: Notes from the Arctic Circle, Sara Wheeler (2011)
A Globe and Mail Best Books of the Year 2011 Title

More than a decade ago, Sara Wheeler traveled to Antarctica to understand a continent nearly lost to myth and lore. In the widely acclaimed, bestselling Terra Incognita, she chronicled her quest to find a hidden history buried in Antarctica’s extreme surroundings. Now, Wheeler journeys to the opposite pole to create a definitive picture of life on the fringes. In The Magnetic North, she takes full measure of the Arctic: at once the most pristine place on earth and the locus of global warming.

Inspired by the spiraling shape of a reindeer-horn bangle, she travels counterclockwise around the North Pole through the territories belonging to Russia, the United States, Canada, Denmark, Norway, and Finland, marking the transformations of what once seemed an unchangeable landscape. As she witnesses the mounting pollution concentrated at the pole, Wheeler reckons with the illness of the whole organism of the earth.

Smashing through the Arctic Ocean with the crew of a Russian icebreaker, shadowing the endless Trans-Alaska Pipeline with a tough Idaho-born outdoorswoman, herding reindeer with the Lapps, and visiting the haunting, deceptively peaceful lands of the Gulag, Wheeler brings the Arctic’s many contradictions to life. The Magnetic North is an urgent, beautiful book, rich in dramatic description and vivid reporting. It is a singular, deeply personal portrait of a region growing daily in global importance.

The Northwest Passage, Scott Chantler (2010, reissue)
After Fort Newcastle is brutally captured by invading French mercenaries, Charles Lord and a band of his surviving soldiers, trackers, and explorers embark on one last, great adventure to unite the people of Rupert's Land to reclaim their home. This rollicking historical adventure fights its way on land and sea, all in search of and control of the mythic Northwest Passage.

Other, non-Arctic-related books:

Canadian History

  • Nation Maker: Sir John A. MacDonald, His Life and Times, Richard Gwyn (2011)

  • Historical Atlas of Canada: Canada's History Illustrated with Original Maps, Derek Hayes (2006)

  • 1867: How the Fathers Made a Deal, Christopher Moore (1998)

  • Elusive Destiny: The Political Vocation of John Napier Turner, Paul Litt (2011)

  • Other Map-related

  • From Then to Now: A Short History of the World, Christopher Moore (2011)

  • Maphead, Ken Jennings (2011)