Winter-spiration Book List

Looking for some inspiration to embrace the cold and snow of winter? Snowshoers usually have no trouble wanting to get outside and play in the snow, but what about those days where the thought of that initial blast of cold makes it tough to get out the door? The first few shocking minutes can sometimes be a significant barrier to our enjoyment.

Over the last few years I have been drawn to books that have a whole lot of winter-weather in common, and in their pages I have found inspiration and motivation. I’d like to share a list of my favorites that you may want to pull some reads from. You may even find they help you get out the door some cold, dark days this winter.

I’d love to hear from you as well, with any books you’d like to add to the list. We will post a topic on Snowshoe Magazine’s Facebook page (, and look forward to seeing your recommendations.

Polar/Arctic Exploration and Travel

  • Walking on Thin Ice: In Pursuit of the North Pole (1998) by David Hempleman-Adams (FAV PICK) – Hempleman teams up with Norwegian Rune Gjeldnes in this diary-like account of their attempt to reach the pole self-supported. The quirky relationship they develop is half the fun.
  • Polar Dreams (1993) by Helen Thayer (FAV PICK) – An incredible woman’s solo trip to the magnetic North Pole, with the husky Charlie she was initially reluctant to take, but who saved her life.
  • Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage (1959) by Alfred Lansing (FAV PICK) – The classic tale of survival and leadership during the ill-fated Trans-Arctic Expedition. If you ever wondered why history remembers Ernest Shackleton so fondly even though he never reached the South Pole, you will know after reading this.
  • The Lost Men: The Harrowing Saga of Shackleton’s Ross Sea Party (2007) by Kelly Tyler-Lewis – After reading Endurance, fill in the rest of the story with the fascinating account of the rest of the expedition’s work setting up food caches from the opposite side of the continent.
  • Toughing it Out: The Adventures of a Polar Explorer and Mountaineer (1997) by David Hempleman-Adams – He’s done it all: seven summits, solo treks to the poles, sailed to the magnetic south pole.
  • Shadows on the Wasteland (1993) by Mike Stroud – Teaming up with Ranulph Fiennes to pull sleds across the Antarctic continent, Stroud tells about their unraveling under the tremendous stress of the journey.
  • This Cold Heaven: Seven Seasons in Greenland (2001) by Gretel Ehrlich – Seven years of various travels in Greenland, telling interesting stories of adventure, the land and the people.
  • Cold Oceans (1998) by Jon Turk – Turk chronicles his many adventures and hardships across ice and water, and relives his emotional struggles that mirror his physical ones.
  • Polar Attack (1996) by Richard Weber and Mikhail Malakhow – The Canadian and Russian team-up to become the first to travel from Canada to the North Pole and back, self-supported.
  • In the Ghost Country (2003) by Peter Hillary – Hillary (son of Sir Edmund) slogs to the South Pole, and recounts tales of struggles in past expeditions, as well as the increasing strain of his current one.
  • Ice fall in Norway (1972) by Ranulph Fiennes – Well known for his polar exploits, this is the story of Fiennes’ earlier 1970 expedition to survey the Jostedals Glacier in Norway. His team used groundbreaking and risky techniques in their work, including parachuting onto the glacier.
  • True North (2005) by Bruce Henderson – A thorough account of the race and rivalry between Americans Robert Peary and Dr. Frederick Cook to be the first to reach the North Pole in the early 1900s.
  • My Arctic Journal: A Year among Ice-Fields and Eskimos 1891-1892 (2002) by Josephine Peary – Early in his polar career, Robert Peary travelled with his wife on several expeditions. It is interesting to read Josephine’s account of a year in Northern Greenland.


  • On the Ridge Between Life and Death (2005) by David Roberts (FAV PICK) – The haunting account of Roberts looking back to his teenage days when he started climbing in the 1960s, when equipment was more fallible and his daring was greater, and his many first ascents in Alaska. It’s a book that stays with you long after you finish.
  • Escape from Lucania: An Epic Story of Survival (2002) by David Roberts – Roberts recounts the daring ascent of Mt. Lucania in Alaska in 1937 by his mentor Bradford Washburn and Bob Bates.
  • Where the Mountain Casts Its Shadow (2003) by Maria Coffey – This is a book of essays written by people affected by love ones who risk their lives in the mountains.
  • High Exposure: An Enduring Passion for Everest and Unforgiving Places (1999) by David Breashears – A look inside the life and thoughts of one of the world’s most famous climbers.
  • Touching the Void (1988) by Joe Simpson – The ‘can’t put it down’ mountaineering survival classic from Simpson’s early-career accident in Peru.
  • This Game of Ghosts (1993) by Joe Simpson – An older Simpson examines the motivation, appeal and danger of climbing.
  • K2: Life and Death on the World’s Most Dangerous Mountain (2009) by Ed Viesteurs and David Roberts – Viesteurs looks at the deadliest seasons of K2’s history and injects his philosophies and opinions on mountaineering and his career.
  • Regions of the Heart: The Triumph and Tragedy of Alison Hargreaves (2000) by David Rose and Ed Douglas – Vilified by many because she was a mother who put her life at risk in the mountains, this book provides a more balanced account of the ambitions and achievements of Hargreaves.
  • Everest: Alone at the Summit (2000) by Stephen Venables – The Briton Venables joins three Americans in 1983 to take on a seemingly impossible new route up the Kangshung Face of Everest, without the aid of bottled oxygen.
  • Higher than the Eagle Soars (2007) by Stephen Venables – More about Venables life and how he got into climbing. Fills in more (and sometimes corrects) details about his Kangshung Face summit.
  • To the Summit (1997) by Margo Chisholm – How a woman finds empowerment and saves her life through climbing. Very candid and inspiring.
  • Dead Lucky: Life After Death on Mount Everest (2007) by Lincoln Hall – Hall barely escapes with his life after suffering from altitude sickness and staying out in the open at 8530m on his descent of Everest.
  • Touching My Father’s Soul (2001) by Jamling Tenzing Norgay – Tenzing Norgay’s son follows his famous father’s footsteps, literally, to the summit of Everest.
  • Breaking Trail (2005) by Arlene Blum – A pioneering woman in the world of climbing, and her fascinating life combining academic success with adventure.
  • Into Thin Air (1997) by Jon Krakauer – The classic best seller about the 1996 Everest disaster that made Krakauer a household name.
  • Epic: Stories of Survival From the World’s Highest Peaks (1997) by Clint Willis – A collection of daring adventures, mostly in the mountains, and many taken as excerpts from other books.
  • Tomaz Humar (2008) by Bernadette McDonald – Intriguing biography of Slovenian alpinist Humar, who tackled some of the world’s steepest and most dangerous faces.
  • Holding On (2006) by Jo Gambi – After her husband’s battle with cancer, a couple tackles the world’s highest summits.
  • Within Reach: My Everest Story (1998) by Mark Pfetzer and Jack Galvin – Story of a teenage climber; aimed at inspiring younger readers, but enjoyable to anyone.

Northern or Wilderness Living

  • Diary of a Wilderness Dweller (2005) by Chris Czajkowski (FAV PICK) – After buying an extre
    mely remote plot of land in the interior of British Columbia, Czajkowski sets to work felling trees and building a cabin, by herself, with not much more than a chainsaw and her ingenuity.
  • Call of the Wild: My Escape to Alaska (2007) by Guy Grieve – Grieve puts his life on hold for a year to live out his dream of building a cabin in Alaska.
  • On the Wild Edge: In Search of a Natural Life (2005) by David Peterson – Living a simple life with his wife in the Colorado Rockies for 25 years, Peterson shares tales and wisdom.
  • An Arctic Man (1979) by Ernie Lyall – Lyall wrote this book about his life in Northern Canada because, as he says, “I finally got fed up with all the baloney in so many books written about the north.”
  • Coming into the Country (1976) by John McPhee – McPhee chronicles many aspects of life in Alaska, from urban to wilderness.
  • Into the Wild (1996) by Jon Krakauer – Another classic by Krakauer, this one about the life of Chris McCandless who set off to live a self-sustained life in Alaska in 1992 and met with tragedy.
  • The North Runner (1979) by R. D. Lawrence – Living in the wilderness of British Columbia, Lawrence befriends a wolf/dog hybrid he calls Yukon.
  • Going Inside: A Complete Journey of Renewal into the North (1995) by Alan S. Kesselheim – A couple takes a year-long canoeing expedition through northern Canada to renew their interest in their lives and each other.
  • Journey through Labrador (1995) by Bernie Howgate – A quirky retelling of a difficult but satisfying 2,500km journey by snowshoe and kayak through remote country, and the people he meets along the way.
  • A Country Year: Living the Questions (1999) by Sue Hubbell – A year in the life in the rural Ozark Mountains, this book is divided by season. It is a quiet and charming observation of natural life.
  • Canoe Country and Snowshoe Country (1938, 1944) by Florence Page Jaques – From New York City, Jaques and her husband live for extended periods in the wilderness of Minnesota. These two irresistible books are diaries of their experiences there.
  • Ordinary Wolves (2005) by Seth Kantner – A novel about a boy growing up in Alaska and trying to reconcile traditional ways with modern society.

Dog Sledding

  • Tracks Across Alaska (1990) by Alastair Scott (FAV PICK) – The author travels by dogsled from Manley Hot Springs to Nome, transforming from rookie to expert musher through total immersion on the trail. Interspersed with fascinating Alaskan history.
  • Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod (2001) by Gary Paulsen – As a rookie training for the Iditarod, Paulsen recounts in hilarious detail the mistakes he made, and the poignant moments equally well.
  • Dogsong (1997) by Gary Paulsen – A young Inuit boy finds himself after being given a sled and five dogs to take a journey into the old way of life.
  • My Lead Dog was a Lesbian (1996) by Brian Patrick O’Donoghue – A novice musher who entered the 1991 Iditarod and lived to tell the tale.
  • Racing the White Silence: On the Trail of the Yukon Quest (2002) by Adam Killick – An account of the 2001 Yukon Quest dogsled race, highlighting the important cultural aspects of sled dog travel in the north.
  • No End in Sight (2005) by Rachel Scdoris and Rick Steber – Scdoris, who is visually impaired, has fought hard to be able to do what she loves – dog sledding – with much of that challenge convincing others what she can do.
  • Yukon Alone: The World’s Toughest Adventure Race (1999) by John Balzar – Balzar is a reporter covering the Yukon Quest dogsled race, providing an up-close look at the personalities and dogs that make up the race.
  • Running North: A Yukon Adventure (1998) by Ann Mariah Cook – Cook and her family move from New Hampshire to Alaska to prepare to run the Yukon Quest with their team of Siberian Huskies.
  • Arctic Adventures (1997) by Ian and Sally Wilson – A year in the life of a couple who travel across Northern Canada by canoe and dogsled and their crash courses of learning experiences along the way.