Sometimes we love the sultry, summer heat… but sometimes it can get to be too much. Sometimes, the only thing we want on a hot day is to cool off, any way we can. Did you know you can also cool off with a good book? Well… alright, from a purely scientific standpoint, that’s impossible. But you can do what you always do with a good book; transport yourself to another, stranger, cooler place and time. Collected below are a few books that will help you do just that.
The Thing In the Snow
William Morrow Paperbacks
Fiction – Absurdist
Des Moines author!
At the far reaches of the world, the Northern Institute sits in a vast expanse of ice and snow. Once a thriving research facility, its operations were abruptly shut down after an unspecified incident, and its research teams promptly evacuated. Now it’s home to a team of three caretakers—Gibbs, Cline, and their supervisor, Hart—and a single remaining researcher named Gilroy, who is feverishly studying the sensation of coldness. Their objective is simple: occupy the space, complete their weekly tasks, and keep the building in working order in case research ever resumes. (Also: never touch the thermostat. Also: never, ever go outside.) The work isn’t thrilling—test every door for excessive creaking, sit on every chair to ensure its structural integrity—but for Hart, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime, a chance to hone his leadership skills and become the beacon of efficiency he always knew he could be. There’s just one obstacle standing in his way: a mysterious object that has appeared out in the snow. Gibbs and Cline are mesmerized. They can’t discern its exact shape and color, nor if it’s moving or fixed in place. But it is there. Isn’t it? Whatever it might be, Hart thinks the thing in the snow is an unwelcome distraction, and probably a huge waste of time. Though, come to think of it, time itself has been a bit wonky lately. Weekends pass in a blur, and he can hardly tell day from night. Gravity seems less-than-reliable. The lights have been flickering weirdly, and he feels an odd thrumming sensation in his beard. Gibbs might be plotting to unseat him as supervisor, and Gilroy—well, what is he really doing anyway? Perplexed and isolated—but most certainly not alone—Hart wrestles for control of his own psyche as the thing in the snow beguiles his team, upends their work, and challenges their every notion of what is normal.
Cold Enough for Snow
Fiction – Australia
A mother and daughter travel from abroad to meet in Tokyo: they walk along the canals through the autumn evenings, escape the typhoon rains, share meals in small cafes and restaurants, and visit galleries to see some of the city’s most radical modern art. All the while, they talk: about the weather, horoscopes, clothes, and objects, about family, distance, and memory. But uncertainties abound. Who is really speaking here—is it only the daughter? And what is the real reason behind this elliptical, perhaps even spectral journey? At once a careful reckoning and an elegy, Cold Enough for Snow questions whether any of us speak a common language, which dimensions can contain love, and what claim we have to truly know another’s inner world.
The Last Cold Place
A Field Season Studying Penguins in Antarctica
Naira de Gracia
Biography & Autobiography – Environmentalists & Naturalists
Offering a dramatic, captivating window into a once-in-a-lifetime experience, The Last Cold Place details Naira de Gracia’s time living and working in a remote outpost in Antarctica alongside seals, penguins, and a small crew of fellow field workers. In one of the most inhospitable environments in the world (for humans, anyway), Naira follows a generation of chinstrap penguins from their parents’ return to shore to build nests from pebbles until the chicks themselves are old enough to head out to sea. Naira describes the life cycle of a funny, engaging colony of chinstrap penguins whose food source (krill, or small crustaceans) is powerfully affected by the changing ocean in lively and entertaining anecdotes. Weaving together the history of Antarctic exploration with climate science, field observations, and her own personal journey of growth and reflection, The Last Cold Place illuminates the complex place that Antarctica holds in our cultural imagination—and offers a rare glimpse into life on this uninhabited continent.
Memoirs of Stockholm Sven
Nathaniel Ian Miller
Back Bay Books
Fiction – Nature/Environmental
In 1916, Sven Ormson leaves a restless life in Stockholm to seek adventure in Svalbard, an Arctic archipelago where darkness reigns four months of the year and he might witness the splendor of the Northern Lights one night and be attacked by a polar bear the next. But his time as a miner ends when an avalanche nearly kills him, leaving him disfigured, and Sven flees even further, to an uninhabited fjord. There, with the company of a loyal dog, he builds a hut and lives alone, testing himself against the elements. The teachings of a Finnish fur trapper, along with encouraging letters from his family and a Scottish geologist who befriended him in the mining camp, get him through his first winter. Years into his routine isolation, the arrival of an unlikely visitor salves his loneliness, sparking a chain of surprising events that will bring Sven into a family of fellow castoffs and determine the course of the rest of his life. Written with wry humor and in prose as breathtaking as the stark landscape it evokes, The Memoirs of Stockholm Sven is a testament to the strength of our human bonds, reminding us that even in the most inhospitable conditions on the planet, we are not beyond the reach of love.
Owls of the Eastern Ice
A Quest to Find and Save the World’s Largest Owl
Jonathan C. Slaght
Nature – Animals – Birds
When he was just a fledgling birdwatcher, Jonathan C. Slaght had a chance encounter with one of the most mysterious birds on Earth. Bigger than any owl he knew, it looked like a small bear with decorative feathers. He snapped a quick photo and shared it with experts. Soon he was on a five-year journey, searching for this enormous, enigmatic creature in the lush, remote forests of eastern Russia. That first sighting set his calling as a scientist. Despite a wingspan of six feet and a height of over two feet, the Blakiston’s fish owl is highly elusive. They are easiest to find in winter, when their tracks mark the snowy banks of the rivers where they feed. They are also endangered. And so, as Slaght and his devoted team set out to locate the owls, they aim to craft a conservation plan that helps ensure the species’ survival. This quest sends them on all-night monitoring missions in freezing tents, mad dashes across thawing rivers, and free-climbs up rotting trees to check nests for precious eggs. They use cutting-edge tracking technology and improvise ingenious traps. And all along, they must keep watch against a run-in with a bear or an Amur tiger. At the heart of Slaght’s story are the fish owls themselves: cunning hunters, devoted parents, singers of eerie duets, and survivors in a harsh and shrinking habitat. Through this rare glimpse into the everyday life of a field scientist and conservationist, Owls of the Eastern Ice testifies to the determination and creativity essential to scientific advancement and serves as a powerful reminder of the beauty, strength, and vulnerability of the natural world.
The Polar Bear Expedition
The Heroes of America’s Forgotten Invasion of Russia, 1918-1919
James Carl Nelson
William Morrow Paperbacks
History – Military – WWI
During the Cold War, two U.S. presidents, Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, would assert that the American and the Russian people had never directly fought each other. They were spectacularly wrong, and so too is the nation’s collective memory. It began in August 1918, during the last months of the First World War: the U.S. Army’s 339th Infantry Regiment crossed the Arctic Circle; instead of the Western Front, these troops were sailing en route to Archangel, Russia, on the White Sea, to intervene in the Russian Civil War. The American Expeditionary Force, North Russia, had been sent to fight the Soviet Red Army and aid anti-Bolshevik forces in hopes of reopening the Eastern Front against Germany. But even after the Great War officially ended in November 1918, American troops continued to battle the Red Army and another, equally formidable enemy, “General Winter,” which had destroyed Napoleon’s Grande Armée a century earlier and would do the same to Hitler’s once-invincible Wehrmacht. More than two hundred Polar Bears perished before their withdrawal in July 1919. Ten years after they left, a contingent of veterans returned to Russia to recover the remains of more than a hundred of their fallen brothers and lay them to rest in Michigan, where a monument honoring their service still stands. In the century since, America has forgotten the Polar Bears’ harrowing campaign. Russia, notably, has not, and as Nelson reveals, the episode continues to color Russian attitudes toward the United States. The Polar Bear Expedition masterfully recovers this remarkable tale at a time of new relevance.
Hanover Square Press
Fiction – Thrillers – Historical
Detective Inspector St. John Strafford has been summoned to County Wexford to investigate a murder. A parish priest has been found dead in Ballyglass House, the family seat of the aristocratic, secretive Osborne family. The year is 1957 and the Catholic Church rules Ireland with an iron fist. Strafford—flinty, visibly Protestant and determined to identify the murderer—faces obstruction at every turn, from the heavily accumulating snow to the culture of silence in the tight-knit community he begins to investigate. As he delves further, he learns the Osbornes are not at all what they seem. And when his own deputy goes missing, Strafford must work to unravel the ever-expanding mystery before the community’s secrets, like the snowfall itself, threaten to obliterate everything.
The Snow Child
Back Bay Books
Fiction – Literary
Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart — he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone — but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees. This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them.
The Snow Leopard
Essays – Nature
In 1973, Peter Matthiessen and field biologist George Schaller traveled high into the remote mountains of Nepal to study the Himalayan blue sheep and possibly glimpse the rare and beautiful snow leopard. Matthiessen, a student of Zen Buddhism, was also on a spiritual quest to find the Lama of Shey at the ancient shrine on Crystal Mountain. The result is a remarkable account of a journey both physical and spiritual, as the arduous climb yields to Matthiessen a deepening Buddhist understanding of reality, suffering, impermanence, and beauty.
Very Cold People
Fiction – Coming-of-Age
For Ruthie, the frozen town of Waitsfield, Massachusetts, is all she has ever known. Once home to the country’s oldest and most illustrious families—the Cabots, the Lowells: the “first, best people”—by the tail end of the twentieth century, it is an unforgiving place, awash with secrets. As she grows older, Ruthie slowly learns how the town’s prim facade conceals a deeper, darker history, and how silence often masks a legacy of harm—from the violence that runs down her family line to the horrors endured by her high school friends, each suffering a fate worse than the last. For Ruthie, Waitsfield is a place to be survived, and a girl like her would be lucky to get out alive.