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The 10 Greatest Polar Expedition Books

Polar Bear Number Plate

I woke up cold this morning and consequently feeling a bit sorry for myself. But before I had even emerged from beneath my duvet I realised how feeble I was being. I was under a duvet, inside a house, in balmy England. And so, with my mid-morning tea, I sat down with a sublime book to remind myself what cold was really like. Opening ‘The Worst Journey in the World’ completely at random I also reminded myself how brilliant the best polar books are and why I am desperate to see Antarctica for myself.

So here, to while away the long cold evenings, is a reading list of some of my favourite polar books. No more whinging under the duvet allowed! Read one of these masterpieces and be inspired to get out and enjoy the beautiful cold, frosty days…

  1. The Worst Journey in the World – Apsley Cherry Garrard
  2. The Birthday Boys – Beryl Bainbridge
  3. Mawson’s Will – Lennard Bickel
  4. South: the Endurance Expedition – Ernest Shackleton
  5. Ninety Degrees North – Fergus Fleming
  6. Scott of the Antarctic – David Crane
  7. Philospohy for Polar Explorers – Erling Kagge
  8. Mind Over Matter – Ranulph Fiennes
  9. South – Chris Orsman

And finally here’s a little video to remind you that your house isn’t that cold!

What have I missed out? I’mm conscious that there are no Norwegian books here. Anyone know if there are English translations of their best stuff?

This post originally appeared on the howies blog.

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  1. A glaring omission is Polar Attack (Weber/Malakhov). Hard to get hold of but brilliant example of an expedition which may never be repeated and bridged the gap between classic and modern eras.

  2. David Burns Posted

    That looks like a pretty good reading list, I have started “the worst journey in the world” but am ashamed to say did not finish it.

    One book I would add is Alfred Lansing’s “Endurance”. Turns into a serious page turner and would definitely stop any whinging.

    • There are about 300 pages too many in the book, I agree.
      I suggest you skim through 100 pages about penguins and so on, and read the final chapters about the Scott party…

  3. Dead man walking and Beyond the poles both by Rune Gjeldness. A walk to the pole by Roger Mear & Robert Swan and Crossing Antarctica by Will Steger & Jon Bowermaster. All are really exelent books although the Ninety Degrees North is the best in my opinion.

  4. Mr Hibbert is too modest – he should have added his own book which is most inspirational.
    I would also suggest two other books:
    Pole Dance – Tom Avery
    Race to the Pole – Ben Fogle

    • Ron – I am sure Alex, Tom and Ben would be honoured to be listed with Cherry Garrard and Beryl Bainbridge!
      Technically I wouldn’t count Alex’s book as a polar book as it is about Greenland (Arctic) rather than the polar regions. I haven’t read the other two books yet, but perhaps I should follow up on your recommendation.

  5. Henry Worsley Posted

    I would list mine if I was being necky !

    In Shackleton’s Footsteps: A Return to the Heart of the Antarctic

    Currently I am sitting in Punta Arenas ready to set out ‘In Amundsen’s Footsteps’.

  6. There’s a brilliant dramatization of The Worst Journey in the World by Mark Gatiss of League of Gentlemen fame on youtube

    as usual with film adaptions read the book first if you can

  7. Paul Theroux loves the book too, he says the best travel books are always about a challenging journey which means there’s always alot to write about

  8. I agree. You missed some norwegians on your list….Here are some – in english:

    Roald Amundsen:
    Borge Ousland:
    Liv Arnesen/Ann Bancroft:
    Helge Ingstad: The Land of Feast and Famine
    Erling Kagge: Alone to the South Pole
    Nansen: The First Crossing of Greenland
    Rune Gjeldnes: Dead Man Walking: From Siberia Across The North Pole To Canada in 109 Days

  9. What do you think about: Antarktis – Reinhold Messner and Arved Fuchs? I read in German but I am sure it is available in English.

    Thanks for the “growing” list of books about Polar Expeditions.

  10. I forgot to include Sara Wheeler’s Terra Incognita in my list. A great book…

  11. Ice blink, about Sir John Franklins tragic mission. A must read. Also a couple of really good books on the Ross sea party.

  12. Great list. Nansen’s furthest north is a good read. When I read Valerian Albanov’s In the land of the white death I could hardly put it down

  13. eileen mc laughlin Posted

    i read a book in @ the ’80s of a man starting in Tierra del Fuego and walking to the North Pole. Know who?

    • Gosh – no I don’t! Sounds amazing, and I’ve never heard of it.
      Have a look at Karl Bushby’s Goliath expedition – sort of similar.



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