I started writing a piece about Comic-Con and missing it this year and what I was doing to get my nerd on while stuck in Portland and which books and authors I was going to miss most by not being in San Diego, but then a couple of things happened. First, I looked at this year’s SDCC schedule and realized that, while there were things I would have enjoyed experiencing, there was nothing jumping out at me and making me go, “Oh, man, I wish I were going to be there for that.” And second, I realized that I was really, really hot and uncomfortable and even thinking about the temperate weather and ocean breezes of San Diego was making me even crankier than I already was.
So, instead, I started thinking about snow. And ice. And then I started thinking about how much I actually hate both snow and ice unless they are flavored with sweet syrup (man, I miss New Orleans Snowballs) or are cooling off my Moscow Mule. But, I have this weird fascination with books that involve people battling the harshest, coldest conditions.
I can trace this fascination back to my days reading the Little House books. For some reason, The Long Winter was my favorite of these. It’s been ages since I’ve given any of the Little House books a re-read, though I still have the box set displayed proudly on my bookshelves. If this hot, uncomfortable weather continues, I think it might be time to re-visit this one, at least. (And avoid the ones that talk about long, hot, dry summers because I have enough of that in real life right now, thank you.) And maybe I’ll re-read Farmer Boy while I’m at it because it was my other favorite. I think I just wanted a “Manly” of my very own.
A few years ago, I read May B. by Caroline Starr Rose, even though I usually eschew the novel-in-verse. This one, though, was recommended to me, so I figured I should give it a try. And, of course I loved it. How could I not? A young girl, alone in the middle of nowhere during the depths of winter, having to rely on her wits and courage to survive? It was definitely my kind of book.
Around the same time, I also read Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child, another novel about being unprepared for facing harsh winter weather–though this one is definitely not for children. It was, in fact, one of my favorite handsells and I often touted it as “Like a Little House book for grown-ups, but with magic.”
But, more than fiction about harsh winter conditions, I devour non-fiction titles about people battling the elements. Into Thin Air and Into the Wild are, of course, prime examples, and I deeply appreciate Krakauer’s work. I should probably read Alfred Lansing’s Endurance at some point, since it’s been on my list for ages and ages, as has David Laskin’s The Children’s Blizzard.I think they both might have moved closer to the top of the To Be Read stack now that we’ve hit a week straight of 90 degree-plus temperatures.
More recently, though, are two books that captured the danger of 19th Century exploration and held me captivated from page one. The first was Astoria by Peter Stark, which wasn’t entirely about the dangers of snow and ice, but enough to satisfy my weird craving. The other book, which is entirely about the dangers of snow and ice and being out in them was In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides. Taking place nearly 80 years after the events detailed in Astoria, I couldn’t help but wonder at the intelligence of the crew attempting to discover the North Pole. I mean, none of the previous explorations-that-ended-in-disaster were kept quiet, so why anyone would be foolish enough (some would say brave enough and that’s true, too) to want to travel into the unknown, especially when that unknown is frozen, is beyond me. Honestly, though, I’m glad they did, mostly because they allow me to experience the danger vicariously. And to realize, even when it’s ridiculously hot, that it could be much,much worse: We could all be trapped by ice and forced to resort to cannibalism to survive.
Which reminds me: Anyone have a good Donner Party book they can recommend?
Billie Bloebaum works at A Children’s Place Bookstore and is thinking she might just move in since the store is air conditioned and her apartment is decidedly not. She also wishes her cats would realize that she most assuredly does not want to cuddle with their warm furry selves right now.