We are so excited to kick off our Book Voyage reading challenge! Of all the regions on our planned arm chair travel journey, this is likely the one you’ve read the least about. Grab a comfy blanket and hot drink, and join as we read some of the best books set in Antarctica and the Arctic Circle.
You can read all about the challenge, download your free printable map book tracker, and find new book lists each month here.
We welcome you to choose any book you like that is set in the Arctic or Antarctica, but we’ve compiled a great list of books to get you started. Our curated recommendations strike a good balance between male and female perspectives, and between serious and light-hearted examinations of the coldest places on Earth. From arctic novels to non-fiction accounts and memoirs, these books paint vivid images of life at extremes.
Books Set in the Arctic & Antarctic
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This historical mystery is based on the true story of Lady Jane Franklin's quest to find her husband, who went missing during an arctic expedition in the 1850s. She convinces adventurer Virginia Reeve to lead 12 women on a secret quest through impossible terrain and conditions.
A year later, only 5 of the original 12 women are back home and Virginia has been charged with murder. This compelling novel covers both the expedition and the court case, combining a tale of adventure with a legal drama. We can't wait to read this arctic novel to see how it plays out!
The Book Girls Say... This book begins with quite a bit of backstory before the Arctic adventure begins, but it's well worth it and the importance of the long introduction becomes apparent as the story comes together.
Book Girls' Readers Rate This Book ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 95% Would Recommend to a Friend
When a Vietnam POW returns home, he carries new anger and impulsively. Determined to stand by her husband, his wife agrees with his plan to move his family to Alaska to live off the grid. Soon after arriving, the harsh reality of rural Alaska sets in for 13-year-old Leni and her mom. For a while, things are better with her dad as they prepare for their first Alaskan winter, but she fears his more balanced-self is only temporary.
The Book Girls Say... While only northern Alaska is officially part of the Arctic circle, we think this book deserves a place on our list of arctic fiction because it provides an intimate look at life for families who live in extreme environments and have to be very intentional with preparations to survive long winters. It was a five-star read for both of us!
WARNING: This book includes descriptions of domestic abuse.
Book Girls' Readers Rate This Book ⭐⭐⭐⭐½ 97% Would Recommend to a Friend
First published in 1903, The Call of the Wild is perhaps the most classic arctic book, and it remains an entertaining novel more than 100 years later. When a domesticated dog living the good life in California is dog-napped, he's brought to the harsh land of the Alaskan Gold Rush to become a working sled dog. He faces constant challenges and lessons, eventually having to decide if he wants to return to the comfortable domestic life, or respond to the call of his ancestor to live in the wild.
The Book Girls Say... If you're short on time this month, this timeless classic is a great pick since it's novella-length.
WARNING: This book was written more than a century ago and the language and attitudes toward indigenous people reflect the racism of the time. Additionally, some sections of the story will be tough for dog lovers.
Book Girls' Readers Rate This Book ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 89% Would Recommend to a Friend
Franny packs up her research gear and talks her way onto a fishing boat in Greenland in order to follow the Arctic terns on what could be their last migration from the Arctic Circle all the way to Antarctica.
Set in the an unspecified date in the future, this novel has dystopian qualities. As the boat travels farther from civilization and safety, it becomes clear that Franny's journey is as much about running away as it is about following the birds. In this novel, both Franny's tale and journey are heartbreaking and breathtaking.
The Book Girls Say... Reviewers warn that this story may make you uncomfortable and that you might need some Kleenex, but that you won't regret being consumed by Franny's story and the beautiful writing.
Book Girls' Readers Rate This Book ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 100% Would Recommend to a Friend
From bestselling mystery and thriller novelist Alistair MacLean comes this tale of adventure and death on an Arctic island. When a movie decides to film scenes on the remote Bear Island, the crew sets out on a converted fishing trawler. During the journey, members of both the film crew and the ship's crew die under mysterious circumstances.
The crew doctor, Marlowe, investigates and discovers few of the people aboard are really who they claim to be. When the deaths continue after they've reached the island, you won't know who to trust.
This National Book Award winning work of nonfiction is described as "stunningly gorgeous" and "extremely readable." This book covers almost every aspect of the arctic, including zoology, botany, anthropology, and archeology. It is said that Lopez writes with the mind of a scientist, but the heart of a poet, and this book also covers topics not typically covered in a science-based book, like art, culture, and philosophy.
Set in medieval times at the edge of the Russian arctic wilderness, this magical tale draws on the history of Russian fairytales.
Vasilisa spends the long, cold winter nights around the fire with her siblings, listing to her nurse's fairy tales, and her favorite is that of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon. The nurse teaches them to honor the spirits of house and yard and forest to protect their homes from evil.
When Vasilisa's mom dies, her husband remarries a woman from Moscow who forbids the children from honoring the household spirits. Soon signs of evil are all around - crops are failing and misfortune strikes the village. Vasilisa must defy the people she loves call on her hidden and dangerous gifts in order to protect her family from a threat as frightening as any in her nurse's fairytales.
The Book Girls Say... This book particularly appeals to those who enjoy the fantasy genre. Be sure to take note of the glossary at the back of the book, which will make the story much easier to follow.
Book Girls' Readers Rate This Book ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 82% Would Recommend to a Friend
Nate Burke needs a change after watching his partner die on duty as a Baltimore police officer. When the remote town of Lunacy, Alaska needs a police chief, Nate packs up his life and heads to the tiny frontier town.
While he was looking for an escape to a low-crime area, his detective skills are soon needed when the body of someone missing for 15 years is found and it's clear he has been murdered. Soon, there is another town death that appears to be a suicide and confession, but Nate isn't buying it.
Along the way, Nate develops a complicated relationship with Meg, the daughter of the murder victim. You'll be drawn into this town's characters, the beautiful scenery, and of course, the mystery!
The Book Girls Say... This book weaves together adventure, romance, and suspense. The descriptions of the cold landscape will have you reach for a blanket as you dig into the story.
Book Girls' Readers Rate This Book ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 96% Would Recommend to a Friend
This is the true story of Anne Hobbs who arrived in harsh and beautiful Alaska in 1927, at the young age of nineteen. She quickly discovered that running a ramshackle schoolhouse would expose her to more than just the elements.
After she allowed Native American children into her class and fell in love with a half-Inuit man, she learned the meanings of prejudice and perseverance, irrational hatred and unconditional love.
“People get as mean as the weather,” she discovered, but they were also capable of great good.
The Book Girls Say... Reviewers say that this YA memoir reads like fiction, which is the sign of a great story!
WARNING: The language and attitudes toward indigenous people reflect the racism of the time in which Anne Hobbs lived.
Book Girls' Readers Rate This Book ⭐⭐⭐⭐½ 100% Would Recommend to a Friend
Eighty-five-year-old Veronica is estranged from her family and in search of a worthy cause that she can leave all of her money to. After seeing a documentary about penguins being studied in Antarctica, she contacts the scientists and tells them she's coming to visit—and she won’t take no for an answer.
After traveling from Scotland to Antarctica, she convinces the reluctant team to rescue an orphaned baby penguin. Veronica's curmudgeonly heart can't help but be warmed as the penguin becomes a part of everyday life at the base.
Veronica's grandson, Patrick, travels to Antarctica to make one last attempt to get to know his grandmother. Together, Veronica, Patrick, and even the scientists learn what family, love, and connection are all about.
The Book Girls Say... This book is charming and funny, but it's also much deeper that it might first appears thanks to a series of diary entries from WWII. We highly recommend the audio book because the narration and accents add the story!
Book Girls' Readers Rate This Book ⭐⭐⭐⭐½ 95% Would Recommend to a Friend
This is one of the most highly-rated books about polar expedition and is considered one of the greatest true-life adventure stories of the modern age.
In 1914, polar explorer Ernest Shackleton boarded the Endurance bound for Antarctica with plans to cross the uncharted continent on foot. Several months later, just a short distance from its final destination, the Endurance became locked in the ice and crushed between two ice flows.
Forced to abandon the ship and ultimately crossing the dangerous Drake Passage in an open boat, their arduous survival journey takes over a year with death-defying odds at every turn.
The Book Girls Say... This is a fast-paced non-fiction that will hold your attention. Many of our readers highly recommend the audio book version because of the wonderful narrator.
Book Girls' Readers Rate This Book ⭐⭐⭐⭐½ 94% Would Recommend to a Friend
This highly-rated historical fiction novel is based on a little-known story of the first woman to ever set foot on Antarctica.
In the early 1930s, a ship setting sail from Cape Town is carrying three woman, each vying to become the first woman to set foot of the icy continent. Ingrid is the wife of a Norwegian whaling magnate who has dreamed of traveling to Antarctica since she was a young girl. Lillemore tricked her way onto the ship. And Mathilde is a grieving widow brought aboard the ship by her calculating parents-in-law.
This book was published in Australia, and the paperback version appears hard to get your hands on, but it's available for a good deal on Kindle.
The Book Girls Say... This book the perfect mix of an entertaining character-driven story with historic, fabulous descriptions of what it took to get to Antarctica in the late 1930s, especially as a woman. And really, what it took to be a female adventurer, not content to stay home with children, in this time period. It would make a fabulous movie!
There's a great author's note at the end covering the places she took liberties with the story and which parts were fact-based. She definitely did her research, including travel to Antarctica and Norway, and wrote the book as her doctorate project in creative writing.
WARNING: One of the travelers, Ingrid, is married to a wealthy ship-owner and whaler. A large portion of their money came from whale oil, and the ship they travel on is refueling the whaling factory ships and collecting the oil from them. This process of whale hunting and harvesting is discussed in intense and graphic detail, which is necessary to understand the experience of the women and to further develop characters, but that section is rough to read. There are also a couple of sex scenes. 95% of the book is PG, with some occasional short R rated pages.
For two weeks each year, Deb and Keller leave the frustrations of their separate lives behind to study the habits of penguins in Antarctica. Set against the landscape of glacial mountains, icebergs, and frigid waters, this is where the two feel at home, and where they share a brief romance each year.
This year, however, Keller doesn't show up of the expedition ferry to their research destination. When the ferry receives a distress signal from a sinking cruise liner in the icy waters of the Southern Ocean, she learns that Keller is aboard.
This novel of love and loss dives deep into the wonders of Antarctic and the human heart.
Book Girls' Readers Rate This Book ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 100% Would Recommend to a Friend
Thirty-year-old Cooper had a promising career as a painter, but a recent family tragedy has her feeling lost. After answering 500 obscure questions (Do you have digestion problems due to stress? Would you rather be a florist or a truck driver?) she's been deemed sufficiently resilient for polar life and she's accepted a place in the National Science Foundation’s Artists & Writers Program in Antarctica.
There she joins a group of misfits also deemed capable of surviving at South Pole Station, with an average temperature of -54°F and no sunlight for six months a year.
The arrival of a fringe scientist who doesn't believe in climate change draws Cooper and the other "Polies" into the center of a worldwide controversy.
The Book Girls Say... In addition to providing a realistic look at life at the South Pole research station, this novel also provides a fascinating examination of the interplay between politics and science. Although Cooper is the central character in this novel, numerous chapters are told from the perspectives of other characters, providing deeper insights and understandings.
Book Girls' Readers Rate This Book ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 100% Would Recommend to a Friend
Catherine was a 34-year-old Chardonnay-loving city girl from London with no previous polar experience, but in January of 2000 she became the first British woman to reach the South Pole by foot. Then, just a year later, she pulled a sled to the even more challenging North Pole.
With little more than her willpower, Catherine was among the first group of amateurs to have the opportunity to attempt such a journey, which previously had been reserved for scientists and experienced explorers. This humorous memoir is a departure from the typical male account of polar adventure.
Antarctica is the only continent on Earth where humans could never survive unaided. Out of our fascination with it have come many books, but this one strives to truly capture the whole story.
Drawing on her broad travels across the continent, science writer Gabrielle Walker weaves all the significant threads of life on the vast ice sheet into an intricate tapestry, illuminating what it really feels like to be there and why it draws so many different kinds of people.
Through Gabrielle, we witness cutting-edge science experiments, visit the South Pole, lodge with American, Italian, and French researchers, drive snowdozers, drill ice cores, and listen for the message Antarctica is sending us about our future in an age of global warming.
Book Girls' Reader Review: "I love this book! Was exactly what I was hoping for - tells about the land, the people who work there, about their work, about early explorers. Utterly fascinating!"
This novel provides a fictionalized account of Captain Scott's doomed Antarctic expedition in 1912. The Captain and four members of his team - "The Birthday Boys" - each narrate sections of the story. These men despise professional expertise, and "their cocky optimism is both ghastly and dangerous." As the book progresses, you'll also come to realize that these men may not be reliable reporters...
Environmental scientist Laura is sent to an old whaling station on a remote Antarctic island to study the wildlife and to determine if the station should be opened to tourists. But Laura soon discovers that the whaling station has a bloody and violent past.
On a diving expedition, Laura emerges in an ice cave where she sees an figure in the shadows crying for help. There are ghosts everywhere and she's not sure if her mind is playing tricks on her.
The scientists at the base won't answer her questions and she's not sure who she can trust, so she's left to try to piece the mystery together in this suspenseful tale of twists and turns, intrigue, and downright creepiness.
If you enjoy true survival stories in the vein on Unbroken, then this is the book for you!
In 1913, following a tragic accident, Australian Douglas Mawson found himself alone in the Antarctic 300 miles away from base and with only enough food supplies for ten days. Nevertheless, he endured a nearly two month journey. Through his survival against all odds, Mawson earns a place as one of the greatest polar explorers and polar expedition leaders.
The Book Girls Say... Readers say this one is a bit slow to start because it's gathered together from different diaries, but it's a page-turner once you get into it. It's also recommended that you might want to keep a map handy for reference while reading.
This classic book recounts Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the South Pole. The author was the youngest member of Scott’s team and one of three who survived the notorious Winter Journey. In this book, he draws on his firsthand experiences as well as the diaries of other team members, to provide a detailed account of this legendary expedition.
The Book Girls Say... This book gets pretty technical at times, but it's great for readers who really appreciate the details.
Artist and writer Sara Wheeler spent seven months in Antarctica living among scientists at the international research stations. She documents both her feelings on the ice, and her feelings upon returning home. Throughout this travel memoir, her vivid descriptions of her experiences are intermixed with her extensive research about the landscape and the explorers who came before.
The Book Girls Say... This book is criticized by those who were hoping for more adventure, and praised by those who appreciate its more introspective and humorous travelogue approach. While we haven't read it yet, it was named one of the top ten travel books of the year by the Seattle Times the year it was published, and was recommended by the editors of Entertainment Weekly, so we're looking forward to giving it a shot.
When Bernadette and her husband promise their daughter a reward for her stellar report card, they don't expect that her request will be a family trip to Antarctica. Bernadette - formerly a renowned architect and now a virtual shut-in on the brink of a meltdown - throws herself into the preparations for the Antarctic adventure by way of delegation to her virtual assistant in India.
After an fundraiser for her daughter's hoity-toity private school goes terribly awry, Bernadette disappears just before the family is set for leave for Antarctica. Her daughter, Bee, is determined to track her down by piecing together the trail of emails, invoices, and school memos that reveal just how chaotic Bernadette's life has become.
SETTING NOTE: While much of this book takes place in Seattle, Antarctica does play a big role in this story, and we think Where'd You Go Bernadette is too good not to make the list. Participants in the Book Voyage Challenge might enjoy this as a 2nd book to balance out a heavier or non-fiction pick.
The Book Girls Say... If you're drawn to eccentric characters and satirical humor, you'll love Bernadette and you'll adore Bee. Even if you've already seen the movie, we highly recommend reading the book because there is so much more to Bernadette's story.
Book Girls' Readers Rate This Book ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 81% Would Recommend to a Friend
Children's Books Set in Antarctica - Book Girls' Guide
Wednesday 26th of May 2021
[…] The list includes 40 books for a range of ages and is divided into sections of best Antarctic story books and children’s picture books about Antarctica, early chapter books for new readers, and middle grade Antarctica books for more advanced readers. You’ll also find a recommended age ranges for every book at the end of each book description.If you want to read a book about Antarctica along with your child, check out our list of Books Set in Antarctica for Adults! […]
Tuesday 16th of February 2021
I hope you'll include my book- "The Polar Adventures of a Rich American Dame A Life of Louise Arner Boyd" (Dundurn Press, 2017) which is the first comprehensive biography of this extraordinary Arctic explorer, geographer and socialite!
Tuesday 12th of January 2021
How do we get the map picture on this FB page?😀👏
Saturday 2nd of January 2021
I just found this challenge through girlxoxo. I think I’m going to incorporate this into my other challenges. I love to read and to travel so this seems like an awesome combo
My blog is Title Surfing With Traci and I will post a participation post soon Thanks for hosting such a fun challenge