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The Green Life: Book Review Wednesday: Books for the Cold at Heart

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September 22, 2010

Book Review Wednesday: Books for the Cold at Heart

Book Every Wednesday, we review a selection of new and upcoming books addressing a specific aspect of environmentalism. This week we’re prepping you for the colder seasons with a smattering of frozen-solid literature.

Beyond the Mountain (by Steve House, $30, Patagonia Books, Sept. 2009): Winner of the Boardman Tasker Prize and Banff Mountain Book Award for Mountain Literature, alpine-style climber Steve House takes us up one ice-choked mountainside after another. A single excerpt from his story is hair-raising enough to deter you from even leaving your house, and as "the best high-altitude climber in the world today,” House narrates his climbs with the vocabulary and precision of a man at the peak of his profession. Don’t look for an immediate follow-up, however — the man’s currently recouping after breaking his pelvis, six ribs, a few vertebrae, and collapsing a lung during his last ascent.

Arctic Circle: Birth and Rebirth in the Land of the Caribou (by Robert Leonard Reid, $28, David R. Godine Publishing, 2010): Reid is another man who looked to the glacial climate, hungry beasts, and deadly landscape of the frozen north and developed an intense desire to be there. Content to merely read about it for years, it wasn't until his 60th birthday that he abandoned the comforts of Carson City, Nevada, and wound up stalking a caribou herd to its mating ground, 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Such an expedition took him far and wide around the last frontier, including a proposed trek through thick grizzly country, at exactly the time of year the bears were waking up from hibernation . . . hungry.

Cold: Adventures in the World’s Frozen Places (by Bill Streever, $15, Hachette, 2009): Streever opens his collection of frigid anecdotes with a little tale about the time he jumped into 35-degree Arctic water in a pair of swim trunks and didn’t get out for five minutes, just because. He pulls no punches in presenting cold, horrific accounts of frostbitten historical journeys to the Earth’s poles, and the lives such unimaginable climes have snatched. His descriptions are at once serene and stoic while still conjuring the image of harsh, relentless wastelands willing to relentlessly overcome even the most wily and/or deranged of human explorers.

Arctic Doom, Arctic Boom: The Geopolitics of Climate Change in the Arctic (by Barry Scott Zellen, Walter J. Hickel, and Daniel J. Moran, $45, ABC-CLIO, 2009): When the concept is that the world is getting hotter, it makes sense that the first place we'll see affected is the coldest pocket of the planet. The authors challenge some specific perspectives; most notably, yours. Should you be one of the many who don't live in Alaska, the frozen north is just that, and not much else. But for those who reside there, it's their neighborhood, their livelihood, and their home. A scientific look at just where global warming is going to leave us adds a foreboding sense of introspection for more than just those standing on the doorstep of climate change.

F U, Penguin: Telling Cute Animals What's What (by Matthew Gasteier, $15, Random House, 2009): "In the past five years alone, cute animals have overtaken pornography as the number one thing clogging the internet," Gasteier writes on the very first page. Things go pretty steadily downhill from there for fans of the adorable. The book skewers people's ongoing obsession with cute animals, starting with the "I can haz cheeseburger?" meme that ignited an internet craze. Hilarious, satirical, and spot-on, Gasteier hurls ridiculously harsh insults in the faces of impossibly cute creatures, a gag that thankfully doesn't get old.

--Justin Klugh


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