Recommendations for Winter reading

Books about winter, snow, and weather similar to that we experience in Milwaukee during winter. Learn from Heinrich about what animals and plants in your neighborhood do during winter! Or, as you look out over the ice or a field of snow, imagine that you are in an Arctic or Antarctic world…

Here are some tips to get started, though I admit there is a lot more out there I want to read!

Top picks of mine:

Winter: a spiritual biography edited by Gary Schmidt and Susan Felch

The best edited volume of writings on winter that I have found. Somewhat of a spiritual angle, but ends up with section on “delight and play,” so it has a broad range. Draws on Rachel Carson, Annie Dillard, Jane Kenyon, American nature writers, and a few choice selections from traditions outside the US.

Winter: five windows on the season Adam Gopnik

New book on winter recommendation for this year. He is a masterful essayist, skilled at making connections, particularly when reflecting on the meaning of artistic and literary perspectives on winter. I don’t always fully agree with him, but it was fun to follow his ideas. [For more of my thoughts on Gopnik, see my review on this site at: https://milwaukeesnow.com/2012/01/10/winter-by-adam-gopnik-opening-thoughts/%5D

Winter World – Bernd Heinrich

Best place to start to learn about winter ecology. He’s a biologist who writes about his experiences observing winter nature in Maine and Vermont. He has an engaging tone, and this makes a great guidebook to help you figure what you can see going on – and what is hiding from you.

Arctic Dreams – Barry Lopez

My favorite look at the far north. Lopez is an author with an impressively wide range, able to draw upon history, science, creative myth-making, and personal experiences with equal verve.

Snow in America – Bernard Mergen

Wonderful historical survey of how Americans have experienced snow. Given my field of expertise, I find it delightful to hear his commentary on how different ideas, science, and technology have helped shape the encounters we have with winter and its weather. Any aspect of nature is experienced quite differently by different people, depending on what their expectations are, and he explains how those have changed over time. Focuses largely on 20th century experiences, including the science of snow, and snow in the city.

The Poetry of Cold ed. Mary “Casey” Martin, 1997.

Subtitled “A collection of writings about winter, wolves & love,” which describes it fairly effectively. A collection of Wisconsin writers – discussing what winter means here! – including Mel Ellis, Jean Feraca, Frances Hamerstrom, Justin Isherwood, and more.

Winter Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College.

Perhaps the best single-book introduction to art and paintings about winter. Based on a 1986 art exhibit. Includes an essay by Donald Hall, one of the best writers about nature and belonging who hails from the greater Dartmouth area. Includes nearly 100 single-page reproductions of key works of winter art, mostly European and American but also including some Chinese and Japanese works, mostly 1600 and after.

Other favorites of mine:

A Sand County Almanac – Aldo Leopold (sections on winter)

Hey, I’m in Wisconsin. How could I not include a reference to the legendary Aldo Leopold, and how he makes winter reflections and experiences part of his responses to the seasons of Wisconsin.

Other winter reading recommendations:

Poetry of Cold

Cold: adventures in the world’s frozen places – Bill Streever (2010)

[See my more detailed response at: https://milwaukeesnow.com/2012/01/10/cold-by-bill-streever/]

Streever, a biologist who works in Anchorage, writes about Alaska and other cold places. He discusses how animals deal with cold, as well as the tools, clothing, and techniques used by humans who work in and study cold places. He places that in context by discussing the science behind cold – what we know about extreme cold, how it affects life and molecules, and which scientists made the key discoveries. You might finish the book actually feeling warmer, like I did – Milwaukee doesn’t seem that cold compared to the places he discusses!

Snow Tourist – a search for the world’s purest, deepest snowfall – Charlie English. A personal memoir about travels around the world to experience snow in some of its most dramatic manifestations; the snowbelt of Eastern New York, the Alps, and other places. The author finds himself enjoying snow in surprising places – but intimidated by it at times, too.

[Slightly edited version of post originally from https://milwaukeesnow.com/winter-book-reviews/]

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About MilwaukeeSnow

Dr. Jeffrey Filipiak, Milwaukee's Ambassador of Snow, loves winter, Milwaukee, and environmental history! He has taught college courses on topics including history, writing, environmental ethics, food studies, the Great Lakes, and sustainability. You can contact him at ambassadorofsnow@gmail.com.
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