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Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod
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Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod

4.23 of 5 stars 4.23  ·  rating details  ·  3,261 ratings  ·  557 reviews
Winterdance is an unforgettable account of Gary Paulsen's most ambitious quest: to know a world beyond his knowing, to train for and run the Iditarod. Fueled by an all-consuming passion for running dogs, Paulsen entered the grueling 1,180-mile race across Alaska in dangerous ignorance and with fierce determination. For seventeen days, Paulsen and his team of fifteen dogs r ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published February 17th 1995 by Turtleback Books (first published January 1st 1994)
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Award-winning children's author, Gary Paulsen, has another life besides just being a children's author. He draws on his experience as an avid outdoors man to write his amazing books, i.e., Hatchet, Brian's Winter.

Within the first couple pages of Winterdance, Paulsen is careening around in the Minnesota back woods on a sled that is being pulled by a pack of dogs. The book could end right then and there as he goes off the edge of a cliff, but he manages to survive and so do all his dogs. That som
The funniest book I have ever read.

This stands among the rare books that will get you looks for laughing out loud in the middle of the airport. This is the true story of the author who, in "dangerous ignorance," just up and decides to run the Iditarod. Its a story of essentially self discovery, but really, its completely and totally insane. The adventures are hilarious, and the journey is amazing.

There is only one way for a story about a full team of Iditarod -class sled dogs raring to go with n
This is our favorite read-aloud ever. I've homeschooled my children now for about 15 years and in that time, I've read-aloud to them for approximately one hour per day. I probably read this to them for the first time 10 years ago but the "The Skunk Chapter" is still a frequent request on days when we are looking for something to lighten the mood. Every member of my family has this book in hardcover. I've got two copies so that I can lend one without fear.

If you like dogs, you will love this boo
Nov 09, 2008 Kerri rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Paulsen lovers
Recommended to Kerri by: Mike Stitt
I am not one for reading the nonfiction genre, but I really got into this book. Not only did I learn so much about the things involved in running and preparing for the Iditarod, but I also found myself laughing outloud at the most inappropriate times! Paulsen's style of writing made me smile in one chapter and want to cry in the next one.

I found my "teacher" side coming out quite often as I read. There was more than one chapter that caught my eye for various reasons, but the chapter called "Skw
I get really irritated by ego trip books written by people who go adventuring (think mountain climbing or sailing solo) and keep detailed journals just to publish a "look at what I did" book.

Gary Paulsen's Winterdance is definitely not that. He lives and breathes dog sledding, the American north woods, and writing. He'd have run the Iditarod even if he wasn't a writer. He'd have raiseed sled dogs even if he wasn't a writer. He'd have lived through bitter cold Minnesota winters even if he wasn't
In a slightly different world, I might have found this book completely incomprehensible.

Of those who know me, I doubt a single person would describe me as "outdoorsy". I certainly don't mind a walk down a well-worn scenic path now and then, but a general dislike of dirt and mess combined with a very specific fear of getting lost pretty much preclude camping, hiking, or breaking trail of any sort. My strengths lie far more in the "city" environment - urbane manners, snarky wit, discerning judgmen
Mike Smith
I remember strongly disliking the hero of the Hatchet series. Now I know why. Gary Paulsen is an idiot. But bless him, he's an idiot with a great memory and a flair for the self-deprecating humor, the kind that leaves you almost as incapacitated as Paulsen being dragged behind a team of Devil clones. Really? He thought buying a sled dog named Devil was a good idea? From then on, nothing shocked me, but it sure did make me laugh. I'm glad he at least kept his wits about him enough to remember wha ...more
Erin Martinelli
Sep 03, 2014 Erin Martinelli rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: non-fiction fans, Iditarod fans, adventure fans, people who enjoy laughing while reading :)
Recommended to Erin by: found during Iditarod search at the library
I love true stories of people, against all odds and common sense, doing the seemingly impossible and definitely improbable with a sense of humor. Winterdance is laugh out loud funny. I don't recommend reading this anywhere you will get sidelong glances for chuckling to yourself. Gary Paulsen's writing is gritty, witty and wonderfully real. I highly recommend Winterdance to anyone who has ever dreamed of chucking it all and heading out on a fine adventure.
James Korsmo
In Winterdance, author Gary Paulsen (known especially for his juvenile fiction, with stories like Hatchet), chronicles his experience of running a team in the Iditarod dogsled race across Alaska. Paulsen begins the tale with his discovery of the joys (and trials) of running a sled team. He is captured by the idea of running dogs in the famous Alaska race, even though he has little experience, and none in a race of that type with a team of that size. So he sets off to make it work, pushing ahead ...more
Perrin Pring
Overall I greatly enjoyed Winterdance. I knew next to nothing about dogsledding when I began the book and now I realize, I still know almost nothing. That is not to say that I didn't learn a lot from Winterdance. What I mean is, there is clearly a lot to learn about dogsledding. Winterdance is not a dogsledding instruction manuel, rather, it is a memoir of how Gary Paulsen fell into the sport and subsequently ran the Iditarad. Paulsen takes his readers through some of his more death defying dogs ...more
 Charley Rose
If I am asked which is my favourite funny book of all time I immediately answer ‘Three Men in a Boat’. After numerous readings I still laugh out loud at the hilarious situations that arise during the intrepid trio’s (TSNOTD) boating expedition. ‘Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod’, takes second place in my very short list of hold-your-sides, laugh-out-loud humour. Gary Paulsen has the ability, with his writing style, to enable his readers to ‘see’– in the same manner as Jerome ...more
Kate Dutton
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nonfiction account of training for and running the Iditarod race across Alaska. I absolutely loved this book and would highly recommend it to anyone, but especially Doug, David and Mom.
After reading Into Thin Air about the Everest climb, I thought someone would have to be crazy to do that. After reading this, it probably is almost as bad
Favorite parts:
I was sitting in the orthodontist office while BJ was getting his braces on (and glad no one was in there except me) laughing out loud. The auth
Charlotte Analise
I started to read this book when I saw it on my boyfriend’s bedside table; I got another one out of the library because I found it so amazing. This book is about Paulsen he had a small team of five dogs that he used to work his trap lines. Over time he became more and more entranced with mushing (running dogs on a sled), until he eventually realized that wanted to, run the Iditarod - the 1,100+ mile dogsled race stretching across the state of Alaska. The first half of the book deals with his pre ...more
A really easy read but there is so much packed into his words that any more would just be superfluous. At risk of sounding cliche, this book is about so much more than just a dog sled team. It is about finding something within yourself that has been hidden beneath, becoming something more than what you were. The bond with the dogs is more than a man and his dogs, and more than just a race. The dogs help bring out what is within all of us but our modern lives squash and bury. The race was the ult ...more
I was motivated to read this after a colleague suggested it when I was telling her about my new puppy, a Siberian Husky, who is unlike any dog I've ever owned-we've nicknamed her "The Beast" and "The Destroyer." After reading about the dogs in this book I consider myself lucky. My dog is a model of good behavior in comparison to Gary's brood. The actual race though arduous really takes a back seat to the story of the preparation and training for the race. I haven't laughed so hard in ages while ...more
Ali M.
Even someone with zero interest in the subject matter of this book would have to work hard not to be captivated by Gary Paulsen's writing. I was wholly involved in each scene, conversation, and event. The journey this book documents is not just insane, it is often unbelievable. I don't understand how human beings can live through some of the conditions and catastrophic events that are commonplace on the Iditarod trail. It is a world unto itself - one that only a few souls are born to contend wit ...more
I really enjoyed reading Winterdance- I knew Gary Paulsen was a famous children's author, but had no idea he was such "wild" man at heart. He definitely has a way with words- weaving descriptions and events seamlessly into vivid images. I particularly liked the way he never took himself too seriously (until the VERY end), and the way he realized that he and the dogs had to become unified completely to become a team. One difference between this and many other "armchair traveller" books I've read: ...more
I picked this up because a friend recently described it as the funniest book ever written. I'm not sure it's THE funniest ever. The first chapter and the entire description of Paulsen's first Iditerod run are more thrilling, incredible, amazing than comedic. But the chapters describing his early attempts to prepare for the race do rank on my short list of ultimate hilarity. I wouldn't want to try reading them on an airplane; I'd embarrass myself.

Overall, it provided me with deep and enormously e
Gary Paulsen's passion in life is running sled dogs. This book is an account of training the dogs in Minnesota and then running the Iditarod, a 1,180 mile race in Alaska. His description of the bond between him and his fifteen dogs is wonderful. Paulsen is an exciting, humorous storyteller who will glue the reader to the page until the end of the punishing race. He came close to death several times during the race, but chose to go back and race the Iditarod again two years later. I recommend thi ...more
Loved this book. I laughed to the very end. Great read.
I remember reading this book years ago, and it came up for reading with our book club this fall. It's a quick and simple read with lots of laugh-out-loud vignettes. This time around it reminded me of reading Patrick F. McManus stories at the back of "Field and Stream" when I was a kid - especially his self-effacing style and the way his wife (Bun for McManus / Ruth for Paulsen), would just look on and laugh at his antics.

"You can't complain about winter in Iowa while reading "
‘Do you like the race so far?’

I looked at her, trying to find sarcasm, but she was serious; she really wanted to know. And I thought of how to answer her.

I had gotten lost, been run over by a moose, watched a dog get killed, seen a man cry, dragged over a third of the teams off on the wrong trail, and been absolutely hammered by beauty while all this was happening. (It was, I would find later, essentially a normal Iditarod day — perhaps a bit calmer than most.) I opened my mouth.

‘I …’

Nothing cam
Surprisingly funny. Laughed aloud funny. Paulsen, you're crazy, but dude, I loved this book. Man your wife must be chill.

...Tell me now, isn't this better?"
"What?" I had been looking at the dogs again.
"This--this way to live. With the dogs and the sled and the snow. Isn't it better this way than the way you live the other times?"
"Down below?"
He nodded. "All that. How can you live that way? I see it on television and I do not understand how you can live that way. Isn't this better?"
And I nodded.
This was another book I was disappointed in. That's been happening a lot lately, although I haven't posted most of them. This was a true story about the author's experience running a big dog sled race in Alaska. The story was interesting enough with several funny anecdotes. His writing style is very simplistic, but the point that really bothered me was that there was a LOT of foul language. I actually wish I hadn't finished it because there was so much swearing.
A wonderful book. There is exactly one word in this book that bugs me (view spoiler); otherwise this is by turns shocking, laugh-out-loud funny, stirring, amazing, utterly insane & all of that good stuff.
1995 February 1


2013 March 27

Nearly two decades later, I'm reading it again, along side Natasha who is reading it for class. They were all assigned mushers to follow during the Iditarod, as part of the project.

So now my beloved MIL, the Spouse, me, and my fifth grader have all read it. None of us have any desire to do such a thing, but Paulsen has written a gripping narrative of his time training and competing. There's a great deal of humor in the beginning, with a steep learning curve since h
This book was not the kind of book that I usually read - dog sled races aren't my forte. However, this book was a quick, fun read. I did, however, wonder about the costs (both financially and physically) of running the Iditarod vs. the benefits/pleasure/etc. I couldn't help think throughout the book, that this was just foolish. But then I have no sense of adventure, especially on someone else's dime.
Several things I learned from this book:

1. People who run the Iditarod are insane
2. Gary Paulsen is insane, but he is not a quitter
3. Gary Paulsen's wife must love him very, very much

I laughed out loud many times while reading this. (The funniest bit for me was the 6 skunk run, I think.) But Paulsen also makes you feel the beauty and awesomeness of the whole experience.
Jonathan Malone
Gary Paulsen is crazy. I’m not making this up or being pejorative. He describes himself as a crazy s.o.b. His craziness comes out in his telling of his journey to and through the Iditarod in his book Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod. The book details his beginning love of dogs and sledding, his mad desire to run the Iditarod, and the surreal experiences he encountered in his first running of that iconic race. Paulsen’s book is well written, clear, and often self-effacing. He ...more
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Dog racing 3 19 Feb 10, 2013 02:07PM  
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Although he was never a dedicated student, Paulsen developed a passion for reading at an early age. After a librarian gave him a book to read--along with his own library card--he was hooked. He began spending hours alone in the basement of his apartment building, reading one book after another.

Running away from home at the age of 14 and traveling with a carnival, Paulsen acquired a taste for adve
More about Gary Paulsen...
Hatchet (Brian's Saga, #1) Brian's Winter (Brian's Saga, #3) The River (Brian's Saga, #2) Brian's Return (Brian's Saga, #4) Brian's Hunt (Brian's Saga, #5)

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“She was beautiful in a way that only wild things can be beautiful.” 6 likes
“Do you like the race so far?’

I looked at her, trying to find sarcasm, but she was serious; she really wanted to know. And I thought of how to answer her.

I had gotten lost, been run over by a moose, watched a dog get killed, seen a man cry, dragged over a third of the teams off on the wrong trail, and been absolutely hammered by beauty while all this was happening. (It was, I would find later, essentially a normal Iditarod day — perhaps a bit calmer than most.) I opened my mouth.

‘I …’

Nothing came. She patted my arm and nodded. ‘I understand. It’s so early in the race. There’ll be more later to talk about …’

And she left me before I could tell her that I thought my whole life had changed, that my basic understanding of values had changed, that I wasn’t sure if I would ever recover, that I had seen god and he was a dog-man and that nothing, ever, would be the same for me again, and it was only the first true checkpoint of the race.

I had come just one hundred miles.”
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