The Magnetic North: Notes From The Arctic Circle
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Magnetic North: Notes From The Arctic Circle

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  197 ratings  ·  34 reviews
A Globe and Mail Best Books of the Year 2011 Title

More than a decade ago, Sara Wheeler traveled to Antarctica to understand a continent nearly lost to myth and lore. In the widely acclaimed, bestselling Terra Incognita, she chronicled her quest to find a hidden history buried in Antarctica's extreme surroundings. Now, Wheeler journeys to the opposite pole to create a defin...more
Hardcover, 354 pages
Published 2011 by Jonathan Cape (first published 2009)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
The Snow Child by Eowyn IveyA Christmas Carol by Charles DickensThe Snow Queen by Hans Christian AndersenDark Matter by Michelle PaverThe Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck
Book Vipers' Winter/Christmas Challenge Booklist
80th out of 177 books — 42 voters
My First Travel Angelic Airline Adventures by Anna OthitisInto Thin Air by Jon KrakauerAlive by Piers Paul ReadInto the Wild by Jon KrakauerTouching the Void by Joe Simpson
True Life Adventure
96th out of 102 books — 100 voters


More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 747)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Cleokatra
Finally finished it! This was an interesting topic, but a real tedious read. The book chronicles the author's tour of various arctic regions. That's cool, but the writing style is really strained and difficult to get through. Some of word choices are just odd. For instance:

"I camped nearby, on a dot of the ice cap, with a team of atmospheric chemists who spend three or four months each summer in temperatures of -22 F measuring halogens, a nonmetal element group, that are coming off the snowpack...more
Karen
Jul 22, 2011 Karen added it
I had previously read Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica. I thought that since I really enjoyed the author's book about Antarctica, I would surely enjoy her book about the Arctic Circle. The result? No... not so much.

Terra Incognita had the appeal of covering the topic closest to exploring new worlds without having to go off planet (that, or deep sea exploration). Magnetic North has chapters on multiple countries that have territories within the Arctic Circle and instead of exploration and s...more
Virginia
I started reading this on a day when the heat index was 114 degrees. Perfect weather for reading about frostbite and men who were stranded in subzero temperatures eating their own shoe leather. (Heat index got up to 128 that week! Bring on the icebreakers!) It took me much longer to read this book, though – for several reasons. First of all, it was SO GOOD. I didn’t skim or skip any sections. Also, I read this before bed. So it stayed on my nightstand, and I read it roughly 5 pages at a time. An...more
Billy
Starting in the far east of Siberia, this is a travelogue with historical flashbacks, as Wheeler moves eastward around the Arctic Circle. Next is a chapter on Alaska, then Canada, Greenland, Svarlbard, Lappland, and the White Sea region of European Russia. We start and end with the ghosts of the Soviet gulags. Wheeler clearly loves her subject, both the land and the rugged people who have chosen to live there. She aims to catalog a rapidly changing part of the world that is the apex of climate c...more
Steven
I generally enjoy anything I read about the colder parts of the world, and this was no exception. It was quite different than many of the books I've read lately, though. Rather than being a history of a particular area or person associated with the Arctic, this book reads like a series of journalistic pieces, which, in a sense, they are. Over the course of several years, Wheeler visits various areas around the Arctic. Chapters are set up by region, covering the Russian far east, Alaska, Canada,...more
Bookmarks Magazine
Wheeler serves as an engaging and insightful guide through the countries that surge up past the 66th parallel. Reviewers praised her storytelling skills, her nose for obscure and fascinating facts, and her refusal to romanticize the region’s indigenous cultures; and, surprisingly, none objected to her evidence for climate change. The Boston Globe occasionally found the flood of information overwhelming, and others wished that Wheeler had spent more time in the field and less in the library, but...more
Allyson
I suppose I did not rate this more highly as it was very disturbing. Not her fault and she is a really great writer, but as opposed to Terra Incognito this book is severely depressing. She seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time detailing the Russian atrocities in the arctic zones- east and west. And she freely acknowledged the book she set out to write at the start was not what it evolved into.
I had hoped for more environmental, nature writing and while there was some of that there was ent...more
Megan
Another book I was again excited to read expecting stories of adventures exploring the Arctic from a well-seasoned female explorer. I was surprised then when reading the book felt more like watching a fact-filled documentary with each chapter featuring a different country with land in the Arctic circle - covering the history, sociology and environmental science of the area. Each chapter could have been it's own book and it felt like a crash course in understanding climate change and Arctic 'sett...more
Marceline Smith
Really interesting book about the people who live in the Arctic Circle. It's easy to forget quite how many countries are partly in the Arctic but she visits them all and describes the lives of the inhabitants, visitors and scientific communities. Bit of a coincidence that I ended up reading this around the same time as Frozen Planet was on the BBC - the last couple of episodes cover some of the same ground. The book is way more in depth though and includes lots of personal anecdotes as well as d...more
John
Not the best of Wheeler's books but she sets high standards. This is about the people of the north, and the degradation of their environment, rather than a book of or about exploration (though Nansen and co get a look-in). Wheeler succeeds in conveying the rapid and devastating change that is taking place as a result of our exploitation of the Arctic, but unlike her other books the flow is disrupted by it not being a single journey. Nevertheless, who else has visited so many of the populated par...more
Snicketts
This is a fabulous read. The author is sharp, insightful and witty. Each page has something delightful - and anecdote, a perfect phrase or an analogy that takes your breath away with it's perceptiveness. The people she's met are rounded and real, not caricatures. Her impressions of the great explorers are not coloured by awe or weight of history. The result is a book that informs, not terrifies and unlike other books on the subject, she never becomes bogged down by the bleak environmental or soc...more
Linda
I was very interested in the content of this book but the writing style was so disjointed that I couldn't get past Chapter 2- too tedious a read. There was also the added frustration of photos with no identification on the page on which they appeared. I had to constantly go back to the list of photos in the beginning of the book so I would know what I was looking at. They were not mentioned in text either. The area Wheeler is writing about is so interesting that is is such a shame that she could...more
Dennis
Learned that one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emission is methane from rice paddies, 10 times worse than CO2.

Very interesting, well written book about the Arctic, it's natural history and it's peoples around the world. At times hard to read, due to the way native peoples have been treated over the millenia.

Sara Wheeler is a very gutsy woman - imagine breast feeding a her child at minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

I do wish there had been more photos and maps to help understand the mater...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
The Magnetic North by Sara Wheeler




Wheeler takes her readers places no one has been, places no one really wants to go except via books. This time, she guides us through the frozen north, the lands and waters north of the Arctic Circle. She's an ideal guide, one who seeks out all the coolest (in both senses of the word) spots and who finds all the best of the Arctic stories, and relates her tales with a delightfully literate vocabulary.

Gwen
Apr 15, 2012 Gwen rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Gwen by: Wheeler's Slate article on the Arctic
Shelves: arctic-antarctic
I loved this book, even though I feel like an Antarctic traitor for liking this one about the Arctic better. It was quite similar to "The Future History of the Arctic" in terms of its environmentalism and concerns about what will happen to the native people of the Arctic lands. The information on Russia/Siberia was fascinating since my knowledge of that region is next to nothing. Highly recommended, more so than "Terra Incognita."
Fiona
In the first few pages of this book, the author describes what happens when the temperature reaches the coldest experienced on earth. Apparently at that temperature, trees explode, and your exhaled breath tinkles to the ground as ice crystals.

After reading that, I knew that I would enjoy this book, particularly as a mental antidote to a particularly humid summer.
Devin
A great read to learn about the history of the Arctic circle, focused mostly on the indigenous people. As you can guess it's not always an uplifting story, but very real. As a first read about the Arctic it's good because Sara also draws upon books and movies of the last century that inspired her. I can't wait to watch Nanook of the North!
Lee
I found this an interesting book but a slow read. Wheeler reports on the natural and human history of several regions along and above the Arctic Circle. The chapters on the Canadian Arctic, Greenland, Svalbard, and Lapland were the most appealing to me. For a faster-paced book, I'd recommend her "Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica."
Chris
Informative, readable, recommended - I enjoyed her witty prose style, and she covers aspects of the Arctic I haven't seen much about. (Presumably for the reason that getting a visa to visit Chukotka is apparently nigh impossible. Sara Wheeler has quite a reserve of perseverance.)
Megan
Some interesting stuff in this one and I liked how she divided the book into sections with a map slice of the arctic circle, but some parts were dull and my mind wandered a lot. I'll give her Antarctica book a try since I hear that one is better.
Marie Cinti
I wish I had enjoyed this book more. Wheeler has an important message but I found her delivery tedious. The sea ice is melting. Got it? Animals, indigenous peoples, developed world, Northeastern coast of the United States? All in trouble.
Cinthia
A magnificent account of arctic history and its people. Sara Wheeler does a great job of connecting histories, cultures, science and nature while remaining objective and on point. It was a truly enjoyable read from cover to cover.
Trace
Wow, the explorers' stories she unearthed were amazing. However, it was the climate change effects that she is seeing that makes me heartsick. Anyone who wants to drill in the ANWR should read this.
Holly
Often tedious, very informative, some truly engaging moments. Take home message: government ruins civilizations by creating dependency, and the Soviet gulag often make Hitler seem sweet.
Alan Hamilton
An extremely well researched book and an interesting read. however, I found it a bit of a slog as the writing style is a bit laborious. although I enjoyed it, I was glad when I finished it.
Pauline
Much less compelling than Terra Incognito, and I take exception to her mockery of Sir John Franklin,. Nevertheless Sara Wheeler is an entertaining and informative writer.
Jimajima9
I really wanted to like this book, but almost immediately, the writing style began to irritate me. "Stream of consciousness" comes to mind.

Darn. Stopped after 25 pages.
Doris
Love love love this book. Great language, compelling landscapes, promotes awareness of what's happening at the farthest reaches of our world, without being heavyhanded
Ryan
The writing is beautiful at times and Wheeler's musings about the fate of the Arctic are illuminating.
Lou
Not sure about this one. Beautifully written, but a bit too 'all over the place' for my liking.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 24 25 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • This Cold Heaven: Seven Seasons in Greenland
  • Cold: Adventures in the World's Frozen Places
  • Travels in Siberia
  • The Black Nile: One Man's Amazing Journey Through Peace and War on the World's Longest River
  • News From Tartary
  • Farthest North
  • The Reindeer People: Living with Animals and Spirits in Siberia
  • Cruelest Journey: Six Hundred Miles To Timbuktu
  • The Secret Knowledge of Water
  • Findings
  • Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape
  • The Wild Places
  • To the River: A Journey Beneath the Surface
  • Trieste and The Meaning of Nowhere
  • Passage to Juneau: A Sea and Its Meanings
  • Deep Future: The Next 100,000 Years of Life on Earth
  • Big Dead Place: Inside the Strange and Menacing World of Antarctica
  • Tide, Feather, Snow: A Life in Alaska
142353
Sara Wheeler was brought up in Bristol and studied Classics and Modern Languages at Brasenose College, University of Oxford. After writing about her travels on the Greek island of Euboea and in Chile, she was accepted by the US National Science Foundation as their first female writer-in-residence at the South Pole, and spent seven months in Antarctica.

In her resultant book Terra Incognita: Travels...more
More about Sara Wheeler...
Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica Travels in a Thin Country: A Journey Through Chile Too Close to the Sun: The Audacious Life and Times of Denys Finch Hatton Cherry: A Life of Apsley Cherry-Garrard O My America!: Six Women and Their Second Acts in a New World

Share This Book