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Cold: Adventures in the World's Frozen Places

3.59  ·  Rating Details ·  1,030 Ratings  ·  174 Reviews
From avalanches to glaciers, from seals to snowflakes, and from Shackleton's expedition to "The Year Without Summer," Bill Streever journeys through history, myth, geography, and ecology in a year-long search for cold--real, icy, 40-below cold. In July he finds it while taking a dip in a 35-degree Arctic swimming hole; in September while excavating our planet's ancient and ...more
ebook, 304 pages
Published July 22nd 2009 by Little, Brown and Company (first published 2009)
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Rebecca Foster
Late March in England: it definitely still counts as cold. Most years I don’t dare change over the winter clothes for summer ones until later in April, or even May. This interdisciplinary book was a perfect seasonal read, and would be a good companion piece to Winter World by Bernd Heinrich or The Water Book by Alok Jha. In 12 chapters spanning one year, Streever covers every topic related to the cold that you could imagine: polar exploration, temperature scales, extreme weather events (espe ...more
Aug 02, 2012 Namrirru rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Got incredibly annoyed with the arrogant, cavalier, condescending tone of the author. It got more and more grating until this passage which is when I stopped reading and seriously felt like burning the book:

Talking about Raynaud's disease of a "companion," "The disease is more of an annoyance than a serious threat. When I say this, I mean an annoyance for her. For me it is a curiosity. As we move down the mountain, I entertain myself by stopping intermittently to observe her recovery. At one poi
What can I say about Cold?

I bought it on a whim. The snow was coming (this was back in November) and I wanted something seasonal to read. It almost heralded my return to chilly Nebraska from the warm South.

It was everything that I wanted Mary Roach’s books to be, but felt they weren’t, which is to say more science, less forced humor, more cohesive.

Occasionally in my status updates I complained about the authors interjections. In the beginning there were times that I felt that they detracted fr
Fungus Gnat
Bill Streever conveys his thoughts on cold in the form of a journal, marked off in the months of a year from July through June. Each of these chapters is further divided into passages alternating between his personal experiences, his experiences on various parts of the planet, but more in Alaska than anywhere else, and reflections on the experiences of explorers and scientists who had sought to be the first to the South Pole or to absolute zero, for example. This way of laying out his material k ...more
Mar 31, 2010 Amy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As I read this nonfiction title, I kept wondering why science in high school (or college) couldn't have been this fascinating. Maybe it's because school texts are so dry and politically correct. I have no idea, only that this book made me wish I had paid more attention.

Simply put, this is fascinating. Streever is a scientist/environmentalist/researcher who explores the science of weather, as well as the history of man's fascination with it. This book compiles a year of research. He begins outsid
Dec 30, 2009 Emily rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
I'm not having very good luck with NYT Notable Books this year; I found Cold just barely engaging enough to finish. On the plus side, it has occasional interesting facts about animals that actually freeze during the winter (not just hibernate) and about the effects of extreme cold on human physiology and behavior.

In the debit column, however, I must say that it is fuzzy and repetitive. Certain events, like an early attempt to air-condition Westminster for James II, are referenced again and agai
Kristi Thielen
Jun 18, 2012 Kristi Thielen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Little Ice Age, Snowball Earth, lucky (and unlucky) explorers, cold weather forecasting and how the adequate lack thereof has caused terrible loss of life, and the Japanese ama divers (mostly women, since men can't handle it) who dive in waters so frigid, they'd kill most of us. Yes, it's all here and more, in 12 chapters, each corresponding to one month of a year the author spent in pursuit of cold.

I read this book not long after having finished writing storyboards for a museum exhibit abo
Max Carmichael
Sep 28, 2013 Max Carmichael rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Mr. Streever has some really interesting information to share about the cold adaptations of organisms, but the interesting parts are sandwiched between tedious inventories of cold-related topics that he simply glossed from historical sources in an apparent attempt to make his book encyclopedic.

But the most troubling and off-putting aspect of this book is the author's apparent lack of empathy or sympathy for any of his subjects. Critics have called his style "flinty" and "tough-minded" – I call i
Bookmarks Magazine
Oct 03, 2009 Bookmarks Magazine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nov-dec-2009
Cold, filled with obscure facts and fascinating anecdotes, is both entertaining and enlightening, and Streever's crisp, articulate writing style and easy-to-understand scientific explanations yield a compulsively readable book. However, Streever's loosely organized chapters and stream-of-consciousness, bloglike narrative keep him from dwelling for long on any single topic, and the Dallas Morning News took issue with his single-minded focus on the northern hemisphere. Some critics also objected t ...more
Dave Hoff
Review best left to Rebecca and other experts, but as one who experienced the Antarctic, it is a text book on how cold affects the earth, humans, animals, history and science. Author does well quoting Nansen (father of all successful expeditions) Amundson, Shackleton, and Cherry-Garrard who used Inuit knowledge to live. Scott who distained dogs and skis and died on the ICE. Richard Byrd whose publicity stunt in 1933 nearly cost the life of himself and his rescuers. The untruth of Byrd's failed N ...more
May 13, 2010 Kate rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I can't honestly say I read this, as after many months of carting it around I never finished it. But I gave it my best effort, and the book failed me. I wanted to learn all about cold in a clear, coherent manner. This book has lots of information, but it's presented in a stream-of-consciousness, folksy way that ensured that I wouldn't remember scientific details and wouldn't get absorbed by any of the anecdotes.
Kerri Stebbins
This book is fantastic. And it felt appropriate, ending the 2013 reading season with Streever's engaging frozen stories while we were training and traipsing across the intriguing and inhospitable frozen Midwest.

Highly recommended. Oh so highly.

[Five timely stars and high hopes for never experiencing the true meaning of frostbite.]
Jun 28, 2010 Dayna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is exactly the kind of science book I like - anecdotal, but packed with lots of good information, wrapped around a central framing device (in this case, the months of the year and temperatures around the globe in those months). Loved it and can't wait to dive into some of the books listed as source material.
Mar 07, 2016 Katie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Entertaining read about many aspects of cold and how we all cope with it.
Liz Nutting
Jul 19, 2010 Liz Nutting rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
For now, at least, I live in an extreme environment, defined by Wikipedia as one exhibiting "harsh and challenging environment conditions...far outside the boundaries of what a human can comfortably tolerate." In my case, I live in extreme heat, in a region that exceeds 40°C (104°F) "with regular frequency or for protracted periods of time." As Palm Desert's average daily high temperature hovers between 102° and 107° for at least four months out of the year, I think it qualifies.

The irony is th
Jason Phillips
Feb 09, 2013 Jason Phillips rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Cold" is an excellent companion to other general-interest natural history books, such as ones written by Scott Wiedensaul. I am fascinated by the history of the ice ages, and living in northeastern Pennsylvania, by the incredible changes that take place when the warm seasons turn into winter. My part of the world was largely covered by ice during the most recent glaciation, with the end of one of the ice sheets only 30 or so miles to the south. Ice-age conditions sculpted and still influences t ...more
Sep 28, 2011 Dhe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
ho preso questo libro in bilioteca, guardando fra i nuovi arrivi, colpita dalla copertina più che dal titolo che in realtà non dice nulla. la copertina è una foto, di un orso polare in una tempesta di neve, c'è scritto a caratteri piuttosto evidenti "selezionato tra i 100 notable books del 2009 dal new york times", se a voi dice qualcosa, a me ha lasciato completamente indifferente.

però è una lettura interessante, coinvolgente e fuori dagli schemi. non c'è una trama da riportare perchè non ha u
Rachel C.
A book of all trades, covering meteorology, classical and quantum physics, geologic history, wildlife biology, textile science, human physiology, the history of polar exploration, etc.

I liked the animal stuff:

So far, four frog species are known to overwinter in a frozen state. To be clear, these are not frogs that are cold, but frogs that are literally frozen. Pick them up, and they are as hard as ice. They are, in fact, largely ice. Almost two-thirds of their body water may be frozen. Ice cryst
Jul 31, 2009 Andy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
How do you assess the insulating qualities of a flying squirrel’s nest? Well, one method is to wait patiently until the squirrel leaves the nest and then drop in a hot potato. Biologist Bill Streever says that when the temperature outside is 20 degrees below freezing, after 30 minutes in the nest, the potato will still be warm enough to serve. That’s reassuring news if you’re ever planning to host a steak dinner in the remote Alaskan wilderness, and this is just the sort of goofball anecdote Str ...more
Jul 26, 2009 Knitography rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
This is an interesting book, with an unusual narrative style that took some getting used to. At first it seems to meander along with no sense of direction, but if you persevere you realize that you are in fact heading somewhere. Unexpectedly, it's a very personal book; the author's relationship with and feelings about cold are very clearly present, along with numerous interesting facts about cold weather and climates. Because it's such a personal book, the focus is relatively narrow. Although th ...more
Galen Weitkamp
Oct 01, 2016 Galen Weitkamp rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cold: Adventures in the World’s Frozen Places by Bill Streever.
Review by Galen Weitkamp.

The first chapter of Cold is named, “July.” The book begins with the author, Bill Streever, standing on a beach of Prudhoe Bay, north of the Arctic Circle. It’s July first. The temperature is a balmy fifty-one degrees (Fahrenheit) above zero. We read, and he begins to narrate. He tells us about cold, frostbite, core temperature and hypothermia. We learn the tale of Adolphus Greely’s 1883 Arctic expedition of
Jesse Houle
Aug 25, 2009 Jesse Houle marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jesse by: NPR's All Things Considered
Caught my eye (or ear, rather) on NPR when in his interview the author said living in the North most people there regard the cold as a bad thing and "bundle up with a sweater indoors and the thermostat turned up too high even when it's warm enough outside." That describes me pretty well I think- minues the sweater. He, however, appreciates, even likes the cold and says that cold "makes you feel alive" and "wakes you up better than any cup of coffee." Me being a New England fleeing cold-hater (an ...more
Bruce Sheridan
Jan 21, 2014 Bruce Sheridan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Clearly some folks have trouble with an author exhibiting a personality and doing anything other than paint a comfortable story by numbers. Better keep it safe writers, or some folks are going to have a fit, throw down their toys and leave the sandlot. Don't dare personalize. Well, I'm glad a few readers didn't make it through COLD. That just makes me feel special. This is a fantastic book precisely because of the subtle yet complex narrative voice. No way is Streever going to settle for the pri ...more
My friend Donna and I have a thing for reading books about cold places, usually when it's hot out. I'd wanted to read this in the summer when it was blazing hot, but my local public library had a long waiting list and it didn't pop up. I ended up reading this just a few days before snow flurries were forecast in my area.

However, Streever must have been of a mind with my thinking, because he organizing his book by the months of the year, highlighting the vagaries of temperature and its effects i
Oct 30, 2010 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adventure
Bill Streever's book, Cold, is subtitled "Adventures in the World's Frozen Places". It read like a natural history of the climate of cold with almost everything you might want to know about cold from the scientific discovery of absolute zero to the development of high-tech clothing to augment if not surpass the use of nature's wool and fur to keep warm when it is cold. Using the calendar year - starting and ending in the summer - the author takes you on ever colder adventures and explorations of ...more
Jan 01, 2013 S. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reads like an extended new yorker article (or maybe a notch less), marred by some slight repetition of fifth grade science. Streever is a clear sensory-oriented individual, characterizing cold well, but giving rise, as some reviewers have noted, as what may come off as "condescending" prose. ("I am cold. I am wearing a sweater. The sweater somewhat blocks the cold." <-- is this the author being moronic or assuming moronity in the reader?

What would be a definite 3 star at 15 bucks is accepted
Jan 27, 2016 Ethan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Cold is an exploration of all things related to freezing temperatures, from the way animals in the arctic and sub-arctic survive in harsh conditions, to the history of exploration at both poles, to the science of measuring temperature and creating temperatures below -400 degrees, and many other cold related topics.

Streever jumps around in the narrative, not spending more than a chapter on any subject but occasionally doubling back to explore certain concepts more. He writes in a very informativ
Claudia Piña
Más que solo ser un libro sobre lugares realmente fríos, abarca muchos temas sobre el frío: culturas que se desarrollaron en climas extremos; la historia de la investigación de temperaturas y cómo y porqué se fueron desarrollando las escalas Celsius, Farenheit y Kelvin; cómo la temperatura ha jugado un papel importante en la colonización del planeta y eventos históricos; qué le ocurre al cuerpo en bajas temperaturas y cómo se han ido desarrollando tecnologías para contrarrestar esos efectos; var ...more
Jan 04, 2012 Suzie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, science
Streever's book covers all sorts of fascinating facts about cold: the search for absolute zero, human adaptations to cold, how to build on and issues with building on permafrost, global warming, ice ages, Beringia, mammoths, North American camels, why animals can only live in areas within narrow temperature ranges, what kind of fiber is best to wear in the cold and how different synthetic and natural fibers are different from each other, Arctic and Antarctic explorers, death by frostbite (grisly ...more
Sep 30, 2012 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book in bits and pieces over the winter, mostly in a hot tub. Otherwise I just might have picked up frostbite just by reading the descriptions of utter cold. Lots of educational information in here on a variety of biological, historical, and cultural topics, although not presented in the most organized fashion. The chapters are labeled by month and start out with a particular setting and local temperature, but the narrative could wander nearly anywhere from there. It's like traveling ...more
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“Cold, really, is like malaria. If it does not kill you, it will help you lose weight.” 1 likes
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