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

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  5,533 ratings  ·  863 reviews
Paulsen and his team of dogs endured snowstorms, frostbite, dogfights, moose attacks, sleeplessness, and hallucinations in the relentless push to go on. Map and color photographs.
Paperback, 272 pages
Published February 17th 1995 by Mariner Books (first published January 1st 1994)
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Bethany Would read to my own kids, would probably not read to a class. I have 6th graders whose parent preferences & reading habits I know that I could…moreWould read to my own kids, would probably not read to a class. I have 6th graders whose parent preferences & reading habits I know that I could hand this to in a heartbeat...but for a mixed classroom setting, esp. 4th grade, I'd say no. You know your class best & also how well you do at editing on the fly while reading aloud - maybe read first and see? It's a delightful read, funny and gripping, and quick. (less)

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Average rating 4.26  · 
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 ·  5,533 ratings  ·  863 reviews

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Aug 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
I’ve been fascinated with dog sledding (really anything dealing with extreme winter) since watching Iron Will as a kid. And I was fortunate enough to go dog sledding a couple times as a teenager. So I thought I sort of knew what the Iditarod was all about.
I knew nothing.
This book is incredible. It’s hilarious, for one. It’s also shocking, jaw dropping, inspiring, touching, and heartbreaking. It got to me at a deep level. It’s amazing.
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
Sep 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I learned that the sled dogs love to pull, live to pull, lust to pull. I learned that the men and women who drive dogsleds are swept into the rhythm of the ride; that there's a harmony of unity in the dogs, the sled and the driver. I learned that Alaska is a place of extremes-devastating beauty and danger. And I learned that I would rather travel to darkest Peru, hot air balloon around the world, travel 20000 leagues under the sea, then run an Iditarod race. But it sure was entertaining to read ...more
Mar 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Apr 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
There are moments in our life when we realize we are mere mortals. Some things we will never get a chance to do. After reading this book, I am now aware that I will never enter a dog sled team into the Iditarod race. Ah! Mortality!
Jonathan Malone
Apr 24, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Sep 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Crazy good
Jan 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Compelling! Read it in two sittings. Definitely recommend it.
Jul 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Having been in Alaska and heard an Iditarod champion speak about his experiences - albeit briefly - I was quite happy to revisit that world with Gary Paulsen’s book. This book grips from it’s opening pages, and it doesn’t let go - much like the race itself, which Paulsen describes as “relentless.”

Elsewhere, bemused, he struggles to find a way to describe the Iditarod. But at the first checkpoint, when someone asks how he likes it so far, the thoughts that run through his head do the job
Oct 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Mike Smith
May 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Mar 28, 2009 rated it did not like it
Slow to go....I just kept thinking what an idiot this guy must be, and how much abuse is he going to cause himself.
Sep 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have two (seemingly conflicting) thoughts after reading this book:

First, by God, I want to adopt dogs, as many dogs as I can handle, go to Alaska and run the Iditarod myself.

Second, by God, am I grateful that I don't have dogs, am not in Alaska and am not running the race.

Then again... wouldn't it be absolutely...mad...and run it or just die trying?

"I'm sorry. I was just running them. Running the dogs." I swallowed more soup and looked at the sky. The cold air was so clear the
Sep 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
I am not a dog person, and I couldn't have imagined how compelling this book could be. The descriptions of nature surrounding the dog sledding, and Paulsen's relationships with his dogs, in particular, were very beautiful. Paulsen used an intriguing technique throughout this book, where he would announce ahead of time what was going to happen - far from working like spoilers, it made the story even more suspenseful. The book is also very funny and I laughed a lot. Highly recommended!
Jan 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"But the beauty of the woods, the incredible joy of it is too alluring to be ignored, and I could not stand to be away from it--indeed, still can't--and so I ran dogs simply to run dogs; to be in and part of the forest, the woods."

“How can it be to live without the dogs.”

Paulsen is a outdoorsy, kind of guy, living in the wilds of Minnesota, but one day, in his early 40s, he decides to run the Iditarod. A grueling 1,180 miles dog-race, from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska.
This is his memoir, of that
Dec 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Having a passion for running sled dogs, Gary Paulsen decided to enter the Iditarod. It seemed a good idea at the time--after all, the race is only 1180 miles long--in the winter--in Alaska. In Paulsen's case, ignorance was bliss. After, in his view, adequate training, Paulsen and his 15 dog team began the Iditarod which turned out to be seventeen days of Hell. He and his dogs suffered blinding snowstorms, frostbite, moose attacks, dog fights, roaring winds, and a host of other challenges. This ...more
Feb 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is Gary Paulsen's account of his running the Iditarod, a dog sled race from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska. It's fascinating. And hilarious. The predicaments this guy finds himself in before the race even starts made me laugh out loud several times. I'm surprised anyone would
admit to the mishaps he put himself in and publish them but if you can't laugh at yourself.....

Anyway, the race itself is madness. Maybe you don't need to be crazy to want to do this, but to stick with it after the first
Connie G
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 ...more
Aug 09, 2012 rated it liked it
The book was okay. The author had some pretty neat experiences that were interesting to read about. The writing, however, was mediocre and reminiscent of 80's YA. It's like he's trying to hard to pound into our heads about how meaningful his experience was, instead of just telling us the story and letting us figure it out on our own. Plus every two pages there was some variation of, "I was arrogant and thought it couldn't possibly get any harder. Little did I know, it would." It got old quick. ...more
Erin Martinelli
Mar 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  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.
Jan 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
Dana Stabenow
Oct 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: hpl-s-15-in-16
This was a Book Talk Alaska selection, and I laughed so hard while I read it that I was afraid I wasn't going to be able to talk intelligently on the air. Hilarious. Although guest Libby Riddles had her doubts about what parts were really Paulsen's story, she said they were at least some musher's story.
Nolan Alber
Jan 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Winterdance is a funny, beautiful account of running the Iditarod, of the harsh perfections of nature, and of man's permanent alliance with dogs. Paulsen is a superb writer and can flip from humor to suspense to existentialism all within the same page.

Recommended for: Dog lovers, survivalists, nature connoisseurs, and people that like being warm while reading about the cold.
Tracy Lee
Aug 24, 2009 rated it it was ok
non-fiction - not enough background information on the race, the man, the dogs - when finished reading I spent time online researching all of these in order to understand the book better. Which I shouldn't need to do. Also - this was a required summer reading book for highschool freshman,
Javier G.
Oct 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 08, 2019 added it
Personal Response
I like Winterdance for the same reason I like the other Gary Paulsen books, because it is about the outdoors. It explains the difference from a place I live to when Brian travels to Alaska for the race. The weather conditions are way more harsh than in Wisconsin.

Plot summary
Brian prepared to run the Iditarod, the longest dog sled race in the world. He started with a small litter of sled pups. He raised them and they seem more like wolves than any kind of dog. He went through
Jun 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: alaska, nonfiction
I am not much of an animal person, I am definitely NOT a sports person, and I rarely get excited about nonfiction... BUT THIS BOOK WAS ABSOLUTELY RIVETING. I know I read Hatchet at some point as a younger person (I am prone to a certain type of YA survivalist adventure story), but that was the extent of my familiarity with Paulsen's work.

His voice is at once level-headed, observant, humorous, self-deprecating, and poetic. I loved learning more about working and living with these amazing dogs.
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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
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“But the beauty of the woods, the incredible joy of it is too alluring to be ignored, and I could not stand to be away from it--indeed, still can't--and so I ran dogs simply to run dogs; to be in and part of the forest, the woods” 4 likes
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