Rebecca's Reviews > Cold: Adventures in the World's Frozen Places

Cold by Bill Streever
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really liked it
bookshelves: science-tech, travel-books, environmentalist, history, polar-regions

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 (especially the School Children’s Blizzard of 1888 and the “Year Without Summer,” 1815), ice ages, cryogenics technology, and on and on. My favorite chapters were February and March, about the development of refrigeration and air conditioning and cold-weather apparel, respectively.

There’s also a travel element, with Streever regularly recording where he is and what the temperature is. Anchorage, Alaska is his home turf – a perfect place for thinking about the cold and how humans and other species prepare for it – but he also checks in from California, England and the Philippines. Although there is an environmentalist undercurrent, he doesn’t harp on about climate change; in fact, he pretty much only mentions it in the final chapter.

I learned plenty of great trivia: the whippoorwill is the only American bird that hibernates; Quebec postal workers grow more cold tolerant as winters progress (with lower heart rate and blood pressure); the otter has the most hair per square inch of any animal; the signs of hypothermia are “umbles”: mumbling, grumbling, stumbling and tumbling; and it was the late 1930s when science first noticed world temperatures had risen over the previous century.

Streever has a new book about wind coming out in July that I look forward to reading.

Favorite line: “Cold is a part of day-to-day life, but we often isolate ourselves from it, hiding in overheated houses and retreating to overheated climates, all without understanding what we so eagerly avoid.”
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Reading Progress

January 29, 2016 – Shelved
January 29, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
March 13, 2016 – Started Reading
March 13, 2016 – Shelved as: science-tech
March 13, 2016 – Shelved as: travel-books
March 16, 2016 – Shelved as: environmentalist
March 16, 2016 – Shelved as: history
March 22, 2016 – Shelved as: polar-regions
March 29, 2016 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-5 of 5 (5 new)

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message 1: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Excellent review. I love that quote. I must confess to a having very "mercurial" feelings about the cold myself. Don't mind it at all when I'm out snowshoeing in the woods, but at other times I'm chilled to the bone just thinking about having to go out and get the mail...


message 2: by Diane S ☔ (new) - added it

Diane S ☔ Loved your review Rebecca have added this one.


Rebecca Jennifer wrote: "Excellent review. I love that quote. I must confess to a having very "mercurial" feelings about the cold myself. Don't mind it at all when I'm out snowshoeing in the woods, but at other times I'm c..."

Thanks, Jennifer. I wish I was more cold tolerant than I am. I work from home so I often end up wrapping up in six layers and a blanket to cut down on heating bills.


Dave Hoff Picked "Cold" up at library, will see if it stacks up to my Antarctic days 60 yrs ago.


Rebecca Dave wrote: "Picked "Cold" up at library, will see if it stacks up to my Antarctic days 60 yrs ago."

Terrific! Hope you enjoy the read.


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