This month, Martha Stewart chose the book Cold: Adventures in the World’s Frozen Places for her Books I’m Reading book club. The author Bill Streever will be on The Martha Stewart Show today at 10:00 am PT, which I can’t wait to watch! As one of the three bloggers from Martha’s Circle reading along with Martha, today I’m writing a post about the book. Considering it’s been what feels like the coldest winter we’ve had in California since we moved here nearly 10 years ago, this book did not help in making me feel warm and cozy! Of course, it did make me appreciate just how not cold my weather really is!
Bill Streever is a biologist who lives in Alaska. His book talks about, well, cold! He touches on scientific history surrounding temperature and discoveries related to cold, cold places, animals that live in cold, and on and on. It’s an interesting read filled with all kinds of fun facts. I think Nate got sick of me interrupting his own reading with “Hey! Listen to this!” followed by yet another random, cold-related fact. I’m pretty sure there was one about squirrels. And I’m pretty sure he was dying to know it.
When I first started reading the book, Madara (a food blogger in Fairbanks, Alaska, a place Bill visits in the book) emailed me a link to her blog for FoodPress, the food site I edit. She mentioned that food blogging was a necessity to keep her busy, given that it was currently -10 degrees F and she’d only had 4 hours of daylight that day. What the what?!?! I immediately hit Google maps to see where Fairbanks was and then dug around the Internet for information about her town. It was fascinating. I somehow stumbled on a YouTube video from Fairbanks…seriously, go search “Fairbanks Alaska” on YouTube. It’s kind of awesome. Especially videos showing the Northern Lights, the ice fog, and people throwing hot liquids into cold air (no, really, make sure you watch people throwing hot liquids into cold air). Reading Madara’s email was so fun. I was transported to her life for one brief moment, imagining what it must be like to live in such a COLD place. And marveling at how different her world is from mine, simply due to temperature. It really is amazing to me that people live in places like Fairbanks!
Reading Cold was kind of like reading Madara’s email for two-hundred-some-odd pages. I felt transported to a different world. I finished the book with two main takeaways. First, complete wonder at early explorers of cold, imagining what it must have felt like to experience such life-threatening temperatures in the name of science and discovery. Second, amazement at how animals adapt to cold climates. I loved reading about different ways that animals hibernate and/or live through cold times. Most amazing to me was a caterpillar that freezes for the winter then thaws out in the spring and goes on its merry way. Its heart is literally stopped for the winter. Unreal.
One of the discussion questions is whether the book has changed my outlook on cold. I don’t know that it’s changed my outlook, but it has increased my understanding and helped me explore a world I don’t think often about. And it solidified the fact that I’m a wimp. At the end of the book there’s a Q&A with Bill Streever. One of the questions alludes to the fact that readers may be inspired to visit a cold place after reading the book, and then Bill lists his 5 favorite cold destinations (2 of which are in Fairbanks, by the way). And, uh, yeah, I’m kind of thinking I might not be one of those readers. Yep, definitely a wimp. And proud of it.
I stole all of the photos in this post from my mother-in-law Pat. She took them after an ice storm hit their hometown in New Hampshire a few winters ago. I love these shots and I’m so happy to finally have a reason to share them with you. I hope they make you feel all cold and chilly inside.