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Monday, December 6, 2010

‘Books I’m Reading’ with Martha Stewart: Cold

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.


  1. 1

    Brrrrr…. makes living in NJ seem easy!

  2. 2


  3. 3

    Oh, I’ve been looking for some fun books to read, and this sounds great. Hanks for sharing!

  4. I’m going to pick up that book. Seems very interesting. I grew up in Northern Ontario and now live in Massachusetts so I know all about the cold.

  5. 5
    Amanda L.

    Great review! Makes me want to read the book!

  6. These are such beautiful pictures! As a California-born girl who now resides in DC, I totally sympathize being a wuss myself! I love the winter and the cold, but I am still shocked every year when that first below-30 wind hits my face!

  7. And that’s why I live in Cali 🙂 Wimps, unite!

  8. I’m cold already, and this just made me colder.


  9. 9

    It was -24F when I woke up this morning! The sun is making its sad little march across the horizon as I write. I haven’t yet read the book, and after having lived in Fairbanks for more than 15 years, I’m not sure I need to.

    Food. I’ll just think about food. Especially warm food from sunny places.

    Cheers from Fairbanks,

  10. Love the first picture. Definitely a California girl here!

  11. 11

    Beautiful pictures, thanks for sharing. I’m freezing, now I need hot chocolate.

  12. 12

    Having lived through that ice storm It gives me reason to be glad it is 24 degrees today. That kind of ice comes with a too warm late fall we are definitely cold here now!
    Cocoa and cookies in NH

  13. 13

    Wow, this sounds absolutely awesome 🙂 And, of course, I trust any recommendation Martha Stewart makes 🙂 I’m super jealous you’re in Martha’s CIrcle… So cool!

  14. 14

    You’re making me homesick! I’m sitting here in 75-degree Gilbert, AZ longing for the white-and-cold kind of Christmas I had growing up in Anchorage, AK. I don’t care what anyone says, I’d rather be cold than hot any day. You can always put on more clothes, know what I mean?

    • Jane Maynard

      I love that this post made you homesick. not because I’m sadistic. 😉 I just think it’s neat! obviously, I’m intrigued by people from alaska!

      I love the debate is it better to be cold or hot? I honestly am not sure what I think…but I might be on your side…yes, there is always the option of more clothes, which does seem better to me!

  15. 15
    Megan Rosemary

    While I am currently attending university in Chicago, I grew up in Fairbanks and Anchorage. When I was very small, my mom would sew my mittens to the cuffs of my snow suit, so that there was no possibility of me pulling off a mitten and touching something metal with my bare hands. Later, as a competitive swimmer, I remember walking out of the pool in January and my hair freezing completely solid.

    Summers in Fairbanks, however, are absolutely spectacular. The sun never sets and no one sleeps much in order to take full advantage of the light. I loved attending the release parties for the latest Harry Potter at Gulliver’s Books in July – held in the parking lot because there was still plenty of sunlight at midnight.

  16. Whoooot!!! for the cold! Here in the Northwoods of WI it is currently -5 degrees Fahrenheit..and expected to be -11 in a day or so…so it goes…I must make more clam chowder and embrace my long johns! 🙂
    cathy b. @ brightbakes

  17. 17

    Fantastic images! We love books about the natural world. This one looks intriguing. Thanks for sharing.
    -Deb for Ecover

  18. What? Martha has a book club? And I somehow missed that? Wow. Apparently I haven’t been watching enough of my ti-vo’d episodes or something… Thanks for the intel.

  19. 19

    Love this post. I’m originally from Anchorage but now live in Wasilla, Alaska. I love it here! yes its cold but really a magical place, amazing winters and beautiful summers 🙂
    Just yesterday I saw two kids walking to the bus stop with headlamps at -6!
    Can’t wait to read, cook and eat Madara’s foods!

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