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The Magnetic North Notes from the Arctic Circle

Sara Wheeler

North Point Press

0374533091

9780374533090

Trade Paperback

336 Pages

$15.00

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A Globe and Mail Best Book of the Year

More than a decade ago, Sara Wheeler traveled to Antarctica to understand a continent nearly lost to myth and lore. In the widely acclaimed, bestselling Terra Incognita, she chronicled her quest to find a hidden history buried in Antarctica’s extreme surroundings. Now, Wheeler journeys to the opposite pole to create a definitive picture of life on the fringes. In The Magnetic North, she takes full measure of the Arctic: at once the most pristine place on earth and the locus of global warming.

Inspired by the spiraling shape of a reindeer-horn bangle, she travels counterclockwise around the North Pole through the territories belonging to Russia, the United States, Canada, Denmark, Norway, and Finland, marking the transformations of what once seemed an unchangeable landscape. As she witnesses the mounting pollution concentrated at the pole, Wheeler reckons with the illness of the whole organism of the earth.

Smashing through the Arctic Ocean with the crew of a Russian icebreaker, shadowing the endless Trans-Alaska Pipeline with a tough Idaho-born outdoorswoman, herding reindeer with the Lapps, and visiting the haunting, deceptively peaceful lands of the Gulag, Wheeler brings the Arctic’s many contradictions to life. The Magnetic North is an urgent, beautiful book, rich in dramatic description and vivid reporting. It is a singular, deeply personal portrait of a region growing daily in global importance.

REVIEWS

Praise for The Magnetic North

“With wry humor and extensive research, Wheeler captures a swiftly transforming region with which we all have a symbiotic relationship . . . Wheeler’s sense of place, science, self and story is exceptional.”—Holly Morris, The New York Times Book Review

"Smashing . . . An informative and ultimately tragic tour of a region in the throes of drastic change."—Dennis Drabelle, The Washington Post

"A clear-eyed assessment of the region's importance as a bellwether for global climate change . . . Like old ice, the book is densely packed, with history, stories, and all the beautiful messiness of humankind; what emerges is a thoroughly engrossing travelogue that sets Wheeler among the foremost of contemporary travel writers."—Lydia Beyoud, The Oregonian
"Compelling . . . Absorbing and mind-expanding . . . The thrill and excitement of the Arctic is nearly identical to that of Jack London's stories, and Wheeler doesn't overexoticize the region . . . A high-quality, adventurous read, and one that makes a New York winter seem downright pleasant by comparison."—Emily Jacobson, Time Out New York

"Amazing . . . [Wheeler's] rollicking, fact-filled narrative seamlessly blending historical and contemporary storytelling is a bewitching tale about this remarkable and compelling region . . . Readers reap the bounty ot Wheeler's intense curiosity, attention to the smallest detail and the inclusion of obscure, bizarre and astounding facts."—Julie Foster, Star-Tribune (Minneapolis) 

The Magnetic North offers a fascinating tour of a disappearing world. Sara Wheeler is an eloquent and intrepid guide.”—Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe

“A wise, provoking and zestful chronicle, poetic, often tragic and always engaging. Wheeler, a prolific raconteur of distant places, has created the finest book on the Arctic since Hugh Brody’s The Other Side of Eden . . . She has mapped a remarkable journey.”—Rory MacLean, The Sunday Times (London)

The Magnetic North proved irresistibly attractive. I loved . . . Terra Incognita, and this was an equally coddling hoosh of personal travelogue, historical anecdotage and speculative thinking—all the better because Wheeler began her series of Arctic travels, if not a climate change sceptic, then unconvinced about its anthropic cause, and ended up unable to deny the meltwater on the ground.”—Will Self, New Statesman

“A book that deserves to stand alongside Arctic Dreams, Barry Lopez’s classic account of life above the tree line. Indeed, more than once I made the comparison in Wheeler’s favour. She’s funnier, and her writing, while brilliantly evocative, is never overblown . . . If you are lucky you might get to travel in the Arctic yourself; if you don’t, this book is the next best thing.” —Erica Wagner, The Times (London)

"An eloquent, important book."—Library Journal (starred review)

“Fantastic . . . Readers are whisked away on an incredible, multifaceted tour of a region still unknown . . . This fact-filled narrative is nearly impossible to put down . . . By chronicling what the Arctic tells us about our past, Wheeler vividly reveals what it tells us about our collective future.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Reviews from Goodreads

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BOOK EXCERPTS

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Sara Wheeler is the author of Too Close to the Sun: The Audacious Life and Times of Denys Finch Hatton, Cherry: A Life of Apsley Cherry-Garrard, Evia: Travels on an Undiscovered Greek Island, Travels in a Thin Country: A Journey Through Chile, and Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica. She lives in London.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Sara Wheeler

  • Sara Wheeler is the author of Too Close to the Sun: The Audacious Life and Times of Denys Finch Hatton, Cherry: A Life of Apsley Cherry-Garrard, Evia: Travels on an Undiscovered Greek Island, Travels in a Thin Country: A Journey Through Chile, and Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica. She lives in London.

  • Sara Wheeler © Mark Collins
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