Frigid temperatures across the land make roaring fires and books a good use of time. Build a fire, pour a strong one and wrap yourself in a wolfskin rug. Growl if someone comes too near. Here are ten books, in no particular order, for you to consider while waiting out this arctic weather:
1. Goodbye to a River: A Narrative by John Graves
When they began earnest discussions of damming the Brazos River, Graves sets out to float it in his canoe one last time. During the trip he hunts, reminisces about Indian battles, hardships of Texas frontier life, and the importance of the river in history, commerce and ecology. After this classic, you are likely to hate dams. I do. You may also feel as though life is too civilized and we have lost something in our modern life.
2. A Thousand Miles of Mustangin By Ben K. Green
When ways of life are at an end, it seems one last hurrah is available for those who seek it hard enough. Ben K Green successfully milked the heifer that was the offer of free wild horses available to those cowboy enough to come get them in the wilds of Northern Mexico, Big Bend and Arizona.
3. Blues by John Hersey
Equal parts fishing stories, recipes and naturalist treatise, Hersey uniquely recounts a summer of catching Blue fish off of Martha’s Vineyard. A veteran angler takes a non-fisherman out and the result is a conversion. Uniquely written, it counts as one of my favorite fishing books of all time.
4. American Buffalo: In Search of a Lost Icon by Steven Rinella
Starting with the discovery of a buffalo skull, Rinella sets down a path that leads him to drawing a permit to hunt one of the last wild buffalo herds in existence. His book gives an excellent history, both natural and cultural, of perhaps the most recognizable symbol of the American West. The collection of buffalo facts is worth the $15 by itself. However, American Buffalo is also an epic hunting tale complete with hypothermia survival and hungry grizzly bears.
5. When the Dogs Bark Treed by Elliot S. Barker.
Stories of a man and his dogs are captivating. Barker spent a year on the Vermejo Ranch in New Mexico with his Airedales attempting to curb mountain lion depredation on deer, elk and cattle. He skins the lions, feeds the meat to himself and his dogs, and at one point ties a bobcat he thinks dead to the back of his very alive horse.
6. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
An acceptable interruption to your time in front of a fire is when training your boys on how to be a man. In this kids story, a boy survives a plane crash only to be stomped by a moose, stuck by a porcupine while asleep, and his shelter gets obliterated by a tornado. Hatchet is an easy out-loud read, and boys love it.
7. Line Down!: The Special World of Big Game Fishing by Jack Samson.
The furthest I’ve lived from an ocean was during my time in Memphis, and after reading Line Down! I’ve never wanted to be on the sea more. Samson recounts his tales of a lifetime of deep sea fishing from his 17 foot cuddy cabin Boston Whaler in the Florida Keys to chasing bluefin Tuna and Marlin out of Kona, Hawaii.
8. The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garard
This British tale of a losing team’s race to the south pole and effort to collect penguin eggs in Antarctica is an easy read on the beach during the summer. Only a grown man should read this right now. The -75° weather, frozen parkas and beards, and descriptions of white out snow storms will elicit a shiver from lesser men in the middle of July. Cherry-Garard is the youngest on the expedition, and is part of the search party that discovers the leader of the trip along with three others, dead from the elements. An amazing adventure story from the south pole.
9. The Tecate Journals: Seventy Days on the Rio Grande by Keith Bowden
Starting on a bike and ending in the gulf, Bowden might have accomplished a goal never again to be matched given the current geopolitical climate of US/Mexican Drug Cartel relations. Then again, he might just be crazy enough to do it again. Either way, his tale gives an excellent account of the duality of life on the border of Texas and Mexico.
10. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Louis Zamperini is a man’s man. He was a hero, because like many, he helped win WWII. But unlike many war heroes, he was an Olympic middle distance athlete. He survives a horrific plane crash, held the record for the longest survival adrift in the sea, and was a tortured POW. Hillenbrand does an excellent job immortalizing this patriot’s life.