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The 30 Best Books About Antarctica (Expert Guide)

Who doesn’t love a good story about the determination, intrigue, and thrilling lives of those who ventured to the frozen continent of Antarctica? 

You may not be ready to follow Robert Falcon Scott and Sir Ernest Shackleton’s footsteps into this bitterly cold world. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t experience its icy embrace. 

From the award-winning writer Roland Huntford to the intimate diary entries by Frederick Cook, here are the 30 best books about Antarctica you’ll fall in love with.

These books may inspire you to travel to Patagonia and other icy destinations or are the perfect Sunday afternoon read (combined with a hot drink, of course!).

The best books on Antarctica - including non-fiction, fiction and field guides.
A boat crossing through Antarctica

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Non-fiction books about Antarctica

Madhouse at the End of the Earth: The Belgica’s Journey Into a Dark Antarctic Night – Julian Sancton

A book that engrains its harrowing accounts into your mind, Madhouse at the End of the Earth explains the daunting expedition of Belgica in 1897.

With thorough research and a touch of literary flair, Sancton reconstructs the true survival story of De Gerlache and his navy men.

Terra Incognita – Sara Wheeler

Sarah Wheeler recounts her seven-month stay on the Antarctic continent in vivid detail.

From psychological toils to physical challenges, Terra Incognita divulges the complex approach to life on the Antarctic Ice Sheet.

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The Worst Journey in the World – Apsley Cherry-Garrard

Drawing on personal accounts and the words of his fellow compatriots, Cherry-Garrard enlightens you on Robert Scott’s Terra Nova expedition in the early 20th century.

As only one of three men to survive the perilous journey, he memorializes Scott and the brave people who followed him.

Swimming to Antarctica: Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer – Lynne Cox

For a modern escapade into the ice-laden world of Antarctica, read the spiritually uplifting story of Lynee Cox.

The writer unpacks all that led her to become one of the first women to swim a mile in Antarctica, covering everything from her training to her motivation.

Last Man Off: A True Story of Disaster and Survival on the Antarctic Seas – Matt Lewis 

For a thrilling first-person account, Matt Lewis invites you into his experience of a storm that brought the small ship, Sudur Harvid, to the bottom of the ocean.

With a missing captain and only three liferafts, Lewis recounts the dramatic fight to survive in dangerous Antarctic waters.

South: The Story of Shackleton’s 1914-1917 Expedition – Sir Ernest Shackleton

Following his second Antarctic expedition, Ernest Shackleton embarked on his third and last venture through the South Atlantic.

It’s the perfect read for an enthralling look into how all 27 of Shackleton’s followers survived the sinking of the Endurance in the Weddell Sea.

Through the First Antarctic Night – Frederick Cook

Frederick Cook unpacks the desolate six-month night during the Belgica expedition with mysticism and honesty.

Cook’s modest depiction of this grueling trip’s highs and lows means this book should be on every aspiring adventurer’s reading list.

Shackleton’s Boat Journey – Frank Arthur Worsley

This part biography, part memoir, recounts the dramatic adventures of Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance expedition.

Worsley pulls you into life in Antarctica, from the treacherous Elephant Island journey to South Georgia Island’s life-saving voyage.

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Forgotten Footprints: Lost Stories in the Discovery of Antarctica – John Harrison

Discover the lesser-known lives and stories of those who have helped explore and discover the demanding Antarctic continent.

In true travel writer style, Harrison touches on several things that make this barren land beautiful to the sailors, scientists, and everyone in between.

Alone – Richard Byrd

Take a deep dive into life alone during a bitterly cold winter in Antarctica.

Byrd recounts the mental and physical challenges he faced during his isolated six months at Advance Base in 1934.

Race to the Pole – Sir Ranulph Fiennes

Fiennes is known as the first man to land on the South and North Poles and offers a thoroughly researched interpretation of Robert Scott’s fatal journey to Antarctica.

It’s sure to make your list of must-read books for this season.

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage – Alfred Lansing

Endurance is a well-written piece that unpacks the failure of Shackleton’s third expedition.

Lansing writes a poignant view of the trip’s events, from the pack ice that sank the ship to the brutal year drifting atop the ice.

Mawson’s Will – Lennard Bickel

This book aptly describes the adventurous life of Sir Douglas Mawson.

Bickel leaves nothing out, from Mawson’s Antarctic discoveries to his spellbinding solo survival in 1912 that defied all odds.

The Last Place on Earth: Scott and Amundson’s Race to the South Pole – Roland Huntford

For a brilliant dual biography of the Norwegian Roald Amundsen and British polar explorer Robert Scott, get your hand on The Last Place on Earth.

Huntford reconstitutes details of the great race with in-depth research from both explorers’ perspectives.

Erebus: One Ship, Two Voyages, and the Greatest Naval Mystery of All Time – Michael Palin

Michael Palin unpacks the intriguing parallels between one of the first successful expeditions to Antarctica (1839) and a failed nationalist-driven journey through the Northwest Passage.

Antarctica books that are fiction-based

Lean Fall Stand – Jon McGregor

This perplexing novel follows the lives of families on a travel expedition who have to endure an Antarctic ice storm.

After the expedition guide suffers a stroke and loses his ability to speak, the families on board must navigate a tricky situation that could worsen.

Antarctica: A Novel – Kim Stanley Robinson

From environmental sabotage to the complex political factions of Antarctic society, Robinson paints a vivid picture of a fictitious South Pole.

If it’s shrills and thrills you seek, this will soon become one of your favorite books.

How the Penguins Saved Veronica – Hazel Prior

When an 85-year-old woman is alienated from her family, she seeks a genuine cause worth her fortune.

This heartwarming story follows the journey of a woman reimagining herself with the help of an orphaned penguin.

Mrs Chippy’s Last Expedition: The Remarkable Journey of Shackleton’s Polar-Bound Cat – Caroline Alexander 

For a fun and unadulterated take on the Endurance expedition, discover the 29th member’s perspective.

Following the quirky diary of the cat, Mrs Chippy, this is a heartfelt story that mixes a true story with some fictitious charm.

The Birthday Boys – Beryl Bainbridge

For a fictional account of a historical event, Bainbridge divulges the arduous journey of Captain Scott in his attempt to be the first to reach the South Pole. 

The Killing Ship – Simon Beaufort

For a crime-based thriller, get hold of this enigmatic story of a group of scientists battling to survive the neverending attack by hostile intruders.

It’s a spine-tingling narrative that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat.

The Comet Seekers – Helen Sedgwick

For romance and psychological intrigue, discover how the lives of François (a chef) and Roisin (a researcher) become intertwined as they navigate life in Antarctica.

South Pole Station – Ashley Shelby

Have a laugh as you dive into the wonderful world of Cooper Gosling.

After joining a writers and artists fellowship in Antarctica, Cooper seeks to live out her father’s dream.

Sun at Midnight – Rosie Thomas

Packed with suspense that will have the romantic falling in love on every page, Sun at Midnight has it all.

It’s a book of adventure and intrigue as the lives of an artist and scientist collide spectacularly in Antarctica.

Field guides about the southernmost continent

Antarctica Cruising Guide – Peter Carey and Craig Franklin

Jampacked with breathtaking photography, interesting quips, and fascinating destinations, the Antarctica Cruising Guide is perfect for an icy vacation.

Hoosh: Roast Penguin, Scurvy Day, and Other Stories of Antarctic Cuisine – Jason C. Anthony

Discover the polar region’s unique culinary identity and how its residents work with limited ingredients to produce heartwarming meals. 

Natural History of the Antarctic Peninsula – Sanford Moss

Plunge into the academic reality of Antarctica.

This book comprehensively explains the continent’s ecology, environment, and notable landmarks. 

Antarctica: An Intimate Portrait of a Mysterious Continent – Gabrielle Walker

Walker intertwines personal accounts with natural history and science to provide an engaging representation of the bottom of the world.

Antarctica: A Guide to Wildlife – Tony Soper

Packed with beautiful illustrations and immense detail, you’ll quickly learn all there is to know about Antarctic wildlife, from its penguins to its microscopic bacteria.

The Telescope in the Ice: Inventing a New Astronomy at the South Pole – Mark Bowen

Learn all the ins and outs of the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, from the brilliant minds behind the device to its importance in detecting radioactive decay in the sun and stars.

If you’re a bookworm looking for even more, take a look at these fantastic books about South America, or check out when the best time to visit Antarctica is, if your reading has inspired you to visit the White Continent!