Until a few weeks ago, I hadn’t heard of the novel The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin, but I’ve been getting a kick out of the wacky and sometimes baffling marketing campaign for the movie version. And even though the reviews of the movie have so far been lackluster, all those shots of Idris Elba and Kate Winslet trekking across snow-covered mountains have me craving one of my favorite kinds of story, the wintertime survival adventure.
I’ve been a fan of these types of stories for years, so I’ve assembled a list of books about people who are caught out in the cold and have to survive the elements. Some stories end in triumph, and others in tragedy. Some involve people who sought out adventure, and some involve ordinary people forced into an unexpected struggle. Curl up under all the blankets, enjoy a hot beverage, and experience a vicarious adventure.
Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors by Pears Paul Read
This is perhaps my favorite real-life survival narrative. It tells the story of a rugby team from Uruguay whose flight across the Andes ended in disaster when the plane crashed. Read interviewed both survivors of the crash and people who were involved in the search and rescue effort. It’s a gripping story that doesn’t hold back about the challenges of trying to survive in extreme conditions.
Miracle in the Andes: 72 Days on the Mountain and My Long Trek Home by Nando Perrado
This book is a first-person account of the same plane crash Read writes about in Alive. Nando Perrado was one of the team members who ultimately left the plane to search for help. Although I prefer Read’s book for its comprehensiveness, I really enjoyed hearing Perrado’s own story.
Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer
This was the book that got me interested in this type of story—and in the writing of Jon Krakauer. Krakauer was a journalist and mountaineer who joined a group climbing Everest to write about the whole Everest industry. The plan took a turn for the worse when a storm came on unexpectedly, making a safe return to base camp impossible.
Touching My Father’s Soul: A Sherpa’s Journey to the Top of Everest by Jamling Tenzing Norgay
If you read at all about Everest, the Sherpas who lead and support these climbs are among the too-often unsung heroes of these expeditions. The son of Tenzing Norgay, who first climbed Everest with Sir Edmund Hilary, Jamling Tenzing Norgay writes of the Sherpa life and his own experiences as part of the 1996 climb that Krakauer writes about in Into Thin Air.
Annapurna: A Woman’s Place by Arlene Blum
Books about extreme mountaineering are often male-centric, but woman have scaled the same heights and face the same dangers. In 1978, Arlene Blum led an all-woman journey to the Himalayas to ascend the world’s 10th highest peak. Although the team made it to the top, proving that women have the skills to make these climbs, but they also faced danger and tragedy.
Ice Bound: A Doctor’s Incredible Battle for Survival at the South Pole by Jerri Nielsen
Survial in the snow isn’t always about scaling mountains. In 1999, Dr. Jerri Nielsen was the physician on staff at the South Pole when she discovered a lump in her breast. At the time, immediate rescue was impossible, so she had to give herself a biopsy and chemotherapy treatments until the Air National Guard could bring her home.
Frozen in Time: A Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff
Here’s one for the history nerds! This book tells the story of a 1942 crash of a U.S. cargo plane in Greenland, the subsequent crash of a rescue plane, and the disappearance of another plane. The men aboard had to navigate Greenland’s ice, where winds, subzero temperatures, and sudden holes in the ice are a constant threat. The book follows the 1942 crash and rescue and a modern-day effort to find the plane that vanished.