(Vintage, £8.99, 354pp) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
The Magnetic North, By Sara Wheeler
Friday 14 May 2010
Inspired by the gift of a Lappish antler bracelet, "more a bangle as the two ends didn't meet", Wheeler decided to make an icy, circular journey: "Siberia to Alaska to Canada to Greenland to Spitsbergen to Lapland and back."
Combining adventure and history, the result is one of the great travel books of our times – poignant, funny, a delight to read. In seedy Siberia, 80 per cent of villagers are drunk on any day. Amid the flowery carpets of Greenland, she experiences the Inuit "naarpog": "to take extravagant pleasure in being alive".
If gold were found at the North Pole, a local muses, "There'd be 500 Alaskan whores there inside three months." A final journey on a Russian icebreaker is enlivened by a "birch twig thrashing" in the sauna. "A girl can have a worse time at sea."
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
Ukip founder Alan Sked and Nigel Farage 'begged Enoch Powell to stand as a candidate'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant