Out in the Cold Audiobook Available Now

Get yourself a copy of this just-published audiobook, written and narrated by me. I am not the actor with the same name. Get it: On Audible. On Amazon.

Here are several written and spoken excerpts.

Get the written version of Out in the Cold on Amazon, here, and the audiobook versions of my other books here:

Common Sense and Whiskey on Audible.
Visiting Chernobyl on Audible.

How to Make a Modest Author’s Day

I want to share the most uplifting, delightful email that hit my inbox this week:

Hi Bill,

I’m off to Chernobyl in a few weeks and so ordered your book on Amazon. I read it cover to cover over the last couple of days and I wanted to say how great I found it.

You strike a great balance between illustrating what I will see on my visit, whilst sharing the historic and human narrative of the disaster.

Thank you so much


Thank you, Andrew, very much. Have a good trip.

Weekend Reading

Some unusually fine articles to tease your mind this weekend, along with a little music. I only learned of the Canadian band The Tragically Hip this week on the occasion of the death of lead singer Gord Downie, and I’m at a loss how a band can thrill an entire country for 33 years and 16 albums, become such an institution that their final concert (the public aware of Downie’s terminal illness) was broadcast nationally by the CBC, cause the Canadian prime minister to cry while eulogizing, and yet evade wider recognition down here, across our friendly, relatively open, 2500 kilometers long birder. How does cultural iconography like this not penetrate?

Since I dialed in The Hip, they’ve been on my Spotify nonstop. Maybe I’m the last one to find out about these guys, but by all means, if they have escaped your attention too, go and fix that little situation this weekend with your music streaming service.

And now, on to excellent reading.

Here in the Appalachians we’ll be burning some firewood and reading by the hearth this weekend. Wherever you are, please help yourself to one or two of these.

Thinking Like a Mountain: On Nature Writing by Jedediah Purdy at N + 1
America’s Imperial Unraveling by Ash U. Bali at BostonReview.net
Joni Mitchell: Fear of a Female Genius by Lindsay Zoladz at TheRinger.com
Northern Exposure: Brexit reveals Shetland split by Peter Geoghegan in Politico.eu
Not Britain’s Finest Hour by Denis MacShane in The American Prospect

Quotes: Lake Baikal

“As usual, the strictness of our laws is compensated by the fact that following them is optional. Money is being allocated but it gets stolen.”

Photos: At top you can see the Trans-Siberian railroad hugging the shore in the center of the photo. Second, the eastern shore of Lake Baikal framed by a sailboat. Behind the camera is Irkutsk Oblast and the mountains straight ahead are in the Buryat Republic. Bottom two photos: Listvyanka, the main lakeside tourist town near Irkutsk. Click ’em to enlarge.

Read Crossing Lake Baikal here, from Common Sense and Whiskey, the book.

Lost in Translation

Published at the beginning of this year in the U.S., The Cyclist Who Went Out in the Cold: Adventures Riding the Iron Curtain, by the British writer Tim Moore, tells the story of his bicycle trip from the top of Europe, 400 kilometers above the Arctic Circle in Kirkines, Norway, all the way down to the Black Sea, in Varna, Bulgaria. En route he passes through a slice of Russia, skirting the Baltic Sea between the Finnish and Estonian borders, and finds himself outside St. Petersburg, ordering dinner in the town of Гостилицы, aka Gostilitsy.

I hope Mr. Moore won’t mind my excerpting this episode at some length. This passage by itself is worth the price of the book:

“The ordering process was memorably conducted by Tatiana, who dictated the Russian menu into a translation app on her phone. With the halting, toneless authority of a digitised train announcer, this device then offered me suggestions it was very difficult to listen to politely.

‘Meat Beach Gardens.’

‘Children’s Alexander.’

‘Tea Pork with JW Boils.’

‘The Sultan Episode.’

Tatiana’s enthusiasm for this technology did not ease the ordeal; battling my features into respectability, I looked up at her open, expectant face and falteringly ordered support beef with titles of mushroom. She smiled and scribbled, then spoke once more into her phone.

‘What is not a drink?’ it mused in response.

Pivo,’ I said.

With a flustered look she shook her head and a free hand, then held the phone to my mouth promptingly.

Pivo,’I told it.

The device said something in Russian that seemed to disappoint her. She pressed the screen a number of times then showed me its suggestions, translated back into English:

‘You knew. Pencil case. Peugeot.’

We tried again.

‘Beer,’ I said.

‘Bill,’ offered the phone. Then: ‘Pace of the warp.’

‘Heineken!’ I blurted, launching into a strident roll-call of ales that began with Champions League-grade ubiquities and very very sharply downwards, ‘Amstel, Budweiser … Skol … Carling Black La-’

‘Ah, piva.’


Reminds me of an experience in Tibet, recounted in Common Sense and Whiskey. At the end of another bone-jarring day-long ride we pulled up at the town of Lhaze, at a no-name hotel that wouldn’t have power until 8:00 that night.

“Not much use being there unable to see, so we found a restaurant across the street where there was power, and talked with some men from Guangdong on their way to China’s Everest base camp for holiday.

We asked for cold beer and one of the guys tried to translate. The waitress looked puzzled, was gone too long, then came back smiling triumphantly, buckling under a big metal tub of raw meat. Thought we asked for ‘cold beef.'”



I enjoyed reading this person’s review of the recent total eclipse this morning. She (I guess it’s a she) and I seem to think alike. It appears we shared a sort of vague disquiet watching the cosmos get out of kilter.

Here is a bit of what she wrote:

The moon will never be the same; its dark side cannot be unseen. Gone is the being of pure light flying gently across the heavens. It is a corpse, a dead thing, the dusty remains of old Theia horrifically attached to its sister planet by a withering gravitational umbilical cord.

Compared with my own review of an eclipse in Out in the Cold:

Once it is revealed you are frightened to have seen that it is so. You have registered somewhere deep under the skin another alien, raw thing; the comforting life-giving sun was just five minutes ago an orange ring of flame surrounded by darkness, a fanged personality, no tulips and honeybees.

(Go and read more of that excerpt from Out in the Cold here.)