Weekend Reading

By the time this post goes up I’ll have pulled back from the internet in part for some longer form reading, but mostly for sausage grilling, beer drinking, bonfire-making and swimming in Lake Saima in Southern Savonia, Finland. Meanwhile, I leave you with a few intelligent articles to enjoy:

Down on the border. One day on the Canada-U.S. line by Jason Markusoff, Nancy Macdonald, Aaron Hutchins and Meagan Campbell in Maclean’s.
Turkey’s Hidden Past by Christopher de Bellaigue in the New York Review of Books
Russians in Estonia by Cody L. Zilhaver at thestretegybridge.org
The Time of Our Lives by Raymond Tallis at thenewatlantis.com
Now to Stride into the Sunlight by Ian Jack in the London Review of Books

All week I’ve been staring at a stack of too many books to fit in my bag. Two or three of these will make the final cut:

Bears in the Streets: Three Journeys across a Changing Russia by Lisa Dickey
The Cyclist Who Went Out in the Cold: Adventures Riding the Iron Curtain by Tim Moore
Congo: The Epic History of a People by David Van Reybrouck
Last Hope Island: Britain, Occupied Europe, and the Brotherhood That Helped Turn the Tide of War by Lynne Olson
Lenin on the Train by Catherine Merridale

and as for page turners, at least one of:

The Dogs of War by Frederick Forsyth
The second book in the Faroe Islands trilogy, The Killing Bay by Chris Ould
The Unseen by Roy Jacobsen
The Good People by Hannah Kent, imported in advance all the way from Australia

Do you have any suggestions? What must-read am I missing?

If you’re stuck where it’s hot, may I suggest for your summer reading the cooling goodness of my own book, Out in the Cold?

CS&W the blog will probably be mostly quiet for the next couple of weeks. For now, kippis!

Weekend Reading

It’s a long weekend for many here in the USA, so here’s a whole batch of articles to take with you to the pool.

The Lunar Sea by Ferris Jabr in Hakai Magazine
The Rise of the Thought Leader by David Sessions in the New Republic
The New Working Class by Gabriel Winant in Dissent
Amazon Robots Poised to Revamp How Whole Foods Runs Warehouses by Spencer Soper at Bloomberg.com
The deal that’s destroying Russia’s roads at meduza.io
Trump and the Trumpists by Wolfgang Streeck at inference-review.com
When Pedestrians Ruled the Streets by Clive Thompson at Smithsonian
Paying a Price for 8 Days of Flying in America by Sarah Lyall in the New York Times

Out in the Cold: Another Audiobook Excerpt

Torshavn, capital of the Faroe Islands

Here is another excerpt from my latest book, Out in the Cold: Adventures in Svalbard, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and Canada. The audiobook version may be live on Audible.com as early as next week. This clip, like the previous, is from Part 2, The Faroe Islands, a small, gorgeous archipelago in the North Atlantic Ocean. It comes early in the section, and sets the stage for the Faroes’ discovery, with a little history of the islands’ colonial master, Denmark.

It’s me speaking; I narrate the book. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Until the audiobook version is available, you can buy the written version of Out in the Cold on Amazon, here, or you can get the audiobook versions of either of my other books here:

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

And here are several more written excerpts from Out in the Cold.

Book Excerpt: Out in the Cold

Here is an excerpt from Out in the Cold, my recent book about travel to Svalbard, The Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland & Atlantic Canada. If you enjoy it, get yourself a copy here.

THE 1914 NEWFOUNDLAND SEALING DISASTER

A century ago St. John’s was a vital, bustling hub of maritime commerce, Water Street its beating heart. As the closest North American landfall to Europe, a concentration of trans-Atlantic communication cables came ashore here. St. John’s anchored the most bountiful cod fishing grounds in the world. But the sea provided bounty far beyond fish.

Clubbing helpless baby seals may not strike you as the most manly activity, but take a look at Newfoundland’s climate, its isolation, and then at the benefits of swiling, as they called seal hunting on the ice:

• Seal meat is nutrient-rich food in a land where coaxing food from the ground presents a perennial challenge.

• Seal hides make fine boots.

• After flensing (separating the fat), seal fat makes soap, margarine and lipstick, and in the old days powered the lamps that drove away the long winter darkness.

The rest of the seal, the dogs would take care of. Like the Inuit, Newfoundlanders knew how to use every bit of nature’s scant provision.

In late summer ice forms between Canada and Greenland in Baffin Bay, far to the north of the sealing grounds. The Labrador current moves the young ice south and with the coming of winter it grows into ten-foot blocks the aquamarine color of sea water, save for edges made white and jagged by constant grinding against other ice.

Off the Labrador coast, most of the way to Newfoundland, the ice freezes into vast, miles-long sheets that jostle, crack and re-form, and arrive off Newfoundland covered with gravel from scrapes against land. The job of the swiler was to walk across this ice field for miles, searching for seals.

Harp seals follow an ancient migratory cycle between the Arctic and the Grand Banks, a shallow part of the continental shelf off Newfoundland. In early March harp seal mothers climb onto the ice pans, give birth to their pups and abandon them, so that each year hundreds of thousands of newborn seals would lay helpless when the swilers approached.

The swiling ships sailed through the Narrows north into the ice field each March. It was St. John’s biggest event of the year. Swiling became a sort of national sport, with statistics compiled like the number of pelts taken in a season and the career lifetime hauls of “jowlers’,” or successful swiling captains.

No other country’s commercial fleets systematically sailed into ice floes. No other country even had a dedicated sealing fleet. Successful St. John’s captains became swashbuckling national heroes, in demand as pilots for polar excursions.

The swiling trade exploded over the course of the 1800s. From 140 vessels in 1804, by the middle of the century 13,000 men collected half a million pelts in a season lasting only weeks.

It was brutal, brutal business, a coming of age, a test of manhood for country boys from all across The Rock. Men and boys converged on St. John’s, the younger ones exaggerating their age. If selected they would be pelted, pounded and battered by snow, hail and ice; every year some would be crushed in the floes.

Jenny Higgins writes in Perished: The 1914 Newfoundland Seal Hunt Disaster, that “A typical pay would have probably been between $30 and $40, that would have been for about six or seven weeks of very hard physical labour, severe deprivation, little food, and basically putting your life at risk.”

It was for their families’ survival. “It really is a story about men who are putting themselves in harm’s way to put food on the table,” says Higgins.

•••••

Continue reading

Out in the Cold: Audiobook Excerpt

Here is another excerpt from my latest book, Out in the Cold: Adventures in Svalbard, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and Canada. This time I thought I’d share a bit of the audiobook version, which is still in production. This clip is from Part 1, Svalbard, in which we are poised to witness the 2015 total solar eclipse way up there, just some 800 miles from the North Pole. It’s me speaking; I narrate the book. I hope you enjoy it.

 

 

I’m still recording this audiobook. It should be ready in a month or two. Meanwhile, you can buy the written version of Out in the Cold on Amazon, here, or you can get the audiobook versions of either of my other books here:

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

And here are several more written excerpts from Out in the Cold.

Weekend Reading

Five engaging reads to load up and take along on a picnic:

Albania’s Bunker Problem by Dave Hazzan at Roads and Kingdoms
Border Crossing to Cymru by Chris Morgan at nowheremag.com
Brexit and the Globalization Trilemma by Dani Rodrik at rodrick.typepad.com
Is the Gig Economy Working? by Nathan Heller in The New Yorker
The Annexation of Crimea isn’t Going as Planned by Lily Hyde in Foreign Policy