Jim Shepard is the author of six novels and three books of short stories, the most recent of which, Like You’d Understand, Anyway, was a finalist for the 2007 National Book Award. (A version of this recommendation appeared in Esquire.)
2007-2008 was announced to be the International Polar Year, or something like that, and we might as well have done what we could to celebrate, given that, as Elizabeth Kolbert pointed out in her introduction to The Ends of the Earth (Volume 1: The Arctic) the polar regions are being wiped off the planet, and given that when they go, they’re going to take our status quo with them. Volume 2 is The Antarctic, edited by Francis Spufford, and together they’re a very cool anthology, top-heavy on just that combination I love: misery and awe. The whole thing ended up leaving me open-mouthed with its jaw-dropping early explorers’ accounts of otherworldly spectacle and suffering. What’s not to like in a collection that includes Ernest Shackleton, Robert Falcon Scott, H.P. Lovecraft, Andrea Barrett, Barry Lopez, and Tete-Michel Kpomassie?