32 best books about Antarctica: updated for 2024

This article may contain affiliate links

From harrowing accounts of survival to a heartwarming tale of a rescued penguin, we list our favourite books about Antarctica

The most inhospitable place on Earth is an engrossing setting for any story, be it fictional or factual. Unsurprisingly, Antarctica’s literary canon is filled with tales of tragedy and/or survival against the odds. It would be easy, then, to fill this list with biographies of Amundsen, Scott and Shackleton alone. But Antarctica deserves attention beyond its tales of tragedy.

With that in mind, we have taken a broader view. There are, of course, profiles of the pioneers and their epic journeys of discovery spanning more than a century of polar exploration, but we’ve also included a diverse mix of memoirs, biographies and novels – from crime to science fiction – all with Antarctica at the core of the narrative.

Whether you’re readying for a voyage to the great white continent or just have a passing interest in the most uncharted area of our planet, you’ll find something for you in our list of books about Antarctica.

Our list is in no particular order and draws on our personal favourites as well as Amazon best-sellers and Goodreads’ most popular books.

Non-fiction books about Antarctica

Antarctica: A History in 100 Objects

by Jean de Pomereu and Daniella McCahey
Amazon | Goodreads

Antarctica in 100 objects book cover

This absorbing hardback was published to coincide with the 250th anniversary of the first crossing of the Antarctic Circle by James Cook in 1773. It retraces the history of Antarctica through 100 varied and fascinating objects, from a bust of Lenin installed at the southern pole of inaccessibility to a sealing club made from the penis bone of an elephant seal.

Scott and Amundsen: The Last Place on Earth

by Roland Huntford
Amazon | Goodreads

books about Antarctica last place

In the finest analysis of Roald Amundsen and Robert Scott’s infamous race to the South Pole, Huntford captures the driving ambitions of the era and the complex and often deeply flawed men who were charged with carrying them out. It is also the only English-language work on the subject based on the original Norwegian sources.

Snow Widows

by Katherine MacInnes
Amazon | Goodreads

snow widows antarctica book cover

The story of the race for the South Pole is told from the perspective of the women whose lives would be forever changed by it, five women who offer a window into a lost age and a revealing insight into the thoughts and feelings of the five heroes.

The Worst Journey in the World

by Apsley Cherry-Garrard
Amazon | Goodreads

Worst Journey cover

Written by the youngest member of Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the South Pole, The Worst Journey in the World has earned widespread praise for its frank treatment of the difficulties of the expedition, the causes of its disastrous outcome and the meaning (if any) of human suffering in such extreme conditions. Later, Cherry-Garrard was in the search party that located Scott and his men, long since perished from starvation and cold.

Endurance ship listing in ice – the story inspired best books about Antarctica
SPRI/Public Domain Shackleton’s ship, Endurance, has inspired several books on this list

South: The Story of Shackleton’s 1914-1917 Expedition

by Sir Ernest Shackleton
Amazon | Goodreads

South cover

Recently republished as a Penguin Modern Classic, South is the story of Shackleton’s extraordinary feat told in his own words. First published in 1919, Shackleton methodically describes the entire spectacular expedition covering the moment his ship sunk to his crossing of South Georgia island. The report can be slow-paced at times but absorbing nonetheless and remains one of the most popular books about Antarctica.

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage

by Alfred Lansing
Amazon | Goodreads

books about Antarctica Endurance

In August 1914, polar explorer Ernest Shackleton boarded the Endurance and set sail for Antarctica where he planned to make the first crossing of the uncharted continent on foot. What unfolded would become the defining saga of the ‘Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration’. Lansing’s 1959 book (since republished) narrates the harrowing and miraculous voyage of Shackleton and his team as they battle the elements in one of the most astonishing feats of human courage.

The Ship Beneath the Ice

by Mensun Bound
Amazon | Goodreads

ship beneath the ice book cover

Over 100 years after its sinking, Shackleton’s ship, the Endurance, was found at the bottom of the Weddell Sea. Mensun Bound was the director of exploration on the Endurance22 Expedition which discovered the wreck just four miles from its last reported position on the day it went down in 1915. This is the astonishing story of the ship and its discovery.

Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica

by Sara Wheeler
Amazon | Goodreads

Terra Incognita cover

Terra Incognita is considered a modern classic for exploring and understanding the Antarctic. The book is a meditation on the landscape, wildlife, myths and history of one of the remotest parts of the globe. The book also reports on an encounter with the international temporary residents of the region, how they manage to live in close confinement, as well as the mechanics of day-to-day life in such conditions.

Cold: Extreme Adventures at the Lowest Temperatures on Earth

by Sir Ranulph Fiennes
Amazon | Goodreads

Cold book cover

Fiennes has spent much of his life exploring and working in conditions of extreme cold. The loss of several of his fingers to frostbite is a testament to the horrors explorers are exposed to at such perilous temperatures. This book studies the chequered history of the attempts to discover and understand these hazardous regions, from the early voyages of Cook, Ross, Weddell, Amundsen, Shackleton and Franklin to Sir Ranulph’s extraordinary accomplishments.

Alone in Antarctica

by Felicity Aston
Amazon | Goodreads

Alone in Antarctica book cover

Felicity Aston, physicist and meteorologist, took two months off from all human contact as she became the first woman – and only the third person in history – to ski solo across the entire continent of Antarctica. Within days, frozen into her facemask and reflecting on what had drawn her to such a place, she battles desperate weather while towing heavy sledges. She wakes up every morning believing she cannot face another day as the expedition becomes a race against time to reach the coast before the last flight out.

Mrs Chippy’s Last Expedition: The Remarkable Journey of Shackleton’s Polar-bound CaT

by Caroline Alexander
Amazon | Goodreads

Mrs Chippy book cover

When Shackleton’s ship Endurance became trapped in the Antarctic ice, all 29 crew members were pushed to their limits, including Mrs Chippy, the ship’s cat. Fortunately, Mrs Chippy left a diary. Drawing on the true events of Shackleton’s journey and illustrated with original expedition photography, the book provides a unique perspective on one of the greatest adventures in history.

Skating To Antarctica

by Jenny Diski
Amazon | Goodreads

Skating to Antarctica book cover

This strange but humorous travelogue features Diski’s daughter, Chloe, who encourages Diski to uncover what became of her own estranged mother. The memoir alternates between a pilgrimage to Antarctica and a private journey into Diski’s own mind and memories.

Last Man Off: A True Story of Disaster and Survival on the Antarctic Seas

by Matt Lewis
Amazon | Goodreads

Last Man Off cover

The waters of Antarctica, 1998. A 23-year-old Lewis has just started his dream job aboard a deep-sea fishing boat. A storm hits. With the captain missing and the crew forced to abandon the ship, Lewis leads the escape onto three life rafts where the battle for survival begins.


by Richard E Byrd
Amazon | Goodreads

books about Antarctica alone classic cover

The story of American explorer Admiral Byrd’s 1934 Antarctic expedition became an instant bestseller upon its release. He was already an international hero after piloting the first flights over the North and South Poles. His plan for this latest adventure was to spend six months alone near the bottom of the world, gathering weather data. Unsurprisingly, things went terribly wrong.

Race to the Pole: Conquering Antarctica in the world’s toughest endurance race

by Ben Fogle and James Cracknell
Amazon | Goodreads

Race to Pole book cover

In 2009, six teams of adventurers and explorers gathered to race to the South Pole on foot. It is the first time that anyone had undertaken such a race in almost 100 years – since Amundsen beat Scott to the same goal in 1911. Double-Olympic gold-winning medallist James Cracknell and TV presenter and adventurer Ben Fogle must contend with 800km of icy wilderness, -45°C temperatures, hidden crevasses, frostbite, and the favourites to win: a team of former soldiers from Norway, trained in Arctic warfare.

The Lost Men: The Harrowing Story of Shackleton’s Ross Sea Party

by Kelly Tyler-Lewis
Amazon | Goodreads

lost men cover – one of the best books about antarctica

While Shackleton’s exploits have been widely covered, the story of the Ross Sea party – 10 men who landed on the opposite of the continent to Shackleton – is less well known. The plan was to build supply depots for Shackleton’s planned crossing of the continent but after their ship was blown away in a gale, the ill-equipped men had to trek over 2,000km through the harshest environment on the planet.

Madhouse at the End of the Earth: The Belgica’s Journey into the Dark Antarctic Night

by Julian Sancton
Amazon | Goodreads

Madhouse cover

The harrowing survival story of an early polar expedition that went terribly wrong, with the ship frozen in ice and the crew trapped inside for the entire sunless, winter on the Antarctic Peninsula. In the darkness, plagued by a mysterious illness and their minds ravaged by the sound of dozens of rats teeming in the hold, they descended into madness.

Erebus: The Story of a Ship

by Michael Palin
Amazon | Goodreads

Erebus cover

Following the discovery of its wreck in 2014, Michael Palin wrote this superb biography of the sailing ship HMS Erebus. The book follows the ship from its launch in 1826 to the voyages of discovery that led to glory in the Antarctic including carrying humans further south than ever before, to its ultimate catastrophe in the Arctic.

The Birthday Boys

by Beryl Bainbridge
Amazon | Goodreads

Birthday Boys book cover

A fictionalised retelling of Scott’s doomed expedition, The Birthday Boys uses first-person narratives of five men on the voyage to give different perspectives of the expedition. Scott, Petty Officer Taff Evans, ship’s doctor Dr Edward Wilson, Lieutenant Henry Bowers and Captain Lawrence Oates each give their account of the hardships, the conflicts and, finally, the failure of the entire endeavour.

Swimming to Antarctica: Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer

by Lynne Cox
Amazon | Goodreads

Swimming to Antarctica boo cover

Cox was the first person to swim the Strait of Magellan, one of the world’s most treacherous stretches of water. After a string of record-breaking feats, she went on to become the first person to swim a mile in zero-degree water. This is her story.

penguins on ice in Antarctica feature in our books list
Penguins feature regularly in our favourite books about Antarctica

Fiction books about Antarctica

Away with the Penguins / How the Penguins Saved Veronica (US title)

by Hazel Prior
Amazon | Goodreads

Away with the Penguins cover

In this novel, 85-year-old Veronica McCreedy is estranged from her family and wants to find a worthwhile cause to leave her fortune to. After watching a documentary about penguins, she journeys to the fictional Locket Island in Antarctica where she convinces the reticent team to rescue an orphaned penguin chick. He becomes part of life at the base and Veronica’s closed heart begins to open.


by Amy McCulloch
Amazon | Goodreads

Midnight Amy McCullock book cover

From the author of international bestseller Breathless, Amy McCulloch’s latest thriller has received promising reviews so far. In Midnight, there’s a killer on the loose aboard a luxury cruise to Antarctica creating a compelling locked-room mystery on board the ship. Think Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile in the Antarctic. The paperback is out in January 2024.

Immense mountains reflected in the water
Books about Antarctica are often inspired by its striking landscapes

Where’d You Go, Bernadette

by Maria Semple
Amazon | Goodreads

Where'd You Go, Bernadette book cover

This unusual but immensely popular novel is one of the most well-reviewed fictional books about Antarctica. Just before a family trip to the continent, Bernadette, the fiercely intelligent but shut-in mother, inexplicably disappears. What follows is an innovative and entertaining yarn about a family coming to terms with who they are and the power of a daughter’s love for her mother.

Antarctica: A Novel

by Kim Stanley Robinson
Amazon | Goodreads

Antarctica novel cover

A work of science fiction covering a range of characters at McMurdo Station, the largest settlement in Antarctica, at a time when the international treaty which protects the continent is about to dissolve. As politicians and scientists wrangle over its fate, major corporations begin probing to plunder Antarctica’s resources while radical environmentalists carry out a covert campaign of sabotage to reclaim the land from those who would destroy it for profit.

The Dark

by Emma Haughton
Amazon | Goodreads

The Dark book cover

In this novel, doctor Kate North jumps at the chance to be an emergency replacement at the UN research station in Antarctica. The previous doctor died in a tragic accident while out on the ice. But as total darkness descends for the winter, she begins to suspect that his death wasn’t accidental at all. In the most inhospitable environment and cut off from the rest of the world, there’s a killer on the loose.

The ship's wake parts the ice
Several books about Antarctica feature sea voyages

Sun at Midnight

by Rosie Thomas
Amazon | Goodreads

sun at midnight book cover

Geologist Alice Peel accepts a job offer on an Antarctic research station where she meets James Rooker, a man on the run. Set against the spectacular backdrop of Antarctica, Alice recognises James even though they haven’t met before. She soon discovers something that will change her life forever … if she survives.

Great Circle

by Maggie Shipstead
Amazon | Goodreads

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the Women’s Prize, Great Circle weaves together the lives of fictional 1950s vanished female aviator Marian Graves who was attempting to become the first to fly around the world north-south over the poles, and Hadley Baxter, the modern-day Hollywood actress who is cast to play Marian in a film that centres on her disappearance in Antarctica. Named a book of the year by several broadsheets, the novel was described by the Times as “full of adventure, passion and tragedy.” The story is loosely based on Jean Batten, the first pilot to fly solo from England to New Zealand.

A B&W photo of Jean Batten in flying clothes, alongside her plane
Alexander Turnbull Library Jean Batten (circa 1934) inspired Shipstead’s Great Circle

Lean Fall Stand

by Jon McGregor
Amazon | Goodreads

Lean Fall Stand cover

In this novel, Doc Wright is installed at the fictional Station K near Byrd Glacier in Antarctica when his team becomes lost in an ice storm. He survives but something has gone wrong inside his head. Back home, he is the only one who can explain what transpired in Antarctica. But after what changed, everything has lost its meaning. Now, his wife, Anna, must become his carer and he has to find a new way to be in the world. All he can do is try to tell his story – even if words fail him.

Cold People

by Tom Rob Smith
Amazon | Goodreads

cold people book cover

Without warning, a mysterious and all-powerful force has claimed Earth for its own. The force proffers only one demand: all humans have just 30 days to reach the only place on the planet where they will be allowed to exist… Antarctica.

The Belgica anchored at Mount William in Antarctica
Public Domain The Belgica inspired one of the best books about Antarctica

Children’s books about Antarctica

That’s not my penguin

by Fiona Watt and Rachel Wells (illustrator)
Amazon | Goodreads

not my penguin book cover

We’ve included two children’s books about Antarctica. The first is a charming tale from the ‘That’s not my…‘ book series for under-three-year-olds. The book features bright pictures of various penguin species with patches of different textures designed to develop sensory and language awareness that babies and toddlers will love.

The Emperor’s Egg

by Martin Jenkins and Jane Chapman (illustrator)
Amazon | Goodreads

emperor's egg book cover

Our second children’s selection is a beautifully illustrated book about Antarctica for five-to-six-year-olds. It tells the story of an emperor penguin – the only large animal to remain on the Antarctic mainland during winter. Once the female penguin has laid her egg, she heads out to sea leaving the male to incubate it. He spends two months alone, standing on the ice with the egg on his feet. This is his story.

A Suffragist’s Guide to the Antarctic

by Yi Shun Lai
Amazon | Goodreads

A Suffragist’s Guide to the Antarctic book cover

November 1914. An American suffragist signs up for a cockamamie Antarctic expedition. She thinks the Antarctic is the perfect level proving ground for a woman to demonstrate her worth. But when their ship gets locked in ice and sinks, the fragile place she’s built for herself crumbles and now the stakes are much higher. This unique YA novel is pegged to the events of Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. 

Enjoyed this post? pin it for later…

books about Antarctica Pinterest pin

Lead image: Atlas & Boots

You might also like: