2017 APHC Cruise — Reading List

Greetings, North Sea adventurers.

Each cruise with A Prairie Home Companion, your Education Team scours their bookshelves and local libraries to find an eclectic assortment of books to help you start traveling from home! Norway and Scotland offer a treasure trove of stories to explore. Whether natural history, exploration—think Norwegians such as Amundsen, Nansen, and Heyerdahl and Scots such as Livingstone, Park, and Baikie—or adventure pique your interest, there are options galore.

Happy reading!

Rich, Natalie, and the rest of the Education Team

Norwegian General Interest

The History of Norway: from the Ice Age to Today, by Øivind Stenersen and Ivar Libæk (2003)
A concise 180 pages, it opens with a map of the Scandinavian ice cap 10,000 years ago and closes with a photo of the mildly controversial marriage of Crown Prince Haakon to single mom Mette-Marit Tjessem-Høiby in 2001 (but published before the subsequent three royal births).

A History of Scandinavia: Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland, by T.K. Derry (2000)
A historical overview of Scandinavia from prehistory to the present day.

A Year in Lapland: Guest of the Reindeer Herders, by Hugh Beach (2001)
Smithsonian anthropologist Hugh Beach demonstrates that anthropologists have the ultimate Walter Mitty lifestyle. Beach spends a year living with the Sami, Scandinavia's original settlers, who still herd reindeer for a living. Great for anyone who's curious about how a nomadic people grapple with life in the 20th century.

Sami Culture in a New Era, The Norwegian Sami Experience, Harald Gaski, editor (1998)
Essays on contemporary issues as confronted by the Sami of Norway, including maintaining a cultural identity, reindeer husbandry, economy, history, and literature.

Norwegian Folk Tales, by Peter Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe (1982)
A collection of stories about ancient traditions and tales, good for both adults and children.

Brown Cheese Please, by Jenny Blake (2007)
An Australian looks at Norway through her own humorous cultural filter, with a wistful focus on food. A quick read in a graphic novel style.

A Viking Voyage, by W. Hodding Carter (2000)
Carter recounts his adventures in re-creating a square-rigged Viking cargo ship, the likes of which Leif Eriksson sailed to Vinland, and sailed it across the Atlantic to L'Anse aux Meadows in present-day Newfoundland. A wondrous read, sometimes silly, always intriguing. It made Rich want to be a Viking, too.

Whale, by Joe Roman (2006)
Whales have inspired humans for millennia. This pocket-sized book, one of Natalie's favorites, traces the relationship between humans and whales, from Jonah to Moby Dick to "Save the Whales" to the modern whale hunt. Norwegians, from early native people to today's harpooners, feature prominently throughout this fascinating and quick read. Full of great illustrations, too!

A Whale for the Killing, by Farley Mowat (1972)
The author of well-known stories such as Never Cry Wolf and The Boat Who Wouldn't Float recounts a difficult tale of how local villagers react to a fin whale stranded in a natural coastal pool. Though this true account takes place on the shores of Newfoundland, Mowat (never shy of controversy) touches on the Norwegian roots of modern whale hunting and leaves no question as to his opinion.

Storms, Ice, and Whales: The Antarctic Adventure of a Dutch Artist on a Norwegian Whaler, written and illustrated by Willem van der Does (translated by Ruth van Baak Griffioen) (1934, English translation 2003)
In the 1920s, the dawning of the modern whaling era, a Dutch artist joined a Norwegian whaling expedition to Antarctica. His words and illustrations are a rich account of this pioneering Antarctica whale hunt, including everything from the workings of the Norwegian-invented harpoon system to everyday life among this international crew in the dangerous and little-known world of ice.

Kon-Tiki, by Thor Heyerdahl (1950)
Although the book is set about as far from Scandinavia as is possible, the author is among Norway's most acclaimed explorers and ethnographers. Heyerdahl crossed the Pacific in a balsa raft in 1947 to prove to the world that South Americans could have been the original settlers of Polynesia in the South Pacific, a notion quite contrary to conventional wisdom. Kon-Tiki—the name he gave to the raft—soon became a best-seller; the documentary motion picture is worth watching, too! The original balsa raft itself can now be viewed in Oslo at the Kon-Tiki Museum.

Engelskmann i Lofoten: A Norwegian Sketchbook, by Graham Clarke (1996)
This postcard-sized sketchbook of watercolors by a well-known British artist centers on a place a little farther north than we'll be cruising, but it provides a highly entertaining and beautifully rendered account of what life is like in a traditional Norwegian fishing village.

Island Voices, Fisheries, and Community Survival in Northern Norway, by John C. Kennedy (2006)
Stories about the changes occurring in small northern Norwegian fishing villages as they cope with the changes brought on by changing fisheries, globalization, and politics are presented though the words of the inhabitants themselves and annotated by a noted contemporary anthropologist of northern fishing communities.

Commons in a Cold Climate, Coastal Fisheries, and Reindeer Pastoralism in North Norway: The Co-Management Approach, edited by S. Jentoft. (1998)
Small-scale coastal fisheries and Sami reindeer pastoralism both remain active parts of Norwegian rural and coastal heritage and economics, and provide context for this series of research findings, exploring issues of sustainability, ecology, and natural-resource management.

Closing the Commons: Norwegian Fisheries from Open Access to Private Property, by Bjørn Hersoug (2006)
A bit academic in style, this book covers the complicated arena of fisheries history and politics in Norway, where the Norwegian Parliament insists the oceans remain common property while on-the-ground fishermen claim the opposite is true.

Seeds on Ice: Svalbard and the Global Seed Vault, by Cary Fowler (2016)
The story of a global seed bank buried in a chamber at the end of a 130-meter tunnel in a Norwegian mountain.

Scotland General Interest

Clans & Tartans
There are any number of books titled, wholly or in part, Clans & Tartans. Most all of these will offer an introduction to the historic structure of Scottish family.

And for anyone wanting to get a kilt and kit, Kinloch Anderson Ltd. is the place. Be aware: It can easily take six weeks or more to have a custom kilt made.

The Life and African Exploration of David Livingstone, by Dr. David Livingstone (2002 reprint of the edition first published in 1874)
Not many people epitomize 19th-century British exploration of the mysterious African continent as well as Scottish missionary and explorer Dr. David Livingstone. There are tomes on the man; this is among the good reads.

Travels in the Interior of Africa, by Mungo Park
Originally published in 1797 and published in numerous paperback editions through today, this book chronicles Park's two-year journey across Africa. Park, who hailed from the County of Selkirk, shares his fascinating adventure, all the more so as he strived to not look at his adventures and travails through the lens of European superiority.

Scotland: Mapping the Islands, by Christopher Fleet, Margaret Wilkes, and Charles W.J. Withers (2016)
If it is true that a picture is worth 1,000 words, then this beautifully crafted compilation of maps is infinitely more valuable. It is an excellent book for all lovers of maps.

History of the Native Woodlands of Scotland, 1500–1920, by Prof. T.C. Smout, Alan R. MacDonald, and Fiona Watson (2004)
Any book about nature that includes such an expansive range of dates captures Rich's attention. This book delves into the historical, and changing, land use of woods and forests by the peoples of Scotland.

Viking History

The Kings' Sagas (aka Heimskringla), by Snorri Sturluson
Traces the story of Norway's first kings from their mythical roots to the decisive battles that united Norway's petty kingdoms. Key protagonists include Harald Fairhair, Erik Bloodaxe, Magnus Barefoot, and Trondheim's own Olav Tryggvason. All good Norwegians own a leather-bound copy that they received at their confirmation and have never read.

The Vikings: Lords of the Seas, by Yves Cohat (1992)
Small enough to fit in your pocket, this volume is loaded with maps, archival photographs, and illustrations describing the Vikings' homeland, discoveries, chronology, and settlements.

The Sagas of the Icelanders, Ed. Örnólfur Thorsson (2001)
Although these take place mostly in Viking Iceland, Egil's Saga has a lot of action in Norway.

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, by Jared Diamond (2005)
One chapter in this intriguing analysis examines the Viking expansion into Greenland and Iceland and what happened. What's most interesting is his description of Viking food preferences, which are surprisingly recognizable in current Norwegian food choices.

Polar Explorers

The Arctic Grail, by Pierre Berton (2000)
This compelling history of the twin quests for the Northwest Passage and the North Pole includes chapters on Nansen's Farthest North and Amundsen's crossing of the Northwest Passage.

Farthest North, by Fridtjof Nansen (1898, republished 2002)
From the unassuming pen of the great man himself comes a surprisingly readable account of the first Fram expedition. Nansen and Johansen may just be the toughest men who ever lived. To wit: In March 1895, they left the ship frozen in the Arctic ice at over 83 degrees north latitude. Knowing they could never find their way back, they made a dash for the North Pole, made the difficult decision to turn back at 86° 14' N, spent three months working their way by dogsled and kayak southward over the drifting Arctic ice pack, then spent eight months overwintering in a sooty walrus hide hovel (with nothing to read!) on the north coast of Franz Josef Land before working their way south among the islands to a fortunate rendezvous with a British expedition.

Nansen: The Explorer as Hero, by Roland Huntford (2002)
A complete biography of Norwegian Arctic explorer Fridtjof Nansen.

The Last Place on Earth, by Roland Huntford (1983)
Also published in an earlier, carefully annotated version titled Scott and Amundsen by the same author. An absorbing account of the race for the South Pole, which the skiing and dog-eating Norwegians won hands down, while the upper lips of their British competitors became terminally stiff. Makes you realize that Scott never really had a chance.

World War II

Assault in Norway, by Thomas Gallagher (1975)
The gripping story of the successful sabotage of the heavy water plant at Rjukan, which was critical to the German A-bomb effort. (Also the subject of a not-that-good movie adaptation, Telemark Heroes, starring Kirk Douglas. Too bad they couldn't stick to the facts.)

We Die Alone, by David Howarth (1955)
The survival story of a seriously injured saboteur in northern Norway who was hidden and transported over the mountains to Sweden by local villagers.

Skis Against the Atom, by Knut Haukelid (1989)
A captivating tale told firsthand of the rigors of the Norwegian Resistance during World War II. Haukelid recounts living off the mountainous land with skis as the only viable transportation. The author and comrades successfully sabotaged a heavy water plant and committed other acts of espionage and surveillance activities, all while playing a deadly game of cat and mouse with the Germans, who used their radio directional-finding equipment in attempts to corner the elusive Norwegians. Rich read nearly the whole book in one sitting.


The Long Ships, by Frans Bengtsson (1954)
A historical novel about the far-flung adventures of Orm, a Viking raider in the 10th century. Buried treasure and plenty of hewing, from Andalusia to Kiev.

The Women at the Pump (1920) and Growth of the Soil (1921, republished 2004), by Knut Hamsun
The first one is actually funny, while the second paints a picture of a hardscrabble farm family in a remote mountain valley. Great reading when holed up in a hut in foul weather.

Kristen Lavransdatter, by Sigrid Undset
Every Norwegian middle school child is required to read chapters from this 1,000-plus-page trilogy, which won Sigrid Undset the Nobel Prize in literature 1928. It's a fascinating, richly detailed story of a woman living in 14th-century Norway who grapples with religious questions, family expectations, and temptations of the flesh. A great read.

The Sea Road, by Margaret Elphinstone (2000)
Based on Eirik's Saga, Graenlendinga Saga, and Eyrbyggja Saga, this novel traces the story of Gudrid of Iceland, considered the farthest-traveled woman in the Viking Age. The reader journeys with Gudrid to Norway, Iceland, Greenland, North America, and Rome.

Scottish fiction

The 44 Scotland Street series, by Alexander McCall Smith, are lighthearted reads set in Edinburgh, with real-life places — cafés, streets, etc. The first book in that series is 44 Scotland Street.

The Sunday Philosophy Club series, also by Alexander McCall Smith and also set in Edinburgh, is more serious. The first book of that series is The Sunday Philosophy Club.

Natural History

Wild Scotland: Essential Guide to the Best of Natural Scotland, by James McCarthy (2005)
If you want a single-volume introduction to the Scottish natural world, this might just be it. It encompasses the more common plants and animals of both terrestrial and aqueous worlds.


Birds of Europe (North American edition) and Bird Guide (European edition), by Killian Mullarney, Lars Svensson, Dan Zetterström, and Peter J. Grant (1999)
This is one of the finest, overall, field guides Rich has ever seen! Its color plates vividly cover a wide variety of plumages and the text goes into intricate detail for each species. With range maps on the same two-page spread as the text and the figures, it is a breeze to determine the likelihood of a particular bird being at a given locale. (The two editions are identical, except for the cover graphics and the title.)

Birds of Britain & Europe, by Hermann Heinzel, Richard Fitter, and John Parslow (1997)
A Collins Pocket Guide, with thousands of color illustrations covering birds from Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.

Flight Identification of European Seabirds, by Anders Blomdahl, Bertil Briefe, and Niklas Holmstrom (2003)
Pricey, tough to find, and lacking range maps, but invaluable for identifying European seabirds on the wing, especially from the vantage of a ship transiting the North Sea.

The EBCC Atlas of European Breeding Birds, edited by Hagemeijer and Blair (1997)
This is the first and, to date, only effort to quantify the distribution of breeding birds for an entire continent. A bit weighty at 903 pages, it could prove a valuable resource for the serious birder.

Seabirds of the World, A Photographic Guide, by Peter Harrison (1996)
A compact guide to seabirds, featuring 700-plus photographs.

Marine Mammals and the Ocean

National Audubon Society Guide to the Marine Mammals of the World, by Brent S. Stewart, Phillip J. Clapham, James A. Powell, and Randall R. Reeves; illustrated by Peter Folkiens (2002)
This beautifully illustrated tome covers the seals, otters, and whales of the world (including that marine carnivore, the polar bear, which occurs to the north of our cruise region) with excellent maps, photos, and species comparison diagrams to help you zero in on what we might see during the cruise. Natalie's favorite marine mammal field guide.

Whales, Dolphins, and Other Marine Mammals of the World, by Hadoram Shirihai and Brett Jarrett (2006)
One of Rich's favorite field guides, Shirihai and Jarrett are the powerhouses behind another of Rich's favorites, A Complete Guide to Antarctic Wildlife. This is a wonderful addition to the library of anyone who is keen on marine mammals.

Atlas of Cetacean Distribution in North-West European Waters, edited by Reid, Evans, and Northridge (2003)
With excellent range and sightings maps, this thin but complete atlas introduces cetaceans (whales, porpoises, and dolphins) encountered in the waters between the bottom half of Norway and the North Sea. This book is more about population status and distribution than field identification.

Smithsonian Handbook: Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises, by Mark Carwardine (2000)
Describes cetaceans with great illustrations, range maps, fluke drawings, and info on each species.

The Norwegian Sea Ecosystem, edited by Hein Rune Skjoldal (2004)
Covering oceanography and climate, currents and plankton, food webs and fish, whales, seals, birds, and much more, this book is one of Natalie's and Rich's favorites for its comprehensive treatment of the ocean environment. It presents nearly 10 years of research carried out by Norway's Institute for Marine Research, and as such, is scientific and a bit "textbook-ish" in its approach. But with its great illustrations and diagrams, it is a valuable resource for anyone who is eager to figuratively dive into the Norwegian Sea.


National Atlas of Norway: Vegetation, by Asbjørn Moen, Norwegian Mapping Authority (1999)
A scholarly dissection of Norway's climate and vegetation, with beautiful maps.

The Wildflower Key, by Francis Rose (2006)
An illustrated field guide to the wildflowers of Britain and Northwest Europe. The only Norway/Scandinavia-specific flower guide that Rich found in English, it covers only mountain flowers, a bit limiting for coastal voyagers.

A Naturalist's Guide to the Wild Flowers of Britain & Northern Europe, by Andrew Cleave (2010)
A thorough and fairly comprehensive photographic guide to the wildflowers.

The Hamlyn Guide to Trees of Britain and Europe, by C.J. Humphries, J.R. Press, and D.A. Sutton (1981)
This includes most of the tree species in Norway, and a whole lot more (the palms on the last few pages, for example, do NOT grow in Norway).


Geology and Landforms in Norway, by Dagfinn Trømborg
Good explanations of the geological processes that sculpted Norway, from the big mountains and fjords to more subtle details like glacial striations and chattermarks. Well illustrated with photos and diagrams.

Geology of Norway: Portfolio, edited by Olaf Holtedahl (1960)
This is the only available layperson-oriented reference on Norwegian geology in English. (A new edition was anticipated during the past 10 years but was not readily found online.)

The Caledonide Orogen—Scandinavia and Related Areas, Part 1 and 2 (Complete), edited by D.G. Gee and B.A. Sturt (1985)
Richly illustrated, this is the tome for professional geologists wanting to learn details about the geologic and tectonic history of the Scandinavian Caledonide mountains. Only 1,000-plus pages to plow through!

"The Last Interglacial/Glacial Cycle in Northern Europe," by J. Mangerud, pp. 38–73, in: Quaternary Landscapes, edited by Linda C.K. Shane and Edward J. Cushing (1991)
This is one short paper in a series compiled for this book. It addresses the glacial history of Northern European regions, including Norway.

Fjords: Processes and Products, by James P.M. Syvitski, David C. Burrell, and Jens M. Skei (1987)
This is a textbook used at colleges and universities geared toward the advanced undergraduate or graduate earth science or oceanography student. It is a good source for everything about fjords!

The Last Billion Years: A Geological History of the Maritime Provinces of Canada, Atlantic Geoscience Society (2001)
Though mostly about Canada, this layperson-friendly book covers the origins of the Appalachian-Caledonian mountain belt that extends into Norway. Great illustrations!

The Ice Age World: An Introduction to Quaternary History and Research, by Bjørn G. Andersen and Harold W. Borns Jr. (1994)
This layperson-friendly book provides an introduction to the history of the Ice Age, the geological history of the past 2.5 million years. It has excellent color photographs and illustrations, too.

A Prairie Home Companion Cruise is produced by American Public Media. Ship's registry: The Netherlands.