When I was in middle school, fantasy novels were kind of my thing. Like, I'd read the thousand or so pages of The Mists of Avalon by the time I was in seventh grade. Around that time, I remember checking a book out of the Navarre Middle School library. I can't remember the title, but the premise was something like this: A faraway world is covered with ice and snow, and most sources of heat have been diminished. There are a few, rare people who have the special gift of being able to detect fire that burns away underground, providing life-sustaining heat for the rest of the world. At the end of the book, the protagonist—one of these few fire seekers—discovers that she herself is a source of heat. The powerful element she has spent her life seeking exists within her.
We live in the inverse of that world now. Albuquerque is quickly turning into a sun-bleached summer purgatory, where most of us spend our time ducking from shadow to shadow and hopping from one air conditioned (er, swamp cooled?) building to the next in pit-stained tank tops and half-melted plastic sandals. Maybe, like the hero of my middle school novel, we can dispel the heat by turning inward and finding the swamp cooler that chugs away within each of us. Stoke your own internal air conditioner with these super chilly reads.
The Birthday Boys by Beryl Bainbridge
I've said it a million times, and I'll say it again: “Doomed sea voyages” is the best book genre.The Birthday Boysis a fictionalized account of the ill-fated sea voyage to the South Pole led by Robert Falcon Scott between 1910-1912. Based in part on the diaries of the men who died on this Arctic expedition, the book chronicles the hardship endured at the edges of the world.
Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing
My second favorite genre is “nearly doomed sea voyages.” This nonfiction classic penned in 1959 recounts the story of Ernest Shackleton's expedition to the South Pole, wherein the ship he captained—Endurance--became trapped, and eventually crushed, by ice pack, stranding the crew. For over a year, they drifted, and incredibly, made it to safety without a single casualty after numerous feats of daring. If you can't handle totally doomed sea voyages, this one has the happy ending you need and the excruciating details of extreme cold you crave.
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
I said I loved fantasy novels. The Golden Compass, the first in Pullman's classic His Dark Materials trilogy, has cold climates and, perhaps more importantly, badass armored polar bears. Plus, the entire series is a disavowal of organized religion—who wouldn't add this to their summer reading list?
Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster by John Krakauer
I never thought of myself as the kind of person that would get really into John Krakauer books, if you know what I mean. To me, John Krakauer seemed like the kind of author that my Uncle John would read, not me. But on the Amtrak between Chicago and Flagstaff I read this book in one (really long) sitting, and those 36 hours passed like nothing at all. Krakauer was participating in a 1996 ascent of Everest as a journalist, but a freak storm turned it into the deadliest incident ever on the mountain and eventually turned his assignment into this excellent tale of adventure and tragedy at very high altitude.
Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North by Blair Braverman
Part travelogue, part memoir, Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube is Braverman's explication of her love affair with cold places and years running dog-powered sled teams through them. With evocative detail of the dangers of the far north (crevasses, freezing temperatures, gross men, whiteouts, isolation) this book is both harrowing and, at many points, triumphant, too. Reading this book also has the benefit of making the reader feel glad they live in the desert instead of far reaches of Norway.