Posted by: Kate | May 12, 2009

Ice Ice Baby

The latest non-fiction book in my reading has been “Ice: Beauty, Danger, History.” by Pauline Couture.

Pauline Couture is a Canadian journalist who became fascinated with all things ice-related, and decided to write a book following that fascination. The book takes the reader from cutting-edge ice research, to historical arctic adventures, to ice tourism, to beer making and ice-berg cowboys. She writes with passion and some eloquence about the beauty and captivating qualities of ice.

The first third of the book delighted me. There was a good mix of research, description and detail. I learned a few new things, and the author presented information that made me pause.

“The factors that determine climate and weather: the planet’s hydrology (the entire water system), plate tectonics and geology, ocean currents and wind systems, cloud formations and sunspot activity: all of these interact with, influence or are influenced by, the various forms of ice.”

The last two thirds of the book spend a great deal of time exploring other people who have been fascinated by ice. Whether it be the historical search for the North Pole and the Northwest Passage; the quest to build the best ice castle; or the desire to climb frozen waterfalls; the author talked to experts and in many cases observed the places and objects. While I was hoping for more of the science than was delivered, I think the author certainly achieved her goal of immersing herself into the world of ice.

In the end I had mixed thoughts about the book. I appreciate the author’s passion, and I did learn some things about ice that I didn’t know before. However, I found the book too-encompassing, too over-reaching. Especially in the second half the train of thought begins to jump rapidly and sometimes randomly, so that the reader is left reeling from beer-making to cooling-produce trains to ice-fan memories all on one page.

What I think it comes down to, for me, is a lack of stellar editing. I think the author did an excellent job of research and of writing. Her editor should, in my view, have taken a firmer hand on the book and helped organize and perhaps cull the information to a greater extent. I can’t decide if the book needed to be longer, or if there was simply too much information presented. Either way, it leaves me unable to say “wow!” as I close the book. A more diluted “hmmm, interesting…” is what I can offer.



  1. I continue to be impressed with your reading material…the range and scope of it. Thanks for this review–I’ve been curious about the book since you used a quote from it a few weeks ago (I never had time to go on to read the description and now I don’t have to!). Even if it didn’t end up being a WOW, it sounds like something I’d be interested in reading sometime.

  2. Good review – I often find, in such cases, that my opinions gel on the second read through…I either see something I didn’t and then like it better, or my initial impressions are confirmed and I hates it.

Welcome! I always like to hear what people think of a post, it often leads to a great discussion! I am now responding to comments and questions right in the comments themselves, so other people can follow the conversation.

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