rmRefer Madness spotlights strange, intriguing, or otherwise noteworthy questions I encounter at the library reference desk. 

Summer is finally (almost, sorta) here. “Bees they’ll buzz / Kids’ll blow dandelion fuzz…” The AC is on at the library, but at the ref desk it’s still a bit muggy. The perfect time for this patron question: Do you have any books about polar explorers?

Ummm, OK… Perhaps he was like me in wanting to forestall the coming Midwestern mix of heat and humidity, if only in our dreams. The first choice you have to make when on an expedition for books about polar expeditions is whether you’re in for something perilous, or something (relatively) pleasant. Alfred Lansing’s Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage (not, I’m disappointed to learn, a sequel to Homeward Bound) is a respected account of that famous first and successful British voyage to Antarctica. And the photo book Call of the North captures the lives of the Inuit by the first Frenchman to reach the North Pole by dogsled.

But if you like your polar expeditions tragic, last year’s In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides will do the trick. There’s also a book literally called The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard, which recounts the final icecapades of the explorer Robert Falcon Scott, whose name—let’s be honest—could only be that of an ice-cold voyager.

Stay cool, friends.