A glacier in Russian Harbor in the Arctic

Glacier at Russian Harbor on Novaya Zemlya, August 2019

Worthy books are released almost every day. No doubt more than a few authors bemoaned the publication of their hard work this past year, when so much of the world’s attention was distracted by a lethal pandemic and lethal politics.

But even then, some titles break through and merits a Storyboard news note. Huzzah to author and former Storyboard editor Andrea Pitzer on the U.S. release this week of her eagerly awaited book, “Icebound: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World.”

Author and journalist Andrea Pitzer

Andrea Pitzer

This is Pitzer’s third book and continues to build on a pattern of reaching back into what she calls “lost history” with deep research, fresh eyes and new questions. “The Secret History of Vladimir Nabokov” draws on recently declassified intelligence files and military history to trace the controversial author’s life through some major upheaval of the 20th century: revolutionary Russia, the rise of Nazi Germany, the Holocaust and anti-semitism in America. “One Long Night: A Global History of Concentration Camps” tracks 100 years in the history of such camps, from their use as a wartime tragedy to current-day reeducation centers.

In “Icebound,” Pitzer goes further back in history. She follows the final journey of Dutch explorer William Barents in 1596-97 as he tries, for a third and fatal time, to find a northeast passage to China through the Arctic. It might not appeal to those who race to turn the thermostat up when imagining life in the most brutal cold. But the pre-publication reviews have been many and laudatory. Among them: The New York Times, Smithsonian Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Boston Globe and the London Daily Mail. LitHub named it one of the most anticipated books of 2021.

We offer our own recommendation in part because of the public journey Pitzer made of her reporting and writing process. Much of that could be followed on social media. But she also peeled out bits of the book for publication along the way; the New York Review of Books featured an excerpt. She also found reason to write more personally about the place this book wove through her life. In August 2020, Outside magazine published “My Midlife Crisis as a Russian Sailor,” an account of her trip to the far Arctic to trace Barents’ path.

Pitzer called that piece her most challenging and best work ever. That work is made transparent in a conversation with Storyboard contributor Cheryl Katz, who annotated the text of the narrative. Reading it is a behind-the-scenes look at how the magic is made.

Bonus: Pitzer has several virtual book readings and interviews coming up, which you can find listed on her website. If you don’t want to wait, you can listen to her conversation on the newest episode of  “Gangrey: The Podcast,” with host Matt Tullis. They discuss the new book, but also the creation and development of Storyboard.

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