Curl up with a Kindle: 12 winter reads perfect for the holidays
Wintertime in the High Sierra means warm winter fires, hot chocolate, fresh turns and snow days. The season also offers ample opportunity for leisure reading, especially if you’re on vacation.
Here are 12 Kindle-friendly reads with seasonal flavor, whether it’s history, mystery, snow-focused or just plain fun. All book reviews were sourced from Amazon.
1. Snowball’s Chance: The Story of the 1960 Olympic Winter Games Squaw Valley & Lake Tahoe
By David C. Antonucci
This book chronicles the historic events at Squaw Valley and Lake Tahoe. The VIII Olympic Winter Games took place in February 1960 in the Sierra Nevada of California. From 30 countries around the world, 665 athletes gathered over 11 days to engage in five recognized Olympic winter sports contested in 27 events. These sports and events included alpine skiing, Nordic combined, cross-country skiing, biathlon, figure skating, speed skating, ice hockey and ski jumping. You-are-there accounts of all competition events with top scores and medal results for each sport are included. Readers will learn about the extensive pageantry and artistic expression of the opening and closing ceremonies produced by the legendary Walt Disney. The 200-page book includes 80-plus photographs by official photographer Bill Briner and others showing historic Olympic venues and athletes in the heat of competition.
2. Desperate Passage: The Donner Party’s Perilous Journey West
By Ethan Rarick
In late October 1846, the last wagon train of that year’s westward migration stopped overnight before resuming its arduous climb over the Sierra Nevada Mountains, unaware that a fearsome storm was gathering force. After months of grueling travel, the 81 men, women and children would be trapped for a brutal winter with little food and only primitive shelter. The conclusion is known: by spring of the next year, the Donner Party was synonymous with the most harrowing extremes of human survival. But until now, the full story of what happened ― and what it tells us about human nature and about America’s westward expansion ― remained shrouded in myth. Drawing on fresh archaeological evidence, recent research on topics ranging from survival rates to snowfall totals, and heartbreaking letters and diaries made public by descendants a century and a half after the tragedy, Ethan Rarick offers an intimate portrait of the Donner Party and their unimaginable ordeal: a mother who must divide her family, a little girl who shines with courage, a devoted wife who refuses to abandon her husband, a man who risks his life merely to keep his word.
3. Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson’s Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival
By Peter Stark
In the tradition of The Lost City of Z and Skeleton in the Zahara, Astoria is the thrilling, true-adventure tale of the 1810 Astor Expedition, an epic, now forgotten, three-year journey to forge an American empire on the Pacific Coast. Peter Stark offers a harrowing saga in which a band of explorers battled nature, starvation, and madness to establish the first American settlement in the Pacific Northwest and opened up what would become the Oregon trail, permanently altering the nation’s landscape and its global standing. Six years after Lewis and Clark’s began their journey to the Pacific Northwest, two of the Eastern establishment’s leading figures, John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson, turned their sights to founding a colony akin to Jamestown on the West Coast and transforming the nation into a Pacific trading power. Author and correspondent for Outside magazine Peter Stark recreates this pivotal moment in American history for the first time for modern readers, drawing on original source material to tell the amazing true story of the Astor Expedition.
4. Holidays on Ice
By David Sedaris
David Sedaris’s beloved holiday collection is new again with six more pieces, including a never before published story. Along with such favorites as the diaries of a Macy’s elf and the annals of two very competitive families, are Sedaris’s tales of tardy trick-or-treaters (“Us and Them”); the difficulties of explaining the Easter Bunny to the French (“Jesus Shaves”); what to do when you’ve been locked out in a snowstorm (“Let It Snow”); the puzzling Christmas traditions of other nations (“Six to Eight Black Men”); what Halloween at the medical examiner’s looks like (“The Monster Mash”); and a barnyard secret Santa scheme gone awry (“Cow and Turkey”). No matter what your favorite holiday, you won’t want to miss celebrating it with the author who has been called “one of the funniest writers alive” (Economist).
5. Tahoe Ice Grave (An Owen McKenna Mystery Thriller Book 3)
By Todd Borg
Early one frigid morning in January, a young man named Thos Kahale walked into the icy waters of Lake Tahoe and died a brutal death. Hired to investigate, Tahoe Detective Owen McKenna learns that the Hawaiian side of the man’s family had a secret shrine hidden in a cave in the cliffs of Kauai. Owen flies to Kauai and hears about a long-lost manuscript that Mark Twain left when he visited Kauai in 1866. The manuscript, which would be worth millions, is rumored to have been lost in a hurricane. Owen suspects that it was hidden in the secret shrine. As multiple people die, Owen tracks a vicious killer who looks like a Viking. Owen follows the Viking back to Tahoe and learns of a cave of ice that is sacred to Tahoe’s Washoe Indians. Thos, who was half Washoe, may have hidden the manuscript in the Tahoe cave. Only one person, whose identity is unknown, knows the answer.
6. Skiing at Lake Tahoe (Images of America)
By Mark McLaughlin
Organized ski racing in America started near Lake Tahoe in the 1860s when gold miners rode 15-foot boards that reached speeds near 100 miles per hour. By 1895, residents of Truckee had started the nation’s first winter carnival west of the Rocky Mountains and soon built the largest ski jump in California. Today’s Lake Tahoe, with significant annual snowfall, has become home to the largest concentration of ski resorts on the continent. Places like Mount Rose, Squaw Valley (home of the 1960 Winter Olympics), Sugar Bowl, Heavenly Valley, Homewood, Sierra-at-Tahoe, Alpine Meadows, Kirkwood, Diamond Peak, Donner Ski Ranch, Granlibakken, and [Northstar California Resort] have seen skiing styles, sports, and fashions churn through the decades, while now gone resorts, such as Edelweiss and White Hills Ski Resort, echo the memories of yesterday’s skiers through the pines.
7. The Ghosts of Lake Tahoe (The Stuff of Legends)
By Patrick Betson
In a timeline of 150 years, here Patrick Betson brings together 12 stories, some remembered and some long forgotten, of some of the most colorful characters whoever crossed the western mountains reflected in the history of America’s most glorious lake. The bravest of all the Pony Express riders, the ex-riverboat pilot who became a reporter and a giant of American literature, a Chinese migrant who risked life and limb to build a railroad, a tale of stock manipulation and murder that stemmed from a discovery of a Tahoe whirlpool, a salty seafarer who battled the worst of Tahoe’s weather and gangrene, the silent terror that caused fear to the local lumber-jacks, the incorrigible stagecoach driver that gave a nineteenth-century icon a ride he wanted to forget, a refugee from the San Francisco earthquake who became an aquatic marvel, the famous of Hollywood’s Golden Age that came to play, the overly optimistic New York lawyer who had an impossible dream that came true, and the unpaid Norwegian who flew down mountains delivering the US Mail. Tahoe is a meeting place, where the mountains meet the sky, where the snow meets the clear blue waters and where Nevada meets California. This book humbly brings you the stories of the men Sam Walter Foss might have alluded to when he said, “Bring me men to match my mountains.”
8. In Search of Powder: A Story of America’s Disappearing Ski Bum
By Jeremy Evans
As a recent college graduate and fledging newspaper reporter in the Lake Tahoe area, Jeremy Evans became immersed in ski bum culture—a carefree lifestyle whose mantra was simply: “Ski as much as possible.” His snowboarding suffered when he left for a job in the Portland area; and when, at 26, he suffered a stroke, he reexamined his priorities, quit his job, moved back to Tahoe, and threw himself into snowboarding. But while he had been away, the culture had changed. This book is Evans’s paean to the disappearing culture of the ski bum. A fascinating look at a world far removed from the larger culture, it is also a curious account of a passion for powder and what its disappearance means. Evans looks at several prominent ski towns in the West (including Crested Butte, Jackson Hole, Telluride, Lake Tahoe, Park City, and Mammoth) and the ski bums who either flourished or fled. He chronicles the American West transformed by rising real estate costs, an immigrant workforce, misguided values, and corporate-owned resorts. The story he tells is that of quintessentially American characters—rejecting materialism, taking risks, following their own path—and of the glories and pitfalls their lifestyle presents.
9. Saving Lake Tahoe: An Environmental History of a National Treasure
By Michael J. Makley
The history of Lake Tahoe begins with the Washoe Indians who resided on its shores for thousands of years, with minimal impact on the landscape. The relatively brief American history at Lake Tahoe began in the mid-nineteenth century. Though awestruck by its beauty, the new arrivals were also intent on harvesting its abundant resources. In a mere half century, the basin’s forests and fisheries were destroyed, the lake’s pristine clarity dramatically reduced.
Makley takes the story up to the present, describing the formation and evolution of a new type of governing body, the bistate Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, and ground-breaking efforts to utilize science in establishing policy. He depicts the passionate fights between those who seek to preserve the environment and advocates of individual property rights. Although Tahoe remains unique in its splendor, readers will understand why, with continued pressure for development, reversing environmental deterioration and improving the lake water’s clarity remain elusive goals.
10. Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows: Tales from Two Valleys
By Eddy Starr Ancinas
Nestled amidst California’s High Sierra peaks, two valleys have captured the imaginations of skiers and mountain explorers year after year. In this account, local author and longtime skier Eddy Starr Ancinas shares the histories of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows as they’ve never been told before, including the stories of John Reily, Wayne Poulsen and Alex Cushing, the visionaries whose dreams and determination forever transformed North Lake Tahoe. Squaw made a name for itself on the world stage thanks to its surprise nomination as host of the 1960 Winter Olympics. Meanwhile, just one mountain apart, Alpine was built with the support of local skiers and Bay Area families. Today, a new chapter unfolds as the distinct philosophies behind Squaw and Alpine unite under common ownership.
11. A Wall of White: The True Story of Heroism and Survival in the Face of a Deadly Avalanche
By Jennifer Woodlief
One of the most amazing survival stories ever told — journalist Jennifer Woodlief’s gripping account of the deadliest ski-area avalanche in North American history and the woman who survived in the face of incalculable odds. On the morning of March 31, 1982, the snow had already been falling at a record rate for four days at Alpine Meadows ski resort near Lake Tahoe, California. For the vacationers and employees at the resort, this day would change their lives forever. The unprecedented avalanche that day at Alpine Meadows was a once-in-a-lifetime catastrophe. Much like the nor’easter that bedeviled the fishermen in Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm, an unforeseeable confluence of natural events created the conditions for an unimaginable disaster — and, in one woman’s case, an astonishing ordeal of survival. Jennifer Woodlief movingly tells the story of the massive slab avalanche that killed seven and left one victim buried alive under the snow.
12. White Heat: The Extreme Skiing Life
By Wayne Johnson
White Heat is pure adrenaline — a thrilling exploration of extreme skiing that pushes the reader over the edge with heart-pounding accounts of people who risk their lives on the fastest, steepest slopes. Often obsessed and possibly crazy, extreme skiers and snowboarders are having the time of their lives facing death-defying challenges. But the extreme skiing life isn’t just about the quest to finish first; it’s a lifestyle made up of insane jumps, bone-breaking speeds, and world records — not to mention the wild off-mountain social world, the flamboyant gear and slang completely unique to it, and, of course, the remarkable history of the racing champions and events that is its backdrop. Here are real-life adventures, everything from Shane McConkey ski BASE jumping the Eiger in Switzerland to Shaun White throwing 1260s in the halfpipe. If you’ve ever wondered what kind of nut would willingly choose to fly off a twenty-story ski jump, or have ever dreamed of living outside the usual boundaries, or just like to read about people having life-expanding adventures, then White Heat is an exhilarating thrill ride that will leave you breathless.