In my youth, I became fascinated by the Antarctic when I saw documentaries on the International Geophysical Year exploration and study of the southern continent on Disneyland, the flagship television show of Walt Disney in those years. I remember most the snow vehicles traversing the ice and the concern over hidden crevasses in the ice. And although I fancy myself a warm-weather lover with an aversion to prolonged cold and snow, I have kept that fascination with the polar regions through my life.
In The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Arctic and Antarctic, author Jack Williams, editor of the USA Today weather page and author of The USA Today Weather Book and co-author of Hurricane Watch: Forecasting the Deadliest Storms on Earth, I was able to again revisit those frontier regions. I have enjoyed William's other works and looked forward to another well-written, informative book. I was not disappointed.
The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Arctic and Antarctic is an overview of the two opposite ends of the Earth functioning as a specialized encyclopedia of information on the polar regions from history, geography, science and even employment and tourist opportunities. The book is divided into six parts:
Each part contains a number of sub-chapters looking in greater depth at particular topics relevant to the main topic at hand for both the Arctic and Antarctic. The book can be read straight through or by jumping around to topics of interest. Thus, it will prove useful as a reference book for many polar topics. The book is liberally spiced with sidebar tables, definitions of terminology right where the terms are used, and useful illustrations (though not of the quality of The USA Today Weather Book). History buffs will find the exploration history overviews sending them out to read more detailed accounts of the searches for polar passages or the quest for the glory of being the first to stand at the ultimate global ends.
The book falls within the series The Complete Idiot's Guides, each of which stands as an educational work with the foremost intent of introducing the subject to those not currently knowledgeable in the topic. The "Complete Idiot" portion of the series title is a bit tongue-in-cheek and a good marketing gambit in our self-deprecating world. However, having read Williams' treatment of the subject in The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Arctic and Antarctic, I think you could be a nearly complete idiot and still understand his writing, coming away with a new-found knowledge base. Even for those who consider ourselves on the opposite end of the knowledge spectrum, there is much to learn here, and Williams does not bore us with oversimplicity.
With the polar regions so often in the news these days, whether through ozone depletion, climate change, new discoveries, or daring rescues of ill members of the Antarctic research colonies, you are well-advised to consider reading this book as background material. You may even find you too are a polar enthusiast and will begin to search out other, more detailed works.
The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Arctic and Antarctic is the best overview of the polar regions I have read since Isaac Azimov's The Ends of the Earth, and likely better in its breadth. It will be at close reach on my reference shelf. I highly recommend it to all my readers.
Weather Doctor's Book Review: The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Arctic and Antarctic ©2003, Keith C. Heidorn, PhD. All Rights Reserved.
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