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  • Writer's pictureJohanna Catani

Ivalu the Eskimo Wife and other tips for summer read

What books to pack along when heading to cabin, camping or to the beach? Here are some suggestions.

I was a young girl, when I inherited my great aunt Martha´s favourite books. She had a little bookshelf by her bed side that consisted of around fifty books, the fifty best books as she used to refer to them. Aunt Martha thought that it was wonderful to go to bed knowing that you could just reach for any of the books and be sure that they were all good. Martha was born in the late 1800´. She was an adventurer who lived in the small village in Finland but travelled the world by reading. One of the books, that I found in her little book shelf was Ivalu the eskimo wife by Peter Freuchen, published in 1930. This novel became my favourite too.

Ivalu the Eskimo wife by Peter Freuchen (1930)

Ivalu the eskimo wife Peter Freuchen

Peter Freuchen (1886-1957) was a Danish explorer and anthropologist who played an important role in Arctic exploration in the beginning of the 1900´. He participated in several expeditions in Greenland together with his country man Knud Rasmussen and lived and studied the Polar Inuit (1). Ivalu tells the story of an inuit woman, who stoically faces life and it´s challenges and lives in harmony with the nature. The story follows Ivalu´s life from childhood until she marries to an Danishman (Freuchen himself married to an Inuit woman). Through the book, you can smell the burning whale grease, feel the pain of frost bites, lost lives and taste the strong alcohol. Peter Freuchen´s text may seem a bit old fashioned today but the story has kept its charm. Ivalu is a perfect read for any adventurer.

Taking on the world by Ellen McArthur (2003)

Taking on the world ellen macarthur

Ellen McArthur Foundation (2) is known for many of us sustainability professionals, as one of the front runners on circular economy and circular business models. But before Ellen McArthur founded her organization, she was a very successful sailor. To get truly inspired while lying in the hammock, you should read her story as a sailor and athlete. Dame Ellen was 24 years old when she finished as second the one of toughest races in the world, namely Vendee Globe (3), which is the solo around the world race. Taking on the world is an open, honest and inspirational story about motivation and reaching the impossible. So after finishing the book (and getting up from that hammock) you feel that you are up to anything, and even the 1,5 degree Celsius goal is reachable.

Infinite Game by Simon Sinek (2019)

The infinite game simon sinek

Simon Sinek has written several best sellers such as Start With Why (2009) and Leaders Eat Last (2014). If you have read any of his books earlier you will like this one as well. Infinite Game encourages you to look further, to plan your business beyond the time when you are not here anymore and stop defining your finishing line. According to Sinek, infinite approach is the road to a more inspiring and stronger business culture. Sense of longevity creates trust within organizations and as Sinek puts it, it is a prerequisite for any successful business. Infinite Game is a book with an ethos of Brundtland report (4). Infinite mindset enables you to develop your business and leave it in better shape than it was before.

PS. Simon Sinek´s Podcast Series, A bit of optimism (5), is also highly recommendable

World Without Us by Alan Weisman (2007)

The world without us Alan Weisman

What would happen to our build environment and to the nature if all the people were suddenly vanished from the earth? Weisman takes us through the thrilling journey of how nature would take over in the cities and urban habitat. Based on interviews with archeologists and environmental biologists, Weisman describes how marks of civilization will be wiped out and trees, plants, rivers and lakes will find new areas to expand (New York subway will be filled with water within two days, and Lexington Avenue will be a river within 20 years). At this time and era when billionaires are flying up to space and planning to conquering new habitats, this non-fictional eco-thriller gives a real perspective of how our planet would be completely nonchalant of our disappearance but instead would systematically continue its presence and simply take over the place that was occupied by people.

The Women of Troy by Pat Barker (2021)

The women of troy Pat Barker

Relive the high school obligatory classic Homer´s Iliad from the female perspective. Pat Barker has given voice to Briseis, once a member of Troyan royal family, but then captured and given as slave to Achilles. Briseis leads us through all the divine drama taken place by the Aigeian coast. First the total shock of losing her family, her home and to be taken in captivity. Then her relationship with Achilles as his slave and concubine and with Alcimus to whom she is passed over after Achilles death. Briseis fights hard for not losing her identity during the years in captivity. Being a thing without any value, a person who does not exist. She forms relationships with other women slaves, a group of broken human beings, some stronger than others. She quietly observes the stupidity of vanity and pride that leads whole nation to destruction. Touching and compelling story, that has only been told as saga of war heroes before.

Watermark by Joseph Brodsky (1992)

Watermark Joseph Brodsky

Russian poet and Nobel Laureate Joseph Brodsky (1940-1996) has written a beautiful and quirky book about Venice. These days when travelling is challenging, books can jet you to far away places. Brodsky introduces us Venice in forty-eight short stories that are inspired by his personal visits there. Venice in winter, Venice in summer, Venice when you are in love, Venice when you have just divorced, the visual splendor of Venice architecture, it is all there. Watermark is not a traditional travel book, it is a book about experiences, life, memories, our appetite for beauty and love. As Brodsky writes: water stores our reflections for when we are long gone (6). Brodsky´s stories transport you through the canals much better than any vaporetto could ever do.

PS 2. Joseph Brodsky is a great example of how literature unites people and even nations. He was a true liaison between two superpowers. Brodsky was an advocate of Russian tradition for poetry but when he moved to live in the United States, he was appointed as a Poet Laureate of his new home country (7).

All the books are found in several online bookstores

  • Peter Freuchen (1930) Ivalu the Eskimo wife, AMS Press

  • Ellen McArthur (2003) Taking on the world, Penguin Books

  • Simon Sinek, Infinite Game (2019), Penguin/Random House

  • Alan Weisman (2007) World Without Us, Harper & Collins

  • Pam Barker (2021), Women of Troy, Doubleday.

  • Joseph Brodsky (1992) Watermark, Penguin Books


(1) Peter Freuchen

(2) Ellen McArthur Foundation

(3) Vendee Globe

(4) Our Common Future, Brundtland report

(5) Simon Sinek, A Bit of Optimism, Podcast

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