An Alaska Reading List
Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are. Whether planning a future visit to Anchorage, reliving past Alaska travels, or just looking for a diversion, here are a few titles of the north to fill shelf and screen.
Old-School Alaska Lit
"Travels in Alaska" / John Muir
“To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world.” John Muir penned one of the most quoted lines in all of Alaska literature. Muir recorded his experiences traveling Alaska as the 20th century approached on his way to fame as one of the nation's most eloquent and well-known outdoor writers.
"Alaska" / James Michener
The granddaddy of Alaska epics, this weighty work of historical fiction zooms through thousands of years of Alaska, from mammoths to the oil boom.
"Call of the Wild" / Jack London
The gold rush grit, frontier towns, and intrepid animals of Jack London's books inform popular perceptions of frontier Alaska to this day; look no further than the recently-released Disney movie starring Harrison Ford and a CGI sled dog.
Alaska Native Voices
"Hyperboreal" / Joan Kane
Inupiaq poet Joan Naviyuk Kane grew up in Anchorage. In a 2013 interview she spoke of how "The perspective afforded by the Alaskan landscape; not just in and near the Arctic, but even in Anchorage constitutes a significant part of my voice.”
"Shem Pete’s Alaska"
A perspective on Anchorage that predates Anchorage itself. Athabascan elder Shem Pete shared his life experiences with James Kari and James Fall. Filled with Dena'ina Athabascan place names for the Anchorage area, as well as stories and personal experiences.
"A Dena’ina Legacy" / Peter Kalifornsky
Nearly 150 of Peter Kalifornsky’s writings. Language lessons, songs, and poems presented in the Dena’ina language, with side-by-side English translations.
"Two Old Women" / Velma Wallis
Wallis retells a classic tale of two Athabascan women who must survive on their own during a brutal winter famine.
"The Bright Edge of the World" / Eowyn Ivey
The follow-up to Ivey’s well-received first novel “Snow Child.” An 1880s expedition up the frozen Wolverine River tests both those in the party and the bonds between a husband and wife separated.
Alaska Quarterly Review
Essays, stories, and poems fill each edition of Alaska’s premiere literary journal. For more than 30 years, it’s collected Alaska voices – and its share of awards and acclaim.
The Kate Shugak Series / Dana Stabenow
The Anchorage-born author’s mystery series chronicles the investigations and exploits of Kate Shugak in more than a dozen books.
Alaska Sets the Scene
"The Wind is Not a River" / Brian Payton
Helen Easley struggles to find her husband, a reporter who disappeared over Attu during World War II, amid a military invasion and communications blackout.
"Yiddish Policeman’s Union" / Michael Chabon
A Sitka, Alaska, detective story set in an alternate timeline in which a 1940s plan to settle Alaska through immigration of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe was put into place.
"My Coyote Nose and Ptarmigan Toes" / Erin McKittrick
A kid takes the form of a bear, coyote, snail, moose, mountain goat, and other wild creatures on his family’s epic trek across Alaska. The landscapes and animals come to life with cut-paper artwork illustrations by Valisa Higman.
"Arrow to Alaska" / Hannah Viano
Seaplanes, floating houses, and thoughts of a life at sea fill a young boy’s first adventure north from Seattle to visit his grandfather.
"My Alaskan Adventure" / Claudia McGehee
Artist Rockwell Kent and his 9-year-old son Rocky lived on Fox Island during the winter of 1918-19. This story shares the experience from the boy’s point of view as he roves the island, combs the shore, and watches the ever-changing waters of Resurrection Bay.