Alaska recommended reading fact or fiction

Old Mar 29th, 2009, 02:20 PM
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Alaska recommended reading fact or fiction

Does anyone have recommendations for a good read that will set the flavor for our upcoming Alaska trip? Love a good historical fiction that would set the mood. And for the factual info - the gold rush, the people's early history, founding as a territory/state, etc., that is not a dry read.
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Old Mar 29th, 2009, 02:58 PM
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I enjoyed Peter Jenkins' Looking For Alaska. He spent time in several towns. One interesting part was about people who live miles from a main road so a trip to town might be a 60 mile snowmobile trip. Twice I was able to get out-of-print Tisha at the Title Wave bookstore (remind me never to lend a special book again). True story about teaching in a remote town back in the 1900s. Racism and a hard way of life. There are quite a few books about the Iditarod. Joe Reddington's biography was good background for what it was like to live in AK when sled dogs were the major form of transportation and hauling freight. The writing could have been better but his adventures esp when he decided to buy a plane were great. The Pratt Museum in Homer has a short video about homesteading in the 50s which was just about the time my parents were settling into the new suburbia. Such a contrast. I've heard stories about someone's grandmother who slept in a tent with a gun under her pillow and another grandmother who drove a logging truck back in the day. If you are planning to visit Skagway, the historical books are worth a read just to know and understand what went on back then. The Title Wave is a huge bookstore and well worth a visit.
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Old Mar 29th, 2009, 04:15 PM
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Is this the bookstore in Anchorage?
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Old Mar 29th, 2009, 06:32 PM
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I enjoyed the novel Alaska by James Michener.
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Old Mar 29th, 2009, 09:32 PM
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"Coming into the country" by John Mcphee is my favorite ( http://www.johnmcphee.com/comingintocountry.htm )

"Last Light Breaking : Living Among Alaska's Inupiat Eskimos" by Nick Jans ... he lived in a small village (Ambler, I think) teaching at a native school and exploring in his spare time, and writes beatifully. He also writes a popular monthly column for Alaska Magazine and is a really good guy (I met him in Juneau once while waiting for a flight and chatted for half an hour or so). Nick is also the author of an excellent book on the madness of Timothy McVeigh, who fell in love with grizzlies but came to an untimely end ... that one is called "The Grizzly Maze : Timothy Treadwell's Fatal Obsession with Alaskan Bears" and is not a 'general purpose' book but very easy to read.

I enjoyed Michener's "Alaska" that Connie recommended but it's pretty long.
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Old Mar 29th, 2009, 09:43 PM
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There are several novels by Dana Stabenow (sp?) featuring a female native private investigator and set in rural Alaska. No one will ever confuse them with great literature but she's a pretty good writer and Kate (her protaganist) is an interesting character.
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Old Mar 29th, 2009, 09:49 PM
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My choice would also be Coming into the Country - pushing 30 years old but still as evocative as h3ll.

...And now for something completely different, have a go at Michael Chabon's amazing The Yiddish Policemen's Union, a mystery set in an alternate-history Southeast Alaska populated by Jews following the collapse of Israel in the War of Independence. Fabulous read.
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Old Mar 30th, 2009, 01:25 AM
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The book you want to read is Alaska by James Michner.

I know he is out of fashion now but he does write the definitive history of a place. He writes the entire history of the state beginning with the native people. He writes about each generation, how Alaska was first settled, the native wildlife, the native people, the Russians, the Americans, the gold rush, all the way to present day.

It meets all your criteria. It is a good historical read that cotains a lot of factual information but is not a "dry" book at all.
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Old Mar 30th, 2009, 04:49 AM
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Yes, the Title Wave is in Anchorage.
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Old Mar 30th, 2009, 10:14 AM
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...you either love Michener or not...I'm a fan and have read several of his books so know his style. Never read Alaska but have Journey book on tape which I understand is an excerpt of Alaska...I think I'll give it a go, as well as look into other suggestions above. Looks like I'll be armed with reading material
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Old Mar 30th, 2009, 11:23 AM
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I'll second (or third) Coming into the Country and add Going to Extremes by Joe McGinnis. Both are old but will give you a real feel. Jenkins falls into easy cliches IMO.
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Old Mar 30th, 2009, 11:25 AM
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When I was a teenager, one of my favorite books was Ice Palace by Edna Ferber.
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Old Apr 2nd, 2009, 04:19 AM
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Drop City by ?? Boyle is on the list of 1001 books you must read before you die. It's about the clash/interaction of a hippie community and the Alaskan residents. Interesting reading and provided interesting color on life in the interior.
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Old Apr 2nd, 2009, 05:20 PM
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Looking For Alaska
Peter Jenkins

I'm not the first to recommend it.
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Old Apr 2nd, 2009, 05:24 PM
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"To build a fire" and of course the dog story by the same author.
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Old Apr 2nd, 2009, 05:35 PM
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Yet another vote for Coming into the Country.

And here are two that haven't been mentioned yet:

"Good Time Girls", by Lael Morgan---the true account of the "ladies of the night" who migrated to the Klondike (Dawson City) and on to Fairbanks. Lots of photos and interesting stories.

If you like mysteries, anything by Sitka resident John Straley, Alaksa's "Novelist Laureate" for 2007.

"The Last Run: the True Story of Rescue and Redemption on Alaska's Seas", by Todd Lewan. This is a gripping and very readable account of a rescue by the Coast Guard. You'll learn a lot about Southeast Alaska, the life of a fisherman, and helicopters. Amazing.
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Old Apr 3rd, 2009, 01:10 AM
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Looks like I'll not only be able to get into the mood for the trip but will be able to prolong the adventure sometime afterward. I have purchased Alaska as the first read and will definitely look into the other suggestions. Don't you just love a good book?
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Old Apr 11th, 2009, 02:06 PM
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This was a good post to read as I was thinking I should read some Alaska themed books befoere the trip. Thanks to all!
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Old Apr 21st, 2009, 02:46 PM
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I also really enjoyed "Looking for Alaska". Also "One Man's Wilderness", Richard Proenneke and "Walking My Dog Jane", Ned Rozell. I think LFA I could relate to the best because he is traveling Alaska and a lot takes place in Seward. You really get an insight into the people of Alaska. OMW is about a guy who goes off into the wilderness, builds a cabin by hand and lives alone, very fascinating and amazing how he did it. WMDJ is about a guy who walks w/ his dog the entire pipeline from Valdez to Prudhoe. Very enjoyable. All are nonfiction, all are very good. IMHO
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