An excellent place to find Alaskan books is through the Alaska Natural History Association (907/274-8440, www.alaskanha.org). You can order several hundred nature books, maps, calendars, guides, and other titles online or through their print catalog.
A number of the books listed below are out of print, but you can find many of them in regional libraries, or check the Web for special orders. Two recommended sources for rare and out-of-print Alaskan books are Anchorage’s Title Wave Books (907/278-9283 or 888/598-9283, www.wavebooks.com) and Juneau’s The Observatory (907/586-9676, www.observatorybooks.com).
Art and Literature
Bancroft-Hunt, Norman. People of the Totem: The Indians of the Pacific Northwest. New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1989. A beautifully illustrated history of the art of Tlingit and other Northwest peoples. Out of print.
Bodett, Tom. As Far as You Can Go Without a Passport. New York: Perseus Publishing, www.perseusbooks.com, 1986. A collection of wry, bring-a-smile-to-your-face Alaska tales. Bodett’s other books include The End of the Road and Small Comforts. Out of print.
Jans, Nick. The Last Light Breaking. Anchorage: Alaska Northwest Books, www.gacpc.com, 1993. A beautifully written collection of essays about life in the Eskimo village of Ambler.
Jans, Nick. A Place Beyond. Anchorage: Alaska Northwest Books, www.gacpc.com, 1996. Another fine collection of stories by one of Alaska’s most observant writers.
Kizzia, Tom. The Wake of the Unseen Object. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, www.nebraskapress.unl.edu, 1998. A lovingly written journey through the wild heart of today’s Alaskan bush. Filled with insights into the clashing cultures of indigenous and white America.
Krakauer, Jon. Into the Wild. New York: Random House, www.randomhouse.com, 1997. Now a Hollywood movie, this is the tale of Chris McCandless, a young man whose 1992 death in the bush north of Denali does not merit the attention it received. The story is loved by many Outsiders, but viewed with disdain by many Alaskans.
London, Jack. The Call of the Wild. This gripping tale of a sled dog’s experience along the gold rush trail was Jack London’s most successful rendering of the spirit of the North. Reprint editions are available from several publishers.
Lopez, Barry. Arctic Dreams. New York: Random House, www.randomhouse.com, 2001. A wonderful exploration of the Arctic, with a mixture of scientific information and environmental thinking. Highly recommended.
Lopez, Barry. Of Wolves and Men. New York: Scribner, www.galegroup.com/scribners, 1982. An excellent discussion of the hunter-hunted dynamic.
Marshall, Robert. Alaska Wilderness: Exploring the Central Brooks Range. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, www.uscpress.edu, 1983. A thrilling account of the author’s exploration of the Central Brooks Range.
McGinniss, Joe. Going to Extremes. New York: Plume, 1989. One man’s journey to Alaska leads him to a series of characters as diverse as the state itself. This reissue of a 1980 book, though quite dated, is still popular with travelers.
McPhee, John. Coming into the Country. New York: Noonday Press, 2003. Even though it was actually written in the 1970s, this remains perhaps the best portrayal of Alaskan bush lifestyles ever written. It’s the book you’ll still see folks reading on the long ferry ride north.
Muir, John. Stickeen. Berkeley, CA: Heyday Books, www.heydaybooks.com, 1990. Originally published almost a century ago, this classic dog short story offers a vastly different take on Glacier Bay than that seen by the cruise ship tourists.
Schooler, Lynn. Blue Bear: A True Story of Friendship, Tragedy and Survival in the Alaskan Wilderness. New York: Harper-Collins Publishers, www.harpercollins.com, 2002. This beautifully crafted memoir chronicles Schooler’s life and how it was changed by Michio Hoshino, the renowned wildlife photographer killed by a grizzly in 1996.
Service, Robert. Collected Poems. New York: Putnam Publishing, www.penguingroup.com, 1989. No one has ever better captured the flavor of northern life than the poet Robert Service.
Stewart, Hilary. Looking at Indian Art of the Northwest Coast. Seattle: University of Washington Press, www.washington.edu/uwpress, 2003. A concise analysis of the art forms of this powerful culture.
Stewart, Hilary. Looking at Totem Poles. Seattle: University of Washington Press, www.washington.edu/uwpress, 2003. Details on the history and art of more than 100 totem poles in Alaska and British Columbia.
Walker, Spike. Working on the Edge. New York: St. Martin’s Press, www.stmartins.com, 2003. Harrowing tales from the edge of the abyss—working the king-crab boats of the Bering Sea in the boom years of the 1970s and early 1980s, when the financial stakes were almost as high as the risks to life. Read it before you even consider working on a crab boat.
Description and Travel
Alaska Almanac. Anchorage: Alaska Northwest Books, www.gacpc.com, published annually. A rich source of useful information about the state, all in one compact volume.
Alaska Atlas & Gazetteer. Freeport, ME: DeLorme Mapping, www.delorme.com, 2004. This large book of up-to-date topographic maps is a wise investment if you plan to explore the more remote parts of Alaska. Very easy to use.
Alaska Wilderness Guide. Augusta, GA: Morris Communications, www.morris.com, 2001. A good source for general information on all of Alaska’s villages and cities, as well as its many wild places.
Colby, Merle. A Guide to Alaska. New York: MacMillan, 1939. Written over half a century ago, this Federal Writers’ Project guide to Alaska has never been surpassed. Out of print, but can be found in a good library.
Hempstead, Andrew. Moon Western Canada. Berkeley, CA: Avalon Travel Publishing, www.moon.com, 2010. Like this travel guide, Andrew Hempstead’s titles are part of the Moon Handbooks series. He provides excellent advice for travelers in British Columbia and Yukon, Alaska’s neighbors to the east.
Howard, Jim. Guide to Sea Kayaking in Southeast Alaska: The Best Trips and Tours from Misty Fjords to Glacier Bay. Old Saybrook, CT: Globe Pequot Press, www.globepequot.com, 1999. This book describes 41 Southeast Alaska kayak trips.
Jettmar, Karen. Alaska’s Glacier Bay. Anchorage: Alaska Northwest Books, www.gacpc.com, 1997. A good little sourcebook for park information.
Jettmar, Karen. The Alaska River Guide. Anchorage: Alaska Northwest Books, www.gacpc.com, 1998. Filled with vital information for anyone planning to float the more than 100 rivers in Alaska.
Larson, Richard. Mountain Bike Alaska—49 Trails in the 49th State. Anchorage: Glacier House Publications, 1991. An outdated but reasonably complete look at mountain biking in Alaska.
The Milepost. Augusta, GA: Morris Communications, www.themilepost.com, published annually. For motorists, this publication—in existence for more than 60 years—is the best guidebook to Alaska. The highway maps and description make it a must if you’re driving north. Although the information is accurate and comprehensive, specific listings of hotels, bars, and restaurants are limited to advertisers, and the ads don’t tell the whole story.
Moore, Terris. Mt. McKinley: The Pioneer Climbs. Seattle: The Mountaineers, www.mountaineers.org, 1981. An exciting history of the challenge to climb North America’s highest mountain.
Nienhueser, Helen, and John Wolfe Jr. 55 Ways to the Wilderness in Southcentral Alaska. Seattle: The Mountaineers, www.mountaineers.org, 2002. A compact trail guide, complete with maps, photos, and descriptions of the best the region has to offer.
Praetorius, Pete, and Alys Culhane. Alaska Bicycle Touring Guide. Juneau: Denali Press, 1992. The best source for cyclists planning a trip around Alaska and Yukon.
Quick, Daniel L. Kenai Canoe Trails. Anchorage: Todd Publications, 1997. A very helpful guide to canoe routes within Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.
Romano-Lax, Andromeda. How to Rent a Public Cabin in Southcentral Alaska. Berkeley, CA: Wilderness Press, www.wildernesspress.com, 2003. An enjoyable and detailed guide to dozens of Forest Service and state park cabins.
Shepherd, Shane, and Owen Wozniak. 50 Hikes in Alaska’s Chugach State Park. Seattle: The Mountaineers, www.mountaineers.org, 2001. An informative guide to hiking in the second-largest state park in the country.
Skillman, Don. Adventure Kayaking: Trips in Glacier Bay. Berkeley, CA: Wilderness Press, www.wildernesspress.com, 1998. A helpful guide to sea kayaking around Glacier Bay.
Wayburn, Peggy. Adventuring in Alaska. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, www.sierraclub.org/books, 1998. A guide to the remote wilderness regions of Alaska and how to get there.
Adney, Tappan. Klondike Stampede. Vancouver, Canada: University of British Columbia Press, www.ubcpress.ubc.ca, 1995. The best and most readable book on Alaska’s gold rush.
Berton, Pierre. The Klondike Fever. New York: Perseus Books, www.perseusbooks.com, 2003. Originally published in 1958, this remains the definitive account of the gold rush.
Chevigny, Hector. Lord of Alaska. Portland, OR: Binford & Mort, 1971. Biography of Alexander Baranof, manager of the Russian-American Company 1791–1817. Out of print.
Cohen, Stan. The Forgotten War. Missoula, MT: Pictorial Histories Publishing, 1993. A pictorial history of World War II in Alaska and northwestern Canada.
Greiner, James. Wager with the Wind: The Don Sheldon Story. New York: St. Martin’s Press, www.stmartins.com, 1982. The true story of one of the state’s most famous bush pilots.
Heller, Herbert L. Sourdough Sagas. Cleveland: World Publishing, 1967. Colorful tales of mishap and adventure among Alaska’s prospecting pioneers. Out of print.
Morgan, Murray. One Man’s Gold Rush: A Klondike Album. Seattle: University of Washington Press, www.washington.edu/uwpress, 1995. A feast of gold-rush photography.
Muir, John. Travels in Alaska. Written in 1915, this is Muir’s classic narration of his experiences on the Stikine River and at Glacier Bay during 1879, 1880, and 1890. Several publishers offer reprints.
Neufeld, David, and Frank Norris. Chilkoot Trail, Heritage Route to the Klondike. Whitehorse, Yukon: Lost Moose Publishing, 1996. A fascinating book about the gold rush, filled with black-and-white photos.
Okun, S. B. The Russian-American Company. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1951. This translation from the Russian gives a different view of Alaska in the period up to 1867. Out of print.
Oman, Lela Kiana. The Epic of Qayaq: The Longest Story Ever Told by My People. Seattle: University of Washington Press, www.washington.edu/uwpress, 1995. The story of the Inupiat people of the Kobuk Valley as told in stories passed down though the generations. Beautifully illustrated. The author is a respected elder in Nome.
Sherwood, Morgan B. Exploration of Alaska, 1865–1900. Fairbanks: University of Alaska Press, www.uaf.edu/uapress, 1992. This reprint of the 1965 book details the opening of the Interior.
Wilson, Graham, and Clelie Rich, editors. The Klondike Gold Rush: Photographs from 1896–1899. Whitehorse, Yukon: Wolf Creek Books, 2003. An excellent collection of historical photos from the Klondike gold rush.
Hulten, Eric. Flora of Alaska and Neighboring Territories. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, www.sup.org, 1968. A huge manual of vascular plants—highly technical, but easy to consult.
Matsen, Brad. Ray Troll’s Shocking Fish Tales. Anchorage: Alaska Northwest Books, www.gacpc.com, 1993. Illustrated by Ray Troll, outrageous fish artist par excellence, this book offers a mix of scientific and philosophical ramblings about creatures of the sea. Great fun.
Murie, Adolph. A Naturalist in Alaska. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, www.uapress.arizona.edu, 1990. This reprint of a 1961 classic still offers excellent insight into the fauna of Alaska.
Murie, Adolph. The Wolves of Mount McKinley. Seattle: University of Washington Press, www.washington.edu/uwpress, 1985. Another Murie classic, originally published in 1944.
O’Clair, Rita M., Robert H. Armstrong, and Richard Carstensen. The Nature of Southeast Alaska. Anchorage: Alaska Northwest Books, www.gacpc.com, 2003. See the world through the naturalists’ eyes in this beautifully illustrated guide to the lives of animals and plants in Southeast Alaska.
Sydeman, Michelle, and Annabel Lund. Alaska Wildlife Viewing Guide. Old Saybrook, CT: Globe Pequot Press, www.globepequot.com, 1996. A small helpful guide to the state’s animals.
Walker, Tom. River of Bears. Stillwater, MN: Voyageur Press, 1993. The story of the McNeil River and the bears that have made it a favorite of photographers. Photos by Larry Aumiller, the Fish and Game employee who guides hundreds of visitors each summer. Out of print.
Wynne, Kate. Guide to Marine Mammals of Alaska. Fairbanks: University of Alaska, 1997. An outstanding easy-to-use guide to the whales, seals, porpoises, sea lions, and other sea mammals around Alaska. Perfect for anyone riding the ferryboats or heading out on a wildlife tour. Out of print.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition