Alaska is about seven times the size of the United Kingdom. One of America’s toughest and least-known battles of World War II was in Alaska. It is the land of the midnight sun in summer and the shockingly short days in winter. The wilderness of Alaska is simply astounding. There is so much interest and awe surrounding Alaska. Some of the books about Alaska that should populate your bookshelf are listed below.
1. Shadows of the Koyukuk by Sidney Huntington
This book is Sidney Huntington’s memoir documenting how he grew up along the Koyukuk River in Alaska’s harsh interior. His mother, a native, died when he was five years old, forcing him to be the one to protect his siblings. When he was a teenager, he went hunting with his father and almost froze to death several times. One time he watched a flood wash away their cabin with their belongings. These and many other stories offer a vivid mental picture of life in Alaska.
2. One Man’s Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey by Richard Proenneke
This book is also the author’s memoir. Richard tells the story of how he came to live in Alaska. Alone, he cut trees by hand to build a log cabin and make what he needed from material that was available. He was alone in the Alaskan wilderness with only the chain of nature’s events to keep him company. The whole time he was content with his own company.
This book is a meticulously crafted masterpiece showing not only the harshness of Alaska’s climate but also the wealth of the flora and fauna in that land. It is an amazing good read.
3. The Fire Cracker Boys by Dan O’Neil
In 1958, a team of scientists led by the father of the H-Bomb, Edward Heller, unveiled a plan to build a new harbor in Alaska. They called the project “Project Chariot.” The plan was to blow up six nuclear bombs off the coast of Alaska to create a new harbor. The plan was blocked by some Eskimos and a biologist. But still, some of the land marked was left with radioactive contamination.
This book is well researched. It gives impressive historical accounts capturing political maneuvers and an impressive fight to keep the land safe and unpolluted.
4. Two Old Women by Velma Wallis
Velma Wallis tells a story based on an Athabascan folklore. It is the story of two women in a village who are known to complain more than they contribute. During a severe winter famine, they are abandoned by their tribe and left to survive on their own or die. The author creates heroines out of these two women at the same time she paints a mental image of a landscape that can give plenty of yield and other times be unforgiving and brutal.
5. Ordinary Wolves by Seth Kantner
This book gives a vivid feel of life in Alaska. It follows the life of Cutuk Hawcly and his experiences in harsh Alaska. Since he is a white boy, the native children do not like him very much. And after an accident that he caused, he finds himself caught in between cultures.
This book gives vivid mental images of how living in Alaska could be. It draws away from the postcard pictures of Alaska to give a harsher reality. It is definitely a book worth reading.
6. Coming to the Country by John McPhee
This is a brilliant account of the land that is Alaska and the people of Alaska. This book fuses the observed landscape, characters, and descriptive narrative to give a breathtaking tapestry of culture. It describes the wilderness, the urban Alaska, and also life in the remoteness of the bush. It is an amazing book to read.