The Snow Whale
By John Minichillo (Atticus Books, $14.95)
The blurb: A satirical retelling of "Moby-Dick," John Jacobs is a suburban office worker who takes a DNA test and finds out that he is part Inuit. Embracing his new identity, he declares it is his tribal right to hunt a whale.
Excerpt: "He tried on sunglasses and was drawn to the most expensive pair, thick-mirrored lenses like aviator goggles with leather guards that covered the eye sockets and kept out harsh winds. Jacobs looked in a mirror, and the reflected images of himself in the lens mirrors disappeared like long tunnels that bored through him and reached back.
" 'Excellent choice,' the mountain man said. The sunglasses cost as much as the boots, park, and battery-heated socks combined.
" 'The snow can be bright,' Jacobs said.
" 'Snow blindness,' the mountain man agreed.
"Later Jacobs was haunted by something the mountain man salesman had said.
" 'How do I keep warm,' Jacobs had asked, his face framed by the fake-fur parka hood and wearing the priceless snow goggles, 'if I get wet?'
" 'Don't get wet,' the man had said, as if it were that easy.
" 'But supposing I do get wet.'
" 'Don't get wet.' "
Alaska's Totem Poles
By Pat Kramer (Alaska Northwest Books, $14.95)
The blurb: Originally published in 2004, this revised edition provides up-to-date information about totem poles constructed by Native Americans in Southeast Alaska.
Excerpt: "The meanings and traditions surrounding totem poles have steadily evolved over the past two centuries. While old totems were a series of authorized crests and story figures relating to clan history or serving as memorials to deceased leaders, they also enhanced the status of the owners, and in rare cases advertised debts owed by other groups. Today the focus of totem poles is broader. Skillful Native master carvers improvise new crests based on traditional forms to immortalize their village founders, celebrated an historic state occasion, a scientific discovery, or cooperation between groups."
Alaskan History -- In Brief
By James K. Barnett (Todd Communications, $12.95)
The blurb: A lawyer and longtime president of the Cook Inlet Historical Society, author James K. Barnett condenses the history of Alaska's earliest settlers to the state we recognize today.
Excerpt: "When Alaska became a territory in 1912, the mouth of Ship Creek was uninhabited. Every other Alaska community was already established, but what is now Alaska's largest city was simply chosen by railroad crews as a convenient anchorage to discharge supplies and set up the railroad headquarters. A tent city of construction workers and suppliers quickly sprang up. The following year lots were auctioned on the bluff above the landing where downtown Anchorage is located today.
"Anchorage was not formally incorporated until 1920. In its first decade the city's population never exceeded 4,000. After the 1930s air transportation and military defense supplemented the economy. Merrill Field opened in 1930. Elmendorf Air Force Base and Fort Richardson were constructed in the 1940s. The international airport was built in 1951. It was only during the economic boom from World War II that the community became the center of Alaska's population, surpassing the more established Seward, Juneau and Fairbanks."
-- Compiled by Matt Sullivan, Anchorage Daily News