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Reading the North

The Melting Edge: Alaska at the Frontier of Climate Change

By Michael Collier (Alaska Geographic)

The blurb: Exploring the state of Alaska, the book examines vanishing sea ice, disappearing permafrost, receding glaciers and new challenges for plant and animal species to put scientific theories about climate change into real-world perspective.

Excerpt: "John Muir would be shocked if he were to return to Alaska today. In 1879, frozen white walls loomed above his canoe when, in the company of Tlingit Indians, he first explored Glacier Bay. Muir stared in awe as 'sunshine fell on the green waters of the fiord, the glittering bergs, the crystal bluffs of the vast glacier, the whole making a picture of icy wilderness unspeakably pure and sublime.' But times have changed and that ice has since retreated forty miles into the far fjords of what is now a national park and preserve.

"Sir John Franklin of the British Royal Navy was already a seasoned explorer when he set out in 1845, intending to sail east to west through the fabled Northwest Passage. But the expedition's two ships and 129 men were swallowed by the Arctic ice pack near Canada's King William Island. One hundred sixty years later, that ice pack has shrunk and now, in summer, boats can slip past the ice from Greenland to Alaska."

The Last Great Senate: Courage and Statesmanship in Times of Crisis

By Ira Shapiro (Public Affairs Books, $34.99)

The blurb: A former staff member for several senators, Ira Shapiro draws from historical documents, first-hand recollections and interviews to chronicle the Senate of the '60s and '70s. The issues that body faced included the formulation of a national energy policy and the preservation of Alaska lands, with Ted Stevens among the many senators portrayed.

Excerpt: "In later years, Stevens liked to describe himself as a 'mean, miserable SOB.' He often intimidated opponents through his power on the Appropriations Committee, his explosive temper, and his long memory for those who crossed him. But in 1980, he was the Republican whip, relatively moderate in his views, and respected for his willingness to make deals and stand by them. He had worked with Warren Magnuson on historic legislation to protect the nation's fisheries, and as a former government lawyer, he often stood up for the interests of federal workers. He had real friends across the aisle. He and his wife, Ann, were part of the Nelson social circle. The night that Tom Eagleton was dropped from the Democratic ticket by McGovern in 1972, Stevens cheered up a somber gathering of Eagleton and his closest friends by arriving unexpectedly with Alaskan Salmon."

-- Compiled by Matt Sullivan, Anchorage Daily News