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Reading the North

Mount Marathon: Alaska's Great Footrace

By Millie Spezialy (Alaska Northwest Books, $14.99)

The blurb: In its second edition, this book offers a history of the annual Mount Marathon race in Seward, from the legend that started it to interviews with many who have taken the challenge.

Excerpt: "Beer, bets, and bravado flowed freely at a local bar as Seward residents prepared to celebrate the Fourth of July in 1909. According to local legend, the residents wanted something more challenging than the greased pole climb and tug-of-war contest. 'How about a grueling footrace?' asked the man with a bushy beard. Heads nodded in agreement. A short, bald man jumped up and pointed out the window to the mountain towering behind the town. Then he slapped a bill on the bar. 'I've got a hundred dollars says nobady can run up and down that hill in under an hour.' "

Rock, Water, Wild

By Nancy Lord (Bison Books, $17.95)

The blurb: The former Alaska Writer Laureate offers this memoir, which includes tales of climbing peaks in the Brooks Range, sport fishing in the Russian Far East and musings on the importance of place and space in our lives.

Excerpt: "It was, as they say, a good day for ducks. Or geese. It was also a pretty typical day at the end of the Alaska Peninsula, that treeless edge-of-the-world country graced with three feet of annual precipitation, a mean wind velocity of over sixteen miles per hour, and, on average, a sparse thirteen cloud-free-days a year. The hard, shotgun blasts of wind-driven rain had eased off and left biologist Kristine Sowl and me in a steady, soaking drizzle that ran off our head-to-toe waterproof gear as we made our nest in the tall grass at the edge of Izembek Lagoon. On the water before us, between shore and the rain-shrouded barrier islands that separated us from the Bering Sea, thousands of geese paddled and rested and pulled at mouthfuls of stringy greens. This was life at the largest eelgrass bed in the world."

Compiled by Matt Sullivan, Anchorage Daily News