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Reading the North

Finding the Arctic

By Matthew Sturm (University of Alaska Press, Fairbanks, $24.95)

The blurb: Arctic researcher Matthew Sturm weaves tales from the region into the tale of his own story of a 2,500-mile snowmobile expedition across Alaska and Canada.

Excerpt: "As is so often the case, the idea for a trek across a bleak frozen wilderness surfaced in a warm place: the back room of Jon Holmgren's machine shop. Jon and I met the first summer I arrived in Fairbanks, 1981. A lanky twenty-five-year-old living at the Sandvik House, the local hangout for mountain climbers, Jon was renting the closet behind the stairs as a bedroom. I was a new graduate student looking for climbing partners and we hit it off immediately. Our first big climb together was a winter ski ascent of Mt. Sanford, a 16,237-foot glacier-covered volcano in southcentral Alaska. High on the peak, when a third member of our expedition became ill and things looked grim, I first learned that Jon was calm in a crisis and wise beyond his years. We got our sick partner down the mountain intact and went on to climb several more big Alaska mountains, cementing a thirty-year friendship."

Highland Hunger

By Hannah Howell, Michele Sinclair and Jackie Ivie (Kensington Books, $15)

The blurb: These three novellas by three authors, including one by Alaskan Jackie Ivie, offer tales of secret vampire clans in the Scottish Highlands.

Excerpt: "He hated sailors. Especially the drunken ones

"Iain lifted his head, pulling back his teeth at the same time and grimacing on the cheap gin odor that filled his nostrils, dimming any enjoyment. It was the same with every sailor they brought him. Sotted. With cheap gin. Or cheaper whiskey. Nothing a Scot would allow past their lips. And here Iain was, destined to consume it.

"The man at his feet shook slightly and groaned. His eyelashes quivered.

" 'We need leave. Your Grace.'

" 'Aye. Now.' "

Frontier Romance: Environment, Culture, and Alaska Identity

By Judith Kleinfeld (University of Alaska Press, Fairbanks, $17.95)

The blurb: Kleinfeld offers this study of the cultural influence of America's love of the frontier, arguing that the frontier narrative enables Americans to live deliberately, gather courage, take risks, face danger and seize freedom.

Excerpt: "In the American Imagination, the West has always represented a realm of dramatic possibility. No quest could be more magnificent or more fantastic than the quest to create a new and more perfect society. Ideal societies have always existed in the human imagination -- the Garden of Eden, the City of God, Homer's Elysian Fields, El Dorado, Shangri-La, Mount Mero of Hindu lore. Sir Thomas Moore coined the term utopia (a clever wordplay in the Greek, signifying at once 'no place' and 'good place') in his description of an imaginary island off the coast of America, free from the evils of contemporary England. The utopian dream takes a multitude of forms, each version correcting the particular faults of the society of the time."

Compiled by Matt Sullivan, Anchorage Daily News