Reading the North

Not Afraid of Life: My Journey so Far

By Bristol Palin with Nancy French (William Morrow, $15.99)

The blurb: In her memoir, the daughter of former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin tells of growing up in Alaska, being a single mother and coming of age amid the media frenzy of her mother's political rise.

Excerpt: "To be honest, I wasn't actively following the presidential race of 2008. Though I knew John McCain was the GOP nominee and Barack Obama was the Democratic one, I was so obsessed with my pregnancy, my future, and -- oh yes -- Levi that I didn't care who should be McCain's running mate.

"One day, a Wednesday in late August, Dad came home from the Slope early and announced Mom had left for a business trip.

"Though Mom must've been excited about her journey, she didn't let on the night before she left. She simply said good-bye and walked out the door with her little bag like she'd done many times before. But this time, she was traveling not to Juneau or to Fairbanks. This time, she was heading to Sedona, Arizona, to John and Cindy McCain's place. Apparently, Senator McCain wanted to talk to her to determine if he should select her to run with him as the vice presidential candidate."

Call of the American Wild: A Tenderfoot's Escape to Alaska

By Guy Grieve (Skyhorse Publishing, $24.95)

The blurb: Born in South Africa to Italian and Scottish parents, Guy Grieve left his desk job and escaped to Alaska, where he built a log cabin from scratch and carved a life for himself through fishing, hunting and diligently avoiding bears.

Excerpt: "A tiny passenger plane with a pencil-like fuselage taxied towards the departure hut at Anchorage airport where I sat. Around me were seven other people who I could see were from the Interior. Most of them were indigenous Alaskans, and they were surrounded by boxes and bags packed with everything from tools to fresh fruit and peanut butter. Opposite me a fat woman dressed in a tracksuit sat talking to her dog, which simpered and pawed while delivering a series of wet licks that landed squarely on her lips. Her size and dark clothing made her look like a seal, and I felt for her, as it was hard to avoid the feeling that she was a lonely person. Harder to imagine what her life might be like in the thinly populated Interior."

Discovering Totem Poles: A Traveler's Guide

By Aldona Jonaitis (University of Washington Press)

The blurb: This guidebook focuses on the histories specific totem poles found in areas from Seattle to Juneau, debunking many myths about the poles while exploring the stories behind the creation and displays 90 of them

Excerpt: "If there is one photograph of nineteenth-century totem poles that eclipses all others, it is the image of Skidegate, Haida Gwaii, taken in 1878 by George Mercer Dawson. A long row of pitched-roof dwellings built of cedar planks faces a curving beach. At least twenty poles rise above the houses, their people and animals gazing toward the water. Large dugout canoes on the cobbles are ready to transport residents from the village. It is a magnificent and majestic scene. There is no way for a viewer to know this image is deceptive in its apparent peacefulness and beauty."

Compiled by Matt Sullivan, Anchorage Daily News