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Reading the north

Iditarod Alaska: Life of a Long Distance Sled Dog Musher

By Burt Bomhoff (Publication Consultants, $19.95)

The blurb: The longtime musher tells the story of his time in Alaska. Starting in 1980, he works his way through his time running sled dog teams, telling his story from personal experience and many pictures.

Excerpt: "I am a dog musher. I've been many other things in my life, challenging things. I've been a professional engineer, designing miles of roads and highways and water systems and sewer systems. I've managed multi-million dollar construction projects. I've been a surveyor, laying out subdivisions and staking massive construction projects, including much of the TransAlaska pipeline. I've been a commercial pilot, flying the Alaska wilderness through white-outs, blizzards, teeth-rattling turbulence and tortuous mountain passes. I've been a U.S. mineral surveyor, staking hundreds of claims. Now I am a dog musher and I'm excited.

"Find a comfortable place to relax, and I'll tell you the story."

A Short Bright Flash

By Theresa Lefitt (W.W. Norton & Company, $25.95)

The blurb: This book tells the story of Augustin Fresnel, the creator of the lenses used in lighthouses starting in the early 1800s. His lens changed the brightness and range of the lighthouses across the globe, including the Cape Spencer Lighthouse in Alaska.

Excerpt: "One story alone dominated newspaper headlines in the autumn of 1817: the tragic, grisly fate of the passengers and crew on the French frigate la Meduse. As lurid new details emerged from the trial of the ship's court-martialed captain, victim Hugues Duroy de Chaumareys, and from the published account by two survivors, Parisians could talk of little else. The frigate had run aground on the Bank of Arguin, off the west coast of Africa, on July 2, 1816. With too little space in the lifeboats for everyone aboard, the crew cobbled together a makeshift, twenty-by-sixty-foot raft of planks and broken masts. Leaving a few crew members with the ship, de Chaumareys directed one woman and 146 men onto the raft, mostly soldiers, both French and mercenary, but also colonists bound for Senegal, and a few of the ship's officers. He promised, loudly and frequently, that the more seaworthy lifeboats would tow the raft to shore. The operation proved difficult, however, and the occupants of the raft soon saw the crew on the captain's lifeboat hacking at the towrope with a hatchet and crying 'We abandon them!' "

Dolls Behaving Badly

By Cinthia Ritchie (Grand Central Publishing, $13.99)

The blurb: The Anchorage-based author's novel is framed as a collection of diary entries and letters that detail a struggling divorcee who is trying to live her dream as an artist.

Excerpt: "Thursday, Sept. 15, 2005

"This is my diary, my pathetic little conversation with myself. No doubt I will burn it halfway through. I've never been one to finish anything. Mother used to say this was because I was born during a full moon, but like everything she says, it doesn't make a lick of sense.

"It isn't even the beginning of the year. Or even the month. It's not even my birthday. I'm starting, typical of me, impulsively, in the middle of September. I'm starting with the facts.

"I'm thirty-eight years old. I've slept with nineteen and a half men.

"I live in Alaska, not the wild parts but smack in the middle of Anchorage, with the Walmart and Home Depot squatting over streets littered with moose poop."

Compiled by Chad Walker, Anchorage Daily News