Reading the North: "Alaska Almanac," "I Am Alaskan"

Kathleen Macknicki

Alaska Almanac: Facts About Alaska, 34th Edition

Nancy Gates with the wacky wisdom of Mr. Whitekeys (Alaska Northwest Books, $17.99)

The blurb: Since 1976, "The Alaska Almanac" has been an indispensable reference for those who are traveling to the North or those who already know and love it but want to impress others with their encyclopedic knowledge of Alaska's fascinating past and present. The guide offers accurate, timely facts on geography, history, economy, employment, recreation, trophy records, climate and people of the state. Learn about the largest lake, tallest mountain, longest coastline, biggest cabbage, most acreage in national parks and more.

Excerpt: The Sourdough Expedition

In 1906, explorer Frederick Cook announced that he and a companion had conquered Mount McKinley. Cook provided detailed reports of the alleged climb, as well as a photograph of himself at the summit. He was hailed by the gullible New York press (as) a celebrity. Cook's claims did not play well in the saloons of Fairbanks where, in late 1909, a group of miners led by Tom Lloyd decided no Easterner should be first to reach Denali's summit. Thus arose the "Sourdough Expedition." Lloyd and six partners -- none with climbing experience -- set off in the dead of winter. Before they reached the mountain, a fist fight broke out and three turned back. The remaining four began their assault in March 1910, without ropes and carrying a 14-foot flagpole to plant at the top. In a remarkable sustained climb of 18 hours, two of the party negotiated the final 9,000-foot ascent of McKinley's north peak, planted their pole, and came down -- unaware that the south peak was actually 850 feet higher. Their exploit is still considered one of mountaineering's most astonishing feats.

I Am Alaskan

Brian Adams (Snowy Owl Books, $50)

The blurb: What does an Alaskan look like? When asked to visualize someone from Alaska, the image most people conjure up is one of a face lost in a parka, surrounded by snow. Missing from this image is the vibrant diversity of those who call themselves Alaskans, as well as the true essence of the place. Brian Adams, a rising star in photography, aims to change all this with his captivating new collection, "I Am Alaskan."

In this full-color tribute, Adams entices us to reconsider our ideas of this unique and compelling land and its equally individual residents. He captures subjects on urban streets and rural villages, revealing what daily life in Alaska is really like. The portraits focus on moments both ordinary and extraordinary, serious and playful, while capturing Alaskans at their most natural. Subjects range from Alaska Native villagers to rarely seen portraits of famous Alaskans including Sarah Palin, Vic Fischer and Lance Mackey. Through photographs, Adams also explores his own half-Inupiat, half-Alaskan American identity in the process, revealing how he came to define himself and the state in which he lives. Frame by frame, Adams powerfully and honestly shows what it means to be Alaskan.

There is no excerpt because this is a book of photographs.

Compiled by Kathleen Macknicki, Anchorage Daily News.

By Kathleen Macknicki
Anchorage Daily News