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Best Alaska books for 2012

  • Author: Amy Fletcher
  • Updated: December 2, 2017
  • Published December 25, 2012

Notable Alaska-related books published in 2012 include "The Snow Child" by Eowyn Ivey, a fiction book that garnered national attention, and "Haa Léelk'w Hás Aaní Saax'ú / Our Grandparents' Names on the Land," an atlas of Southeast Alaska Native place names compiled over years of research and interviews with elders.

The following list of books includes titles that have an Alaska connection, either through their authors or their subjects. The roundup is not intended to be exhaustive and includes only those books published or reissued in 2012. Visit local bookstores for more information and many more titles.

Fiction and poetry

"The Snow Child: A Novel" by Eowyn Ivey; Reagan Arthur / Back Bay Books. Part novel, part fairy tale, this book tells the story of a mysterious girl who comes to live with a lonely couple in their cabin in Alaska.

"The North End of the World" Dave Hunsaker and Christopher Shy; Black Watch Comics. "The North End of the World" is a historical fiction graphic novel written by Juneau's Dave Hunsaker and illustrated by Christopher Shy, and is based on the experiences of photographer Edward Curtis and his relationship with the Kwakiutl Indians.

"The City Beneath the Snow: Stories" by Marjorie Kowalski Cole; University of Alaska Press. This is the final collection of stories by award-winning Alaska writer Marjorie Kowalski Cole, who died in 2009.

"The Rabbits Could Sing," poems by Amber Flora Thomas; University of Alaska Press. A new collection of poems from Amber Flora Thomas, Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

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"The Cormorant Hunter's Wife" by Joan Kane; University of Alaska Press. A book of poetry inspired by the author's Iñupiaq Eskimo heritage and roots on King Island and Mary's Igloo, Alaska.

"Steam Laundry" by Nicole Stellon O'Donnell; Boreal Books. "Steam Laundry" is a novel in poems, and is based on the true story of Sarah Ellen Gibson, a miner's wife who lived during the Klondike and Alaska gold rushes.

"When Captain Flint Was Still a Good Man" by Nick Dybek; Riverhead. A novel and a coming of age story that centers on Northwest Coast fishermen.

"The Storms of Denali" by Nicholas O'Connell; University of Alaska Press. In this novel, Seattle-based mountaineer and writer Nicholas O'Connell uses his own experiences to give reality to the challenges faced by his characters.

Alaska Native interest

"Haa Léelk'w Hás Aaní Saax'ú / Our Grandparents' Names on the Land" by Thomas F. Thornton; University of Washington Press, Sealaska Heritage Institute. This book presents the results of a collaborative project with Native communities of Southeast Alaska to record indigenous geographic names, documenting and analyzing more than 3,000 place names, primarily Tlingit and Haida.

"Kesu': The Art and Life of Doug Cranmer" by Jennifer Kramer; University of Washington Press. This book chronicles the life and influence of Kwakwaka'wakw artist Doug Cranmer.

"Discovering Totem Poles: A Traveler's Guide" by Aldona Jonaitis; University of Washington Press. A guidebook that focuses on selected totem poles in communities along the Northwest Coast, including Juneau, with descriptions that set the poles in their historical context.

"Seekers and Travellers: Contemporary Art of the Pacific Northwest Coast" by Gary Wyatt; University of Washington Press. A collection of work by 36 acclaimed Northwest coast artists, with accompanying statements from the artists.

"Carvings and Commerce: Model Totem Poles, 1880-2010" by Michael D. Hall and Pat Glascock; University of Washington. This book traces the history of model totem poles from the end of the 19th century to the present.

"The Alutiit/Sugpiat: A Catalog of the Collections of the Kunstkamera" by author and compiler Sergey Korsun; University of Alaska Press. This book catalogs the collection of nearly 500 Alutiiq cultural items held by the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, or the Kunstkamera, in St. Petersburg, Russia.

"Alaska Natives and American Laws,?Third Edition" by David S. Case and David A. Voluck; University of Alaska Press. Alaska Natives and American Laws canvasses federal law and its history as applied to the indigenous peoples of Alaska.

"Mission of Change in Southwest Alaska: Conversations with Father René Astruc and Paul Dixon on Their Work with Yup'ik People, 1950-1988" edited by Ann Fienup-Riordan; University of Alaska Press. This oral history describes various types of change — political, social, cultural, and religious — on Yup'ik culture through the eyes of two non-Natives.

"Two Old Women: An Alaska Legend of Betrayal, Courage, and Survival - 20th Anniversary Edition," by Velma Wallis; Epicenter Press. Based on an Athabascan legend, this classic story centers on two elderly women abandoned by a migrating tribe. The new edition includes a new introduction by the author, new afterword by the editor, and a discussion guide for readers.

History, memoir, biography

"The Fur Farms of Alaska: Two Centuries of History and a Forgotten Stampede" by Sarah Crawford Isto; University of Alaska Press. Local author Sarah Isto's book examines the history of what was once Alaska's third largest industry.

"Panhandle Pilot: Twenty Years of Flying in Southeast Alaska" by Bob Adkins; Todd Communications. Adkins, a former summer pilot for Haines Airways, chronicles his years operating an air taxi in Southeast Alaska.

"The Last Voyageur: Amos Burg and the Rivers of the West" by Vince Welch; Mountaineers Books. The life and adventures of former Juneau resident Amos Burg are chronicled here by Vince Welch (recently in town to give a couple readings).

"Write Hard, Die Free: Dispatches from the Battlefields & Barrooms of the Great Alaska Newspaper War" by Howard Weaver; Epicenter Press. Former Anchorage Daily News editor Howard Weaver shares his account of the newspaper wars waged between the Daily News and their rival, the Anchorage Times.

"Snap Decisions: My Thirty Years as an Alaska News Photographer" by Jim Lavrakas; Far North Press. "Snap Decisions" is an illustrated memoir by a former photojournalist for the Anchorage Daily News, Jim Lavrakas.

"The Map of My Dead Pilots: The Dangerous Game of Flying in Alaska" by Colleen Mondor; Lyons Press. Colleen Mondor, who spent four years running dispatch operations for a Fairbanks-based commuter and charter airline, shares stories about flying in Alaska and the pilots who are drawn to the intensity of the work.

"On Time Delivery: The Dog Team Mail Carriers" by William Schneider; University of Alaska Press. A history of the mail service in interior Alaska prior to the age of widespread aviation.

"Alaskan Travels" by Edward Hoagland; Arcade Publishing. Called "the best book ever written about America's last best place" by Howard Frank Mosher, this book celebrates Edward Hoagland's explorations of Alaska thirty years ago.

"David Douglas, a Naturalist at Work: An Illustrated Exploration Across Two Centuries in the Pacific Northwest" by Jack Nisbet; Sasquatch Books. This collection of essays examines the career of David Douglas, who made the first systematic collections of flora and fauna over many parts of the Pacific Northwest – and the man for whom the Douglas fir is named.

"Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis" by Timothy Egan; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. A new biography of Edward Curtis, a photographer and filmmaker who created an extensive photographic archive of Native Americans during a period of intense change.

"Ted Lambert: The Man Behind the Paintings" by Lew Freedman and Ted Lambert; University of Alaska Press. This book is based on previously unpublished memoirs discovered among painter Ted Lambert's effects after he disappeared from the remote cabin he was living in at Bristol Bay in the 1960s.

"Midnight Sun, Arctic Moon: Mapping the Wild Heart of Alaska" by Mary Albanese; Epicenter Press. A memoir that traces Mary Albanese's experiences as a geological explorer in Alaska, mapping remote wilderness areas around the state.

"Boots, Bikes, and Bombers: Adventures of Alaska Conservationist Ginny Hill Wood" by Karen Brewster; University of Alaska Press. An oral history of Alaska conservationist and outdoorswoman Ginny Hill Wood.

"Four Thousand Hooks: A True Story of Fishing and Coming of Age on the High Seas of Alaska" by Dean Adams; University of Washington Press. A real-life adventure story and an ethnography about commercial fishing from the view of a former boat captain who grew up in a fishing family.

"To Russia with Love: An Alaskan's Journey" by Victor Fischer and Charles Wohlforth; University of Alaska Press. An autobiography that traces the author's experiences in World War II, his role as a delegate to the Alaska Constitutional Convention and other government appointments, and continuing relationship with Russia.

"Cold River Spirits: Whispers from a Family's Forgotten Past" by Jan Harper-Haines' Epicenter Press. This story focuses on an Alaska Native family struggling to survive in two worlds.

"Sea Travels: Memoirs of a 20th Century Master Mariner" by J. Holger Christensen as told to Vaughn Sherman; Patos Island Press. A memoir about master mariner J. Holger Christensen of Nome and his passion for the sea.

"Let's Get It Right: Why We Need an Alaska Constitutional Convention" by John Havelock; University of Alaska Press. Former Alaska Attorney General John Havelock addresses the question of an Alaska Constitutional Convention.

"Our Sarah: Made in Alaska" by Chuck Heath Sr. and Chuck Heath Jr.; Center Street. Sarah Palin's father and brother share stories from her life.

"The Eskimo and The Oil Man: The Battle at the Top of the World for America's Future" by Bob Reiss; Business Plus. This book approaches the topic of energy use and environmental protection from the view of an Iñupiat Eskimo leader on Alaska's North Slope and the head of Shell Oil's Alaska venture.

"The Night Orion Fell: A Survival Story" by Abigail B. Calkin; Fern Hill Press. An adventure story about Captain Larry Hills' attempt to rescue his deckhand – and then himself -- after both become trapped in the net reel of a trawler.

"Breaking Ice for Arctic Oil: The Epic Voyage of the SS Manhattan through the Northwest Passage" by Ross Coen; University of Alaska Press. "Breaking Ice for Arctic Oil" details the voyage of the icebreaking tanker the SS Manhattan, focusing on its impact on the future of marine traffic and resource development in the Arctic.

"Finding the Arctic: History and Culture Along a 2,500-Mile Snowmobile Journey from Alaska to Hudson's Bay" by Matthew Sturm; University of Alaska Press. Arctic researcher Matthew Sturm shares the story of his 2,500-mile snowmobile expedition across arctic Alaska and Canada, weaving his narrative with other stories of exploration and adventure.

Outdoors and the environment

"The Alexander Eighteen: The Story of Eighteen Wilderness Areas in Alaska" by Larry Johansen; Rowdy Dog Images. Juneau author and photographer Larry Johansen traveled to all 18 wilderness areas in the Alexander Archipelago, and documents those travels and surrounding issues here through words and pictures.

"Aquatic Insects in Alaska by John Hudson, Katherine Hocker, Robert Armstrong; Nature Alaska Images. Locals Robert Armstrong, Kathy Hocker and John Hudson published this 140-page guide to Alaska's crawlers, swimmers and graspers.

"Skijor With Your Dog, Second Edition" by Mari Høe-Raitto and Carol Kaynor; University of Alaska Press. The second edition of this book on skijoring, or being pulled on skis by a dog in harness, covers what equipment is needed, how to teach a dog to pull, and how to work with your dog year-round.

"Caribou Herds of Northwest Alaska 1850-2000" by Ernest S. Burch Jr., Edited by Igor Krupnik and Jim Dau; University of Alaska Press. An analysis of the distribution of caribou herds in northwest Alaska, based on modern research as well as sources that predate western science.

"Frontier Romance: Environment, Culture, and Alaska Identity"by Judith Kleinfeld; University of Alaska Press. In Frontier Romance, Judith Kleinfeld examines Americans' love of the frontier and its cultural influence.

"Land of Extremes: A Natural History of the Arctic North Slope of Alaska" by Alexander Huryn and John Hobbie; University of Alaska Press. A comprehensive guide to the natural history of the North Slope, with information on climate, geology, landforms, and ecology; a guide to the identification and natural history of common animals and plants; and a primer on the human prehistory of the region.

"The Alaska Wild Berry Cookbook: 275 Recipes from the Far North" Alaska Northwest Books. Recipes for cooking with the more abundant and popular species of wild berries indigenous to Alaska, from currants to watermelon berries.


"On Arctic Ground" by Debbie S Miller; Mountaineers Books. A photo essay book featuring pictures by a dozen photographers.

"Yukon: A Wilder Place" by Teresa Earle and Fritz Mueller. Greystone Books. A collection of photographs of the Yukon by Fritz Mueller, accompanied by text by Teresa Earle.

"Spectacular Alaska" by Charles Wohlforth; Universe. An exploration of Alaska's National Parks through 200 photographs and panoramic gatefolds.

"Born to Run: Athletes of the Iditarod" by Albert Lewis; University of Alaska Press. Albert Lewis, a professional photographer and dog-lover, spotlights the four-legged heros of the Iditarod through full-page photos and accompanying text.

"Outhouses of Alaska" by Harry M. Walker; Another Alaskan DoDad. A combination of narrative and photos, this book features outhouses and stories from around the state.

Children’s books

"I Would Tuck You In" by Sarah Asper-Smith and Mitchell Watley; Sasquatch Books. Just out this month, this children's picture book by two locals combines verses about a mother's love with facts about Alaskan animals. The Alaska Robotics Gallery on Front Street carries prints from the book as well as copies.

"AlphaBirds: an Alexander Archipelago Alaskan Aviary" by Kate Boesser; CreateSpace. An alphabet book featuring birds that visit the Alexander Archipelago and Glacier Bay by a Gustavus author and artist.

"Granny's Clan: A Tale of Wild Orcas" by Sally Hodson and Ann Jones; Dawn Publications. This kids book combines science drawn from orca research with a story about family and friendship.

"Kayak Girl' by Monica Devine and Mindy Dwyer; University of Alaska Press. This story, set in Alaska, describes a girl who has lost her mother, and focuses on the power of memory and a sense of place in the natural world.

"Raven House Mouse: How a Lonely Orphan Came to be Accepted into a Tlingit Clan" by Jan Steinbright; Winternights Publishing. This children's book is set in one of the oldest houses in Haines, and describes Tlinigt history, culture and language through the eyes of a mouse who benefits from the generosity of his hosts.

"Survival at 120 Above" by Debbie S. Miller and Jon Van Zyle; Walker Childrens. In this companion volume to "Survival at 40 Below," Alaska author Debbie Miller and Alaska artist Jon Van Zyle introduces readers to animals who call the desert home.

Magazines and literary journals

"Real Alaskan Magazine" by Jeff Brown. The 2012 issue of this award-winning humor magazine features stories on extreme roller derby action, the new exhibit at the Alaska Zoo, visqueen harvesting, renewable energy, ulu throwing and more.

Tidal echoes, 10th anniversary edition 2012. UAS' literary and arts journal published their 10th anniversary edition this year.

"Permafrost" spring 2012 and winter 2012. A literary journal published annually by the graduate students in the UAF Department of English.

Ice Box, 2012. Ice Box is published annually by undergraduate students of UAF.

"Cirque," spring 2012 and winter 2012. Founded in 2009 by Anchorage poet Mike Burwell, Cirque is a regional journal created to share the best writing in the region with the rest of the world.

Alaska Quarterly Review, 30th anniversary issues: Spring and Summer 2012, Fall and Winter 2012. The highly regarded AQR published two special anniversary issues this year in honor of its 30th anniversary.

Other related media

Mark Kelley calendars 2012. Local photographer Mark Kelley's "Southeast Alaska" calendar is now in its 19th year, and his "Juneau Alaska" version is in its 24th.

The Outer Coast calender 2012. The Outer Coast calendar features wood engravings and watercolors by Sitka artist Rebecca Poulson as well as contemporary Alaskan poetry and classic poetry and quotes.

"On the Ice" DVD. Directed by Andrew Okpeaha MacLean; Millennium Media. The feature film debut by filmmaker Andrew Okpeaha MacLean, of Barrow is now out on DVD.

"Big Miracle" DVD. Directed by Ken Kwapis; Universal. This Hollywood film set in Alaska stars not only Drew Barrymore and Ted Danson, but also Alaskan actors such as Juneau's own Ishmael Angalook Hope.

Amy Fletcher is the arts and culture editor of the Juneau Empire. Read her other articles here. Used with permission.

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