The best books for escaping to Alaska

G. Elizabeth Kretchmer Author Of The Damnable Legacy
By G. Elizabeth Kretchmer

Who am I?

I’m a huge fan of Alaska—a landscape of unforgiving weather patterns, inaccessible terrain, savage animals, and undeniable pristine beauty. I’m also a nature lover and spend as much time outdoors as possible, often hiking and marveling at spectacular vistas like those found in The Damnable Legacy. But I’m also an avid observer of the human race and am fascinated by all sorts of behaviors: why we pursue our passions, how we love and grieve, and whether we can really change who we are at the core. 

I wrote...

The Damnable Legacy

By G. Elizabeth Kretchmer,

Book cover of The Damnable Legacy

What is my book about?

Lynn Van Swol still regrets the decision she made thirty years ago to place her daughter for adoption so she could be free to pursue her passion for mountain climbing. Frankie Rizzoni is the troubled granddaughter Lynn has never known. And Beth Mahoney is a minister’s wife, and the only one who knows the relationship between Lynn and Frankie. The problem is that she is diagnosed with terminal cancer and doesn’t have long to live. She designs a plan to bring them together, but now narrating from the afterlife, she witnesses its unraveling.

The Damnable Legacy is a story about both love and survival, exploring the importance of attachment, place, and faith, and asking how far we should go to achieve our goalsand at what cost.

The books I picked & why

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Denali's Howl: The Deadliest Climbing Disaster on America's Wildest Peak

By Andy Hall,

Book cover of Denali's Howl: The Deadliest Climbing Disaster on America's Wildest Peak

Why this book?

I didn’t discover Denali’s Howl until after I’d written and published my book, and when I did, I was blown away. Hall is an impressive yet sensitive storyteller in his narration of the background leading up to, and the details of, this tragic mountain climbing incident. But what really grabbed me was the way this true story validated my fictional characters in terms of their behaviors, personalities, and decisions in the face of death and disaster. This book is a first-class introduction to the world of mountain climbing on Denali, and although climbing technology and practices have evolved since 1967, the mountain is still relentlessly in control today.

Into the Wild

By Jon Krakauer,

Book cover of Into the Wild

Why this book?

Alaskan stories often revolve around one or more strong characters and an unforgiving wilderness, and Into the Wild perfectly illustrates that trope. But it also delves into the obsessive psyche of the protagonist, who—similar to the main character in my novel—was hellbent on following a certain path and, at least initially, thought nothing of prioritizing selfish goals over family. Of course, lots of young adults are self-centered; the question is whether they can learn from, and grow out of, that stage as they journey through life. Chris McCandless never had that opportunity.

Still Points North: One Alaskan Childhood, One Grown-up World, One Long Journey Home

By Leigh Newman,

Book cover of Still Points North: One Alaskan Childhood, One Grown-up World, One Long Journey Home

Why this book?

The initial hook in Still Points North was, for me, the opening and its description of the 4-seat plane that the author often flew in with her father. I flew in one when I went to Denali for field research for my novel, and it became not just one of those memories I’ll never forget but also experiential data for my book. I also appreciated how the author so eloquently describes the landscape, comparing and contrasting life in the wilderness with life on the East Coast. But what most impressed me was her revelation, which coincides with the experiences of my novel’s protagonist, that relationships can sometimes be more frightening and challenging than Alaska’s natural savagery.

To the Bright Edge of the World

By Eowyn Ivey,

Book cover of To the Bright Edge of the World

Why this book?

To the Bright Edge of the World is the story of a strong, young woman who learns to manage on her own after her new husband leaves to explore the Arctic on a military expedition, just a few years before the onset of the Alaskan gold rush. The author is from Alaska, so her landscape descriptions are spot on, and the husband’s letters from the north are fraught with tension. But the primary nuggets of gold in this novel are the wife’s ruminations about life and humanity, including arrogance, strong women, and the freedom to pursue one’s passion.

Raven Stole the Moon

By Garth Stein,

Book cover of Raven Stole the Moon

Why this book?

I’m recommending Raven Stole the Moon for a few reasons. First, it addresses maternal guilt and loss, which are important themes in my novel. Second, it incorporates Native Alaskan mysticism, drawing on the author’s Tlingit heritage. I am always intrigued by spiritual lore, and one of my characters, who also has a Native Alaskan background, relies on nature to anticipate—or even predict—the future. And finally, I’m an overall fan of the author (who also wrote The Art of Racing in the Rain) and found the book to be entertaining—and let’s face it, entertainment is one of the key reasons we read!

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Alaska, the American West, and Native Americans?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Alaska, the American West, and Native Americans.

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Tisha: The Wonderful True Love Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaskan Wilderness, The New Sunset Western Garden Book: The Ultimate Gardening Guide, and The Raven's Gift if you like this list.