The best books for escaping to Alaska

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.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

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

G. Elizabeth Kretchmer Why did I love 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.

By Andy Hall,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Denali's Howl as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the summer of 1967, twelve young men ascended Alaska's Mount McKinley-known to the locals as Denali. Engulfed by a once-in-alifetime blizzard, only five made it back down.

Andy Hall, a journalist and son of the park superintendent at the time, was living in the park when the tragedy occurred and spent years tracking down rescuers, survivors, lost documents, and recordings of radio communications. In Denali's Howl, Hall reveals the full story of the expedition in a powerful retelling that will mesmerize the climbing community as well as anyone interested in mega-storms and man's sometimes deadly drive to challenge the…


Book cover of Into the Wild

G. Elizabeth Kretchmer Why did I love 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.

By Jon Krakauer,

Why should I read it?

18 authors picked Into the Wild as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Krakauer’s page-turning bestseller explores a famed missing person mystery while unraveling the larger riddles it holds: the profound pull of the American wilderness on our imagination; the allure of high-risk activities to young men of a certain cast of mind; the complex, charged bond between fathers and sons.

"Terrifying... Eloquent... A heart-rending drama of human yearning." —New York Times

In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all…


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

G. Elizabeth Kretchmer Why did I love 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.

By Leigh Newman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Still Points North as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Part adventure story, part love story, part homecoming, Still Points North is a page-turning memoir that explores the extremes of belonging and exile, and the difference between how to survive and knowing how to truly live.

Growing up in the wilds of Alaska, seven-year-old Leigh Newman spent her time landing silver salmon, hiking glaciers, and flying in a single-prop plane. But her life split in two when her parents unexpectedly divorced, requiring her to spend summers on the tundra with her “Great Alaskan” father and the school year in Baltimore with her more urbane mother.

Navigating the fraught terrain of…


Book cover of To the Bright Edge of the World

G. Elizabeth Kretchmer Why did I love 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.

By Eowyn Ivey,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked To the Bright Edge of the World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

SHORTLISTED FOR THE EDWARD STANFORD TRAVEL WRITING AWARDS 2016.

Set in the Alaskan landscape that she brought to stunningly vivid life in THE SNOW CHILD (a Sunday Times bestseller, Richard and Judy pick and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize), Eowyn Ivey's TO THE BRIGHT EDGE OF THE WORLD is a breathtaking story of discovery set at the end of the nineteenth century, sure to appeal to fans of A PLACE CALLED WINTER.

'A clever, ambitious novel' The Sunday Times

'Persuasive and vivid... what could be a better beach read than an Arctic adventure?' Guardian


'Stunning and intriguing... the reader finishes…


Book cover of Raven Stole the Moon

G. Elizabeth Kretchmer Why did I love 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!

By Garth Stein,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Raven Stole the Moon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this haunting debut, Garth Stein brilliantly invokes his Native American heritage and its folklore to create a mesmerising supernatural thriller. When Jenna Rosen, a grieving young mother, returns to the remote Alaskan town where her young son drowned, she discovers that the truth about her son's death is shrouded in legend - and buried in a terrifying netherworld between life and death. Armed with nothing but a mother's protective instincts, Jenna's quest for the truth is about to pull her into a terrifying and life changing abyss. Helped by a young man who falls in love with her, Jenna…


You might also like...

A Last Serenade for Billy Bonney

By Mark Warren,

Book cover of A Last Serenade for Billy Bonney

Mark Warren Author Of Indigo Heaven

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Composer Archer Teacher Grateful

Mark's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

In this deeply researched novel of America's most celebrated outlaw, Mark Warren sheds light on the human side of Billy the Kid and reveals the intimate stories of the lesser-known players in his legendary life of crime. Warren's fictional composer and Santa Fe journalist, John Blessing, is assigned to report on a jailed prisoner who calls himself "Willima H. Bonney," but what begins as a formal interview evolves into an unexpected relationship and a self-examination of Blessing's own cultured, city values.

After the Kid's death, Blessing embarks on a journey to find Billy's comrades and acquaintances - those who loved the Kid... and others who despised him. Ride along with John Blessing as he unravels one of Western history's most fascinating enigmas.

A Last Serenade for Billy Bonney

By Mark Warren,

What is this book about?

In this deeply researched novel of America's most celebrated outlaw, Mark Warren sheds light on the human side of Billy the Kid, and reveals the intimate stories of the lesser-known players in his legendary life of crime. Warren's fictional composer and Santa Fe journalist, John Blessing, is assigned to report on a jailed prisoner who calls himself "William H. Bonney," but what begins as a formal interview evolves into an unexpected relationship and a self-examination of Blessing's own cultured, city values.

After the Kid's death, Blessing embarks on a journey to find Billy's comrades and acquaintances - those who loved…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Alaska, the American West, and American Indians?

9,000+ 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 American Indians.

Alaska Explore 94 books about Alaska
The American West Explore 121 books about the American West
American Indians Explore 213 books about American Indians