The best books for making me feel like I’m someone else, somewhere else

Jonathan Thomas Stratman Author Of Cheechako: An Alaska Adventure
By Jonathan Thomas Stratman

The Books I Picked & Why

The Ghosts

By Antonia Barber

Book cover of The Ghosts

Why this book?

I originally found this book used, for a buck, read a few pages, and decided to chance it. I have now read it multiple times, loving the notion of ghostly beings among us, and of time shifts, in a context that really makes sense in a story. (It helps that I’m also a sucker for old spooky houses.) I quickly imagined myself in these pages, part of the fabric of risk, intrigue, and danger, never guessing where it all might end up. Let’s see if you do.


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Brian’s Winter

By Gary Paulsen

Book cover of Brian’s Winter

Why this book?

Sometimes a book ends too soon for a reader, or in a way that doesn’t sit right. When that happened to author, Gary Paulsen, he did something about it. He extended the original Hatchet tale in a new book, Brian’s Winter, as if Brian didn’t make it out in autumn and had to winter over. 

If you haven’t read Hatchet, you’re missing a wilderness treat. A real adventure, making you feel like Brian, crash-landed in northern Canada, utterly on your own with one tool. Reading the book, I admit shivering, holding my breath, feeling my hopes rise and fall with his... really not wanting to stop reading and go do my chores.

He survives with some luck, and with guts and brains. I like feeling I could be that guy. 


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Johnny Tremain

By Esther Hoskins Forbes

Book cover of Johnny Tremain

Why this book?

I joined the American Revolution in about grade 5, reading Johnny Tremain, the story of a boy just about the age I imagined I was. Two hundred-some years melted away, leaving me with a musket in my hands, the pervasive smell of black powder on the breeze, drumbeats in my dreams — war secrets to discover and keep from the enemy. And I had the chance to meet and ‘hang out’ with American legends like Paul Revere and to really feel like I knew them and was there at the center of it all when our nation began.


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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

By Mark Twain

Book cover of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Why this book?

There is a rumor in my family, which I still mostly deny. As a boy, I lived on a wide river in Alaska, the Tanana, which I write about frequently in my own books. The story is that, between 7th and 8th grades, I ‘borrowed’ a boat and motor and went out on the river with a friend. Kids, don’t try this at home! When asked why, I laid the blame squarely where it belongs: Mark Twain and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Twain put me out on that raft in the Mississippi, sleeping in a tent, gliding silently on the current from adventure to adventure. And he still does.


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The Tower Treasure

By Franklin W. Dixon

Book cover of The Tower Treasure

Why this book?

Okay, I’ll just say it: I’m a sucker for mysteries. Probably one of the reasons I write my own. But here’s the thing. Before I could drive, Frank and Joe could... cars, motorcycles, motorboats, and they put me behind the wheel. They turned me into a short-wave and citizen’s band radio nut, for a while, and first introduced me to girls who could be adventure buddies, when I couldn’t even talk to one. Truth: I’ve read about fifty of them, Nancy Drew, too. They do begin to repeat. But the first ten felt like a fresh, new adventure. As my other favorite, Sherlock Holmes might have said: “Come Watson, Frank, and Joe, make all haste, the game is afoot.” And I am right behind them. 


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