The best recent books about the lives of real Alaskans—not the idiots on reality TV

Why am I passionate about this?

I have lived in Alaska for forty years, working both as a construction worker and a college professor. I love Alaska, but not always the way it is depicted, particularly on reality TV. I hope the characters I create and the stories I tell will bring a more balanced view of everyday Alaskans, who are, after all, Americans too. The Hunger of Crows shows small-town Alaska through the eyes of four characters: two lifelong Alaskans, and two “from Outside” as we say here. Hopefully, it will provide a balanced view of this great place.


I wrote...

The Hunger of Crows

By Richard Chiappone,

Book cover of The Hunger of Crows

What is my book about?

Carla Merino, a divorced cocktail waitress with a penchant for picking guys up in the bars where she works in Phoenix, AZ hooks up with the wrong guy: Cosmo D’Angelo, a former CIA gunslinger. In D’Angelo’s bedroom Carla discovers something that could bring down the country’s most powerful and dangerous military contracting company and destroy its founder’s plans to run for President of the United States. Knowing D’Angelo and his organization will stop at nothing to get that secret back, Carla flees and drives north until she runs out of road in the small coastal town of Homer, Alaska, a remote, quiet place more than four thousand miles away. But is it far enough? 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Lost Mountain

Richard Chiappone Why did I love this book?

Although I happen to know that poet Anne Coray intended this to be an environmentalist novel (a town threatened with doom by a giant mining operation), this beautifully written story set in the fictitious town of Lost Mountain in remote Western Alaska is an example of how Alaskans come together in the face of threats to the beauty and natural wonder of our great land. It may be about the land, but it is the cast of quirky characters that makes it human. 

By Anne Coray,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lost Mountain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The searing debut novel of poet and writer Anne Coray, Lost Mountain is an impassioned story of love, loss, environment, and politics against a landscape facing threat of destruction.

"Anne Coray, the author of three poetry collections, has brought her observational and writing skills to fiction that demonstrates both her attention to language and her passion for her home place. . . Lost Mountain is many things: a love story between the two main characters, a portrait of a small and isolated community, a mystery, a paean to salmon and lives that surround salmon, a not-very-disguised critique of a megamine…


Book cover of Whispering Alaska

Richard Chiappone Why did I love this book?

Also environmentally themed (a town threatened by a giant clear-cutting lumber operation), Whispering Alaska is ultimately a family story of twin sisters coming to Alaska. I loved the way Jones depicts the vastly different twin girls: one compliant and friendly, the other withdrawn and driving her father nuts. Tolstoy famously said all unhappy families are unhappy in their own way. Well, this family is struggling with the loss of the girl’s mother on top of trying to find their places in the rainy Southeast coastal town. Listed as “middle-grade” Y/A, it’s a great read for adults interested in Alaska too. 

By Brendan Jones,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Whispering Alaska as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this eco-focused middle-grade novel, readers follow the story of twin sisters who move with their father to a small town in Alaska for a new start after the devastating loss of their mother.

It’s been four months since their mother died. The twins and their father have moved from Pennsylvania to a small town in Alaska to be near extended family. Nicky and Josie find the wilderness mysterious and beautiful, and a much-needed refuge. The girls drifted apart somewhat during their transition, each dealing with grief in a different way. Now, as they settle into a new normal, they…


Book cover of A Thousand Trails Home: Living with Caribou

Richard Chiappone Why did I love this book?

Born and raised in remote bush Alaska, Kanter’s hypnotizing writing will take you with him across the remote tundra of his home territory as he hunts and lives among the great herds of caribou. Each short chapter is like a prose poem, beautifully written and evocative of the people and the place. A glimpse into historical, almost prehistorical, life in Alaska. 

By Seth Kantner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Thousand Trails Home as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


Bestselling, award-winning author of Ordinary Wolves, a debut novel Publisher’s Weekly called “a tour de force”
Conservation-based story of changing Arctic from an on-the-ground perpective
Features full-color photography throughout

A stunningly lyrical firsthand account of a life spent hunting, studying, and living alongside caribou, A Thousand Trails Home encompasses the historical past and present day, revealing the fragile intertwined lives of people and animals surviving on an uncertain landscape of cultural and climatic change sweeping the Alaskan Arctic. Author Seth Kantner vividly illuminates this critical story about the interconnectedness of the Iñupiat of Northwest Alaska, the Western Arctic Caribou Herd,…


Book cover of Cold Mountain Path: The Ghost Town Decades of McCarthy-Kennecott, Alaska

Richard Chiappone Why did I love this book?

Chosen by National Public Radio as “essential reading” for anyone traveling to Alaska, Kizzia’s lively, often humorous historical account of the remote copper mining town of McCarthy tucked beneath the Wrangel Mountains will astound you with its descriptions of bush country life in Alaska from 1938 to 1982. A book that begins and ends with the effects of a mass murder in a remote small town. Thrilling reading. 

By Tom Kizzia,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cold Mountain Path as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this history of life in an isolated ghost town, bestselling Alaska author Tom Kizzia unfolds a deeply American saga of renunciation and renewal. The spirit of Alaska in the old days-impetuous, free-wheeling, and bounty-blessed-lived on in the never-quite-abandoned mining town of McCarthy. While the new state boomed in the pipeline era, cagey old-timers and young back-to-the-landers forged a rough wilderness community that lived by its own rules.
 
As the T'ang Dynasty mountain poet Han Shan wrote in his Cold Mountain Poems, "If your heart was like mine, you'd get it and be right here."
 
The Wrangell Mountains developed a…


Book cover of Nobody Gets Out Alive: Stories

Richard Chiappone Why did I love this book?

This spectacular collection of award-winning short stories set in Anchorage is probably my favorite book of the past two years. Newton is the only one of these five authors whom I’ve never met, so I can say with complete neutrality that these stories make up the most memorable depiction of urban Alaskan life anywhere: doctors with expensive float planes and more expensive mistresses, a disturbed suburban clairvoyant, even one historical flashback to the mudhole the city was founded upon in 1915. Hilarious at times, but also a reminder to me that Alaska has always attracted a certain type of misfit politely referred to as “adventurous,” but often seen as simply “nuts.” Myself included.

By Leigh Newman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Nobody Gets Out Alive as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

LONGLISTED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD

*A MOST ANTICIPATED book by Vogue, Literary Hub, The Millions, Good Housekeeping, and Oprah Daily*

From a prizewinning author comes an “electric...stunning” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) debut story collection about women navigating the wilds of male-dominated Alaskan society.

Set in Newman’s home state of Alaska, Nobody Gets Out Alive is an exhilarating collection about women struggling to survive not just grizzly bears and charging moose, but the raw legacy of their marriages and families.

Alongside stories set in today’s Last Frontier—rife with suburban sprawl, global warming, and opioid addiction—Newman delves into remote wilderness of…


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Kanazawa

By David Joiner,

Book cover of Kanazawa

David Joiner Author Of Kanazawa

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

My book recommendations reflect an abiding passion for Japanese literature, which has unquestionably influenced my own writing. My latest literary interest involves Japanese poetry—I’ve recently started a project that combines haiku and prose narration to describe my experiences as a part-time resident in a 1300-year-old Japanese hot spring town that Bashō helped make famous in The Narrow Road to the Deep North. But as a writer, my main focus remains novels. In late 2023 the second in a planned series of novels set in Ishikawa prefecture will be published. I currently live in Kanazawa, but have also been lucky to call Sapporo, Akita, Tokyo, and Fukui home at different times.

David's book list on Japanese settings not named Tokyo or Kyoto

What is my book about?

Emmitt’s plans collapse when his wife, Mirai, suddenly backs out of purchasing their dream home. Disappointed, he’s surprised to discover her subtle pursuit of a life and career in Tokyo.

In his search for a meaningful life in Japan, and after quitting his job, he finds himself helping his mother-in-law translate Kanazawa’s most famous author, Izumi Kyoka, into English. He becomes drawn into the mysterious death of a friend of Mirai’s parents, leading him and his father-in-law to climb the mountain where the man died. There, he learns the somber truth and discovers what the future holds for him and his wife.

Packed with subtle literary allusion and closely observed nuance, Kanazawa reflects the mood of Japanese fiction in a fresh, modern incarnation.

Kanazawa

By David Joiner,

What is this book about?

In Kanazawa, the first literary novel in English to be set in this storied Japanese city, Emmitt's future plans collapse when his wife, Mirai, suddenly backs out of negotiations to purchase their dream home. Disappointed, he's surprised to discover Mirai's subtle pursuit of a life and career in Tokyo, a city he dislikes.

Harmony is further disrupted when Emmitt's search for a more meaningful life in Japan leads him to quit an unsatisfying job at a local university. In the fallout, he finds himself helping his mother-in-law translate Kanazawa's most famous author, Izumi Kyoka, into English.

While continually resisting Mirai's…


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