100 books like Ordinary Wolves

By Seth Kantner,

Here are 100 books that Ordinary Wolves fans have personally recommended if you like Ordinary Wolves. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of To the Bright Edge of the World

Peggy O'Donnell Heffington Author Of Without Children: The Long History of Not Being a Mother

From my list on women without kids (that aren’t sad).

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian who knows women have long lived not-sad lives without children. I’ve spent years researching the full and vibrant lives women without children lived throughout history—lives that often were only possible because they didn’t have the responsibilities of motherhood. I’m also a woman living a decidedly not-sad life without kids. And yet, in popular imagination, a woman without kids must be longing to be a mother or grieving the fact that she isn’t. I know firsthand that it can be isolating not to have kids. But in writing about the sheer variety of lives non-mothers lived in the past, I’m trying to show that we’re not alone.

Peggy's book list on women without kids (that aren’t sad)

Peggy O'Donnell Heffington Why did Peggy love this book?

Unlike Ivey’s other book The Snow Child, which grapples with the grief of infertility (a book I also love!), this book considers the opportunities a life without children allows for.

It opens with Lieutenant Colonel Allan Forrester as he prepares to lead an expedition into Alaska in 1885. His wife, Sophie, is an explorer in her own right and plans to accompany him—until they realize she’s pregnant and decide she has to stay behind.

Spoiler: Sophie miscarries and learns she will likely never be able to carry a baby to term. But this isn’t an endpoint for Sophie: instead, it sets her on a path toward professional and creative success, as well as love and happiness in her marriage.

We’re used to reading about how motherhood gives life meaning—I loved Ivey’s portrait of how not having kids can do the same.

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 The Sun Is a Compass: A 4,000-Mile Journey Into the Alaskan Wilds

Erin Zimmerman Author Of Unrooted: Botany, Motherhood, and the Fight to Save An Old Science

From my list on memoirs by women talking biology.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an evolutionary biologist and an advocate for women, and in particular, mothers in the sciences, I love to read about the stories of other female scientists talking about their work and the challenges they’ve faced. We need more accounts of what it’s like to grapple with both the idea and the actuality of becoming a mother in a competitive, male-dominated field that requires so much of its scholars.

Erin's book list on memoirs by women talking biology

Erin Zimmerman Why did Erin love this book?

In this book, we meet the author, a biologist, at a fork in the road. She has completed her doctoral studies, but in doing so, lost much of her love for her field. She is on the cusp of full adulthood, and lot of big, heavy decisions await.

I loved going along with Van Hemert on her epic journey across the north as she used the time to consider what she wanted in life and why she loved biology to begin with. The juxtaposition of stunning vistas and intimate soul-searching made for an engaging and comforting read.

By Caroline Van Hemert,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Sun Is a Compass as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

During graduate school, as she conducted experiments on the peculiarly misshapen beaks of chickadees, ornithologist Caroline Van Hemert began to feel stifled in the isolated, sterile environment of the lab. Worried that she was losing her passion for the scientific research she once loved, she was compelled to experience wildness again, to be guided by the sounds of birds and to follow the trails of animals.

In March of 2012 she and her husband set off on a 4,000-mile wilderness journey from the Pacific rainforest to the Alaskan Arctic. Travelling by rowboat, ski, foot, raft and canoe, they explored northern…


Book cover of The Epic of Qayaq: The Longest Story Ever Told by My People

Charles Wohlforth Author Of The Whale and the Supercomputer: On the Northern Front of Climate Change

From my list on the dark, gritty, beautiful truth of Alaska.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've never been anything but a writer, despite growing up and spending my first 50 years in Alaska. Alaska has been my major topic—what else could it be in that overwhelmingly powerful place?—but it has also been my frustration, because Alaska is a real place that exists in most readers’ minds only as a romantic vision, and they resist any other version. Like the real Eskimos in my book, whose world is melting from climate change as they pump millions of barrels of crude oil from their homeland. The writers I chose are all Alaskans, like me, who tell those stories about the magical, terrifying place that lies behind the Disney version you already know.

Charles' book list on the dark, gritty, beautiful truth of Alaska

Charles Wohlforth Why did Charles love this book?

This is an ancient, novel-length tale of a hero in the Alaska wilderness near the dawn of time, confronting the cruelty and grief endemic in a world in which survival always hangs on the luck and skill of the hunter. Oman, who died in 2018 at 102, told me 30 years ago about holding onto the Qayaq story, even through the years when her cultural practices were effectively outlawed. She grew up at a time in Kotzebue when her father, a shaman, could only tell the ancient stories of her Inupiaq people at night, in secret, vouchsafing them with her for another generation. As an adult she continued collecting them, and then, in her old age, published this graceful and haunting story, which seems to reach to us from another world.

By Lela Kiana Oman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Epic of Qayaq as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is a splendid presentation of an ancient northern story cycle, brought to life by Lela Kiana Oman, who has been retelling and writing the legends of the Inupiat of the Kobuk Valley, Alaska, nearly all her adult life. In the mid-1940s, she heard these tales from storytellers passing through the mining town of Candle, and translated them from Inupiaq into English. Now, after fifty years, they illuminate one of the world's most vibrant mythologies. The hero is Qayaq, and the cycle traces his wanderings by kayak and on foot along four rivers - the Selawik, the Kobuk, the Noatak…


Book cover of The Stars, the Snow, the Fire: Twenty-Five Years in the Alaska Wilderness

Charles Wohlforth Author Of The Whale and the Supercomputer: On the Northern Front of Climate Change

From my list on the dark, gritty, beautiful truth of Alaska.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've never been anything but a writer, despite growing up and spending my first 50 years in Alaska. Alaska has been my major topic—what else could it be in that overwhelmingly powerful place?—but it has also been my frustration, because Alaska is a real place that exists in most readers’ minds only as a romantic vision, and they resist any other version. Like the real Eskimos in my book, whose world is melting from climate change as they pump millions of barrels of crude oil from their homeland. The writers I chose are all Alaskans, like me, who tell those stories about the magical, terrifying place that lies behind the Disney version you already know.

Charles' book list on the dark, gritty, beautiful truth of Alaska

Charles Wohlforth Why did Charles love this book?

Haines was best known as a poet, highly respected by other writers but uncompromising and without much commercial success or recognition. This collection of essays in the form of a memoir similarly makes no compromise, dispensing with plot, characters, or even a clear sense of time and geography. Instead, Haines takes the reader deep into the mind of a lone man surviving for decades in the harshest wilderness, thinking, observing, and writing—his own mind. And the writing is so strong, it turns out, that he doesn’t need those usually necessary tools of narrative he pointedly ignores. Instead, we feel the cold, see the hypnotic stars above the snow, and feel the brittle edge of aloneness. Through sheer stylistic austerity, those dark lonely nights are real.

By John Meade Haines,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Stars, the Snow, the Fire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this wilderness classic, the quintessential Alaskan frontiersman relates his experiences from over twenty years as a hoemsteader. As New York Newsday has said of his work, If Alaska had not existed, Haines might well have invented it.''


Book cover of Pilgrim's Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier

Charles Wohlforth Author Of The Whale and the Supercomputer: On the Northern Front of Climate Change

From my list on the dark, gritty, beautiful truth of Alaska.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've never been anything but a writer, despite growing up and spending my first 50 years in Alaska. Alaska has been my major topic—what else could it be in that overwhelmingly powerful place?—but it has also been my frustration, because Alaska is a real place that exists in most readers’ minds only as a romantic vision, and they resist any other version. Like the real Eskimos in my book, whose world is melting from climate change as they pump millions of barrels of crude oil from their homeland. The writers I chose are all Alaskans, like me, who tell those stories about the magical, terrifying place that lies behind the Disney version you already know.

Charles' book list on the dark, gritty, beautiful truth of Alaska

Charles Wohlforth Why did Charles love this book?

Kizzia’s prose and reporting are unequaled, but this dark, Gothic tale is hard to read because of the real-life horror it exposes. The Pilgrim family came to Alaska in 2002, wrapping themselves in fundamentalist Christianity and fighting with the federal government like true pioneers in the wilderness—they became a cause for the right because of how they seemed to fulfill Alaska’s frontier myth. But it turned out the patriarch of the family had created a weird prison of rape and abuse for his uneducated children, which Kizzia was able to get inside with vividly told scenes. And that truth tells us even more about Alaska, which has the worst rate of rape in the nation and a shocking level of child abuse. 

By Tom Kizzia,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Pilgrim's Wilderness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Into the Wild meets Helter Skelter in this riveting true story of a modern-day homesteading family in the deepest reaches of the Alaskan wilderness—and of the chilling secrets of its maniacal, spellbinding patriarch.
 
When Papa Pilgrim, his wife, and their fifteen children appeared in the Alaska frontier outpost of McCarthy, their new neighbors saw them as a shining example of the homespun Christian ideal. But behind the family's proud piety and beautiful old-timey music lay Pilgrim's dark past: his strange  connection to the Kennedy assassination and a trail of chaos and anguish that followed him from Dallas and New Mexico.…


Book cover of Jimmy Bluefeather

Nancy Lord Author Of pH: A Novel

From my list on authentic Alaska by Alaskans.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a long-time Alaskan (and former Alaska writer laureate) with a passion for my place—its people, environment, and history. I’ve always read widely in its literature and have watched it mature from superficial “last frontier” stories into a complex and diverse wealth of authentic and well-told stories. Since 2015 I’ve reviewed books for the Anchorage Daily News and have made it my business to know and support the growing Alaska writing community. Alaska is particularly strong in nonfiction writing while fiction (other than mysteries and short stories) has been slower to develop, and I’ve chosen to highlight five examples of novels that present truths through imaginative leaps.

Nancy's book list on authentic Alaska by Alaskans

Nancy Lord Why did Nancy love this book?

Set in Southeast Alaska, Jimmy Bluefeather honestly depicts both environmental and generational change.

A Tlingit-Norwegian canoe carver anticipates the end of his life while his grandson struggles with his own future and a whale biologist resists authority in favor of moral action. Heacox grounds his beautifully-written story in considerable research as well as with respect for cultural beliefs and practices.

The canoe carver in particular is well-drawn and memorable, with toughness, resilience, and humor earned from living close to the Earth and its waters, in a place of stories. A canoe journey carries the story into a wild landscape, questions about conflicts between economic development and the preservation of lands and cultural values, and understandings of human frailty and strength. 

By Kim Heacox,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Jimmy Bluefeather as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

Winner, National Outdoor Book Award

"Part quest, part rebirth, Heacox's debut novel spins a story of Alaska's Tlingit people and the land, an old man dying, and a young man learning to live."
-Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"A splendid, unique gem of a novel."
-Library Journal (starred review)

"Heacox does a superb job of transcending his characters' unique geography to create a heartwarming, all-American story."
-Booklist

"What makes this story so appealing is the character Old Keb. He is as finely wrought and memorable as any character in contemporary literature and energizes the tale with a humor and warmth that…


Book cover of The Alaskan Laundry

Nancy Lord Author Of pH: A Novel

From my list on authentic Alaska by Alaskans.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a long-time Alaskan (and former Alaska writer laureate) with a passion for my place—its people, environment, and history. I’ve always read widely in its literature and have watched it mature from superficial “last frontier” stories into a complex and diverse wealth of authentic and well-told stories. Since 2015 I’ve reviewed books for the Anchorage Daily News and have made it my business to know and support the growing Alaska writing community. Alaska is particularly strong in nonfiction writing while fiction (other than mysteries and short stories) has been slower to develop, and I’ve chosen to highlight five examples of novels that present truths through imaginative leaps.

Nancy's book list on authentic Alaska by Alaskans

Nancy Lord Why did Nancy love this book?

Set in the 1990s, this very engaging novel tracks the arrival of a young, angry, and confused Tara Marconi to a southeast Alaska town and then follows her as she matures alongside a set of memorable and often damaged characters.

The depictions of small-town life and the fishing industry are well-wrought, as are the conflicts that many Alaskans face with themselves, their pasts, and the environment. This counts as a coming-of-age story but is unique in its depiction of a strong, smart, and adaptable young woman finding her true, independent self in a place where self-realization is not just allowed but encouraged.

At its most basic, The Alaskan Laundry is a testament to how places and spaces shape us, and how we find where we belong. 

By Brendan Jones,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Alaskan Laundry as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On the icy waters of the Bering Sea, a lost, fierce young woman finds herself through the hard work of fishing and the stubborn love of real friendship.

Tara Marconi has made her way from Philly to “the Rock,” a remote island in Alaska governed by the seasons. Her mother’s death left her unmoored, with a seemingly impassable rift between her and her father. But in this majestic, rugged frontier she works her way up the commercial fishing ladder—from hatchery assistant all the way to king crabber. Disciplined from years as a young boxer, she learns anew what it means…


Book cover of Sivulliq: Ancestor

Nancy Lord Author Of pH: A Novel

From my list on authentic Alaska by Alaskans.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a long-time Alaskan (and former Alaska writer laureate) with a passion for my place—its people, environment, and history. I’ve always read widely in its literature and have watched it mature from superficial “last frontier” stories into a complex and diverse wealth of authentic and well-told stories. Since 2015 I’ve reviewed books for the Anchorage Daily News and have made it my business to know and support the growing Alaska writing community. Alaska is particularly strong in nonfiction writing while fiction (other than mysteries and short stories) has been slower to develop, and I’ve chosen to highlight five examples of novels that present truths through imaginative leaps.

Nancy's book list on authentic Alaska by Alaskans

Nancy Lord Why did Nancy love this book?

Alaska’s Indigenous people—expert storytellers and artists—have yet to author many works of fiction, so it’s a pleasure to have discovered this new novel by a writer of Inupiaq heritage.

Set in 1893 during a smallpox epidemic, Sivulliq features two viewpoint characters—an Inupiaq mother whose small daughter is kidnapped by a commercial whaling captain and a Black whaler on the whaling ship. The fast-paced plot follows the family’s efforts to find the ship and rescue the child, while life aboard the ship is narrated by the reluctant whaler.

The historic truths brought to life here include the devastation of Native Alaskans from disease and famine, the prevalence of Black whalers and the often-brutal conditions on board, and Inupiaq spiritual connections (then and now) to the land and ancestors. 

By Lily H Tuzroyluke,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the spring of 1893, arctic Alaska is devastated by smallpox. Kayaliruk knows it is time to light the funeral pyres and leave their home. With her surviving children, she packs their dog sled and they set off to find family. Kayaliruk wakes with a bleeding scalp and no memory of the last day. Her daughter was stolen by Yankee whalers, her sons say. They begin chasing the ship, through arctic storms, across immeasurable distances, slipping into the Yankee whalers' town on Herschel Island, and to the enemy shores of Siberia. Ibai, an African American whaler, grew up in New…


Book cover of Shopping for Porcupine: A Life in Arctic Alaska

Bradford Smith Author Of Atlin Where Everyone Knows Your Dog's Name

From my list on Northern wilderness and people who survive there.

Why am I passionate about this?

Every book on my list has a personal connection. I’ve either been to these locations, have had similar experiences, or have met the authors. The connecting threads of my list are perseverance over incredible odds, survival in a harsh landscape, and the courageous and undefeatable spirit of the characters. I love all these books because they tell great stories about amazing people in the land and environs that I have made my home for my entire life.

Bradford's book list on Northern wilderness and people who survive there

Bradford Smith Why did Bradford love this book?

This is an inspiring memoir depicting life in the arctic, living the traditional substance way of the Inupiat people. Kanter’s writing is top notch and he describes the arctic life as only one who has truly lived it can. I’ve traveled and worked in the land he loves and calls home. He nails the brutality and the rawness and the beauty and the wonder of that vast and harsh land. This book is personal and emotional and depicts a lifestyle, a land, and a culture that’s not often honestly portrayed in literature. I devoured this book and was left wanting more. I’ve met Seth and he is a great guy and a hell of a writer, in my opinion.

By Seth Kantner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Shopping for Porcupine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Seth Kantner's Ordinary Wolves told the story of a white boy raised in a sod igloo on the Arctic tundra. A heartbreaking vision of a vanishing world, it established Kantner as one of the nation's most original and authentic writers. Here, he returns to the setting of his debut novel with an autobiographical account of his own life in a rapidly changing land. Beginning with his parents' migration to the Alaskan wilderness in the 1950s and extending to his own attempts to balance hunting with writing, Kantner recalls cold nights wrapped in caribou hides, fur-clad visitors arriving on dog sleds,…


Book cover of Fifty Miles from Tomorrow: A Memoir of Alaska and the Real People

Bradford Smith Author Of Atlin Where Everyone Knows Your Dog's Name

From my list on Northern wilderness and people who survive there.

Why am I passionate about this?

Every book on my list has a personal connection. I’ve either been to these locations, have had similar experiences, or have met the authors. The connecting threads of my list are perseverance over incredible odds, survival in a harsh landscape, and the courageous and undefeatable spirit of the characters. I love all these books because they tell great stories about amazing people in the land and environs that I have made my home for my entire life.

Bradford's book list on Northern wilderness and people who survive there

Bradford Smith Why did Bradford love this book?

William, an Inupiaq Alaskan native, grew up in a sod home on the shore of Kotzebue Sound above the arctic circle. Childhood was a traditional subsistence life, living off the land. Starvation, sickness, and death were real and present threats. His early life contrasted greatly with the rest of his life. William was a crucial negotiator in the Alaska Native land claims settlement, one of the largest and most important in U.S. history. He went on to serve in the Alaska state house and senate. A fascinating story of a struggle for equality and the fight for a better future. This is a classic David and Goliath epic. I’ve worked in Kotzebue and many other Alaska villages, and I see the fruits of Williams's labors everywhere I go. 

By William L Iggiagruk Hensley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fifty Miles from Tomorrow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW EDITORS' CHOICE

An alternately charming and harrowing account of over 50 years of one remarkable native Alaskan's life – from living off the land north of the Arctic Circle, to the Alaskan senate, Hensely is a huge hero to his community.

Born twenty-nine miles north of the arctic circle, William L. Iggiagruk Hensley was raised to live the seminomadic life that his Iñupiaq ancestors had lived for thousands of years. In this stirring memoir, he offers us a rare firsthand account of growing up Native Alaskan, and later, in the lower forty-eight, as a…


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