The most recommended books about Alaska

Who picked these books? Meet our 135 experts.

135 authors created a book list connected to Alaska, and here are their favorite Alaska books.
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Book cover of Venice Observed

Meredith Small Author Of Inventing the World: Venice and the Transformation of Western Civilization

From my list on Venice (non-guidebooks).

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an anthropologist who became attached to Venice after spending time in Italian language school there and returning over and over, often staying for months. What tourists see is the superficial beauty of the city. But Venice is a place of incredible depth and complexity, both historically and today. During my many visits, I began to hear (on the street) and read (in museums) of the many inventions that happened in Venice. I soon started making a list and, with additional reading, this list grew to 220 inventions—such as quarantine and the paperback book—and realized how much we owe to Venice for how we navigate the world today.

Meredith's book list on Venice (non-guidebooks)

Meredith Small Why did Meredith love this book?

Here you get McCarthy’s whit and her fine descriptions about living in Venice. Although her stay happened long ago, her stories about interacting with her landlord and other Venetians, and all the adjustments one must make when living in a water-bound city, ring true today as well.

By Mary McCarthy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A penetrating work of reportage on Venice. “Searching observations and astonishing comprehension of the Venetian taste and character” (New York Herald Tribune).

Book cover of Homestead

Theresa Kaminski Author Of Queen of the West: The Life and Times of Dale Evans

From Theresa's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Historian Retired professor Biographer Historical-fiction-lover

Theresa's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Theresa Kaminski Why did Theresa love this book?

Moustakis makes a stunning debut in this spare but beautiful story of a young Korean War veteran and a risk-taking young woman who meet in Anchorage, Alaska, and decide to marry and take up homesteading.

The setting and time period are perfect for exploring the possibilities and limits of love between two people who have strong personalities yet respect each other enough to stay together and try to understand what they need.

I admired how delicately Moustakis infused this tale of a determined romance with events of the time: the aftermath of a war many Americans were uncertain about and Alaska on the cusp of statehood. I’m really looking forward to her next novel.

By Melinda Moustakis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From NATIONAL BOOK FOUNDATION 5 UNDER 35 HONOREE and FLANNERY O'CONNOR AWARD WINNER Melinda Moustakis, a debut novel set in Alaska, about the turbulent marriage of two unlikely homesteaders

“A beautiful novel, quiet as a snowfall, warm as a glowing wood stove…Admirers of Marilynne Robinson and Alice Munro are bound to appreciate.” ―NPR

“Spare and exquisite, tough and lovely. The sentences build on themselves, becoming expansive and staggering in their sweep.” ―The New York Times Book Review

Anchorage, 1956. When Marie and Lawrence first lock eyes at the Moose Lodge, they are immediately drawn together. But when they decide to…

Book cover of The Cat Who...Cookbook

Dana Mentink Author Of Pint of No Return

From my list on hungry armchair sleuths who love their snackies.

Why am I passionate about this?

Maybe it’s due to my Cuban heritage, but I was raised to appreciate a delicious meal. Beans and rice, roasted pork, plantains, my mouth waters at the thought. When I launched into the writing business twenty five years and fifty books ago, I managed to sprinkle my novels with plenty of tasty treats. Diving into the culinary mystery world allowed me to combine my fancy for food and fiction into one glorious place. The best kind of mystery novels are the ones that tickle your taste buds while they tweak your little grey cells, don’t you think?

Dana's book list on hungry armchair sleuths who love their snackies

Dana Mentink Why did Dana love this book?

As a young adult, I absolutely devoured all the books in Lilian Jackson Braun’s The Cat Who series. I was infatuated with the dashing Qwilleran and his sleuthing cats Koko and YumYum. Qwilleran is a foodie and he seeks out excellent vittles when he relocates from the big city to Moose County and schmoozes with all the locals. This cookbook was an absolutely geeky delight, since it features recipes mentioned in the books and snippets directly from the novels which describe when the foods are mentioned. The dishes are quite fancy, but there is a selection of easier ones included also. (Brownies, Mac and cheese, and meatloaf to name a few.) I am partial to Mrs. Cobb’s meatloaf. (It turned out perfectly!) Really though, I adored this book just because it was so much fun to rediscover Qwill and the quirky Moose County residents through this clever cookbook!

By Julie Murphy, Sally Abney Stempinski,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Those who love Lilian Jackson Braun's Cat Who... mysteries know that the residents of Moose County are as discerning in their gastronomical tastes as the finicky felines who star in the novels. Now readers can enjoy the kind of feast that can only be found four hundred miles north of everywhere—with recipes for Polly's Picnic Brownies, Sea Scallops with Saffron Cream on Angel Hair Pasta, Mulligatawny Soup, Marinated Mushrooms, Thanksgiving Potatoes, Vonda's Chocolate Whoppers, and more. And for those who want to pamper their pets, The Cat Who...Cookbook features a section called "Feline Fare"—featuring some of Koko and Yum Yum's…

Book cover of The Only Kayak: A Journey into the Heart of Alaska

Dave Atcheson Author Of Dead Reckoning: Navigating a Life on the Last Frontier, Courting Tragedy on Its High Seas

From my list on true Alaskan stories of adventure and inspiration.

Why am I passionate about this?

To me there is a connection to something larger than myself, an overriding sense of spirit that I only seem to encounter in the outdoors, beneath the canopy of old-growth forest, or within the gaze of ancient snow-capped peaks. Since arriving in Alaska over 30 years ago it is something I have continually sought among this state’s striking landscape and in many of my own adventures here. It's an attitude, a sensibility I also seek in the stories I read, an authenticity tied to place, but also an inclination toward hope and optimism, even a tenuous one, that we can all relate to; a sentiment I have always tried to incorporate into my own writing.

Dave's book list on true Alaskan stories of adventure and inspiration

Dave Atcheson Why did Dave love this book?

Though this book is 17 years old, it is still a compelling memoir about a young man’s journey to find his “place” in Alaska, and the exploits he has along the way. Heacox describes in elegant detail his paddling adventures, encounters with wildlife, his work as a ranger, and his struggle with humanity and how we are all, including himself, tampering with the natural world we love. A wonderful personal adventure interspersed with rich characters, history, and internal conflict.

By Kim Heacox,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this coming-of-middle-age memoir, Kim Heacox, writing in the tradition of Abbey, McPhee, and Thoreau, discovers an Alaska reborn from beneath a massive glacier, where flowers emerge from boulders, moose swim fjords, and bears cross crevasses with Homeric resolve. In such a place Heacox finds that people are reborn too, and their lives begin anew with incredible journeys, epiphanies, and successes. All in an America free of crass commercialism and overdevelopment.

Braided through the larger story are tales of gold prospectors and the cabin they built sixty years ago; John Muir and his intrepid terrier, Stickeen; and a dynamic geology…

Book cover of The Way of the Brave

Elizabeth Goddard Author Of Shadows at Dusk

From my list on Christian stories that take readers to stunning locations.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m always inspired by nature. I’m sure that’s because my parents always took us to beautiful places on our summer vacations. I enjoyed snorkeling in Florida, hiking in the Rockies, exploring at Yellowstone National Park, to name a few places. I’ve never forgotten how in awe I was at seeing such beauty, and when I started writing romantic suspense novels, it seemed natural to look for a setting that not only inspired me to write but would lend to the suspense and tension aspect of my novels as well as provide an exciting adventure. Even now, when we travel and explore, it’s always setting that inspires me with new story ideas.

Elizabeth's book list on Christian stories that take readers to stunning locations

Elizabeth Goddard Why did Elizabeth love this book?

Again, another title that really grabbed me. I absolutely adored this book about former pararescue jumper Orion Star who lives in Alaska and his romance with the CIA profiler he met while on a mission overseas.

Jenny decides she wants to climb Denali! The tallest mountain in North America doesn’t always play nice so Orion must rescue her. I loved every minute of this story, especially all the details the author includes about climbing this mountain as if she’d done it herself. Who knows—maybe she did. 

By Susan May Warren,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Way of the Brave as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Former pararescue jumper Orion Starr is haunted by the memory of a rescue gone wrong. He may be living alone in Alaska now, but the pain of his failure--and his injuries--has followed him there from Afghanistan. He has no desire to join Hamilton Jones's elite rescue team, but he also can't shirk his duty when the call comes in to rescue three lost climbers on Denali.

Former CIA profiler and psychiatrist Jenny Calhoun's yearly extreme challenge with her best friends is her only escape from the guilt that has sunk its claws into her. As a consultant during a top-secret…

Book cover of A Thousand Trails Home: Living with Caribou

Richard Chiappone Author Of The Hunger of Crows

From my list on real lives of 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.

Richard's book list on real lives of Alaskans—not the idiots on reality TV

Richard Chiappone Why did Richard 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 Dance with the Devil

L. S. Bethel Author Of The King's Seer

From my list on romance with supernatural worldbuilding.

Why am I passionate about this?

Give me all the supernatural and fantasy intrigue with love on the side. Sometimes this world of ours is too much to deal with and it’s nice to visit other worlds. To read and write about the justice, love, and magic of other things that may be lacking in your life can be cathartic and gives us something to look forward to and strive for. While some of the more supernatural aspects might be out of reach, the beauty of unbreakable bonds forged in love and trust, people willing to sacrifice for what they believe in, and seeing justice prevail also gives me the hope that it's not unreachable if you believe it. 

L. S.'s book list on romance with supernatural worldbuilding

L. S. Bethel Why did L. S. love this book?

Probably one of my favorites and in my opinion best written for the series. Not surprising that my love for this book spawns because of its similarity to another book I have on this list. Once again we have cool mythology, vampire lore, an ornery hero paired with a kind-hearted but smart heroine, and moments that’ll make you want to cry, throw things into a fire, and cheer. This book spoke to my need for retribution. Throughout the book, it’s what I wanted for my mc more than anything. A need for justice, a supernatural world you want to know more about, and funny, lovable, but also broken characters that you just want to protect, I found this all and more in just this one book. 

By Sherrilyn Kenyon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dance with the Devil as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Zarek is the most dangerous of all the Dark-Hunters. He endured a lifetime as a Roman slave and centuries as a Dark-Hunter in exile. Zarek trusts no one. Because of his steadfast denial to follow any orders, he is kept in isolation in Alaska where his activity is seriously limited and closely monitored. There are many who fear he will one day unleash his powers against humans as well as vampires. Have nine hundred years of exile made Zarek too vicious to be redeemed? The gods want Zarek dead but reluctantly agree to allow justice goddess Astrid to judge him.…

Book cover of Stickeen: John Muir and the Brave Little Dog

Kim Heacox Author Of John Muir and the Ice That Started a Fire: How a Visionary and the Glaciers of Alaska Changed America

From my list on John Muir.

Why am I passionate about this?

Kim Heacox has written 15 books, five of them published by National Geographic. He has twice won the National Outdoor Book Award (for his memoir, The Only Kayak, and his novel, Jimmy Bluefeather), and twice won the Lowell Thomas Award for excellence in travel journalism. He’s featured on Ken Burns’ film, The National Parks, America's Best Idea, and he’s spoken about John Muir on Public Radio International’s Living on Earth. He lives in Gustavus, Alaska (next to Glacier Bay Nat’l Park), a small town of 500 people reachable only by boat or plane.

Kim's book list on John Muir

Kim Heacox Why did Kim love this book?

When Muir made his second great canoe trip in Alaska, in 1880, one of his canoe-mates, a Presbyterian missionary, brought along a little terrier named Stickeen. At first, Muir didn’t like the dog. But later, the two spent a cold, wet day exploring a massive glacier, and barely survived. Muir called it the greatest of his many adventure stories. The illustrations in this book are exaggerated, but stunning. You can almost feel the cold, and the elation man and dog feel at the end as they become fast friends.

By John Muir,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

First published as "An Adventure with a Dog and a Glacier" in 1897 in "The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine" and then expanded into a book and published in 1909, "Stickeen" by American naturalist John Muir is one of literature's most enduring dog stories. Based on a trip he took to Alaska in 1880 with a dog Stickeen and their trek out on a glacier, this short memoir is one of Muir's best-known publications whose enduring appeal has resulted in numerous adaptations and retellings. This thrilling and heart-warming tale follows Muir as he sets out to explore a glacier with the…

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 Alaska

Laura Galloway Author Of Dalvi: Six Years in the Arctic Tundra

From my list on life changing books on life in the Arctic (and other cold climates!).

Why am I passionate about this?

Why I chose to write about cold climates: I spent nearly seven years living in the North of Norway in the Sámi reindeer herding village called Guovdageaidnu, or Kautokeino in Norwegian. I cherish my time in that part of the world. 

Laura's book list on life changing books on life in the Arctic (and other cold climates!)

Laura Galloway Why did Laura love this book?

I first read this novel when I was 11–my parents had it in the study, and for some reason, I picked it up one day–probably because there was nothing on TV, and I couldn’t stop reading. I was captivated by this book; it was like nothing I’d ever read, describing a place that was so different from my midwestern home.

It’s the story of Alaska and its history–told in a pacy, thrilling way. I still remember this book 40 years on, which says something! 

By James A. Michener,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this sweeping epic of the northernmost American frontier, James A. Michener guides us through Alaska’s fierce terrain and history, from the long-forgotten past to the bustling present. As his characters struggle for survival, Michener weaves together the exciting high points of Alaska’s story: its brutal origins; the American acquisition; the gold rush; the tremendous growth and exploitation of the salmon industry; the arduous construction of the Alcan Highway, undertaken to defend the territory during World War II. A spellbinding portrait of a human community fighting to establish its place in the world, Alaska traces a bold and majestic saga…