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Staff Picks for Alaskana

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Discovering Wild Plants: Alaska, Western Canada, the Northwest

Written by Janice Schofield Eaton
Alaskana

Although this book is too big to carry as a field guide, it contains volumes of in-depth coverage with color photos on harvesting wild plants. Arranged by habitat zones (muskeg, alpine, etc), Discovering Wild Plants contains volumes of in-depth coverage with color photos on harvesting wild plants, and is enjoyable to read. Detailing the when and how of harvest, recipes for Elder fritters, herbal teas and more.

Recommended by Alli
Cover art for Double Moon: Constructions & Conversations

Double Moon: Constructions & Conversations

Written by Frank Soos
Illustrated by Margo Klass
Alaskana

You may have had a chance to see the work of Margo Klass when her shadow boxes were exhibited at the Alaska State Museum last spring, but if you missed it, or would like another chance to see these exquisite artworks, check out Double Moon. As an added bonus, the works are accompanied by the poetry of Frank Soos. Klass and Soos live in Fairbanks.

Recommended by Catherine
Cover art for Jefferson Davis in Blue: The Life of Sherman's Relentless Warrior

Jefferson Davis in Blue: The Life of Sherman's Relentless Warrior

Written by Nathaniel Cheairs Hughes, Jr.
Alaskana

This book features a little piece of overlooked history about the man in charge of Alaska during the US Naval Occupancy, prior to Territorial Years: Major Jefferson Davis. It was under Davis' command that many southeast Native villages, including Kake, were bombed. One chapter is devoted to Davis' reign in Alaska, while other chapters account the US Army's campaigns during the American Indian Wars. Includes a great source list for further exploration of Alaska history.

Recommended by Mark
Cover art for Pilgrim's Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier

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

Written by Tom Kizzia
Alaskana

“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.”

This is the tagline you’ll see over and over when you look this book up and it’s a great description. Alaska’s uneasy relationship with “the Feds” is a real and true thing, especially in some of the more remote areas, and this book caught all the fire of the Alaskan struggle with its questioning-authority attitude.

In 2002, when the Pilgrim family, a curious group that included a husband and wife and their 14 children, showed up in remote McCarthy, Alaska, and homesteaded in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, their pioneer spirit, independent nature, religious piety, and throwback ideals were embraced by the frontier community. Then, their bulldozers and disregard for neighbors begins to reflect the dark shadows that eventually encompass the Pilgrim family.

This book is well-written, well-researched and an excellent read. I remember following this story in the papers, and this book rounded out the story in a perfectly satisfying manner.

Recommended by LouAnn
Cover art for Steam Laundry: Poems

Steam Laundry: Poems

Written by Nicole Stellon O'Donnell
Alaskana

Nicole Stellon O'Donnell will be reading from this book along with Sarah Crawford Isto at the event Fur Farms and Steam Laundry on Thursday, December 6th at 7pm at the Downtown Library. A workshop on writing using historical resources as a starting point will be offered on Friday 12/7/12.

From San Francisco to Skagway up over the Chilkoot Trail and on to Dawson, Steam Laundry is O'Donnell's unique portrait of a family's journey to Alaska. Their story is told through poems, a technique referred to as a novel in verse or a novel in poems. Most of the poems are letters chronicling the transformation of Joe and Ellen Gibson and their two sons. Interspersed are historical photos and documents from the Sarah Ellen Gibson Collection at UAF. You don't have to like poetry or history to enjoy this amazing chronicle of family relationships in the face of hardship.

Recommended by Jonas
Cover art for The Fur Farms of Alaska: Two Centuries of History and a Forgotten Stampede

The Fur Farms of Alaska: Two Centuries of History and a Forgotten Stampede

Written by Sarah Crawford Isto
Alaskana

Sarah Crawford Isto will be reading from this book along with Nicole Stellon O'Donnell on Thursday, December 6th at 7pm at the Downtown Library. A workshop on writing using historical resources as a starting point will be offered on Friday 12/7/12.

Local author Isto gracefully follows the trail of a personal connection to the vast and overlooked history of a very particular type of Alaskan agriculture. One that is unique due to the state's myriad of rugged islands, and due to the nature of the seeds which were planted by the farmers themselves.

The first seed of the story is Isto's distant relative, Uncle Jule, who took on a position as a Territorial Veterinarian of Alaska in 1930. His duty was to travel to remote islands and offer advice and assistance to fur farmers. The second seed, sowed 100 years prior, were the foxes. Seeds with legs, planted and left to breed on the Aleutian Islands by Russian fur traders.

I found this piece of overlooked Alaskan history incredibly easy to read and loved poring over the accompanying historic photos combed from the various Alaskan archives. Talk about a different perspective on our state's history!

Recommended by Jonas
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Wilderness: A Journal of Quiet Adventure in Alaska

Written by Rockwell Kent
Alaskana

If you like the idea of holing up in a cabin for the winter to dedicate yourself to creative pursuits, you should check out the journal of the renowned American artist, Rockwell Kent who spent the winter of 1918 on Fox Island in Resurrection Bay near Seward. Kent and his son (also named Rockwell, which causes some confusion in the narration) are taken in by a solitary yet jolly Swede named Olsen who invites the two to stay in one of his cabins. After evicting the current tenants of the cabin (his angora goats), the Kents settle in for the winter. Rumors abound in Seward that there’s a German spy living out in the bay. Kent’s observations on wilderness, weather and solitary life will appeal to many Alaskans. Accompanying the text are fabulous reproductions of many of the intricate drawings (resembling woodcut prints) made by the author during his stay on Fox Island.

This book has become somewhat of a cult classic in Alaskan literature and I find myself checking it out nearly every winter since discovering it. I’ve even been writing poems inspired by the illustrations.

Recommended by Jonas

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