Summer Reading, Alaska-style

Some of the books that have recently arrived on the Capital City Weekly’s bookshelf. Mary Catharine Martin | Capital City Weekly

Here at the Capital City Weekly, we get a lot of books for review. Sadly, we can’t write about them all. Instead, we try to focus on those that are written by Southeast Alaska residents, about Southeast Alaska, or both. This is our attempt to highlight worthy, recently-received books we’ve been unable to feature. Some we’ve written about, some we haven’t yet gotten to (but plan to!) and some we won’t be able to write about. Either way, all of them are worthy of attention.



Rough Crossing: An Alaskan Fisherwoman’s Memoir, by Rosemary McGuire, 2017, University of New Mexico Press.

This award-winning memoir tells the story of a Fairbanks woman who spent 15 years as a commercial fisherwoman, starting out as a crewmember on the Arctic Storm in Homer.

“Cold, hard work and starkly sexist harassment were what she found. Here is her story of life on a fishing boat as the only woman crew member. Both an adult coming-of-age tale and a candid look at the Alaskan fishing industry, this is the story of a woman in a man’s world,” the write-up on the back says.

Andre Dubus III, author of “The House of Sand and Fog,” praised the book in a blurb, writing “I felt as immersed in the experience as if I were reading Hemingway… a superb memoir.”

It won the “River Teeth” Literary Nonfiction Prize. McGuire is also the author of a book of short stories, “The Creatures at the Absolute Bottom of the Sea.”

Alaska on the Go: Exploring the Alaska Marine Highway System with Children, by Erin Kirkland, 2017. Published by University of Alaska Press.

This is one of those books we’ve been meaning to write more about. Kirkland, who is also the author of “Alaska On the Go: Exploring the 49th State with Children,” is an Alaskan resident and journalist.

The book “digs deep into Alaska’s small coastal towns and villages that make up the Marine Highway routes, and visits the larger centers of commerce and government within the panhandle section of Southeast.” It’s divided into parts focused on planning, life on board, and routes/ports of call. Routes are divided into Southeast Alaska, Cross Gulf, Southcentral Alaska, and Southwest Alaska.

Spirits of Southeast Alaska: The History & Hauntings of Alaska’s Panhandle, by James P. Devereaux, 2017. Epicenter Press.

This compilation of ghost stories from around Southeast Alaska features “ghostly footsteps and flickering lights, a silhouette in the window of an abandoned building, a restless presence at the scene of a sunken ship, spectral wails and poltergeist theft of office supplies, mythical Native American legends, and other paranormal happenings,” according to the write up on the back.

It’s “a grand adventure into the historical hauntings of the southeastern corner of the Last Frontier,” the write up continues.

Devereaux lived in Alaska for years, working as an archaeologist. He spent his last five years in Alaska in Skagway.

Placing John Haines, by James Perrin Warren, 2017. University of Alaska Press.

This book is “the first book-length study of Alaska poet and essayist John Haines,” says the back of the book. “The book argues that Haines found his authentic voice during his twenty-five years of homesteading in the Alaska wilderness, but he develops his poetic vision over a long, prestigious career in dialogue with patterns of movement and change.”

Nancy Lord, featured later in this write-up for a book of her own, called it “a brilliant work of scholarship and analysis, bringing overdue attention and understanding to the poetry and prose of Alaska’s most significant literary writer.”

Seward’s Folly: A New Look at the Alaska Purchase, by Lee A. Farrow, 2016. University of Alaska Press.

On the sesquicentennial anniversary of Alaska’s acquisition as a U.S. territory, Farrow delves into “Russia’s reasons for selling and America’s reasons for buying, the intricacies of the treaty, the complexities of the transfer, the debates and derision in the press and on Capitol Hill, the persistent law suit that threatened to ruin the deal, and the scandal that followed,” says the book’s write-up, adding that those are details of which few are aware.

“At a time when the balance of power in Europe was threatened by the fracturing of the Ottoman Empire and the growing tide of nationalism, the Alaska Purchase was viewed as much more than a simple exchange of territory,” it continues.

Haunted Inside Passage: Ghosts, Legends and Mysteries of Southeast Alaska, by Bjorn Dihle, 2017. Alaska Northwest Books.

This collection of haunted and scary stories from around Southeast Alaska, interspersed with Dihle’s experiences in wild places, started as an article in the Capital City Weekly. In it, the author interviews people around Southeast Alaska about their experiences and stories.

“In this gripping and often hilarious collection of spooky stories, supernatural legends, and unsolved mysteries from Alaska’s Inside Passage, Bjorn Dihle explores gold rush ghosts, haunted hotels, shipwrecks, attacks from the giant squid, disappeared Russian explorers, and a quest to find Sasquatch, to name just a few,” says the writeup on the back.

Dihle writes a regular column for the Juneau Empire Outdoors section. This year, that column won awards both for humor writing and for outdoors writing.

An article about “Haunted Inside Passage” is available here:

Alaska’s Mendenhall Glacier, photos by Mark Kelley, written by Nick Jans, 2017, self-published.

This new book of photos and writings about Juneau’s most prominent glacier features gorgeous photos from well-known Juneau photographer Mark Kelley and writings from well-known Haines writer Nick Jans, author of “A Wolf Called Romeo.” It serves as a beautiful table-book, overview of the glacier, and introduction to anyone unfamiliar with it, covering everything from the science of a glacier, to the Juneau Icefield Research Program, to the relatively recent phenomenon of the Mendenhall Lake jokulhlaup.

In Wild Trust: Larry Aumiller’s 30 Years Among the McNeil River Brown Bears, by Jeff Fair, with photographs by Larry Aumiller, 2017. University of Alaska Press.

This book, a “photographic biography,” “tells the story of how he (Aumiller) established a ‘trust’ with the bears (at McNeil River State Game Sanctuary in southwestern Alaska,) partly through his savvy and maintaining the legislated priorities of the sanctuary, and partly by accident,” says the write up on the back.

Gustavus writer Kim Heacox calls it an “inspiring, elegantly-written book.”

“If you want to know Alaska at its best, this is it,” he wrote in a blurb on the back of the book.

See a review from Bjorn Dihle, author of “Haunted Inside Passage,” also featured in this roundup, here:

South Shelter, by Jay Beedle, 2014. Self-published.

Local Shelter Island resident Jay Beedle has written a memoir, with a plethora of color photos, about his and his family’s experience living “off the grid” on Shelter Island. The Capital City Weekly published an article about the book here:

The Big Damned Hat: Tales from Alaska’s Territorial Lawyers and Judges, by Pamela Cravez, 2017, University of Alaska Press.

For this book, lawyer and writer Cravez interviewed more than 50 Alaska lawyers who practiced law before Alaska became the 49th state in 1959. Through her research, “The Biggest Damned Hat” gives “new stories and perspectives on Alaska history from gold rush times to statehood,” from the perspective of territorial lawyers, the write up on the back states.


Human Being Songs: Northern Stories, by Jean Anderson, 2017. University of Alaska Press.

This book of short stories’ “focus on hardworking and underpaid or underappreciated characters brings a relatively new social consciousness to Alaska’s literature, but ‘love’s mysteries’ form the core of the collection,” says the write up on the back.

In them, characters “fall in and out of love, mourn lost loved ones, struggle with work; they travel for pleasure and miss home; they’re wildly happy or profoundly sad; they worry about making ends meet,” it continues.

In a blurb, Carole L. Glickfeld called the stories “lyrical excursions into the depths of the human heart and psyche.”

pH: A Novel, by Nancy Lord, 2017. Published by Alaska Northwest Books.

Nancy Lord is a well-known, respected Alaska writer, a former State Writer Laureate of Alaska and a Pushcart Prize winner. This book is what’s known as “CliFi” – science fiction based on climate change, ocean acidification, specifically. It’s Lord’s tenth book and first novel.

The press release we got with an advance copy of her book describes it as “cutting-edge CliFi as bonds are forged among a cast of unforgettable characters studying the effects of ocean acidification on sea butterflies.”

“While the characters are quirky and entertaining, the science behind the book is real (and disturbing)” the description goes on to say. Lord hopes the book will bring “the pteropod’s plight to light.”

This book doesn’t come out until September 2017.

Piano Tide: A Novel, by Kathleen Dean Moore, 2016. Published by Counterpoint Press.

This novel, based in an imaginary Southeast Alaska town, follows the mysterious Nora Montgomery after she arrives on the ferry with little more than her piano and her dog. It too deals with environmental themes, featuring a “clash… (that) is a spectacular and transformative act of resistance,” according to its book jacket.

The Capital City Weekly published an article about the book, available here:


Milk Black Carbon, by Joan Naviyuk Kane, 2017. University of Pittsburgh Press.

Kane has three other books: “The Cormorant Hunter’s Wife,” “Hyperboreal,” and “The Straits.” She’s won numerous awards, among them the prestigious Whiting Award, and is a faculty mentor in the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts. She is Inupiaq, has family from King Island and Mary’s Igloo, and lives in Anchorage.

In a blurb on the back of the advance copy, Carolyn Forche calls the book “a brilliant work of lyric art and a decoding of knowledges written ‘in the dark cursive of a wolf/circling on sea ice.”

“She writes in English and Inupiaq Eskimo, toward a horizon of radical futurity, against nostalgia, with awareness that there is no turning back,” she continued.

Jeremy Pataky, 49 Writers’ executive director, has a column published in this week’s Capital City Weekly featuring an interview with Kane about the IAIA.


Tidal Echoes: Literary and Arts Journal, 2017, University of Alaska Southeast.

This annual publication from the University of Alaska Southeast features creative writing – fiction, nonfiction and poetry – and art from Southeast Alaskans. It’s in its 15th year. Read more about it here:

Other wonderful books we’ve written about recently include Alaska State Writer Laureate and UAS professor Ernestine Hayes’ “The Tao of Raven: An Alaska Native Memoir” ( Ishmael Hope’s “Rock Piles Along the Eddy,” (,) a book of poems focusing on indigenous thought, and Kate Troll’s “The Great Unconformity: Reflections on Hope in an Imperiled World” ( ).


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