A look back at 2009 releases

Posted: Thursday, December 10, 2009

Our fair state was well-represented in print in 2009.

Two of the major news stories of the year, the state's 50th birthday and the activities of former Gov. Sarah Palin, generated a decent amount of ink ("Alaska at 50" and "Sarah from Alaska" among others), and a new book celebrating a Native perspective on the history and politics of the state was published ("The Alaska Native Reader").

Personal essay collections included local author Nick Jans' latest book ("Glacier Wolf"), former Juneau resident Chuck Thompson's alt-travel book ("To Hellholes and Back") and Anchorage-based author Bill Streever's take on all things frigid ("Cold").

Other Alaska adventure stories new this year were Erin McKittrick's tale of her 4,000-mile human-powered journey with her husband, Brentwood Higman ("A Long Trek Home"), and local author Marge Hermans Osborn's description of staying put ("Four Walls against the Wind").

New Alaska art books were wide-ranging, and included a retrospective of Preston Singletary's glass work ("Echoes, Fire and Shadows"), and a collection of paintings by local artist Nan Lathrop ("Taku Winds").

In fiction, local author R. Phillip Ritter combined fact and imagination in a novel set in Douglas ("The Heart of Abigail") and former Juneau resident Robin Lehman sent her gutsy FBI heroine back to her hometown ("Perseverance").

University of Alaska Southeast professor Jen Vernon released a new book of poetry ("Rock Candy"), Juneau-based photographer Flip Nicklin contributed his eye for whales ("Humpbacks: Unveiling the Mysteries") and local chef Stefani Marnon collected beer recipes ("Cooking with Alaskan Beer").

Here's a broader look at some of the Alaska-oriented books that hit the presses this year. (Note: This list is selective, and not intended to be comprehensive.)

Native issues

"Alaska Native Reader: History, Culture, Politics," edited by Maria Shaa Tláa Williams. A collection of essays, poems, songs, stories, maps and visual art celebrating the perspectives of Alaska Natives.

"Tukiliit: The Stone People Who Live in the Wind" by Norman Hallendy. Hallendy spent more than 40 years traveling with Inuit elders, identifying and studying the stone structures of the area, built by the Inuit. "Tulillitt" translates as "objects which have meaning."

"Where the Rivers Meet the Sky: A Collaborative Approach to Participatory Development," Timothy Kennedy. Kennedy, a VISTA volunteer in Noorvik in the mid-1960s, describes how he used videography to foster communication between remote Eskimo villages and the government.

"On Thin Ice: The Inuit, the State and the Challenge of Arctic Sovereignty" Barry Scott Zellen. Zellen explores the relationship between the Inuit and the modern state in this sequel to "Breaking the Ice."

"The Kandik Map," Linda Johnson. Johnson delves into the story behind the Kandik Map, the earliest known record of the Upper Yukon River and its tributaries.


"Alaska at 50: The Past, Present and Next Fifty Years of Alaska Statehood," edited by G.W. Kimura. A collection of essays from various writers on topics including art and culture, law, economy, politics and the environment. Local contributors include Jocelyn Clark and Nora Marks Dauenhauer.

"Going Rogue: An American Life," Sarah Palin. The former governor's memoir about growing up in Alaska, her family and her political career to date.

"Sarah from Alaska: The Sudden Rise and Brutal Education of a New Conservative Superstar," by Scott Conroy and Shushannah Walshe. The authors, both embedded reporters during Palin's vice presidential campaign, offer an alternate, nonpartisan look at the controversial figure.

"Alaska Politics and Public Policy: The Dynamics of Beliefs, Institutions, Processes, Personalities and Power," edited by Clive S. Thomas. Thomas, a professor of political science at UAS, has gathered contributions on key issues in Alaska politics and government. (Release date: Dec. 30)

"Fighting for the 49th: C.W. Snedden and the Long Struggle for Alaska Statehood," by Terrence Cole. Cole describes how Snedden, owner of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, used his newspaper to crusade for statehood and the development of Alaska. (Release date: Dec. 15)


"Preston Singletary: Echoes, Fire and Shadows (with DVD)," edited by Melissa Post. A mid-career retrospective of Tlingit artist Singletary's glasswork.

"Giinaquq--Like a Face: Suqpiaq Masks of the Kodiak Archipelago," edited by Sven D. Haakanson, Jr. and Amy F. Steffian. Photographs and text describe a collection of masks brought to France in the late 1800s by a French explorer, and their eventual reconnection to their culture of origin.

"Challenging Traditions: Contemporary First Nations Art of the Northwest Coast," Ian M. Thom. Vancouver-based Thom examines the careers, working methods and philosophy of 40 active Native American artists.

"Point Hope, Alaska: Life On Frozen Water", By Berit Arnestad Foote. A collection of photographs taken between 1959 and 1962 by Norwegian artist Foote, this book offers a look at the daily life of the Iñupiaq residents of Point Hope.

"Taku Winds," Nan Lathrop. This series of paintings by local artist Lathrop features Southeast landscapes.

Personal essay, memoir, travel

"Cold: Adventures in the World's Frozen Places," by Bill Streever. Streever, of Anchorage, shares his observations and expertise on cold, drawing on his field studies in the world's most frigid regions.

"The Glacier Wolf: True Stories of Life in Southeast Alaska" Nick Jans. Local author Jans' latest collection of personal essays focuses on the flora and fauna of Southeast.

"A Long Trek Home: 4,000 Miles by Boot, Raft and Ski," by Erin McKittrick. McKittrick details the journey she and her husband, Hig, took from Seattle to the Aleutians, covering 4,000 under their own power.

"To Hellholes and Back: Bribes, Lies, and the Art of Extreme Tourism," by Chuck Thompson. Travel writer (and former Juneau resident) Thompson travels to four locations - Mexico City, India, the Congo and Disney World - to see if his bad impressions of them are warranted.

"A Tender Distance: Raising My Sons in Alaska," by Kaylene Johnson. Johnson's collection of essays center on her experiences as a mother in Eagle River.

"Rock Water Wild: An Alaskan Life," by Nancy Lord. Current Alaska writer laureate Lord, of Homer, explores the importance of place in this collection of personal essays.

"Changing Paths: Travels and Meditations in Alaska's Arctic Wilderness," by Bill Sherwonit. "Changing Paths" recounts the author's solo trek through the central Brooks Range at age 50. Sherwonit lives in Anchorage.

"Growing Up In Alaska" by Jack Coghill. Nenana's Coghill, one of the few surviving members of Alaska's constitutional convention, shares his memories of the making of the 40th state.

"Old Yukon" by James Wickersham. This new edition of Wickersham's 1938 memoirs contains new material from his unpublished diaries.

"A Place of Belonging: Five Founding Women of Fairbanks, Alaska," by Phyllis Demuth Movius. Movius, of Fairbanks, Tells the story of five women who settled in the city between 1903 and 1923, through the women's letters, memoirs, personal papers, oral histories and other writings.

"Four Walls Against the Wind," Marge Hermans Osborn. Local author Osborn describes how she and her husband, Tom, fulfilled their dream of building a cabin in a remote waterfront site in Southeast.


"Cooking with Alaskan Beer," Stefani Marnon. Juneau's Chef Stef, in collaboration with the Alaskan Brewing Co., brings together 101 recipes for cooking with beer.

"50 Years of Facts 'n' Food," by Myrna Allen. This self-published book pairs interesting facts about the state by year with recipes and stories gathered from long-time residents.

"Salmon Patties & Rosehip Pie: An Artist's Cookbook from Halibut Cove, Alaska," by Kathleen Bennett and Marian T. Beck. A local-food cookbook featuring Beck's drawings and stories about Halibut Cove.

Field guides, outdoor topics

"Skijor with your Dog," Mari Hoe-Raitto, Carol Kaynor. This guide to skijoring (the sport of being pulled on skis by one or more dogs in a harness) includes instructions on how to teach your dog to pull, competitive tips and how to camp and travel with your dog.

"Humpbacks: Unveiling the Mysteries," by Jim Darling, Flip Nicklin, Susan W. Barnes. Featuring the images of Juneau-based National Geographic photographer Nicklin, this book describes what researchers have learned thus far about humpbacks.

Discovery Southeast Nature Guides. Laminated, locally produced guides to animals, flower, birds and streams in Southeast.

Waterford Press' Pocket Guides, produced by James Kavanagh, a zoologist, Jill Kavanagh and illustrator Ray Leung. Pocket Guides include "Alaska Birds," Alaska Butterflies and Moths," "Alaska Trees and Wildflowers," Alaska Wildlife, The Nature of Alaska" and "Wilderness Survival."

"Common Interior Alaska Cryptogams: Fungi, Lichenicolous Fungi, Lichenized Fungi, Slime Molds, Mosses and Liverworts," by Gary A. Laursen and Rodney D Seppelt. Billed as the first field guide to Cryptogams of Denali National Park, this illustrated guide covers edibility, abundance and utility, among other topics.

"Field Techniques for Sea Ice Research," Edited by Hajo Eicken. This is a global look at the changes in sea ice and the tools and techniques used to measure and record them.


"The Heart of Abigail," R. Phillip Ritter. Ritter, of Juneau, tells the historically-accurate story of a young nurse who travels from Scotland to Alaska in 1899 to work at St. Ann's Hospital in Douglas.

"Sometimes We're Always Real Same-Same," Mattox Roesch. This debut novel by Roesch is set in Unalakleet, where Roesch lives, and is narrated by a 17-year-old former Los Angeles gang member.

"Blessing's Bead" by Debby Dahl Edwardson. Edwardson, of Barrow, based this young-adult novel on a story she wrote while reporting for KBRW radio in the 1980s; it tells the story of a blue bead that connects two Iñupiaq girls from different generations.

"Dawn's Prelude (Song of Alaska)" by Tracie Peterson. Peterson, of Montana, tells the story of a young widow's relocation to Sitka.

"Perseverance," by Robin Lehman. Lehman, originally from Juneau and now based in Kansas, has set her debut adventure novel in Southeast. It is the first in a planned series.

"The Dragon War Relic," Berin Stephens. Stephens, who grew up in Chugiak and now lives in Utah, tells the fantasy story of a teenager who receives a mysterious ring from a stranger.


"Rock Candy," Jen Vernon. Local poet Vernon is a communications professor at UAS. One of the poems in this collection was featured on Writers Almanac with Garrison Keillor earlier this year.

"For the Sake of the Light," Tom Sexton. Sexton, English professor at UAA and former poet laureate of Alaska, divides his year between Alaska and Maine, drawing on both environments in his poetry.

Children, young adults

"The Little Seal: An Alaska Adventure," by Ram Papish. Papish, a Oregon biologist, introduces young readers to the life of a northern fur seal in the Bering Sea.

"Apun: The Arctic Snow," by Matthew Sturm. Sturm, a snow expert with the Army's Cold Regions Research Lab, describes the intricacy and importance of Arctic snow cover in this educational book for kids.

"Ocean's Child," by Christine Ford, Trish Holland and David Diaz. Set in the Arctic, the book follows an Inuit mother and child as they head home.

"Finding Alaska: The LIfe and Art of Shannon Cartwright," by Shannon Cartwright. This book traces the authors personal story of moving to Alaska.

"What's a Shrew to You?" by Mary Shields, Jon Van Zyle and Susan Grace. This rhyming book features Alaska wildlife.

"The Bight ... Before Christmas," by Will Swagel and Colin Herforth. The book by Sitka's Swagle and illustrator Herforth is a Southeast take on the classic Christmas poem.

"The End of the Road: A Maxie and Stretch Mystery" by Sue Henry. Henry's latest Homer-based mystery featuring Maxie McNabb and her miniature dachshund.

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