Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Alaska Book Week! Five Good Alaska Reads

On my shelves are dozens and dozens of Alaska titles in a dazzling variety of genres and styles, books I recommend often, including some authored by good friends of mine. This week, Amy Fletcher of the Juneau Empire asked me to list five of them for a feature that runs on Thursday, October 10, in honor of Alaska Book Week.

Five - only five - out of all those books! I decided to reach back in time for those that have inspired my own writing: character-driven narratives with a brilliance of atmosphere, internalized tension, haunting language, and a keen reliance on place. Just thinking about them makes me want to drop everything and read them all over again.

  • And She Was, by Cindy Dyson: Brilliantly interwoven in this novel are the sagas of long-dead Aleut women and a troubled cocktail waitress, an outsider in the fishing boomtown of Unalaska in the 1980s. A page-turner with scenes and images that will stick with you for a long, long time.
  • Blessing’s Bead, by Debby Dahl Edwardson: Edwardson gained well-deserved recognition for My Name is Not Easy, a National Book Award finalist, but I have a special fondness for this middle-grade novel, rich with history and quiet tension. Like Dyson’s book, it interweaves past and present.
  • Just Breathe Normally, by Peggy Shumaker: A poet, Shumaker has crafted a memoir of excruciating beauty, pivoting on haunting images and scattered memories from a horrific accident in Fairbanks. A tribute to the power of the human spirit.
  • Road Song, by Natalie Kusz: Honest, original, wise, elegant, riveting, sad, and courageous­—these are among the adjectives that have been used to describe Kusz’s story. I couldn’t agree more. This is no ordinary memoir of a family’s move north.
  • Ordinary Wolves, by Seth Kantner: I love everything about this book. Flinching from nothing, it rings true in all the ways a novel should, plus it transports you to parts of Alaska you’d likely never otherwise know. It should be required reading for every Alaskan.
No matter where you live, here's hoping you'll celebrate Alaska Book Week with a great Alaska title. For the full feature, including "good reads" picks by other Alaskans, check the feature in this Thursday's special Arts section of the Juneau Empire, which also includes an article about Running Fox Books. And if you're in Anchorage, don't miss the Great Alaska Book Fair this Saturday, October 12, at Alaska Pacific University, where I'll be sharing a table with the lovely and talented Cinthia Ritchie. We'll have goodies and bookmarks and book giveaways, plus books, of course.