Monday, October 5, 2015

Celebrating Alaska Book Week!

It's Alaska Book Week, a celebration of Alaskan authors and their books, created by 49 Writers. Libraries, bookstores, and schools hold book signings, author talks, writing workshops, and other special events that highlight writing in Alaska.

We're big fans of Alaska books at the Alaska State Library. Our collections and our research have a strong Alaskan focus, so we live and breathe Alaska books and documents. Here are a few recent titles that we've enjoyed this year.

Published by University of Nebraska Press, 2014.
Fu-Go: The Curious History of Japan's Balloon Bomb Attack on America by Ross Coen
The fu-go campaign was a little-known episode from World War II in the Pacific. The Japanese military launched thousands of paper balloons rigged with incendiary devices that were meant to drift across the ocean to start wildfires and wreck havoc in the western United States and Canada. Although hundreds of these balloons were found, including many in Alaska, only one resulted in casualties, killing a minister's wife and several teens in Oregon. Ross visited the library in June and gave us a behind-the-scenes look at Fu-Go, including dozens of previously classified images. Although Fu-Go is a riveting read on its own, Ross' lecture added another dimension to my enjoyment of this book. If you missed it, you can watch the video here. We apologize for some technical difficulties with the screen-sharing at the beginning of the recording.

Animal Stories
Published by Alaska Northwest Books, 2014.
Animal Stories: Encounters with Alaska's Wildlife by Bill Sherwonit
I'm not the only library staffer who's been recommending Bill Sherwonit's collection of nature stories. Sherwonit, a former outdoors writer for the Anchorage Times, writes about his extraordinary and everyday animal encounters in a friendly, thoughtful style. The surreal feeling of meeting a wild animal on the street will resonate with many urban Alaskans, and Sherwonit includes not just bears and moose but other less common critters like wood frogs, sandhill cranes, and lynx.

So, How Long Have You Been Native?
Published by University of Nebraska Press, 2015.
So, How Long Have You Been Native? by Alexis Bunten
This anthropological exploration of cultural tourism is based on Bunten's experience working as a tour guide for a tribally owned tourism business in Sitka. Bunten addresses the struggle that Alaska Native communities face when trying to decide if they should embrace or denounce cultural tourism, which brings economic benefits but can also be viewed as selling out Native culture. Working in tourism is a rite of passage for many Alaskans, but this insider look at working in cultural tourism is unique.

A Wolf Called Romeo
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014.
 A Wolf Called Romeo by Nick Jans
For several years, Juneau was home to a friendly, solitary black wolf, who loved to frolic and play with local dogs around Mendenhall Glacier. He appeared in late 2004 and soon became a regular winter fixture. Nick Jans, a well-known Alaska nature writer and photographer, was among the first to encounter the wolf who was soon nicknamed Romeo by everyone in town. A Wolf Called Romeo is a great choice for dog lovers, nature enthusiasts, and anyone who had the brief opportunity to be adopted as a member of Romeo's pack. Nick Jans will be speaking about this book at University of Alaska Southeast's Egan Library for Evening at Egan on October 16.

Dreaming Bears
Published by Epicenter Press, 2014.
Dreaming Bears by J. Michael Holloway
After Mike Holloway's first year of medical school, he was determined to have the most remote Alaskan adventure possible, so he caught a bush plane from Fairbanks to Venetie, then hiked to Gold Camp, the tiny home of Johnny and Sarah Franks. Johnny showed Mike traditional ways of hunting, fishing, and boat-building, and constantly told stories of his people. This began a lifelong friendship between a young doctor and the Gwich’in elder who became his mentor. Dreaming Bears is a quiet book about finding unlikely kindred spirits and learning from others’ extraordinary lives. I read this shortly after Karsten Heuer’s Being Caribou, and enjoyed the different perspective on the region and the people who have lived among caribou for thousands of years.

In the Kingdom of Ice
Published by Doubleday, 2014.
In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides
Although not written by an Alaskan author, In the Kingdom of Ice will appeal to Alaska history buffs for its grim but fascinating retelling of the doomed polar voyage of the USS Jeannette, which set sail for the Arctic in 1879 and was locked in the ice off Siberia for two years before wrecking. Based on Captain George De Long's diaries, rescued from the ice by engineer George Melville, this book tells a largely forgotten story of polar exploration in the Gilded Age. The library has several other titles on this subject, including two volumes of De Long's journals.

What Alaska books have you enjoyed this year? If you're looking for your next Alaska book, check out Amy Fletcher's list of new and upcoming releases in Capital City Weekly.

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