Best Alaska Books: Must-Read Alaska Nonfiction Books

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Alaska is a state known for its stunning natural beauty and unique culture. If you’re interested in learning more about this fascinating place, nonfiction books are a great way to go. Whether you’re interested in history, wildlife, or adventure, there’s sure to be a book that will pique your interest.

No matter what your interests are, there’s a nonfiction book out there that will help you learn more about Alaska. So whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or an adventure seeker, be sure to add some Alaska nonfiction books to your reading list. I compiled this list of the best Alaska nonfiction books from my personal library and recommendations of book blogger friends to help you get started.

Coming into the Country with John McPhee by John McPhee

John McPhee’s book, Coming into the Country, is a detailed account of Alaska’s landscape, culture, and people. The book is divided into three parts, each focused on a different aspect of the state.

In the first part, McPhee writes about the Yukon Territory and the people who live there. He describes the isolation and harsh conditions that the people face, as well as their strong connection to the land. In the second part, McPhee explores the history of Alaska and the people who have shaped it. He writes about the gold rush, the construction of the Alaska Pipeline, and the state’s relationship with the federal government. In the final part, McPhee focuses on the wilderness of Alaska and the people who choose to live there. He writes about hunting, fishing, and the struggle to survive in such a remote and unforgiving environment.

Overall, Coming into the Country is a fascinating and detailed exploration of Alaska and its
people. The book is a must-read for anyone interested in Alaska or wilderness exploration.

Other books by John McPhee: The Control of Nature, Annals of the Former World, Draft No. 4:
On the Writing Process


The Impossible Rescue: The True Story of Amazing Arctic Adventure by Martin W. Sandler

In 1897, eight whaling vessels became bound by ice in the Arctic Ocean near Point Barrow, Alaska. Nearly 300 whalemen were in danger of freezing or starving to death until United States President William McKinley ordered an unprecedented overland rescue expedition.

This real-life adventure story follows the three brave men who were sent to bring supplies, medical aid, and hope to Americans who were trapped in the Arctic in the middle of winter. It includes several first-hand quotes from eyewitnesses and dozens of beautiful pictures of Point Barrow, Alaska and the surrounding areas. If you love Alaska history and a good adventure story, this book is sure to delight.

I enjoyed this book so much that I decided to include it in Aunt Phil’s Trunk Creative Writing Course for High School. This is one of 8 books about Alaska that our students get to enjoy as they learn how to craft their own stories, poems, essays, and more.

Other books by Martin W. Sandler: Resolute: The Epic Search for the Northwest Passage and John Franklin, and the Discovery of the Queen’s Ghost Ship, 1919 The Year that Changed America


Pilgrim’s Wilderness: The True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier by Tom Kizzia

Pilgrim’s Wilderness is a true story about a family who moves to the Alaskan frontier to live in the wilderness. The father, called “Papa Pilgrim,” claims to be a religious figure and leads his family to live off the land. However, it soon becomes clear that Papa Pilgrim is not all he seems, and the family’s life in the wilderness becomes a nightmare.

The book is a gripping tale of survival, madness, and the consequences of blindly following a charismatic leader. It is a cautionary tale about the dangers of extremism and a reminder that the pursuit of a dream can sometimes turn into a nightmare.

Other books by Tom Kizzia: Cold Mountain Path: The Ghost Town Decades of McCarthy-Kennecott, Alaska, The Wake of the Unseen Object: Travels through Alaska’s Native Landscapes


Shadows on the Koyukuk: An Alaskan Native’s Life Along the River by Sidney Huntington

Shadows on the Koyukuk tells the story of Sidney Huntington, an Alaskan Native who grew up along the Koyukuk River in Alaska. Throughout the book, Huntington recounts his life growing up in a traditional Athabaskan community and how his way of life changed as Alaska became more modernized.

The book is full of fascinating stories about the challenges and triumphs of living off the land in Alaska. Huntington shares his experiences hunting, trapping, and fishing, as well as the many lessons he learned from his elders about how to survive in such a harsh environment. Overall, Shadows on the Koyukuk is an inspiring and deeply personal memoir that offers readers a unique glimpse into the life of an Alaskan Native.


Tisha: The Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaskan Wilderness by Robert Specht

Tisha: The Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaskan Wilderness by Robert Specht is an inspiring true story about a young woman named Anne Hobbs who moves to a remote village in Alaska to become a teacher. Despite facing many challenges, including extreme weather and cultural differences, Anne is determined to make a difference in the lives of her students.

Throughout the book, readers get a glimpse into the daily life of Anne and her students, as they learn from each other and work to overcome the obstacles that they face. Overall, Tisha is a heartwarming book that will inspire readers to pursue their dreams and make a difference in the world around them.

Other books by Robert Specht: The Soul of Betty Fairchild and The Immortal


Two in the Far North by Margaret Murie

Two in the Far North is a memoir by Margaret Murie, who lived in Alaska with her husband from the 1920s to the 1940s. The book tells the story of their life in the wilderness, where they encountered challenges such as harsh weather conditions and wild animals. Despite these difficulties, the couple found beauty in the natural world around them, and their experiences inspired Margaret to become a passionate advocate for conservation.

In the book, Margaret Murie shares her love for Alaska and its wildlife. She describes the beauty of the land and the animals that call it home, and she emphasizes the importance of preserving these natural treasures for future generations. Two in the Far North is a powerful reminder of the beauty and fragility of the natural world, and it encourages readers to take action to protect it.

Other books by Margaret Murie: Wapiti Wilderness and Island Between


Alaska’s Wolfman: The 1915-55 Wilderness Adventures of Frank Glaser by Jim Rearden

Alaska’s Wolfman tells the story of Frank Glaser, a legendary hunter and trapper who lived in the Alaskan wilderness for 40 years. Glaser was known for his incredible hunting skills, but also for his bravery and resourcefulness in the face of danger.

The book is filled with exciting stories of Glaser’s encounters with wolves, bears, and other dangerous animals, as well as his experiences living in the harsh Alaskan wilderness. Despite the many challenges he faced, Glaser was able to survive and thrive in this unforgiving environment, thanks to his deep knowledge of the land and his incredible survival skills. It is a gripping and inspiring tale of one man’s incredible journey through the Alaskan wilderness that is sure to leave readers in awe of Frank Glaser’s bravery and determination.

Other books by Jim Rearden: Jim Rearden’s Alaska: 50 Years of Frontier Adventure, Sam O. White, Alaskan: Tales of a Legendary Wildlife Agent and Bush Pilot, and Wolves of Alaska: A Fact-Based Saga


Blonde Indian: An Alaska Native Memoir by Ernestine Hayes

Blonde Indian: An Alaska Native Memoir is the personal account of author Ernestine Hayes’ life growing up as an Alaska Native. The book is divided into two parts: “Blonde” and “Indian,” which represent the two sides of her identity. “Blonde” reflects her experiences growing up in a world dominated by white people, while “Indian” explores her connection to her Native heritage and the struggles faced by her people.

Throughout the memoir, Hayes shares stories of her life and reflects on the history and culture of Alaska Native people. She discusses the devastating impact of colonization, forced assimilation, and the complex relationships between Native people and the land.

Other books by Ernestine Hayes: The Tao of Raven: An Alaska Native Memoir and Juneau


Aunt Phil’s Trunk Alaska History Series by Laurel Downing Bill

Of course, I could not end this article without mentioning my favorite Alaska history series, Aunt Phil’s Trunk! Volume One is filled with short stories highlighting Alaska’s colorful past from the arrival of the Native people thousands of years ago all the way up to the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898. I share stories of the rushes for gold to the Koyukuk, Juneau-Douglas and Cook Inlet regions and features an extensive photo essay showing the various routes the gold-
crazed prospectors forged to get to the gold fields.

Not only do the easy-to-read pages keep readers hooked, they also offer a window into the past with close to 350 historical photographs to complement the entertaining collection of stories. And they won the 2016 Literary Classics gold medal for best nonfiction series!

Four additional books cover different time periods in Alaska history:

Aunt Phil’s Trunk Volume 2: 1900-1912
Aunt Phil’s Trunk Volume 3: 1912-1935
Aunt Phil’s Trunk Volume 4: 1935-1960
Aunt Phil’s Trunk Volume 5: 1960-1985
Aunt Phil’s Trunk of Alaska Trivia

These books are just a few of the many great Alaska nonfiction books out there. No matter what your interests are, there’s sure to be a book that will help you learn more about this fascinating state.

Happy reading!