We asked some of Alaska’s most notable authors what they were excited to read this summer – or perhaps mention the book they recently read and are excited to recommend. . Submissions ranged from volumes of poetry to fiction and memoirs and selections from writers from Alaska and beyond.
Consider adding a few of these books to your summer reading list.
“Dawn of Everything” by David Graeber and David Wengrow: A 10-year conversation between an anthropologist and an archaeologist turns into a book that overturns conventional wisdom about human history. I take it slowly, a few pages at a time, because it’s a dense read, albeit with the occasional snark thrown in to make sure I’m still awake.
— Dana Stabenow, Anchorage, author of “A Cold Day for Murder”
“Nobody Gets Out Alive” by Leigh Newman: I’m a news junkie and I have no desire to kick the habit. And I’m here to tell you that this spectacularly acclaimed collection of Alaskan stories nails Anchorage’s manic urban zeitgeist of the ’80s and ’90s in a way no known novel has ever approached. Dentists with airplanes and mistresses. A fortune teller. The unstoppable mud of a tent city that would one day become Anchorage. It’s an Alaska stripped of any Great North Woods romance. What remains are eight penetrating human stories for adults. Buckle up for the ride.
— Richard Chiappone, Homer, author of “The Hunger of Crows”
“Beyond Repair” by JC Todd: Poetry about war. The current crisis in Ukraine made me want to read this book, and I met the author at the AWP conference in Philadelphia last March.
“Heat and Light” by Jennifer Haigh: The subject of his novel is hydraulic fracturing, which takes place in Pennsylvania. Oil and extraction methods are still relevant to Alaska, and she writes with a sharp, biting wit.
“Cities of salt” by Abdelrahman Munif: Banned in Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, the novel is set in the 1930s and centers on the discovery of oil in an unnamed Persian Gulf kingdom. This is the first volume of a trilogy. I like to explore how fiction writers deal with this kind of material.
“Here: Poems for the Planet”, edited by Elizabeth Coleman: I’m interested in eco-poetry and want to see what some of my fellow poets are writing about it.
“Oil, power and war: a dark history” by Matthieu Auzanneau: A non-fiction book that begins with the history of oil as early as 1859. Once again, the Ukrainian crisis “fuels” my interest in this subject, especially as Russia uses oil revenues to continue its campaign bloody.
—Anne Coray, Homer/Lake Clark, author of “Lost Mountain”
“Cold Mountain Trail” by Tom Kizzia: By chronicling the lives of the diverse adventurous souls who sought a non-urban experience living in and around McCarthy between the closure of the Kennecott Copper mines in 1938 and the senseless murder of six of them by a deranged loner in 1983, the gifted writer Tom Kizzia explores the enduring paradox of Alaskan individualism and self-reliance tempered by the community and cooperation needed to survive in such a wild setting. Kizzia captures the uncertainty of those who tested themselves in the wild, the challenges they faced, and the resilience they found, leaving the reader wondering what it means to be Alaskan.
—Stephen Haycox, Anchorage, author of “Alaska: An American Colony”
“Lessons” by Ian McEwan: I can’t wait for Ian McEwan’s new novel, “Lessons”. He’s one of the few writers whose works I immediately grab hold of, for a slow, sentence-by-sentence delight. The last book I greeted with such enthusiasm on opening day was George Saunders’ “A Swim in a Pond in the Rain”, his charming and funny treatise on how we can learn from great Russian authors to to be better writers and better human beings. .
— Tom Kizzia, Homer, author of “The wild nature of the pilgrims”
“The Sentence” by Louise Erdrich: I can’t wait to read this. I think I’m going to spend a Louise Erdrich summer and reread most of her novels. “The Sentence” is set in a small-town bookstore, but takes race into account in Minneapolis and, I hear, may feature a ghost or two. I love stories that bring a particular place in the country to life, while opening up a perspective for larger national discussions. “Our Country Friends”, by Gary Shteyngart, which I just finished and loved, had a similar approach.
— Leigh Newman, Anchorage, author of “Nobody Gets Out Alive”
“Silences so deep: music, loneliness, Alaska” by John Luther Adams: Who can resist a book with blurbs by Iggy Pop and Barry Lopez? In this memoir, Pulitzer and Grammy Award winner Adams recounts his nearly 40 years of living and creating in Fairbanks. Along the way, we learn about his process of creating music based on the natural world around him, including his masterpiece “The Room Where You Go to Listen” at the Museum of the North, and his friendships with d other artists, including fellow composer Gordon Frank. Wright and the poet John Haines.
– Daryl Farmer, Fairbanks, author of “Bicycling Beyond the Divide”
[On the hunt for more good reads? Check out our latest Alaska book reviews.]