James Campbell and his 15-year-old daughter, Aidan, decide to spend the summer in the remote wilderness of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, in order to help his cousin build a new cabin. Once there, the father-daughter duo combats the elements, including clouds of single-minded mosquitoes and bathing in freezing cold streams, as well as the physically grueling days of back-breaking labor. Leaving behind modern comforts, Aidan embraces the Alaskan lifestyle wholeheartedly and returns again, months later, to help their cousin with the tasks of hunting and trapping. Hooked, Aidan and her father return a third time to backpack across unforgiving terrain as part of a traditional Eskimo rite of passage. This memoir witnesses a typical coming-of-age story for teenager Aidan, but also for James, who’s realizing his own course of aging and witnessing the astonishing growth of his daughter right before his eyes.
Heroes of the Frontier
In the aftermath of a divorce, a tragedy, and loss of her livelihood due to a lawsuit, Josie hits a precipice in her life. After her ex-husband requests to take their two children, Paul and Ana, to meet his fiancée’s family, Josie defiantly packs up her kids into an old RV and makes a run for the farthest, most remote place possible: Alaska. Unusual, quirky, and at times comical, this book recounts how Josie’s rash decision goes from a fun vacation to a close observation of modern life in Alaska, while she examines and questions her decision to take the kids so far from civilization.
Still Points North
This riveting memoir reflects on Newman’s upbringing in Alaska, where as a young girl she fished for king salmon and hunted caribou with wild abandon. But after her parents’ divorce, Newman’s mother relocates to Baltimore, and 7-year-old Newman must split her time between the two disparate worlds, flying 5,000 miles back and forth across the country alone. This seminal chapter in Newman’s life taught her never to get too attached to anyone or any one place, a lesson that follows her deep into adulthood and a career as a travel writer. This tender memoir ponders the Alaskan-sized hole in Newman’s heart and is a beautiful—and often funny—reflection on the intricate relationship between kids, parents, and home.
Often referred to as the “final frontier,” the Alaskan wilderness—with its long, harsh winters and a wildlife that outnumbers its human inhabitants—is far from a vacation for any traveler willing to accept the challenge. These books, while all set in Alaska, are wildly diverse (pun intended) in terms of message, tone, and outcome, but each aims to capture the intense backdrop of the location. If winter is beating you down, settle in with one of these chilly, adventurous reads and be grateful you’re not stuck on the frozen tundra of Alaska.
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