I need to make something clear here: I’m still finding my way through this challenge, and I may make mistakes. Especially when it comes to picking books. We’ve all done it – you pick up a book, the cover looks interesting, the blurb sounds cool, maybe you see a review or two that make it seem like a good fit. But, for various reasons, it doesn’t fit. Maybe you just finished reading something really deep and need some time to process it. Maybe you’re looking for something more contemporary. Maybe the author hits the wrong note with an opinion or tone that you just can’t get over. Maybe you just can’t relate to the characters. It happens. It’s happening to me right now.

After finishing And She Was (and Aleutian Sparrow before that), I really thought I needed something lighter. Ordinary Wolves sounds like it should fit right into my challenge, but the reviews talking about the in-depth descriptions of hunting, killing and field dressing wild animals made me wary. Part of me really wanted to skip all that, and part of me feels like that’s the true Alaska, right? – hunting caribou and moose. But I wasn’t sure Ordinary Wolves was what I wanted right now.

So I decided to give Drop City a try – I had listed it as my backup since it seemed a much lighter, funnier choice. But I’m having some trouble getting into it – the commune jokes are falling a little flat for me. I’m hoping it will get better once the commune is relocated to Alaska and we get the conflict with the two groups, but I’m not really connecting with the characters – heck, I’m not even totally sure which ones are the main characters…

I toyed with reading a book from a different state and then coming back to Alaska to finish up, and I may still do that if I can’t make a connection.

In the meantime, there are a couple of other books set in Alaska that I will be giving a shot:

to the bright edge of the world coverEowyn Ivey was short-listed for the Pulitzer for The Snow Child, which I read in 2013 and enjoyed, though I can’t remember a whole lot about it. (The Other Blogger read it for her trip through Alaska, and you can read her review here.) Anyway, while researching Alaska books (again) I happened to discover that Eowyn Ivey has a second book out, also set in Alaska, To the Bright Edge of the World, published in 2016, so I think I’m going to give that one a whirl.


Alaskan Laundry

The Alaskan Laundry by Brendan Jones (2016) – this one may be another that is a little too much for me – several of the reviews on Goodreads disparage the in-depth descriptions of fishing, but again, that’s what makes it perfect for my challenge. One of the things I’m interested in with this one is the Alaskan spin cycle metaphor that gives it its title: “He has this idea that the state’s on one continuous wash cycle. The Alaskan laundry, that’s what he calls it. Everyone coming north to get clean of their past.” 


I’m dropping Drop City and adding both The Alaskan Laundry by Brendan Jones and To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey. I’ve read the first couple of chapters of each of them and they are worlds better than Drop City. Incidentally, Ordinary Wolves also looks like a winner, and I’ll be getting to that one too.

Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. If you want ‘taste’ life in the real Alaska than Coming into the country by John McPhee is the only book you will need. His writing in ( the chapter the encircled river ) paints a picture of the wilderness handiwork of God and his words in ( Coming into the Country ) chapter speaks of the people who by choice live a wilderness lifestyle and the reason my copy of the book is held together by ‘duck tape’ from being read so many times.

    • Thanks for the recommendation, Pete! I’ve heard good things about the McPhee book. I’m mostly focusing on fiction, but this one sounds like a good read too. I’ve added it to my spreadsheet.


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