I've been reading more than usual. Much more. I brought one book with me, lent to me by a friend just before I left, as well as an old Nook that I can use to download library ebooks. But I haven't needed to download any books aside from one that was stored on it already, because I've discovered a surprisingly extensive library both at the visitor center and at the Coldfoot Camp staff lounge.
The visitor center library is entirely comprised of books related to Alaska and the Arctic in general, but the Coldfoot staff library is more eclectic. Both essentially use the honor system for borrowing and returning, although the visitor center library does require us to sign out the books we borrow.
Here, then, is a list of the books I've read since I got on the plane from Buffalo, and my thoughts on each:
1) Monster by A. Lee Martinez - A fun and funny adventure set in a magical version of a modern-day American city. It strongly reminded me of novels by Christopher Moore, which I loved in high school and college, but I feel like I've grown out of since then. Despite that, it was a nice reprieve from the more serious books I've read or tried to read lately, and a pleasant reminder of the fun I had with Mr. Moore's books.
2) The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot - A true story of science, race, poverty, and almost unbelievable fortune/misfortune, depending on your point of view. Very well-written, engaging, and something I was long overdue in reading.
3) Shadows on the Koyukuk by Sydney Huntington, as told to Jim Reardon - the first book I read about Alaska since arriving here, and well worth the read. Sydney Huntington, still living as I write this, turned 100 years old this May, and grew up hunting and trapping with his father in the Koyukuk River Valley region of Interior Alaska. His stories are wonderful, and I don't think you can find ones like his anywhere else.
4) Arctic Village by Robert Marshall - a book entirely about the community of Wiseman, as observed by Marshall in 1930 and 1931. Marshall was convinced that the residents of Wiseman were the happiest people on Earth, and explored every aspect of their lives he found of interest through extensive interviews while living with them for a year. His phrasing and attitudes are dated, to be sure, but he seems to have been earnest and relatively progressive for his time. A unique historical artifact, if nothing else.
5) Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez - An exploration of the Arctic as a whole, from Alaska to the northern Canadian islands, Greenland, northern Scandinavia, Russia, and back again. Lopez discusses the environment, wildlife, and human history from the first ancient peoples to early European exploration and modern industrial development. Very informative, with prose ranging from plain to poetic.
6) The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss - A high fantasy novel, and one that is hard to put down for reasons I can't entirely explain. It is the autobiography of Kvothe the Kingkiller, a man of legend, fallen on hard times for mysterious reasons. The first book in a yet-unfinished trilogy.
7) Wildwood by Colin Meloy - The story of a young girl, living in Portland, whose baby brother is kidnapped by crows and taken to The Impassable Wilderness, known to its residents as Wildwood. She, naturally, sets off to rescue him and has many adventures. Colin Meloy, incidentally, is the lead singer and songwriter for The Decemberists, and if you're familiar with their music, you know what you're in for with this book.
8) The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss - Second in the Kvothe series, at least as good as the first, but more surreal at times.
9) The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey - A modern classic in certain circles, it inspired a wave of environmental activism in the 1970s focusing on halting development in wilderness areas by sabotaging the machinery and structures involved in the process. It takes place in the American Southwest, which I have fond memories of, and while I couldn't easily identify with any of the characters or their actions, I understood their motivations and enjoyed their adventures.
10) Neuromancer by William Gibson - A classic of cyberpunk sci-fi, as important to the literature as Asimov's I, Robot. Difficult to understand at first, but engaging through the end, and a satisfying read overall. Probably worth reading again to catch what I'm sure I missed.
At the moment, I'm in the middle of two books: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, and Walking my Dog, Jane by Ned Rozell. (Huh, two Jane books, just noticed that.) The first is a classic of English literature, and I find myself enjoying it more thoroughly than I expected at first. The second is by a science journalist who lives in Fairbanks, who once stopped in to the visitor center and signed each copy of his book we had on our bookstore shelves. The book is a chronicle of a walk he took with his dog along the entire Trans-Alaska Pipeline. In it, he stops in Coldfoot and Wiseman, and records conversations with people known quite well to some of the visitor center staff.
I've had days where I've done almost nothing but read (Wildwood was read in the span of 24 hours), and there wasn't much else to do this past week, when smoke filled our little valley from distant wildfires for six straight days. But yesterday and today we've had clear skies, and I'm quite glad for it. Time to go outside!
Thanks for reading. (Hah!)