Once a month I am planning on sharing with you all 5 of my biggest wish list books broken up by theme. I know that you all need more on your TBR!!! This month’s theme is books based on my trip to Alaska in the month of July. I had to be careful about how much I bought in order to not go over the weight limit on my flight back, so I just made lists of the books that I saw in all the gift shops (although between my husband and I we did buy 4 books). So these books are all non-fiction based on Alaskan history.
The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs and Men in a Race Against an Epidemic by Gay Salisbury and Laney Salisbury
When a deadly diphtheria epidemic swept through Nome, Alaska, in 1925, the local doctor knew that without a fresh batch of antitoxin, his patients would die. The lifesaving serum was a thousand miles away, the port was icebound, and planes couldn't fly in blizzard conditions—only the dogs could make it. The heroic dash of dog teams across the Alaskan wilderness to Nome inspired the annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and immortalized Balto, the lead dog of the last team whose bronze statue still stands in New York City's Central Park. This is the greatest dog story, never fully told until now.
The Floor of Heaven: A True Tale of the Last Frontier and the Yukon Gold Rush by Howard Blum
It is the last decade of the 19th century. The Wild West has been tamed and its fierce, independent and often violent larger-than-life figures--gun-toting wanderers, trappers, prospectors, Indian fighters, cowboys, and lawmen--are now victims of their own success. But then gold is discovered in Alaska and the adjacent Canadian Klondike and a new frontier suddenly looms: an immense unexplored territory filled with frozen waterways, dark spruce forests, and towering mountains capped by glistening layers of snow and ice.
In a true-life tale that rivets from the first page, we meet Charlie Siringo, a top-hand sharp-shooting cowboy who becomes one of the Pinkerton Detective Agency's shrewdest; George Carmack, a California-born American Marine who's adopted by an Indian tribe, raises a family with a Taglish squaw, and makes the discovery that starts off the Yukon Gold Rush; and Jefferson "Soapy" Smith, a sly and inventive conman who rules a vast criminal empire. As we follow this trio's lives, we're led inexorably into a perplexing mystery: a fortune in gold bars has somehow been stolen from the fortress-like Treadwell Mine in Juneau, Alaska. Charlie Siringo discovers that to run the thieves to ground, he must embark on a rugged cross-territory odyssey that will lead him across frigid waters and through a frozen wilderness to face down "Soapy" Smith and his gang of 300 cutthroats. Hanging in the balance: George Carmack's fortune in gold.
At once a compelling true-life mystery and an unforgettable portrait of a time in America's history, The Floor of Heaven is also an exhilarating tribute to the courage and undaunted spirit of the men and women who helped shape America.
“That Fiend in Hell”: Soapy Smith in Legend by Catherine Holder Spude
As the Klondike gold rush peaked in spring 1898, adventurers and gamblers rubbed shoulders with town-builders and gold-panners in Skagway, Alaska. The flow of riches lured confidence men, too—among them Jefferson Randolph “Soapy” Smith (1860–98), who with an entourage of “bunco-men” conned and robbed the stampeders. Soapy, though, a common enough criminal, would go down in legend as the Robin Hood of Alaska, the “uncrowned king of Skagway,” remembered for his charm and generosity, even for calming a lynch mob. When the Fourth of July was celebrated in ’98, he supposedly led the parade. Then, a few days later, he was dead, killed in a shootout over a card game.
With Smith’s death, Skagway rid itself of crime forever. Or at least, so the story goes. Journalists immediately cast him as a martyr whose death redeemed a violent town. In fact, he was just a petty criminal and card shark, as Catherine Holder Spude proves definitively in “That Fiend in Hell”: Soapy Smith in Legend, a tour de force of historical debunking that documents Smith’s elevation to western hero. In sorting out the facts about this man and his death from fiction, Spude concludes that the actual Soapy was not the legendary “boss of Skagway,” nor was he killed by Frank Reid, as early historians supposed. She shows that even eyewitnesses who knew the truth later changed their stories to fit the myth.
But why? Tracking down some hundred retellings of the Soapy Smith story, Spude traces the efforts of Skagway’s boosters to reinforce a morality tale at the expense of a complex story of town-building and government formation. The idea that Smith’s death had made a lawless town safe served Skagway’s economic interests. Spude’s engaging deconstruction of Soapy’s story models deep research and skepticism crucial to understanding the history of the American frontier.
The Klondike Fever: The Life and Death of the Last Great Gold Rush by Pierre Berton
In 1897 a grimy steamer docked in Seattle and set into epic motion the incredible succession of events that Pierre Berton's exhilarating The Klondike Fever chronicles in all its splendid and astonishing folly. For the steamer Portland bore two tons of pure Klondike gold. And immediately, the stampede north to Alaska began. Easily as many as 100,000 adventurers, dreamers, and would-be miners from all over the world struck out for the remote, isolated gold fields in the Klondike Valley, most of them in total ignorance of the long, harsh Alaskan winters and the territory's indomitable terrain. Less than a third of that number would complete the enormously arduous mountain journey to their destination. Some would strike gold. Berton's story belongs less to the few who would make their fortunes than to the many swept up in the gold mania, to often unfortunate effects and tragic ends. It is a story of cold skies and avalanches, of con men and gamblers and dance hall girls, of sunken ships, of suicides, of dead horses and desperate men, of grizzly old miners and millionaires, of the land — its exploitation and revenge. It is a story of the human capacity to dream, and to endure.
Alaska: Saga of a Bold Land by Walter R. Borneman
American History. The history of Alaska is filled with stories of new land and new riches---and ever present are new people with competing views over how these resources should be used: Russians exploiting a fur empire; explorers checking rival advances; prospectors stampeding to the clarion call of "Gold!"; soldiers battling out a decisive chapter in world war; oil wildcatters looking for a different kind of mineral wealth; and always at the core of these disputes is the question of how the land is to be used and by whom.
If you are looking to add more books to your list, here are some of the wishlists from a few of my friends this month: (to be updated as they go live)
- Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede – Being Published in 2017
- Colleen @ A Literary Vacation – Waiting (Im)patiently for Release
- Erin @ Flashlight Commentary – Books Set in Wales
- Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired Books – Behind the Scenes with the Presidents
- Stephanie @ Layered Pages – WWII War at Sea
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