Alaska conjures up certain images: vast, untamed, individual, independence. It’s a place where you must learn to live with nature to survive. Whether you’re reading your book in tradition print, listening to it via an audio app or reading it on your Kindle, here are 50 great novels set in our largest and most untamed state–novels about love, death, adventure, mystery, murder, rebellion, wildlife, ancient traditions, heroes big and small finding their way in the majestic mountains and sprawling tundras of our last great wilderness.
1. The Call of the Wild
This is the absolute Alaska classic. Buck’s father was a St. Bernard and his mother was a Scotch Shepard. Kidnapped from his cozy San Diego home, Buck is sold in Alaska as a sled dog during the 1898 gold rush. It’s a brutal book about the harshness of life on the tundra, survival of the fittest and smartest, and love. It’s also the story of loyalty and fierce independence that ultimately heeds the eternal Call of the Wild.
2. Alaska: A Novel
James A. Michener
This is a multi-century story of the last American frontier. Michener guides us through Alaska’s fierce terrain and history, from the long-forgotten past to the present. As the characters struggle for survival, we get the back stories of the American acquisition; the gold rush; the growth and exploitation of the salmon industry; the construction of the Alcan Highway. If you read one novel about Alaska, it’s this 1,000 page epic.
Sitka was long the gateway to the Alaskan wilderness. It drew adventurers, con men, criminals, and pioneers. In this novel, battle-hardened Jean LaBarge takes on the challenges of the frozen frontier which the Russians claim as theirs. LaBarge prepares for battle. L’Amour was one of the most successful Western novelists of the 20th century and built a reputation for accuracy. Sitka is a classic.
Prolific writer Vidal wrote this novel when he was 19 and the first mate of the U.S. Army freight supply ship. A ship is caught sailing the lethal Arctic waters during storm season. Women are few and jealousy runs high among the men even before the weather turns bad. Toss in the fact that the frigid sea can kill in five minutes, and you have a timeless war novel on the icy Arctic waters.
5. My One Square Inch of Alaska
High-school senior Donna Lane wants to leave home to pursue a career in design. But she feels she must stay in Ohio and care for her father and her younger brother, Will, who is obsessed with Alaska. Will’s companion is a mute Siberian Husky named Trusty. When circumstances suddenly change, Donna grabs a road atlas, packs their yellow convertible and heads for Alaskan Territory with Will and Trusty. This is a moving tale of exploration and love and daring to pursue the impossible dream.
6. Trails: Living In The Alaska Wilderness
Middle-aged city dweller Denny Caraway sheds his suffocating urban life to become a homesteader in the Alaska bush. He’s pushed to the limits with daily adventures that could turn deadly. His human neighbors are often as dangerous as the nature surrounding him. When his homestead life is threatened, Denny must make life-changing decisions to preserve his new-found his freedom. First of a series.
7. Alaska Heart
Nature writer Alanna Cormac is sent on assignment to Denali National Park where she meets Iditarod winner Dale Ramsden. The Alaskan landscape and budding romance blind her to the fact that she is being watched and targeted. A writing assignment becomes and adventure in love and danger.
8. Wisdom Spring
Jessica Norton is falsely accused of killing four of her fellow Senate staffers. When stranger Jon Harper picks up Jess hitchhiking on a deserted highway he finds himself in the middle of a massive conspiracy that threatens the future of the United States. Rushing across the U.S., Canada, into the Alaskan wilderness, Jon and Jessica transform from helpless prey into hunters as mysterious clues lead them to a violent final confrontation.
9. The Wilderness: Surviving the Unimaginable
This survival novel follows one man’s struggle to stay alive in Alaska’s backcountry after a plane crash. With very little recovered from the plane to help him overcome all that he now faces, Mike leaves the crash site to find help, using all his knowledge and strength. Frigid temperatures and predators are a constant threat. Mike must find the will to survive and make it back to civilization.
10. Alive and Alone
Dr. Jim Wade, and his son David are on a trip to the Lake Clark area of the Alaskan bush when a sudden change in weather forces down their small plane. Following the death of his father, it’s up to David to figure out what to do next, and how to make it through on a remote Alaskan mountain in the winter. The author is a former Air Force life support survival instructor.
11. Ordinary Wolves
This an Alaska far removed from majestic clichés of exotic travelogues. We follow Cutuk Hawcly’s life on the Alaskan plains through his own words as he survives blinding blizzards huddling in an igloo. Cutuk is haunted by his father, the legendary hunter Enuk Wolfglove, and the wolves — all living on the unforgiving tundra. Cutuk is taunted by native children because he is white, and after an accident he faces a decision that could radically change his life. Lyrical, brutal and accurate, Ordinary Wolves is becoming a classic in its field.
12. And She Was
Three starving Aleut mothers break a taboo and take their fate into their own hands. Two hundred and fifty years later, Brandy, a floundering, trashy, Latin-spewing cocktail waitress, steps ashore in the 1980s. Unalaska Island holds a dark secret of the mothers—a secret that is both salvation and shame. The book explores Aleut history, mummies, conquest, survival, and the underside of a fishing boomtown at the edge of the world.
13. Northern Lights
Colorful characters fill his story of the Alaskan wilderness and the eccentrics who live there. Former Baltimore cop Nate Burke takes the post of police chief of Lunacy, Alaska (pop. 506), to battle the depression. Life is quiet until the body of his friend’s father, who disappeared 16 years before, is found frozen in a remote mountain cave, an ice ax in his chest. The book is a love story, mystery, a study of community bonds, generational wounds and harsh wilderness landscapes.
14. The Snow Child
Jack and Mabel are childless and drifting apart. During the season’s first snowfall they build a child out of the snow. The next morning the snow child is gone–but they see a young girl, running through the trees. They come to know and love her as their own daughter. But in this ancient, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they finally learn about the girl will change their lives forever.
15. A Cold Day for Murder (Kate Shugak Novels Book 1)
Somewhere in the wilds of Alaska a young National Park Ranger has gone missing. When the detective sent after him also vanishes, the Anchorage DA’s department must call on their reluctant former investigator, Kate Shugak. She knows the region because she’s an Aleut who left her home village to pursue education, a career, and justice. Her search for the missing men takes her back to a life she’d left behind, and up against the people and problems she’d hoped never to confront again.
16. Touching Spirit Bear
After a fight, violence prone Cole Matthews is banished for a year to a remote Alaskan island. The Circle Justice program is based on Native American traditions that provide healing for the criminal mind. While on the island, Cole is mauled by a mysterious white bear. While left for dead, Cole thinks of his abusive parents, dangerous anger and the roots of his troubled personality. The novel is a sensitive look at the vicious cycle of violence and one youth’s journey to healing.
17. Flight of the Goose: A Story of the Far North
Set in the Alaskan Arctic in 1971, Kayuqtuq Ugungoraseok, “the red fox,” is an orphan who seeks respect in her traditional Inupiat village through the outlawed path of shamanism. Her plan has tragic consequences when she interferes with scientist who is researching the effects of oil spills on salt marshes. This is a tale of cultural conflict, spiritual awakening, redemption and a new look at what is real and what is not.
18. The Fugitive Wife
Peter C. Brown
Essie, a Midwestern farm girl runs from a bad marriage and joins prospectors bound for Nome during the 1900 gold rush. The wilderness is full of dreamers and schemers. When Essie’s husband follows her, the story we see pursuit, sacrifice, and a crucial decision that must be made. and inevitable. It’s a study greed, love and loss in the harsh, magnificent Alaska setting.
19. The Woman Who Married a Bear
In Sitka, an old Tlingit Indian woman hires local investigator Cecil Younger to look into her son’s murder, a crime that’s been marked solved by the authorities. But what Younger unearths is a primal conspiracy to hide both the motive for the victim’s murder and the true identity of the killer. Straley, a criminal investigator, has been compared to Ross MacDonald and Raymond Chandler. Alaskan noir, anyone?
20. Raven Stole the Moon
A grieving mother returns to a remote Alaskan town to make peace with the loss of her young son. Intense emotion merges with Native American mysticism in this intense mystery. This is Stein’s debut novel. He is author of the New York Times bestseller The Art of Racing in the Rain.
21. Terminal Freeze
Paleoecologist Evan Marshall, heads an expedition to the Federal Wildlife Zone for a rare chance to study climate change. But once there, Marshall and his team discover a huge prehistoric animal encased in ice. Despite local villagers’ warnings and Marshall’s own mounting concern, the expedition sponsors want the creature cut from the ice, thawed, and revealed on a live television spectacular. But the creature disappears and an ancient horror is unleashed.
22. Ice Palace
Czar Kennedy came to Alaska for money and power. Thor Storm came for a dream. This is the story of their 50-year struggle for the future of Alaska and the destiny of their lovely, rebellious granddaughter, Christine. This is an epic story set in Alaska–the last, great American frontier–by a Pulitzer Prize winning author.
23. The Winter Wolf: Wyatt Earp in Alaska
Alaskan writer Richard Parry makes his historical fiction debut with this tale of Wyatt Earp and the Alaskan gold rush. Much has been written about Earp’s days in Tombstone, but Parry carries the saga to Skagway and Nome, where Earp and his third wife went to strike it rich.
24. Gentle Ben
This is the classic about Mark Anderson, a boy who befriends Ben, a huge brown bear held in abusive captivity. Mark goes to work for his father fishing salmon to earn money to buy Ben. After several twists, turns, injuries and death, Ben is taken to an island where Mark can visit him. It’s a story of love and friendship between a boy and a bear in the Alaskan wilderness.
25. Baby It’s Cold Outside (Alaskan Nights #1)
Sloan McKinley travels to the heart of the Alaskan wilderness to be with her best friend who’s just inherited property in the small town of Indigo. She is lured by the town’s matriarchs into their annual contest to get their grandsons married off. Soon she finds herself falling in love with the Alaskan landscape and with one of Indigo’s most popular residents. But is the town’s most confirmed bachelor ready to get caught?
26. The Hunt
Seven vampires and seven werewolves pay to hunt Vivian, a supernatural criminal, across the cold, vast grounds of an Alaskan resort. Whoever catches her and lives will increase their power by feasting on hers. To escape a fate of 12 years in silver chains, she’ll do anything to survive the week long excursion. It’s a game surrounded by darkness and death.
27. Snow Angel
Noah Wesley hears a faint sound outside his remote Alaskan mountain cabin during a violent nighttime blizzard. He discovers his snow angel and saves her life. The beautiful young woman is intent on discovering gold like so many others in this region during the late 1800s. But why she is drawn to gold is a secret to be shared with no one.
28. Just in Time: An Alaskan Nights Novel
Avery Marks is frustrated with the pace of life in the small town of Indigo, Alaska when her ex-boyfriend Roman Forsyth returns to town. He had left Avery for a pro football career but an injury has sidelined him. He still loves Avery and asks her forgiveness. When their long-buried passion returns, they need to escape the watchful eyes of the rest of the town long enough to figure out if their relationship can work this time.
29. Wild Man Island
On a sea kayaking trip in southeast Alaska, 14-year-old Andy Galloway is forced by a violent storm to the shore of Admiralty Island, an immense wilderness known as the Fortress of the Bears. Struggling to survive, Andy encounters a dog running with wolves and a man with a stone-tipped spear. The dog leads Andy to a cave filled with Stone Age tools and weapons. Determined to survive, Andy enters the cave to confront its danger and its lessons.
30. Polar Night
Chicago native Detective Danny Fitzpatrick wants to escape his violent past in Fairbanks. He is content with a dead-end job investigating Fairbanks’ cold cases until a woman goes missing on the winter solstice. He finds connections between her disappearance and that of another Fairbanks woman three years earlier. The investigation leads him to a charming proprietor of an old asylum turned haunted tourist attraction in the town of Coldfoot. Danny uncovers secrets more horrifying than anything he dealt with in Chicago.
31. Polar Day
A jogger bursts into flames during the annual summer solstice baseball game in Fairbanks. Detective Danny Fitzpatrick watches in horror as the man is consumed by flames. As the city swelters under a record-breaking heatwave and unexplained fires claim more victims, Danny struggles to find the arsonist who can conjure fire out of thin air.
32. Gold Digger (Klondike Mystery Series)
Dawson, Yukon Territory, 1898, is the most exciting town in North America. The great Klondike Gold Rush is in full swing and Fiona MacGillivray is determined to make her fortune as the owner of the Savoy dance hall. But she has some obstacles. Her 12-year-old son is growing up too fast. Her business partner is a former Glasgow street fighter. There’s a handsome constable, an aging, love-struck ex-boxing champion and a crazy assortment of headstrong dancers, gamblers, and cold-hearted madams. And there’s a dead body on her stage.
33. Death Takes Passage (Alaska Mystery Series)
Alaska State Trooper Alex Jensen and his companion are among the participants of the re-creation of the famous Voyage of 1897. The Spirit of ’98 is sailing from Skagway, Alaska, to Seattle, carrying two tons of Yukon gold. Alex represents the Troopers on this historic journey through a maze of scenic straits, harbors, and inlets. But the disappearance of a crew member yanks Alex back to the present where he must unravel a mass of lies, greed, and lethal shipboard secrets before anyone else dies.
34. A Shroud of Midnight Sun (Inupiat Eskimo Mysteries)
Inupiat police officer Ray Attla takes a vacation with his wife and four-year-old daughter at a resort outside Anchorage. A bicycle accident brings him face-to-face with a dead body. Forced to investigate, he finds the mysterious victim has led a double life of lies, adultery, mob connections, and industrial espionage. Ray navigates a treacherous path between the Feds and a dead man’s dangerous secrets.
35. Submerged (Alaskan Courage Series)
Bailey Craig and her former lover Cole McKenna find themselves needing each other to solve a case in the quiet town of Yancey, Alaska. Together they discover secrets hidden in the sea, and their own feelings about each other.
36. Restless in the Grave (Kate Shugak Mysteries)
When aviation entrepreneur Finn Grant dies in the fiery crash of his Piper Super Cub, state trooper Liam Campbell has reason to believe it’s sabotage. Nearly everyone in southwestern Alaska has a motive― Grant’s betrayed wife, his bullied children, and even Liam’s own wife, a bush pilot. Liam seeks help from private investigator Kate Shugak. Together they uncover Finn Grant’s dynasty, his family secrets and a vast conspiracy.
37. No Night Is Too Long
Tim thought he’d gotten away with murder. For months after the killing off the Alaskan coast he heard nothing from the police. Then the letters began. At first they seemed almost innocent accounts of historical events, until a common theme took shape. This is an intense tale of sexual obsession, mistaken identity, and murder.
38. The Music of What Happens
Cecil Younger, a defense investigator in Sitka, has the child custody case from hell, including a pushy, confrontational mother. The custody case soon turns into a murder. Fired from the defense team, Younger stays with the investigation, refusing to let go until he solves the murder, even if he is killed in the process.
39. The Raven’s Gift
John Morgan and his wife are new teachers in a Yup’ik Eskimo village on the Alaskan tundra. A deadly epidemic strikes and the isolated community descends into total chaos. When outside aid fails to arrive, John crosses the snow-covered tundra in a 1,000-mile trek across the Alaskan wilderness for help. With him are a blind Eskimo girl and an elderly woman who need his protection, and he needs their knowledge of the terrain to survive. The journey pushes him nearly beyond his limits as he discovers a new sense of hope, humanity and love.
40. Last Hope Alaska
Emily Redfern’s ex-fiancé is a killer and now she is his target. She flees to the Alaska wilds where a wrongly convicted Sam Tarkington offers her refuge. The native Alaskan is determined to regain his business, repair his reputation, and rebuild his life. With danger surrounding both of them, Sam must make a choice between his dreams and Emily.
41. The Yiddish Policemen’s Union
In a tight Jewish community in the Alaskan pan-handle, homicide detective Meyer Landsman attempts to solve the murder of his neighbor in the cheap hotel he’s living in after the collapse of his marriage. With the community facing the threat of dissolution, and Landsman receiving orders to cease investigating the murder, the detective finds himself grappling with the forces of evil, greed and obsession, and rediscovering faith and redemption.
42. Two Old Women: An Alaska Legend of Betrayal, Courage and Survival
This story is based on an Athabascan legend passed along from mother to daughter for many generations on the upper Yukon River in Alaska. The tragic tale is of two elderly women abandoned by a migrating tribe that faces starvation brought on by harsh Arctic weather and a shortage of food. This is a classic in the field, a gripping story of survival with an unexpected end.
43. The Cloud Atlas
This historical novel revolves around the little known Japanese balloon bombs used against the U.S. in World War II. Sergeant Louis Belk is sent to the Alaskan frontier to find them. He encounters a brutal veteran OSS spy hunter and Lily, a Yup’ik Eskimo woman who claims she can see the future. Belk is pulled into a world of dark secrets, spirits and desire. Finally, in the tundra, Belk makes a discovery and a choice that will change his life.
44. Bird Girl and the Man Who Followed the Sun
Rooted in the ancient legends of Alaska’s Athabaskan Indians, this is the story of two adventurers who leave the safety of their respective tribes. Bird Girl is a headstrong skillful hunter who defies her family’s expectations and leaves. Daagoo is a dreamer on a quest to find the “Land of the Sun.” Their stories intersect as they each face the dangers of solitary life in the wilderness. They both learn that the search for individualism often comes at a high price, but whose treasure is wisdom.
45. Correcting the Landscape
Marjorie Kowalski Cole
Gus Traynor is the editor of a small weekly newspaper in Fairbanks, Alaska. When big business threatens his beloved Alaskan wilderness, Gus enlists the support of his best friend, an often self-serving developer. As Gus investigates ways to preserve his community’s heritage, he learns much about the region’s colorful mix of residents. But when a young woman’s body turns up mysteriously in a river, the fight turns deadly.
46. Shaman Pass (Nathan Active Mysteries)
Alaska State Trooper Nathan Active is regarded as “half-white” by the Inupiats of the village where he is stationed. He was born in Chukchi but was adopted by Anglos and raised in Anchorage. Now he is called upon to investigate the murder of a tribal leader who was stabbed to death with the antique harpoon recently returned to the community under the Indian Graves Act.
47. Murder on the Iditarod Trail (Alaska Mysteries)
Only the toughest individuals compete in the Iditarod, a grueling 1,100 mile dog sled race across the Arctic wilds. Now, suddenly, the top contestants are dying in gruesome ways. Jessie Arnold, Alaska’s premier female “musher,” fears she may be next. State Trooper Alex Jensen is determined to track down the murderer. But Jensen’s hunt is leading him into the frozen heart of the perilous wild that Jessie Arnold knows so well. Now they must survive merciless nature and a killer.
48. Alaskan Magic
Determined to bounce back from a sudden upheaval in her life, ex-socialite Amanda Bennington adds to her difficulty by trying to cope at her aunt’s run-down lodge in the Alaskan wilderness. Complications from a vengeful raven, an environment she doesn’t understand, and a scruffy bush pilot, who resents Bennington’s intrusion, would force her to leave, if not for her need to learn a family secret.
49. She Went All the Way
Screenwriter Lou Calabrese is crammed in a helicopter with Jack Townsend, star of her series, Copkiller. His ex just ran off with Lou’s ex. On route to the isolated arctic location where Copkiller IV is shooting, their pilot turns murderous and their helicopter crashes. Lou is suddenly on the run in the arctic wilderness with America’s sweetheart Jack and only the contents of her purse, his pockets, and their mutual knowledge of survival movie trivia to keep them alive.
50. Dawn’s Prelude (Song of Alaska Book #1)
Newly widowed Lydia Sellers is the sole recipient of her husband’s fortune. To create a new life, Lydia goes to Sitka, Alaska to join her aunt. She meets Kjell Bjorklund, the handsome owner of the saw mill, and discovers she’s pregnant with her dead husband’s child. What will this mean for her budding relationship with Kjell? And what lengths will her stepchildren go to to reclaim their father’s fortune? Lydia soon finds her life and the life of her child are on the line.
You might also like: 30 Great Novels About Survival