When reading books, I’m a big fan of the “Additional Reading” section. I find out about a lot of good books that way, including a lot of things that might otherwise have escaped my attention. And since I don’t see any reason why there can’t be a similar “additional reading” component to TV, I’d like to propose just such a thing for the first Alaska episode of MeatEater. So, kiddies, I’d like to recommend two amazing books that are, in my mind, tied for the coveted position of Steven Rinella’s Favorite Book Ever Written About Alaska:
The first (even though these are in no particular order) is “Coming Into the Country,” by John McPhee. This man has written about as many books as I have fingers and toes, but this is my favorite. McPhee is the ultimate master of the modern nonfiction form, and he has a reverence for wilderness and for the physical skills of people who live and work there. He’s a master of explanation who seldom passes judgment, which is refreshing when you consider that most people in this world are something of the opposite. Whether you’re interested in fur trapping or gold mining or caribou hunting or selecting an appropriate site for a state’s political capital, this book is for you.
McPhee’s competitor is the equally masterful Barry Lopez. His masterpiece, Arctic Dreams, is not about Alaska specifically, though much of the research and traveling for this book takes place there. This book is a fantastic exploration of the human relationship to wilderness – whether that relationship is between an Eskimo hunter and the ice or a gold miner and a path he just cut with his bulldozer. And while Lopez and I definitely do not see eye to eye on hunting—he describes himself as being uneasy with hunting—I have profound respect for this man and his insights.