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A Pacific Northwest Reading List

Hugh Brody Maps and Dreams.
(Pantheon; Faber, o/p). Brilliantly written account of the lives and lands of the Beaver people of northwest Canada. For further acute insights into the ways of the far north, see also Brody's Living Arctic (University of Washington Press; Faber).


P Browning The Last Wilderness.
(Great West Books). An engrossing description of a harsh and lonely canoe journey through the Northwest Territories.


Ranulph Fiennes The Headless Valley.
(Hodder & Stoughton, o/p). Tales of derring-do from infamous explorer, whitewater rafting down the South Nahanni and Fraser rivers of British Columbia and the NWT.


Barry Lopez Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in Northern Landscape.
(Bantam; Pan). Extraordinary award-winning book, combining natural history, physics, poetry, earth sciences and philosophy to produce a dazzling portrait of the far north.


Duncan Pryde Nununga: Ten Years of Eskimo Life.
(Hippocrene; Eland). Less a travel book than a social document from a Scot who left home at 18 to live with the Inuit.


Alastair Scott Tracks Across Alaska.
(Abacus). Scott arrived in Alaska ill-equipped and inexperienced, but five months later successfully crossed the state with sled and dog team, recording his adventures on the way.


Culture and Society

Don Dumond The Eskimos and Aleuts.
(Thames & Hudson). Anthropological and archeological tour-de-force on the prehistory, history and culture of northern peoples; backed up with fine maps, drawings and photographs.


Paula Fleming The North American Indians in Early Photographs .
(Phaidon). Stylized poses don't detract from a plaintive record of a way of life that has all but vanished.


Allan Gregg and Michael Posner The Big Picture.
(MacFarlane, Walter & Ross). A contemporary survey on what Canadians think of everything from sex to politics.


Paul Kane Wanderings of An Artist among the Indians of North America.
(Charles E Tuttle, o/p). Kane, one of Canada's better known landscape artists, spent three years travelling to the Pacific Coast and back in the 1840s. His witty account of his wanderings makes a delightful read - any major Canadian secondhand bookstore should have it.


Alan B Macmillan Native Peoples and Cultures of Canada.
(Douglas & McIntyre). Excellent anthology on Canada's native groups from prehistory to current issues of self-government and land claims. Well-written and illustrated throughout.


John McPhee Coming into the Country.
(Bantam). Penetrating portrait of Alaska written in the mid-1970s, but still largely relevant in a contemporary context.


Mordecai Richler Home Sweet Home.
(Triad Grafton, o/p in UK). Entertaining but occasionally whingeing anecdotes from all corners of Canada.


The True North - Canadian Landscape Painting 1896-1939
(Lund Humphries). A fascinating and well-illustrated book exploring how artists have treated northern landscapes.



Owen Beattie and John Geiger The Fate of the Franklin Expedition 1845-48.
(NAL Dutton; Bloomsbury). An account both of the doomed expedition to find the Northwest Passage and the discovery of artifacts and bodies still frozen in the northern ice; worth buying for the extraordinary photos.


Pierre Berton Klondike: The Last Great Goldrush 1896-1899 .
(Penguin). Exceptionally readable account of the characters and epic events of the Yukon gold rush by one of Canada's finest writers.


Pierre Berton The Arctic Grail.
(Penguin). Another Berton blockbuster, this time on the quest for the North Pole and the Northwest Passage from 1818 to 1919. All the author's other books are well worth reading: see also The Last Spike, an account of the history and building of the transcontinental railway; The Mysterious North: Encounters with the Canadian Frontier 1947-1954; and Flames across the Frontier, retelling episodes from the often uneasy relationship between Canada and the US.


Matthew H Case Northwest Frontier.
(BCS Educational Aids). By far the most concise and readable history of pioneer Washington and Oregon in print.


Ella C Clark Indian Legends of the Pacific Northwest.
(University of California Press). Good selection of tales from several tribes, organized into thematic sections and linked by useful critical passages.


Gordon DeMarco A Short History of Portland.
(Lexikos). Thorough and charmingly written account of the city's development.


Gerald Friesen The Canadian Prairies: A History.
(University of Toronto). Stunningly well researched and surprisingly entertaining book: particularly good on the culture of the Metis and Plains Indians.


Washington Irving Astoria.
(University of Nebraska Press). An account of Oregon's first American fur-trading colony, originally published in 1839, that offers fascinating, if lengthy, insights into contemporary attitudes to the then still unsettled Northwest.


Meriwether Lewis and William Clark The Original Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, 1804-1806.
(Ayer Co. Pubs, 8-volume set). Eight volumes of meticulous jottings by some of the Northwest's first inland explorers, scrupulously following President Jefferson's orders to record every detail of flora, fauna, and native inhabitant. Interesting to dip into, though booklets of extracts sold at historic sites in the Northwest are of more use to the casual reader.


Kenneth McNaught The Penguin History of Canada.
(Penguin). Recently revised and concise analysis of Canada's economic, social and political history.


James Mitchener Alaska.
(Fawcett Books). Mitchener isn't to all tastes, but there's no faulting the scope and detail of this immense popular history of the state.


National Park Service The Overland Migrations.
(NPS, US Dept of the Interior). Short but comprehensive guide to the trails that led pioneers west from the Missouri Valley in the middle of the nineteenth century.


Peter C Newman Caesars of the Wilderness.
(Penguin). Highly acclaimed and readable account of the rise and fall of the Hudson's Bay Company.


George Woodcock A Social History of Canada.
(Penguin). Erudite yet readable book about the peoples of Canada and the changes in lifestyle from wilderness to city.


Natural History

Tim Fitzharris and John Livingston Canada: A Natural History.
(Viking Studio). The text is prone to purple fits, but the luscious photographs make this a book to relish.


The Pocket Guide Series
(Dragon's World). Clearly laid out and well-illustrated, the Pocket Book series are excellent basic handbooks for general locations of species, identification and background. Individual titles are: The Pocket Guide to Mammals of North America (John Burton); The Pocket Guide to Birds of Prey of North America (Philip Burton); The Pocket Guide to Wild Flowers of North America (Pamela Forey); The Pocket Guide to Trees of North America (Alan Mitchell); The Pocket Guide to Birds of Western North America (Frank Shaw).


Paul Thomas Fur Seal Island.
(Souvenir Press). The North Pacific seals' battle for survival.


Lyall Watson Whales of the World.
(Hutchinson; NAL Dutton). Encyclopedic and lavishly illustrated guide to the biggest sea mammals.



Anahareo Grey Owl and I: A New Autobiography.
(Davies). Written by the Iroquois wife of Grey Owl (see below), this tells the story of their fight to save the beaver from extinction and of her shock at discovering that her husband was in fact an Englishman. Good insights into the changing life of Canada's native peoples in this century.


Margaret Atwood Surfacing.
(Fawcett Books; Virago). Canada's most eminent novelist tackles difficult subjects, but her analysis is invariably witty and penetrating. Surfacing, the tale of a young divorcee who returns to the Canadian wilderness to investigate the disappearance of her father, is perhaps the best of her novels with a Canadian setting - the surroundings become instrumental in an extreme voyage of self-discovery that'll leave you unable to look at the great outdoors in quite the same way again. Cat's Eye (Bantam; Virago) deals with a painter returning to Toronto to find herself overwhelmed by the past, a theme also explored in Lady Oracle (Bantam; Virago), the account of a poet confused by a life divided between London and Canada, who plans a new life in Italy after faking her death. Wilderness Tips (Doubleday; Bloomsbury), is her latest collection of short stories and is mainly about women looking back over the men in their lives.


Raymond Carver What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Cathedral, Fires and Elephant.
(HarperCollins). Carver was born in Clatskanie, Oregon, and brought up in Yakima, Washington. Many of his terse, deceptively simple short stories are set in the Pacific Northwest; they are collected in four volumes, and some also feature in the Robert Altman film Short Cuts. Several volumes of his poetry, the best known In a Marine Light and A New Path of the Waterfall, were published before his untimely death in 1988.


Lovat Dickson Wilderness Man.
(Macmillan). The fascinating story of Archie Belaney, the Englishman who became famous in Canada as his adopted persona, Grey Owl. Written by his English publisher and friend, who was one of many that did not discover the charade until after Grey Owl's death.


Grey Owl The Men of the Last Frontier; Pilgrims of the Wild; The Adventures of Sajo and Her Beaver People; Tales of an Empty Cabin.
(all Macmillan). First published in the 1930s, these books romantically describe life in the wilds of Canada at a time when exploitation was changing the land forever. His love of animals and the wilderness are inspiring and his forward-thinking ecological views are particularly startling.


Hammond Innes Campbell's Kingdom.
(Carroll & Graf; Fontana). A melodrama of love and oil-drilling in the Canadian Rockies.


Ken Kesey Sometimes a Great Notion.
(Penguin). A sweaty and rain-drenched evocation of Oregon's declining timber industry provides the background for a tale of psychological quirkiness from the author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest


Jack London Call of the Wild, White Fang and Other Stories (Penguin). London spent over a year in the Yukon goldfields during the Klondike gold rush. Many of his experiences found their way into his vivid if sometimes overwrought tales of the northern wilderness.


Malcolm Lowry Hear Us O Lord from Heaven thy Dwelling Place (Carroll & Graf; Picador). Lowry spent almost half his writing life (1939-54) in the log cabins and beach houses he built around Vancouver. Hear Us O Lord is a difficult read to say the least: a fragmentary novella which among other things describes a disturbing sojourn on Canada's wild Pacific coast.


Robert Service The Best of Robert Service.
(Putnam; Running Press). Service's Victorian ballads of pioneer and gold-rush life have a certain period charm, but generally make unintentionally hilarious reading.


Audrey Thomas The Wild Blue Yonder.
(Fourth Estate). A collection of witty tales about male-female relationships.


Specialist Guides

Don Beers The Wonder of Yoho.
(Rocky Mountain Books). Good photos and solid text extolling the delights of Yoho National Park in the Rockies.


Darryl Bray Kluane National Park Hiking Guide.
(Travel Vision). A much-needed guide to long and short walks in a park where the trail network is still in its infancy.


Ron Dalby The Alaska Highway: An Insider's Guide.
(Fulcrum). Less detailed but less dry than its main competitor, the better-known and encyclopedic Milepost. (Northwest Books).


Neil G Carey A Guide to the Queen Charlotte Islands.
(Northwest Books). An authoritative guide to islands which are difficult to explore and ill-served by back-up literature.


John Dodd and Gail Helgason The Canadian Rockies Access Guide (Lone Pine). Descriptions of 115 day hikes, with degrees of difficulty, time needed, sketch maps of routes, wildlife descriptions and numerous photos.


David Dunbar The Outdoor Traveller's Guide to Canada.
(Stewart, Tabori & Chang). Too bulky to be a useful guide in the field, but a lavishly illustrated introduction to the outdoor pursuits, wildlife and geology of the best national and provincial parks.


Ben Gadd A Handbook of the Canadian Rockies.
(Corax). Widely available in western Canada's larger bookstores, this is a lovingly produced and painstakingly detailed account of walks, flora, fauna, geology and anything else remotely connected with the Rockies.


Anne Hardy Where to Eat in Canada.
(Oberon). The only coast-to-coast Canadian guide covering establishments from the smallest diner to haute-cuisine. Very subjective, but excellent details on specialties, opening hours and prices.


Ed and Lynn Henderson Adventure Guide to the Alaska Highway (Moorland). A reasonable though not terribly penetrating guide to the highway, how to prepare for it and what to see.


Ruth Kirk and Carmel Alexander Exploring Washington's Past. Every twist of the history of Washington state is examined - a fascinating read.


The Lost Moose Catalogue
(Lost Moose Publishing). Highly entertaining and iconoclastic magazine-style guide and commentary on the contemporary mores of the Yukon and far north.


Teri Lydiard The British Columbia Bicycling Guide.
(Gordon Soules). Small but extremely detailed pointer to some tempting routes, backed up with good maps.


Janice E Macdonald Canoeing Alberta.
(Macdonald). A canoeist's Bible, with many detailed accounts of the province's waterways, and especially good on routes in the Rockies.


Ken Madsen and Graham Wilson Rivers of the Yukon.
(Primrose Publishing). An invaluable guide to some of the Yukon's best canoeing rivers.


Linda Moyer and Burl Willes Unexplored Islands of the US and Canadian West Coast.
(John Muir). A guide to the more intimate and homey of the Northwest's lesser known islands.


Betty Pratt-Johnson series
(Adventure Publishing). The author has produced five separate books whose 157 canoeing routes provide the definitive account of how and where to canoe the lakes and rivers of British Columbia.


Tom Kirkendall and Vicky Spring Bicycling the Pacific Coast (Mountaineers). Detailed guide to the bike routes all the way along the coast from Mexico up to Canada. (See also Mountaineers' other backcountry cycling books - covering the Puget Sound and other parts of Washington and Oregon - and their vast list of hiking, climbing, and wildlife guides to the whole of the Northwest region). Contact The Mountaineers, 306 Second Avenue W, Seattle, WA 98119.


Bruce Obee The Pacific Rim Explorer.
(Whitecap). A good overall summary of the walks, wildlife and social history of the Pacific Rim National Park and its nearby towns. Similarly useful are The Gulf Islands Explorer, also by Bruce Obee, and Eliane Jones' The Northern Gulf Islands Explorer, both in the same series.


Gerda Pantel The Canadian Bed and Breakfast Guide.
(Fitzhenry & Whiteside). Over a thousand B&B listings (all written by the hosts) from across the country. Useful pointers as to proximity of public transport and local sights.


Brian Patton and Bart Robinson The Canadian Rockies Trail Guide (Summerthought). An absolutely essential guide for anyone wishing to do more than simply scratch the surface of the Rockies' walking possibilities.


Archie Shutterfield The Chilkoot Trail: A Hiker's Historical Guide.
(Alaska Northwest Books). A pithy accompaniment to the Chilkoot Trail that should be read in conjunction with Pierre Berton's Klondike (see above).


Sierra Club of West Canada The West Coast Trail.
(Douglas & McIntyre). Now in its sixth edition, this is probably the best of several guides to Vancouver Island's popular but demanding long-distance footpath.


William L Sullivan Exploring Oregon's Wild Areas.
(Mountaineers). Detailed guide to backpacking, climbing, rafting, and other outdoor activities across the state.


Peggy Wayburn Adventuring in Alaska.
(Sierra Club Books). A guide to the wildlife and national parks of Alaska.