With decades of experience in Alaska travel we are pleased to share our favorite Alaska books to help you prepare for your next adventure. There are so many fantastic books about Alaska, we could not possibly list them all here. We’ve done our best to narrow down the choices to our top picks. Browse our Alaska reading lists below and let us know if you agree that these are the best Alaska books.

We have divided our Alaska reading lists in several categories including essential books about Alaska, books about Alaska wilderness, books about Alaska native culture and people, Alaska travel guide books, coffee table books and maps. We’ve also highlighted some of our favorite books about Denali National Park, Glacier Bay National Park and Alaska’s Inside Passage.

IN THIS POST: ALASKA BOOKS
Best Books on Alaska – Essential Reading
Books About Alaska – Recommended Reading
Books About Alaska Native Culture & People
Alaska Field Guides
Alaska Travel Guides
Alaska Coffee Table Books
Alaska Maps
Alaska Travel Resources

Best Books on Alaska – Essential Reading

Start with our top picks for essential books on Alaska. These are the best books to read before visiting Alaska or inspire you visit. Our selection of books about Alaska will enhance your understanding of the state, its history, wildlife and people. These Alaska books are the perfect companion on your next Alaska trip.

Coming into the Country

John McPhee

Coming into the Country is an unforgettable account of Alaska and Alaskans. It is a rich tapestry of vivid characters, observed landscapes, and descriptive narrative, in three principal segments that deal, respectively, with a total wilderness, with urban Alaska, and with life in the remoteness of the bush.


Travels in Alaska

John Muir

Travels in Alaska offers a memorable travelogue, enhanced by photographic plates from the original 1915 publication. Muir’s commentary ranges from observations on the geology of Glacier Bay to the history and culture of the Chinook people to his discovery of the great glacier subsequently named for him.


Where the Sea Breaks Its Back: The Epic Story of Early Naturalist Georg Steller and the Russian Exploration of Alaska

Corey Ford

First published in 1966, Where the Sea Breaks Its Back was hailed as “among this country’s greatest outdoor writing” by Field & Stream magazine, and today continues to enchant and enlighten the new generations of readers about this amazing and yet tragic expedition, and Georg Steller’s significant discoveries as an early naturalist.


The Alaska Native Reader: History, Culture, Politics

Maria Sháa Tláa Williams, Robin Kirk, Orin Starn

The Alaska Native Reader describes indigenous worldviews, languages, arts, and other cultural traditions as well as contemporary efforts to preserve them.


Alaska’s History, Revised Edition: The People, Land, and Events of the North Country

Harry Ritter

Alaska’s rich and cultural history comes to life in this vivid, take-along account. A history book that’s fun to read, Alaska’s History provides a look into the deep story behind the United States’ 49th state, from its glorious past to its challenging present.


Alaska: A Novel

James A. Michner

In this sweeping epic of the northernmost American frontier, James A. Michener guides us through Alaska’s fierce terrain and history, from the long-forgotten past to the bustling present.


Take a deeper dive into books on Alaska with this list of further reading. These Alaska books cover a variety of regions including Southeast Alaska, The Tongass National Forest and Glacier Bay National Park, Denali National Park, Prince William Sound, and more. There are books about Alaska’s wilderness, Alaska’s gold rush history, living in Alaska and our connection with nature.

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve: A Place of Discovery

Alaska Geographic’s National Park Book Series

Enter a world of blue ice and wild coastlines, temperate rain forests and mist-shrouded mountains, whales and seabirds, and discover the magnificent saltwater bay that lies at Glacier Bay’s heart.​

Denali National Park and Preserve: Wilderness in Motion

Alaska Geographic’s National Park Book Series

The lyrical writing and stunning photographs in this book reveal the timeless connections between the geological movements that created the seasonal movements of caribou, wolves, bears, sheep, and other wildlife.

Kenai Fjords National Park: A Rare Jewel in a Perfect Setting

Alaska Geographic’s National Park Book Series

The lyrical writing and stunning photographs in this book tell the compelling story of the ancient people of the fjords, the science behind the making of the fjords and this unique coastline, the incredible abundance of life that exists here both above and below the sea, and, finally, a brief history of the Seward area and look at the future of the park lands. ​

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve: Crown of the Continent

Alaska Geographic’s National Park Book Series

The lyrical writing and stunning photographs in this book reveal the drama of the molten lava and flowing ice that sculpted the landscape and the might rivers, the Copper and the Chitina, that set the patterns of life here.

A Naturalist in Alaska

Adolph Murie

This book concerns the domestic ways of the wildlife in Alaska, the grizzly bear, the wolf, the lynx, the wolverine, the Dall sheep, the caribou, and the Arctic fox. But even more fascinating than the life cycles of these creatures are their interrelationships—prey and predator maintaining a delicate balance in one of the few remaining wildernesses of this continent.

The Wilderness of Denali

Charles Sheldon

Originally published by Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1930, The Wilderness of Denali is a memoir of three years of hunting the area of Alaska surrounding Mt. McKinley. It is a classic of American adventure.

Two in the Far North

Margaret E. Murie

This enduring story of life, adventure, and love in Alaska was written by a woman who embraced the remote Alaskan wilderness and became one of its strongest advocates. In this moving testimonial to the preservation of the Arctic wilderness, Mardy Murie writes from her heart about growing up in Fairbanks, becoming the first woman graduate of the University of Alaska, and marrying noted biologist Olaus J. Murie.

Tip of the Iceberg: My 3,000-Mile Journey Around Wild Alaska, the Last Great American Frontier

Mark Adams

From the acclaimed, bestselling author of Turn Right at Machu Picchu, a fascinating, wild, and wonder-filled journey into Alaska, America’s last frontier


The Klondike Fever: The Life and Death of the Last Great Gold Rush

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.

The Island Within

Richard Nelson

Here is Nelson’s luminously wise account of his exploration of an unnamed island in the Pacific Northwest. This book revises our own relationship with nature, allowing us to observe it and also to participate in it with reverence and a sense of wonder.


Salmon in the Trees: Life in Alaska’s Tongass Rain Forest

Ray Troll, Amy Gulick

For two years, acclaimed nature photographer Amy Gulick paddled and trekked among the bears, misty islands, and salmon streams to photograph the intricate connections within the Tongass. Together with essays from renowned conservationists, scientists, and writers Richard Nelson, Brad Matsen, Dr. Carl Safina, Ray Troll, Rosita Worl, Richard Carstensen, John Schoen, Douglas Chadwick, and John Straley, Gulick’s images tell a hopeful story of this magnificent and rare world treasure.


The Book of the Tongass

Carolyn Servid, Don Snow

Tongass National Park lies across a maze of islands and long a coastline in southeastern Alaska within the largest contiguous expanse of temperate rain forest on earth. This collaboration by a number of organizations and individuals describe the natural features and considers the future. It includes native stories and line drawings of animals.


The Only Kayak: A Journey Into The Heart Of Alaska

Kim Heacox

In this coming-of-middle-age memoir, Kim Heacox, writing in the tradition of Abbey, McPhee, and Thoreau, discovers an Alaska reborn from beneath a massive glacier, where flowers emerge from boulders, moose swim fjords, and bears cross crevasses with Homeric resolve.


John Muir and the Ice That Started a Fire: How a Visionary and the Glaciers of Alaska Changed America

Kim Heacox

A dual biography of two of the most compelling elements in the narrative of wild America, John Muir and Alaska.


Rhythm of the Wild

Kim Heacox

Some books are larger than their actual subject—this is one. Part memoir, part exploration of Denali’s inspiring natural and human history, and part conservation polemic, Rhythm of the Wild ranges from funny to provocative.


Denali: A Literary Anthology

Bill Sherwonit

A literary collection about Denali and the broad shadow it casts in history, culture, and nature. Collects 23 essays on Denali-from well-known writings to undiscovered gems. Explores themes from Native culture to exploration history to modern adventures.


Kantishna: Mushers, Miners, Mountaineers – The Pioneer Story Behind Mount McKinley National Park

Tom Walker

In the aftermath of the 1898 Klondike gold rush, hardy pioneers forged through trackless wilderness on foot or by dog team to prospect every remote drainage in Interior Alaska. Here are the stories of these tough pioneers, tales similar to those that inspired Robert Service and Jack London…only these stories are true.


Minus 148 Degrees: First Winter Ascent of Mount McKinley

Art Davidson

In 1967, eight men attempted North America’s highest summit: Mount McKinley (now known as Denali) had been climbed before—but never in winter. Plagued by doubts and cold, group tension and a crevasse tragedy, the expedition tackled McKinley in minimal hours of daylight and fierce storms. They were trapped at three different camps above 14,000 feet during a six-day blizzard and faced the ultimate low temperature of -148° F.


Midnight Wilderness: Journeys in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Debbie Miller

Midnight Wilderness is a passionate and vivid account of one of Alaska’s greatest natural treasures, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Author Debbie Miller draws on her years of exploring this unique, magical, and expansive territory, weaving chilling adventure, personal anecdote, wildlife observation, and Native American life into a beautiful and compelling memoir of place.


Interior & Northern Alaska: A Natural History

Ronald L. Smith

How did these creatures manage to survive the extremes of Alaska’s environment? Open up Ron Smith’s world and learn that the answer is not just in what these creatures are – their size or what color or type of skin covering – but also in what they do.

The Alaska Almanac: Facts about Alaska

Nancy Gates, Mr. Whitekeys

Since 1976, those looking for facts about Alaska turn to this trusted fact book. Updated biannually, this affordable, best-selling guide is filled with accurate, timely facts on the geography, history, economy, employment, recreation, climate, and peoples of this large and diverse state.


Best Books About Alaska Native Culture & People

Alaska Native people’s ancestry can be traced back hundreds of thousands of years. Today Native people make up about 15% of the total population with 229 federally recognized tribes and 11 distinct cultures across the state. Books about Alaska Native culture are rich and varied offering important insights that will enhance your travel experience and understanding.

Native Cultures in Alaska: Looking Forward, Looking Back

Tricia Brown

In the minds of most Americans, Native culture in Alaska amounts to Eskimos and igloos….The latest publication of the Alaska Geographic Society offers an accessible and attractive antidote to such misconceptions. Native Cultures in Alaska blends beautiful photographs with informative text to create a striking portrait of the state’s diverse and dynamic indigenous population.


Make Prayers to the Raven: A Koyukon View of the Northern Forest

Richard K. Nelson

“Nelson spent a year among the Koyukon people of western Alaska, studying their intimate relationship with animals and the land. His chronicle of that visit represents a thorough and elegant account of the mystical connection between Native Americans and the natural world.”—Outside


Two Old Women: An Alaska Legend of Betrayal, Courage and Survival

Velma Wallis

Velma Wallis’s award-winning, bestselling novel about two elderly Native American women who must fend for themselves during a harsh Alaskan winter.


What the Elders Have Taught Us: Alaska Native Ways

Natives of Alaska, Roy Corral

In stirring words, What the Elders Have Taught Us pays tribute to the first Alaskans and the ancient values they consider paramount.


The Alaska Native Reader: History, Culture, Politics

Maria Sháa Tláa Williams, Robin Kirk, Orin Starn

Filled with essays, poems, songs, stories, maps, and visual art, this volume foregrounds the perspectives of Alaska Native people, from a Tlingit photographer to Athabascan and Yup’ik linguists, and from an Alutiiq mask carver to a prominent Native politician and member of Alaska’s House of Representatives.

Haa Shuká, Our Ancestors: Tlingit Oral Narratives

Nora Marks Dauenhauer, Richard Dauenhauer

These gripping and powerful prose narratives relate monumental events in the lives of the forebears of Tlingit clans, from the prehistoric migration to the coast of Southeast Alaska to the first contact with Europeans.

Best Alaska Field Guides

Alaska is vast and so is its selection of field guides. If you love to identify the birds, wildlife, plants and rocks you encounter as you travel we the the best Alaska field guides for you. As former guides our experts recommend their favorite field guides to take on your next vacation.

The Nature of Alaska: An Introduction to Familiar Plants, Animals & Outstanding Natural Attractions (Wildlife and Nature Identification)

James Kavanagh

This beautifully illustrated field guide highlights more than 325 familiar plants and animals and dozens of the state’s outstanding natural attractions. It is an indispensable single reference for amateur naturalists, students and tourists alike.


Alaska: Traveller’s Wildlife Guide

Dennis Paulson, Les Beletsky, David et al Dennis

Alaska has both vast wilderness tracts and a modern transportation system, making eco-travelling in the state easy as well as exciting. From the broad expanses of tundra in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the rich seabird colonies of the Bering Sea to the glacier-bedecked snowy mountains and magnificent forests of the Southeast, wildlife viewing opportunities abound. In this book is all the information you will need to find, identify, and learn about Alaska’s magnificent animal life.


Alaska’s Mammals: A Guide to Selected Species (Alaska Pocket Guide)

Dave Smith

Intriguing natural history facts and winning photos introduce readers to 35 sea and land mammals, from caribou, to humpback whales, to walrus.


Alaska’s Bears: Grizzlies, Black Bears, and Polar Bears

Bill Sherwonit, Tom Walker

Alaska is truly bear country. It is the only one of America’s fifty states to be inhabited by all three of North America’s ursine species: black, polar bear, and brown bear (also known as grizzly). Alaska’s Bears is a handy guidebook to the bears of Alaska, a book that slips easily into a jacket pocket or a day pack, and that provides entertaining armchair reading when you’re not in bear country.


Guide to the Birds of Alaska

Robert H. Armstrong

GUIDE TO THE BIRDS OF ALASKA has been a must-have for Alaska birders for more than thirty years. In the sixth edition, Robert Armstrong provides hundreds of new photographs. Every bird is now illustrated including the casuals and accidentals. This comprehensive guide provides the most current knowledge about the birds in Alaska.


National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of Western North America

John L. Dunn, Jonathan Alderfer

Field Guide to the Birds of Western North America offers 750 regular species, 600 new range maps, 100 casual and accidental birds, and 55 rarities.

The Nature of Southeast Alaska: A Guide to Plants, Animals, and Habitats

Richard Carstensen, Robert H. Armstrong, Rita M O’Clair

Everything you ever wanted to know about the flora and fauna of Southeast Alaska is contained in the third edition of this lively field guide to the natural world, from bears to banana slugs, mountains to murrelets.


Guide to Marine Mammals of Alaska: Fourth Edition

Kate Wynne

The authoritative book on Alaska marine life, Guide to Marine Mammals of Alaska is a clear and concise look at all twenty-nine of Alaska’s mammal species, including whales, dolphins, seals, walrus, and polar bears. Now in its fourth edition, this award-winning book is fully revised with updated information on range and status of all the species.


Field Guide to Alaskan Wildflowers: Commonly Seen Along Highways and Byways

Verna E. Pratt

Field Guide to Alaskan Wildflowers: Commonly Seen Along Highways and Byways was written and arranged by color with the amateur botanist in mind.


Wildflowers of Denali National Park

Verna E. Pratt

An introductory field guide for the most commonly seen wildflowers along the roads of Denali Park and Interior Alaska. More than 200 species of flowers, trees, mosses, mushrooms, and lichens are color-coded to speed identification. Notes and checklists exist for specific geographic areas within the park.

Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast

Jim Pojar, Andy MacKinnon

This classic, bestselling field guide features 794 species of plants commonly found along the Pacific coast from Oregon to Alaska, including trees, shrubs, wildflowers, aquatic plants, grasses, ferns, mosses and lichens.


Roadside Geology of Alaska

Cathy Connor

Roadside Geology of Alaska is a must-have for any Alaska rock enthusiast.


Geology of Southeast Alaska: Rock and Ice in Motion

Harold Stowell

Written by a geologist with over twenty-five years of experience in the north, Geology of Southeast Alaska will entertain and inform with abundant photographs and detailed drawings.


Denali National Park & Preserve Geology Road Guide

Alaska Geographic

The Denali Park Road winds through some of the most exciting geological landscapes on Earth. Whether you are embarking on an adventure, returning from a memorable trip, or simply curious to know more about the incredible science stories hidden amongst our mountains, this guide is for you.

Alaska Birds: A Folding Pocket Guide to Familiar Species

James Kavanagh

This beautifully illustrated guide highlights over 140 familiar and unique species and includes an ecoregion map featuring prominent bird-viewing areas.


Birds of Alaska (Falcon Pocket Guides)

Todd Telander

Birds of Alaska is a field guide to the most common and sought-after species in the state. Conveniently sized to fit in your pocket and featuring full-color, detailed illustrations, this informative guide makes it easy to identify birds in your backyard, favorite parks, and wildlife areas.


Alaska Nature Set: Field Guides to Wildlife, Birds, Trees & Wildflowers of Alaska

James Kavanagh

The Alaska Nature Set offers the best in wildlife and plant identification for The Last Frontier State. The set includes three Pocket Naturalist Guides to Alaska, Trees & Wildflowers, Birds, and Wildlife, and is attractively packaged in an acetate bag.


Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises of the Pacific Coast: Alaska to California

Val Kells

Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises of the Pacific Coast is an easy-to-use, 12-panel identification guide to 32 species of cetaceans that occur in the northeastern Pacific from Alaska to California.

Best Alaska Travel Guide Books

Even if you are booked with an award winning travel company like AdventureSmith Explorations, a good guide book can still enhance your experience with background information, historical anecdotes and travel insights. There are no shortage of Alaska cruising and travel guides out there. There are among the best Alaska travel guide books.

Alaska by Cruise Ship (Ocean Cruise Guides)

Anne Vipond

A guide to cruising Alaska, including Inside Passage and glacier cruises, with information on ports of call, shore excursions, wildlife, whale-watching, hiking trails, Alaska history and culture, and over 300 photographs.


Insight Guides Alaska

Insight Guides

Travel made easy. Ask local experts. Comprehensive travel guide packed with inspirational photography and fascinating cultural insights, now with free eBook.


The Rough Guide to Alaska

Paul Whitfield

The Rough Guide to Alaska is your complete guidebook to one of the world”s greatest adventure destinations. From the wildlife of the Glacier Bay National Park to cruising the epic highways, the full-colour introduction highlights all the ‘things-not-to-miss’.


Lonely Planet Alaska

Brendan Sainsbury, Catherine Bodgry, Adam Karlin

Lonely Planet Alaska is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. AdventureSmith Explorations is their top pick for Alaska small ship cruises.


Best Alaska Coffee Table and Photography Books

Many people who travel to Alaska want to bring home a reminder of its beauty and wildlife. Or perhaps you are seeking inspiration for a visit someday. Our experts have hand picked the best Alaska coffee table books. These large format photography books allow you to enjoy Alaska from the comfort of your living room.

Alaska’s Wildlife

Tom Walker

In this incredible collection, Alaska’s premier wildlife photographer presents the state’s well-known wildlife along with its more unusual species. Walker has waited with endless patience to capture that which is rarely photographed.


In Denali

Kim Heacox

A Photographic Essay Of Denali National Park And Preserve Alaska


Alaska Range: Exploring the Last Great Wild

Carl Battreal

Award-winning photographer Carl Battreall has spent eight years exploring and photographing this remote and often inhospitable terrain. This inspiring new book includes a collection of essays by beloved Alaskan writers and adventurers.

Alaska: A Visual Tour of America’s Great Land

Bob Devine

An amazing tour through its history, culture and landscape, Alaska’s stunning imagery and informative text makes it the perfect book for those who dream of visiting the 49th state and those who want to celebrate its singular beauty and expansive history.From the lush rainforests of the Inside Passage, to the desolate beauty of the far north, Alaska’s natural wonders never cease to enthrall and amaze.


Alaska: A Photographic Excursion

Mark Kelley

A beautiful Alaska memory for those who have been here, an inspiration for those wanting to travel here, and a great journey for those who might not venture here in person. Travel through the coastal rainforest, the fishing towns, and the icefields of Alaska’s Inside Passage, the glacier-carved landscape of Prince William Sound and Kenai Fjords, through the major cities of Anchorage and Fairbanks, and on to the crown jewel, Denali National Park.


The Bears of Brooks Falls: Wildlife and Survival on Alaska’s Brooks River

Michael Fitz

A natural history and celebration of the famous bears and salmon of Brooks River.


The Northern Lights: Celestial Performances of the Aurora Borealis

Daryl Pederson, Calvin Hall, Ned Rozell

The northern lights, also known as the aurora borealis, put on remarkable shows of light and motion in high latitudes–Alaska being the perfect place to see them. Shot with ultra-high definition cameras, this book of amazing photographs showcases a period of unusually high solar activity in the northern lights.


Glacier Bay, the Land and the Silence

David Bohn

Published in 1967, before Glacier Bay was a national park, this books is a combination of photographs, detailed historical and evocative accounts of an impressive landscape. Out of print, used copies are sometimes available. A nostalgic keepsake for anyone on a Glacier Bay cruise our tour.

Alaska Maps

We’re old school and like to have a paper map to track our travels through Alaska. These Alaska maps will help you track your route and learn more about the environment, wildlife, history and culture of Alaska. And they work in the wilderness where there is no WiFi.

Alaska (National Geographic Adventure Map)

National Geographic Maps

Alaska’s most famous hotspots, like Denali, Anchorage, the Inside Passage, Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, and many others are clearly marked on the map. The boundaries of National Parks, National Forests, Natural Reserves and Wildlife Refuges are all clearly marked. With such a wealth of content, the map is an ideal complement to National Geographic’s Inside Passage Destination Map or any other guidebook to the area.


Alaska’s Inside Passage (National Geographic Destination Map)

National Geographic Maps

The front side of Alaska’s Inside Passage reveals a striking map of the region from the northern reaches of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve south to Prince of Wales Island. Information about the islands and other land features, wildlife viewing and safety, the weather, the tides and more is included. The reverse side of the map provides invaluable content for travelers with extensive descriptions of points of interest and information about tours, outfitters, visitor associations, lodging, the geology of the region, and local indigenous cultures.


Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve (National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map)

National Geographic Maps

National Geographic’s Trails Illustrated map of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska’s panhandle is perfect for hiking, camping, boating, paddling, and wildlife viewing in this scenic, rugged frontier. Created in partnership with local land management agencies, this expertly researched map delivers unmatched detail and helpful information for experienced outdoor enthusiasts and casual visitors alike.


Alaska & Canada’s Inside Passage

Coastal Cruise Tour Guides

A giant six-foot by 11-3/4″ fold-out map opens up to reveal vital details of this magnificent 1,000 mile Inside Passage– names of glaciers, islands and channels that the cruise ships navigate through. Read about early explorers and ancient Indian cultures. Information on land and sea mammals are colorfully illustrated along with various types of fishing vessels that are likely to be seen. Learn about the exciting cities and ports-of-call along the cruise line route.


Canada’s Yukon & South Central Alaska Cruise Tour Guide

Coastal Cruise Tour Guides

The Yukon and South Central Alaska guide has seven large-scale color maps that include Prince William Sound and Denali National Park. This guide is designed for cruises and tours that extend beyond the Inside Passage into the heart of Alaska and the Yukon. Color maps of the Glacier Route from Yakutat to the Katmai region fold out to over 4 feet long and include the Kenai Peninsula and Kodiak Island. Interior maps of Alaska, Canada’s Yukon and the Arctic region show road systems and points-of-interest.


As an Amazon Associate AdventureSmith Explorations earns a small commission from qualifying purchases.

Have a favorite Alaska book that is not listed here? Have a question or comment about our Alaska book recommendations? We would love to hear from you in the comments below.