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David James is an Alaskan author and literary critic whose work has been published by the Anchorage Daily News, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Alaska Dispatch News, and Ester Republic. He is editing a forthcoming anthology of Alaska writing.


Recent posts
I've launched a new periodic column with the Anchorage Press called Essential Alaska Reads, where I will be revisiting older books about Alaska that still hold up well and are worth rereading, or, if you haven't read them, picking up now. First out the gate, "The Grizzly Maze" by well-known Alaska writer Nick Jans. It follows the troubled life of bear activist Timothy Treadwell, documents the circumstances that led up to the fatal bear mauling of him and Amie Huguenard in Katmai National Park in 2003, and explores the aftermath, revealing along the way that more can be learned from the tragedy than might initially appear.

"Following the attack he was savaged in the state’s newspapers, and his chances of faring well with any Alaska writer seemed even more remote than Kaflia Bay, where he died. Thus Treadwell was fortunate that the Alaskan who did chronicle his life and examine his death was the well-established author Nick Jans. In his 2005 book, “The Grizzl…
Shayla Sackinger grew up in Fairbanks. From childhood she was drawn to the avian world congregating on her family's property, as well as the fantasy world of online gaming. Then she started drawing. In her final year at University of Alaska Fairbanks where she's double majoring in art and Japanese studies, she combines those growing influences (as well as a hint of cartooning) in the lively pieces she creates. She tells her story in the latest installment of the Creating Alaska series.


“Birds have always been a constant. I live out in the middle of Goldstream, we’re in the middle of a swamp. We’ve got lots of ducks. We also get sandhill cranes. But I’m also a huge gamer. In high school it was half art, half games. I would draw during my classes, then at home I would game. Rinse and repeat.”
Across the upper half of the Northern Hemisphere, humans have lived in an uneasy cohabitation with bears for millions of years. A recent book explores the way mythology and legend have helped people on three continents find their place among bears, and how these early forms of literature placed bears in the midst of human societies.

"In most regions above the tropics, the bear is king. Bears are one of the few animals capable of killing and eating people, although curiously, despite this clear advantage, they rarely do so. Among wild animals, bears are more like humans than most: intelligent, omnivorous, skillful. And when skinned, their bodies resemble ours so closely that in some cultures killing bears was taboo. And as Strol demonstrates, wherever bears historically wandered, the humans who lived alongside them incorporated the animals into their mythologies."
Corlis Taylor learned quilting after she came to Alaska, then transferred her newfound skills into clothing she calls "wearable art." Approaching retirement from Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, where she's worked for twenty-seven years and serves as the education department manager, she reflects on her life, her art, and her Alaska experiences. She came north in 1979 as a Vista volunteer, moving from Florida to Bethel. “I thought, ‘Oh, what have I gotten myself into?,’” she said. What she found was home.
A 1915 meeting between Athabascan leaders and Alaska's congressional delegate to Congress, James Wickersham, marked the first time that Native peoples of Interior Alaska voiced their concerns to a representative of the Unites States government. The transcript shows how people still adjusting to their newfound status as subjects of a country they had little prior knowledge of were able to understand the system they found themselves confronted by, and seek ways to thrive under it while maintaining their distinct identity. A recent book tells the story of this meeting, and explores how the issues raised continue to define relations between the government and Alaska Natives to this day.

The Tanana Chiefs: Native Rights and Western Law is one of those priceless history books that asks readers to not simply learn about an event, but to reconsider their understanding of both the past and present as a result."
After countless rescues of bus-bound pilgrims, and, this summer, the second drowning death of one of them, I revisited Into the Wild and explored how Jon Krakauer's heroic account of Christopher McCandless is cut from whole cloth.


"Alaskans tend to blame Chris McCandless for the perpetual troubles his disciples have inflicted on themselves and the state. It’s easy to do so. He stumbled into Alaska and up the Stampede Trail wholly unprepared to experience his fever dream of living off the land. He walked a scant few miles beyond civilization and the road system and camped out in a bus. He didn’t have a map. His self-obsession bordered on megalomania. He starved to death — a stupid, senseless, and entirely preventable way to die so close to civilization. Why, we Alaskans ask ourselves, would anyone consider this person to be a hero?

"The answer lies not so much in McCandless himself as in the way his story was presented."
Fairbanks artist Kes Woodward, known for his brilliantly-colored depictions of the boreal forest and especially its birch trees, shares the story of how he became an artist and what it takes to be successful. The latest installment in the series Creating Alaska.

“I don’t have any inborn facility or skills. It’s all really hard for me. I believe in commitment, hard work, ambition, and ruthlessly making yourself do the best you can and dedicating yourself to doing the best you can at whatever it is you do.”