Tip of the Iceberg: My 3,000-Mile Journey Around Wild Alaska, the Last Great American Frontier
In 1899, a railroad tycoon loaded up a yacht chock-full of literary and scientific luminaries – John Muir, William H. Dall, George Bird Grinnell, and more! – and took them on an epic Alaskan cruise that would go down in history as the Harriman Expedition. In the summer of 2016, author Mark Adams retraced the Harriman Expedition route as best he could manage via the Alaska ferry system. Adams did his homework well for a non-Alaskan, and his peregrinations are a jumping-off point for examining not just the Harriman Expedition and its legacy, but the history of three thousand miles of coastline over three centuries. I was impressed that he could pack in so many notable episodes in Alaska history alongside the twin narratives of his travels and Harriman's, and manage to keep everything sensible. In fact, he does a better job of providing context and an overarching sense of how things fit together than most things I've read, especially where he interviews Diane Benson about the Russian-to-American transition period from a Native point of view. Inevitably a few things lose nuance when so many are covered, but I would still recommend this book to anyone as a fantastic entry point to understanding Alaska history, as well as worth reading for locals for the entertaining way he weaves it all together.