Ruth's Picks

Ruth has worked at Fireside Books off and on since the summer of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and is currently the frontlist buyer.  She reads a lot of Alaskan history, epic novels, science and natural history, speculative fiction, and all the picture books.

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Disappointment River: Finding and Losing the Northwest Passage By Brian Castner Cover Image
Email or call for availability
ISBN: 9780385541626
Published: Doubleday - March 13th, 2018

Ruth says: Castner canoed the entire Mackenzie River in summer of 2016, from Slave Lake to the Arctic Ocean.  His strong writing makes short work of a long paddle, and he brings a profitable haul of stories from the territory, alternating his contemporary travelogue with the journeys of Alexander Mackenzie and other fur-trade voyageurs.  Abandon notions of timeless wilderness!  Mackenzie’s grueling foray into the unknown in the cold of the Little Ice Age could have happened in another world, compared to Castner’s sunburned and lightning-plagued trip in our hot century.  Mackenzie thought he failed to find a Northwest Passage to the Pacific, but he was just 200 years too early for ice-free Arctic shipping routes.


Reading this will make you eager for the thaw so you can launch a canoe and go somewhere.  I’m not quite as ambitious as Brian Castner, but I might paddle Palmer Slough all the way to the Pacific.

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This Is How It Always Is: A Novel By Laurie Frankel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250088567
Availability: NONE IN-STORE but we can probably order it for you
Published: Flatiron Books - January 23rd, 2018

New York Times Bestseller
The Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club Pick

“Every once in a while, I read a book that opens my eyes in a way I never expected.”
—Reese Witherspoon (Reese’s Book Club x Hello Sunshine book pick)

People Magazine’s Top 10 Books of 2017

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On Trails: An Exploration By Robert Moor Cover Image
ISBN: 9781476739236
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Simon & Schuster - July 4th, 2017

Eowyn recommended this to me, and she's never steered me wrong.  Reading it is like a deep and entertaining after-dinner conversation with your most interesting friend.  The author walked the Appalachian Trail, but this isn’t a hiker’s travelogue – that experience is just a jumping-off point for examinations of how and why we make trails, and how they make us.  It’s the sort of book that deepens the way you read the landscape around you. 

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Thunderfeet: Alaska's Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Critters (PAWS IV) By Shelley Gill, Shannon Cartwright (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Shelley Gill, Shannon Cartwright (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780934007191
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Little Bigfoot - July 29th, 1997

This has been my favorite book since age 4 and I still stand by that choice.  I used some pictures from it in a presentation on Beringia for a 400-level quaternary biogeography class, and my professor was so excited he wanted his own copy.  Paleontology, plate tectonics, and songs by Hobo Jim!  Every kid needs Thunderfeet.

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The Living: A Novel By Annie Dillard Cover Image
ISBN: 9780060924119
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper Perennial - November 12th, 2013

“Remarkable. . . . A deftly woven narrative saturated with violence, hardship, and triumph. Readers will be richly rewarded, for by the end of this deeply felt novel it is hard to let the frontier town and its people go.”  — San Francisco Chronicle

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The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel By Barbara Kingsolver Cover Image
ISBN: 9780060786502
Availability: NONE IN-STORE but we can probably order it for you
Published: Harper Perennial Modern Classics - July 11th, 2023

New York Times Bestseller • Pulitzer Prize Finalist • An Oprah's Book Club Selection

“Powerful . . . [Kingsolver] has with infinitely steady hands worked the prickly threads of religion, politics, race, sin and redemption into a thing of terrible beauty.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review

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Where the Sea Breaks Its Back: The Epic Story of the Early Naturalist Georg Steller and the Russian Exploration of Alaska By Corey Ford Cover Image
ISBN: 9780882403946
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Alaska Northwest Books - June 1st, 2003

Author Corey Ford writes the classic and moving story of naturalist Georg Whlhelm Steller, who served on the 1741-42 Russian Alaska expedition with explorer Vitus Bering. Steller was one of Europe's foremost naturalists and the first to document the unique wildlife of the Alaskan coast.

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The Summer Book By Tove Jansson, Kathryn Davis (Introduction by), Thomas Teal (Translated by) Cover Image
By Tove Jansson, Kathryn Davis (Introduction by), Thomas Teal (Translated by)
ISBN: 9781590172681
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: NYRB Classics - May 20th, 2008

In The Summer Book Tove Jansson distills the essence of the summer—its sunlight and storms—into twenty-two crystalline vignettes. This brief novel tells the story of Sophia, a six-year-old girl awakening to existence, and Sophia’s grandmother, nearing the end of hers, as they spend the summer on a tiny unspoiled island in the Gulf of Finland.

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The Sparrow: A Novel (The Sparrow Series #1) By Mary Doria Russell Cover Image
ISBN: 9780449912553
Availability: NONE IN-STORE but we can probably order it for you
Published: Ballantine Books - September 8th, 1997

A visionary work that combines speculative fiction with deep philosophical inquiry, The Sparrow tells the story of a charismatic Jesuit priest and linguist, Emilio Sandoz, who leads a scientific mission entrusted with a profound task: to make first contact with intelligent extraterrestrial life.

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Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories By Sherman Alexie Cover Image
ISBN: 9780802121752
Availability: NONE IN-STORE but we can probably order it for you
Published: Grove Press - October 8th, 2013

"Alexie once again reasserts himself as one the most compelling contemporary practitioners of the short story. In Blasphemy, the author demonstrates his talent on nearly every page. . . . Will appeal to fans of Junot Diaz, George Saunders, and readers new to Alexie will find this enriching collection to be the perfect introduction to a formidable literary voice. . . .

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Cloud Atlas: A Novel By David Mitchell Cover Image
ISBN: 9780375507250
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks - August 17th, 2004

By the New York Times bestselling author of The Bone Clocks | Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize

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The War That Saved My Life By Kimberly Brubaker Bradley Cover Image
ISBN: 9780147510488
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Dial Books - May 31st, 2016

*Newbery Honor book
*Winner of the Schneider Family Book Award 
*Forbes 25 Top Historical Fiction Books Of All Time selection

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To Russia with Love: An Alaskan's Journey By Victor Fischer, Charles Wohlforth Cover Image
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ISBN: 9781602231405
Published: University of Alaska Press - February 15th, 2014

Son of the famous American journalist Louis Fischer, who corresponded from Germany and then Moscow, and the Russian writer Markoosha Fischer, Victor Fischer grew up in the shadow of Hitler and Stalin, watching his friends’ parents disappear after political arrests.