2x poplars
Photo of the Yukon by nordicshutter used under a Creative Commons license.

Jill Fredston, Rowing to Latitude (North Point Press, 2001).
Fredston is an avalanche expert who lives near Anchorage nine months out of the year; for the other three months, she and her husband take long-distance trips in oceangoing rowing shells in colder climes. This book is the story of 20,000 miles of kayaking along the coasts of British Columbia, Alaska, Yukon, Greenland, Labrador, and Norway, with a little of Sweden and Washington thrown in for good measure. Oh, she rowed 2,000 miles down the Yukon River to the Bering Strait, and before she reached the Yukon coast on that other trip she rowed down hundreds of miles down the Mackenzie River from Hay River, Northwest Territories. For those of us who dream about such trips but likely will never feather an oar in those waters, Fredston’s book is a wonderful opportunity to row vicariously — a better way to experience the tedium, mosquitoes, and bears. The book won a 2002 National Outdoor Book Award.

Here (scroll down) is Fredston’s bio at the National Avalanche School. You’ll find an excerpt here. Philip Johns says it’s a tremendous book. Dana De Zoysa says Fredston writes rings around mass-market travel scribblers (whomever they may be). Judyth Willis particularly likes Fredston’s connection with the coasts of Yukon and Labrador. David would reread it in a heartbeat. Carol Standish is glad that it’s not a sloppy paean to nature. KiwiBird appreciates Fredston’s thoughts about what’s truly wild (and she should know). Brian Handwerk (National Geographic) picks up on the same theme. Sarah Sammis says it’s one of the best books she’s ever read. It’s Katie Lindsay’s favorite travel writing book (or was in 2004). Karen Karbo (The New York Times) focuses on Fredston’s husband. Gavin J. Grant interviewed Fredston.

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From the Lighthouse
Photo of St. Anthony, Newfoundland, by Big K of Justice used under a Creative Commons license.

E. Annie Proulx, The Shipping News (Scribner, 1993).
Quoyle, miserable, widowed by an unfaithful wife and no success as a writer, flees New York with his aunt and his two young daughters for the land of his ancestors, the fishing town of Killick-Claw in Newfoundland, where he finds a second chance in writing “Shipping News,” a newspaper column of local goings-on. Killick-Claw (which apparently bears a resemblance to St. Anthony) is often cold and grey, but Quoyle warms to it, and it to him. Life on the Newfoundland coast is hard, but Quoyle and his family find a redeeming resilience and community. Winner of both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

Sara Rimer profiled Proulx in The New York Times after the book won the Pulitzer Prize. Via Marilyn Babineau, Stuart Pierson’s review in Newfoundland Studies suggests that Proulx’s portrayal Newfoundland is a little off. Here are reviews and reactions from: Judi Clark (Mostly Fiction), Margaret Gunning (January Magazine), The DJ (Bibliofemme), Maia, Judith Handschuh (, Michelle, Sheila O’Malley, Howard Dratch (Blogcritics), Songcatchers, Joyce, Marie Javet, Jen, Shriram Krishnamurthi, Trish, Fiona Glass, Leslie, Vishweshwer Mangalapalli, All About PhD, King Rat, the duck thief, and La La Palooza. Orrin Judd disagrees with his mother about the book. And the Atlantic Unbound‘s Katie Bolick interviewed Proulx in 1997.

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