Wrangell readers recommend a wide range of favorite books

National Reading Month is in its final week, and some of the community’s literature lovers are sharing their favorite books for anyone who wants to add to their list — this month, or any month.

The month was first celebrated in March of 1994 to commemorate the contributions of author and illustrator Dr. Seuss, who helped foster enthusiasm for reading in American youth by producing children’s books that were engaging despite their simple language. Every year in March, readers celebrate by picking up their favorite novels, visiting their local libraries, starting book clubs and swapping recommendations.

Local poet Vivian Faith Prescott savored “The End of Drum Time,” by Hanna Pylväinen, in small portions, one or two chapters at a time. She didn’t want the story to end. “It was one of those books where you close the book and you sit with the story and you realize that this is a book that changes you,” Prescott said.

The 2023 novel is a love story between a Lutheran minister’s daughter and a native Sámi reindeer herder in a remote village on the Scandinavian tundra. Its title, Prescott explained, is taken from a historical text about Christian missionaries in Scandinavia and their attempts to convert the Sámi.

“(Missionaries) made it illegal to have drums and practice their religion,” she said. The book, which takes place in 1851, depicts “a clash of cultures and religions. It follows characters in a small town in Finland during this time where the people were being forced to go from a nomadic lifestyle to a sedentary lifestyle.”

But Prescott wasn’t only drawn to the novel’s historical context — she “fell in love with (Pylväinen’s) sentences.” While reading, she felt like her reality was suspended and she was immersed in a world of negative-40 winters, sparking snows and herds of reindeer.

Anna Tollfeldt, development director at KSTK, recommends Robin Wall Kimmerer’s “Braiding Sweetgrass” to anyone and everyone. “I think that everybody should read it … no matter what walk of life you’re in,” Tollfeldt said. “I think it’s an important book.”

In this 2013 nonfiction work, Kimmerer draws on her background as a biologist and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation to lead readers toward a more meaningful connection with the natural world. Using a combination of scientific knowledge and indigenous wisdom, Kimmerer demonstrates how people can develop a reciprocal relationship with the ecosystems they inhabit.

“Her writing is just beautiful,” said Tollfeldt. “It’s poetic, colorful. I couldn’t help but feel like I was there with what she was describing. ... Every chapter had something to offer.” When she gets a chance between work and school, she plans to read some of Kimmerer’s other books, like “Gathering Moss” from 2003.

When she was a senior in high school, Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Brittani Robbins couldn’t decide on a book for her school project on multi-cultural literature. Her dad, a big John Grisham fan, recommended Grisham’s 2001 novel “A Painted House,” which remains a favorite of Robbins’ to this day.

Though Grisham is known for his page-turning legal thrillers, the kind that populate airport bookstores, “A Painted House” is a departure from his typical fare. Inspired by his childhood in rural Arkansas, it chronicles the struggles of a cotton-farming family in the 1950s through the eyes of its youngest son, Luke Chandler. Because of their low social class, the Chandler home has never been painted.

“It was probably one of the only non-crime, non-thriller novels he’s ever written,” said Robbins. “That’s part of what made it so unique.”

The novel provided Robbins with a window into another time and way of life. “It takes place in the South,” she said. “I was just feeling like, ‘wow, this is so interesting and so telling and so culturally different. … I do really enjoy learning about other cultures.”

When she was in elementary school, Tracey Curtis spent a whole summer reading virtually nonstop, from the entire Nancy Drew series to the Hardy Boys books to the Black Stallion saga. Her dedication won her the Irene Ingle Public Library’s summer reading prize. Now Curtis is based in Oregon, but the love for reading that she developed growing up in Wrangell has continued in her adult life. The same is true for her love of mysteries.

Agatha Christie’s 1937 detective novel “Death on the Nile” is one of Curtis’ all-time favorites. Investigator Hercule Poirot, a dignified and fastidious little man with a distinctive mustache, boards a steamer ship at the request of a wealthy socialite, who wants him to prevent her former friend from stalking her. When murder and mayhem ensure onboard, Poirot must summon his detective skills and crack the case.

“It has some romance, some mystique, some mystery — you don’t really find out until the end,” said Curtis. “She’s a stunning author.”


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