If you’re looking for a great summer read, check out Sherry Simpson’s latest – The Accidental Explorer: Wayfinding in Alaska.

I’m a big Simpson fan. In Alaska Magazine, she writes with wit and insight about Alaskan adventures. But the essays in this collection are heavier. More serious. Just the word essay brings that out in us, I guess. I had a little trouble adjusting, like when you think you ordered the fruit cup and you end up with bread pudding.

But Simpson’s transparent take on adventuring won me over. She skips the sugar-coating, opening with a soggy kayak trip in a chapter called “A Nuisance to Myself and Others.” I especially liked “Turning Back,” about a solo trip through the White Mountains aborted for the sake of her dog, and “A Man Made Cold by the Universe,” about the guy Alaskans love to hate, Chris McCandless.

Interlaced with Simpson’s personal narratives is some great historical material, like this understatement from Capt. William Abercrombie about the Copper Valley prospectors he met in 1898: “I noticed in talking to these people that over 70 percent of them were more or less mentally deranged.”

All in all, it’s a great read, with plenty of moments that stick long after you’ve turned the final page.

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