Iditarod/Mushing Books

Like many mushing fans, I love to read books about sled dog racing. My favorite shelf on my bookshelf is the one with my mushing books. Here are some more of my favorite Iditarod books:

The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs and Men in a Race Against an Epidemic In 1925 a diphtheria epidemic struck the town of Nome, Alaska. The serum that the town's only doctor had requested had not arrived on the fall ship that year, and so the lives of many of Nome's children were in danger. The only way to get the life-saving serum to Nome was by a relay of dogsleds. This describes the journey in vivid details. Though it's nonfiction (and historical), it reads like fiction. A good, satisfying read.

 Father of the Iditarod - The Joe Redington Story by Lew Freedman. To be a true fan, you need to know how the Great Race started. This is the story of Joe Redington, his move to Alaska, his mushing career, and his dream to start a race across Alaska. Learn the challenges he faced and what the early days of the race was like. And discover other adventures that Joe enjoyed, such as mushing up Mount McKinley.

Iditarod Classics and More Iditarod Classics, both by Lew Freedman. These two books give short snippets about individual mushers and the adventures they faced. If you’ve been a fan a long time, the books will bring back memories of past mushers. If you’re a new fan, they’ll introduce you to the fascinating history of the race.

Iditarod Dreams: A Year in the Life of Alaskan Sled Dog Racer DeeDee Jonroweby Lew Freedman and Dee Dee Jonrowe. Dee Dee Jonrowe is a perennial favorite. In this book, Dee Dee shares how she started racing and gives you a glimpse into a year of her life, including training, her participation in a European race called the Alpirod, and finishing with the 1994 Iditarod. This book is a bit outdated, but it still gives a fresh look into an inspiring woman.

Backstage Iditarodby June Price. This book is a must for all fans. If you’re planning on coming to the race start, it gives you a preview of what to expect. If you just wish you were coming to the race start, it gives you an opportunity to experience it vicariously. June Price is a die-hard fan herself, and she shares from her personal experience.

Iditarod Fact Book: A Complete Guide to the Last Great Race 2nd Editionedited by Tricia Brown. This book is more of a reference book, though die-hard fans will read it from cover to cover. It starts with a year-by-year history of the race through 2006, and proceeds to facts about the race today, the checkpoints, dogs and training, gear and mushing terms and unforgettable people. An excellent reference to keep next to your computer while following the race.

Cold Hands, Warm Heart: Alaskan Adventures of an Iditarod Championby Jeff King (with Joe Runyan). Although written in first person, this isn’t a biography per se. It’s a series of stand-alone chapters, little vignettes from the life of a musher. It’s well written and very enjoyable, even if you’re not a mushing fan. “Breath of Life” tells the story of a dog who was miraculously revived by a fellow musher during the Yukon Quest. “Chowhound” is about Peg, a dog with an amazing appetite who ate a highway flare. My favorite chapter, “The Colonel,” tells about a Halloween visit from Norm Vaughan.

Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way: Unconventional Sled Dog Secrets of an Alaskan Iditarod Champion, Vol. 1by Mitch Seavey. This is a training manual, of sorts, written for dog mushers. What makes this story appealing for fans is that we can hear Mitch’s voice in the writing. There’s no editor here. It’s purely Mitch, with his dry wit and blunt honesty. Parts may find you laughing out loud. And you’ll learn a lot about mushing too, which will make you a very savvy fan.

The Lance Mackey Storyby Lance Mackey (with Joe Runyan). No list of mushing books would be complete without the inspiring story of Lance Mackey, who overcame addiction, poverty and cancer to become one of the best mushers in the history of the race. It’s a very well-written read and one that you won’t be able to put down.

Graveyard of Dreams: Dashed Hopes and Shattered Aspirations Along Alaska's Iditarod Trail by Craig Medved. The Iditarod is not just about the winners or even the front runners. It’s about all the mushers who attempt this great adventure. Graveyard of Dreams tells the story of several back of the pack mushers in the 2010 Iditarod, including some who made it to Front Street and some who did not. Relive the tragic stories of those who had to scratch or were withdrawn, as well as those who managed to finish.

Yukon Quest: The Story of the World's Toughest Sled Dog Race by Lew Freedman.  For many die-hard fans, the Yukon Quest is even more exciting than the Iditarod. Because it has fewer checkpoints, the mushers need to plan well and carry extra food along.  The terrain follows the Yukon River, which can often have dangerous overflow.  In addition, two peaks challenge even the best team. This book gives interesting tidbits from Yukon Quest history, interspersed with a play-by-play account of the 2009 race.

 What about you? What are some of your favorite books about the Iditarod or mushing? Leave a comment and share your favorites.