The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, known as the “Last Great Race”, is an iconic dog sledding race stretching over a thousand miles between Anchorage and Nome, Alaska. This year will have 54 mushers from 5 different countries.
Dogsledding is a fascinating sport, whose reputation is built up not only by the amazing dogs that are apart of the race, but with the grueling mental and physical challenges each musher faces.
While seeing the race in-person is an option, you can also live vicariously through these mushers’ adventures via reading. This post covers ten great books that lets you discover the joys and pitfalls of dogsled races, and the rich history of the sport.
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When is the 2022 Iditarod?
The 2022 Iditarod starts on Saturday March 5th, 2022 at 2pm Eastern Time. The race has a ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage, but then restarts in Willow, Alaska, on Sunday. Both starts are open to the public.
If you are feeling more adventurous, you can fly to Anchorage and watch the start of the race in person! This is especially exciting in 2022 becuase it’s the 50th anniversary of the Iditarod on March 5, 2022. For more information, see this post on how to attend the events.
Because it’s a weeks-long race, this is not something that is typically covered on the news. But you can check out Iditarod.com’s website for regular updates. If you want to catch the start or end of the race, it will be live broadcast on channels local to the area, and likely on Facebook as well. For more broadcast information, click here.
Lastly, you can also consider writing to the Iditarod racers. For more information, see this post.
Sled Dog Books Written By Dogsledders
As we’ll see in this list, the Iditarod, as well as other dog races, are a testament of human and canine strength, both mentally and physically.
Each of these books is a perspective from someone who has lived the dogsledding life in Alaska, and has graciously shared the ups and downs of it with us, no matter where in the world we live.
Dogs on the Trail: A Year in the Life
Twitter sensation Blair Braverman has brought dogsledding back into the public eye through social media, where she shares her day-to-day account of the unique personalities and pups on her dog sledding team. While not about the Iditarod itself, Braverman has a gift for inviting outsiders into the world of dog sledding to see what a year in the life really looks like–from the winter races to the spring mud, and summer puppies. Her book is currently the #1 seller in Amazon’s dog sledding category.
She also has a memoir entitled “Welcome to the G*ddamn Ice Cube“.
When people think of the Iditarod, they imagine how difficult the journey must be. But even our wildest imaginations might not live up to the lived experiences of mushers such as Gary Paulsen, whose 1995 novel details the “fine madness” of the race, endless misadventures of weather, injury, attacks, and mental hallucinations punctuated with Paulsen’s humor.
See also “Puppies, Dogs, and Blue Northers” by Gary Paulsen, published in 2007.
Racing Alaskan Sled Dogs
This book is a compilation by Bill Vaudrin, published in 1976. While you might have a hard time finding a copy of this (since it’s out of print), it contains first-hand accounts from the best mushers of that era, as well as biographies, historical accounts, and photos.
The Right to Be Cold: One Woman’s Story of Protecting Her Culture, the Arctic and the Whole Planet
While this book is not strictly about dog sledding, it is the story of Sheila Watt-Cloutier, an Inuit woman who has spent the last 25 years of her life protecting and sharing her culture. This includes dog sledding as a main form of transportation, and reminds all of us that the Arctic cold is a gift to be protected.
Fast into the Night: A Woman, Her Dogs, and Their Journey North on the Iditarod Trail
Debbie Clarke Moderow is an unlikely musher–a 47-year old mother of two who raced the Iditarod in 2003 and 2005. This book is about the Iditarod, and Moderow’s two grueling journeys through the Alaskan wilderness. But it’s also about her dogs, her determination, and strength in the face of adversity.
This Much Country
This Much Country is about the Iditarod, but also about so much more. While the race itself is 1,000 miles of hardship and grit, often times the journey people take to get there is just as tough. Kristin Knight Pace is no exception. She moved to Alaska after a ‘crippling’ divorce in 2009, and found herself caring for a friend’s sled dogs. Her journey to the Iditarod went through learning to dog sled, learning to withstand isolation, and falling in love anew.
The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs and Men in a Race Against an Epidemic
The Cruelest Miles was written in 2005 about the Nome diphtheria epidemic in 1925. But, given the state of the world, it’s as topical as ever. This is the story of the dogsled journey that delivered lifesaving medicine to Nome, Alaska. You probably know this story through the children’s movie “Balto”. This journey was an incredible feat in itself, and also served as the inspiration for the first Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Race Across Alaska: First Woman to Win the Iditarod Tells Her Story
Dogsledder Libby Riddles made history when she won the 1985 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. This story is one of her three books about dog sledding. It covers each leg of the race in detail and shows the exceptional nature not only of the race contestants but of their talented and hardworking dogs.
Dog Man is about Martin Buser, a four-time champion of the Iditarod and dogsledding veteran. This book takes us through his life, and several of the Iditarods that he raced in (and won!), as well as the bond between him and his dogs that allowed him so much continued success and joy in the sport.
Bonus: “Iditarod: The Great Race to Nome“
This book is not written by a dogsledder but is a great introduction to the Iditarod nevertheless. Nature writer Bill Sherwonit and photographer Jeff Schultz take us through the world of the Last Great Race through photos, maps, firsthand accounts, and the race’s rich history.