IN THE MEMOIR The Map of My Dead Pilots: The Dangerous Game of Flying in Alaska (Lyons Press), Anacortes resident Colleen Mondor flies us to the 49th state, where she dispatched planes in the mid-’90s. But hers wasn’t the existence romanticized in, say, Northern Exposure. Her colleagues—nearly all of them men—eke out meager livings, sputtering above toothy peaks in aircraft that perform like vintage lawn mowers and icy conditions better left to polar bears. Many of the aviators crash and perish, as the title foretells, but the deaths are haunting because of—rather than despite—their inevitability. “They were all pilots in the middle of nowhere who made their own bad choices,” Mondor writes, “and whether or not someone asked them to take those flights didn’t really matter in the end.”

Updated January 5, 2012. Memoirist Colleen Mondor was the lead dispatcher for a bush airline, but never served as a professional cargo pilot.

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