Now that many of us have extra time at home, whether we want to or not, we have a chance to catch up on some reading. Luckily, the Pacific Northwest has some wonderful writers and books to choose from. Here are a few recommendations.
“The Wax Bullet War” by Sean Davis
Artist, teacher, writer, veteran, and Big Foot enthusiast, Sean Davis was a powerhouse in the Portland writing
scene, and is now bringing that bright light to the folks at Mackenzie Bridge. Davis’ first book is an account of his time in Afghanistan – a heart wrenching story of living in the war zone, until encountering an explosive that sent him home. Since recovering from his injuries, Davis has been a wild fire fighter, an advocate for veterans, and most recently, a grant writing proponent for the people in his new home town.
“Hagridden” by Samuel Snoek-Brown
An incredible novel about the post-apocalyptic world people live in at the end of a war, especially when they live on the losing side. Set in Louisiana at the end of the Civil War, “Hagridden“ drops you into the story of two women fighting to stay alive until the return of a man gone off to fight. Brutal and beautifully written, this novel contains one surprise after another.
“The Moment Before” by Suzy Vitello (Y/A)
A wonderfully written book centered around the loss of a sister and a family on edge, Vitello creates a safe space to read about how other families deal with crisis. Honest and artful with fabulous character arcs that carry the reader to the conclusion.
“Momentary Illumination of Objects in Motion” by Jason Arias
This debut collection of short stories takes you through lives and deaths, racism and identity, moments of fun and moments of abject hilarity. Arias breaks your heart on one page, then leaves you in tears of laughter three pages later.
“People Like You” by Margaret Malone
This collection of short stories leads you through the sorrow, fear, joy, and damage we all experience as people in this world. Each tale is told flawlessly in a dry and direct tone that speak to the reader. Malone is a treasure to storytelling.
“Bunkie Spills” by Bradley K. Rosen
“Bunkie Spills” dives head first into the life of a stoner trying to make his way through one very long night. A top staff pick by the people at Powell’s Books, this book will take you into the brain of Bunkie as he hangs with his tribe of teens in 1970’s California. A book you can’t put down!
“Shadow Girl” by Kate Ristau (Y/A)
The first of a series, this novel tells the story of a young girl with fey powers. When her powers get out of control, she begins her journey into the Shadowlands. Full of fast paced adventures, these books will lead a reader through places easily imagined through Ristau’s exceptional writing.
“A Common Pornography” by Kevin Sampsell
A memoire done in collage form, Sampsell leads the reader through scenes in his life and lets you live them with him. This stream of consciousness peek into family secrets and lies builds the core of what a family can really function around. Sampsell is the founder of Future Tense Books, and has been the Small Press Curator and Author Events Manager for Powell’s book city.
“I’m Afraid of Americans” by M.F. McAuliffe
To meet M.F. McAuliffe, you would never assume that this quiet and kind British woman could drop you to the ground with a single line of prose. Her use of those quiet places in a story can bring anyone to the point of tears. McAuliffe is exceptional with prose, and exceptional with poetry, so choose your poison and pick up a tissue.
“The Horse Latitudes” by Matthew Robinson
A veteran and writing teacher at Portland State, Robinson has the chops to deliver an honest account of war that few others do. The soldiers he depicts aren’t Hollywood Era Heroes, but real-life men and women doing the best they can in unimaginable situations. Those men and women then have to face the people back home and try not to destroy them.
“A Brilliant Novel in the Works” by Yuvi Zalkow
This novel by Portland author Yuvi Zalkow combines the terror a writer feels when facing the idea that he might not have another book in him, in spite of the two novel deal he’s signed. All of this is told in a voice that floats between the territory of falling down hilarity and heartbreaking reality. And if you really want to know about Zalkow, check out his series of self-deprecating videos – which begins with “i’m sorry.”
“The Stud Book” by Monica Drake
Chronicling a set of loyal friends as they traverse the world of bringing babies into a crowded world, “The Stud Book” takes the reader from The Portland Zoo into the home front. With one character monitoring which animals might be having babies and dreaming of her own joyful bundle, another dealing with the realities of living with a newborn, and a third learning how difficult it can be to live with a teenager, the various phases of reproduction are covered in enlightening, often sad, ways.
“A Simplified Map of the Real World” by Stevan Allred
This collection of linked short stories is an adventure through the boundaries we push within our communities, and how we never really know what’s going on in another’s home.
Other Pacific Northwest writers worth your read:
Chuck Palahniuk – author of Fight Club, Lullaby, Invisible Monsters, Haunted, Rant, and Consider This.
Lidia Yuknavitch – author of The Chronology of Water, Dora: A Headcase, The Small Backs of Children, The Book of Joan, and Verge. Yuknavitch is the founder of the Corporeal Writing Center in downtown Portland, a place to take classes on writing and meet up with other writers.
Chelsea Cain – NY Times Best Selling author of several thriller series, including the “Archie Sheridan & Gretchen Lowell” books which begin with Heartsick.
Tom Spanbauer – author of Faraway Places, The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon, In the City of Shy Hunters, and I loved You More.
Corvallis Small Presses
While there are many small presses represented above, let’s never forget our own Corvallis press coming out of OSU.
Oregon State University Press has as their mission to “promote the advancement of knowledge through publication of significantly scholarly books” and to “contribute to the intellectual, cultural, and social development of Oregon and the West.”
In support of these ideas, OSU has published books on Agriculture through Yellowstone, and include young adult fiction and literature from the Northwest. You’ll find popular Oregonian authors Brian Doyle and Robin Cody, and several books on folklore.
With many of these books, not only would you be supporting a local writer, but you’ll be supporting a small press. For more from these publishing houses, go to http://www.forestavenuepress.com/, http://hawthornebooks.com/, http://www.atelier26books.com/, http://smalldoggiespress.com/, https://ooligan.pdx.edu/, http://www.notapipepublishing.com/, https://www.diversionbooks.com/, https://columbuspressbooks.com/, https://futuretensebooks.com/, https://www.propellerbooks.com/, http://www.gobshitequarterly.com/, and http://www.blackbombbooks.com/.
By Sally Lehman