Click the book to get your copy:
Roadside Geology of Washington
This timeless book belongs in your car if you travel the state of Washington. As a frequent road-tripper, I find Alt’s book an indispensable companion. Why do the rocks look funny on the North Cascades Highway? What are those geometric columns along the Columbia River? The insights given to the whats and whys of the complex geology of Washington make this book an interesting read, whether in your armchair or the passenger seat.
Unmastered: A Book on Desire, Most Difficult to Tell
Beautiful and lyrical, haunting and deep. I felt like I was reading pages from not only my own diary, but from those of countless women I've talked to over the years. There were passages in this book that stopped me in my tracks and had me thinking and questioning myself. It's a must-read for those who are discovering themselves and even those who already know who they are.
-Kara F., Ballard
Hark! A Vagrant
Hark! A Vagrant is a hilarious take on world history and literature in comic form. No one is spared Beaton’s witty parodies: not Ben Franklin, Nikola Tesla, Henry VIII or the Brontës. Beaton is Canadian, so you’ll also learn quite a bit about our neighbors to the North. I've always loved history, but have a difficult time keeping important figures straight. Beaton's humorous take on the subject really helps me remember who was who.
Magic Hours: Essays on Creators and Creation
A regular columnist for McSweeney's "The Believer," Bissell explores questions surrounding literature, art and film, as well as those who, in his opinion, fail or succeed to create in those mediums. Whether describing the set of “Big Bang Theory” or reminiscing on the life of David Foster Wallace, "Magic Hours" contains some of the most well-written art and social criticism I've read in a long while. Pop culture enthusiasts, have at it!
Sonic Boom: The History of Northwest Rock, from "Louie Louie" to "Smells Like Teen Spirit"
This fast-paced trip through local rock history traces the genre’s origins in the Central District’s jazz clubs, follows its development within the 1960s teen dance scene and culminates with the grunge explosion of the 1990s. Even if you don’t care about the tunes or the bands, this volume is a unique pop culture exploration of the Pacific Northwest, as the author incorporates a multitude of behind-the-scenes players, forgotten nightclubs, long-gone radio stations and more.
The Night of the Gun: A Reporter Investigates the Darkest Story of His Life, His Own
This true story of hitting a very dank bottom via alcohol and drugs is full of harrowing details that point to just how close the author was to death, a fact unbeknownst to him until he began research for this book. Instead of relying on his memory, David Carr, a New York Times reporter, pieces together this tale from illuminating interviews he conducts with those who were in his life during that dire time.
My Friend Dahmer: A Graphic Novel
What if that weird kid on the fringes of your extended circle of friends in high school grew up to become one of the most infamous serial killers in American history? Derf Backderf, classmate and friend of Jeffrey Dahmer, remembers the lonely, troubled (and occasionally hilarious) kid that he knew in school. A sympathetic but unsettling portrait of Dahmer emerges, as his future deeds already seem like a sad inevitability.
The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend
John Ford's “The Searchers” is the most misunderstood American film of all time. Frankel's well-written and thoroughly researched book delves deep into the true story of Cynthia Ann Parker, who was kidnapped by the Comanche tribe and raised among them before being returned to white society against her will—a clear inspiration for the film. Frankel then vividly recounts the movie's production and reception. Plus, in the introduction, Ford punches Henry Fonda in the face!
Calling Dr. Laura: A Graphic Memoir
Georges grew up thinking her father was dead—until, at age 23, a psychic tells her otherwise. When this information turns out to be true, Georges begins to unearth a series of other astounding truths about herself and her family. This graphic novel memoir alternates between lush illustrations of her adult life in Portland, Oregon, and more simple line drawings of flashbacks to her childhood.
Hungry Ear: Poems of Food and Drink
This anthology of epicurean poetry treats food and poetry as equally elemental and necessary. From Seamus Heaney’s "Oysters" to Howard Nemerov’s "Bacon and Eggs," there is a bounty of beautiful works here that evoke common pleasures and sweet nostalgia. Joy Harjo recognizes the hopefulness of dining with a community, and William Carlos Williams confesses to snitching plums. For those in need of comfort, Young’s own "Ode to Gumbo" is warming indeed.
Bold Spirit: Helga Estby's Forgotten Walk across Victorian America
In 1896, Estby made the bold decision to walk across the United States from Spokane to New York in order to receive $10,000 from a mysterious sponsor and save her farm from foreclosure. The railroad lines, rather than contemporary maps of the American West, proved the most reliable guide for the travelers. This true story is inspiring and suspenseful, and provides a glimpse into 1890s America. It’s also a reminder to treasure your family history.
-Amy, Queen Anne
Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi
Inskeep, one of my favorite voices on NPR, brings historical, cultural and political context to the growing urban sprawl of Karachi. He takes you through the founding of Pakistan all the way to the country’s current turbulent time. Along the way, you get intimate glimpses into the lives of people residing in one of the largest cities in Central Asia.
The Death and Life of Great American Cities
Originally published in 1961, this book is a city planning classic for those who don't even realize they're interested—and already involved—in urban planning. It reads like a compelling novel in which the protagonist is the most typical city street. You'll never see your neighborhood in the same way again.
-Allison, Madrona-Sally Goldmark
This book is so much fun to flip through! Who knew there were so many different ways to shelve books? My favorite bookshelves featured here are two by designer Sakura Adachi—one opens to make a small table and two chairs, and the other has a built-in "pet cave" with a little cushion for your pet. This book really makes you think differently about a common piece of household furniture.
-Christiane, Queen Anne
The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic—and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World
If you want to end a cholera outbreak, you need to know how it started in the first place. "The Ghost Map" tells the true story of John Snow and Henry Whitehead, who figured out that cholera was not spread by noxious gases but by contaminated water, and eventually convinced the authorities. Lovers of detective fiction, history, social studies and statistics (!) will find much to enjoy, but anyone can relate to this readable tale.
The Dead Janitor’s Club: Pathetically True Tales of a Crime Scene Cleanup King: A Memoir
Jeff Klima is a good-natured, roll-with-the-punches sort of guy who’s looking for a new career. He tried college, but the only thing he excelled at there was making friends (and racking up debt). Just as he accepts his minimum-wage future, Jeff gets a job offer from a crime scene clean-up company. From the ghettos of L.A. to glamorous Beverly Hills, Jeff’s job in death gives him a heartwarming and hilarious new perspective on life.
Bitter is the New Black: A Memoir
Lancaster, a self-described "condescending, egomaniacal, self-centered smart ass," relates how she and her husband handled abrupt financial adversity. While some of the causes were uncontrollable, Lancaster is refreshingly candid about her extravagant spending and abysmal financial skills. Funny, sometimes moving and occasionally infuriating (old habits die hard), Bitter is engrossing, and leaves you wanting more. (Also try "Such a Pretty Fat," a hilarious chronicle of Jen's efforts to lose weight).
-Katie, Capitol Hill
Wild Tales: A Rock & Roll Life
Sex! Drugs! Rock ‘n’ roll! Nash walks us through his humble British beginnings to his musical development with The Hollies, to Crosby, Stills and Nash. His relationships with Joni Mitchell, Rita Coolidge and the other loves in his life relate to his amazing songwriting and his growth as an artist. The accompanying photos (mostly by Nash himself, a lifelong photography nut) are great. I had loads of fun reading his memoir and you will, too!
Rocking the Pink: Finding Myself on the Other Side of Cancer
Laura, a mother of two young daughters, discovers the devastating news that she has breast cancer. She describes her struggle in a way that will make you laugh, cry and smile all at the same time. Laura didn’t allow her cancer to take over her life; she used it to appreciate how fleeting life can be. By the end of the book, you will feel motivated and inspired to follow your dreams.
-Kara B., Green Lake
Smile at Strangers: And Other Lessons in the Art of Living Fearlessly
This book is screamingly hilarious, honest and empowering. There is a lot of karate, but also a lot of being Texan and neurotic and dealing with anger and fear. Thoughts about risk-taking, reflections about women and safety, and how our culture reacts to both—this is a book with a lot to say. The honesty, though, makes it easy to relate to and wonderfully funny to read.
Turn Around Bright Eyes: The Rituals of Love & Karaoke
"Rolling Stone" editor Rob Sheffield oozes popular culture and arcane rock music trivia from every pore. But in a good way. In this memoir (his third!), he explains his addiction to singing karaoke, even though he can’t sing. He also tells endearing stories about falling in love with his glam rock, astrophysicist wife, spending a week at rock ’n’ roll fantasy camp and gradually turning into Rod Stewart, like all men do.
My Beloved World
The first Hispanic Supreme Court justice traces her path from humble beginnings in a South Bronx Puerto Rican family to her meteoric rise to the highest judiciary seat, including her legal training and struggle with diabetes. Sotomayor insists she was "lucky," but it's clear that from the start she was justice-minded, self-confident and well-suited for her position. This fantastic memoir is also available in Spanish and on audio in a great performance by Rita Moreno.
I Love Yous Are for White People: A Memoir
Su recounts his childhood journey from Communist Vietnam to Los Angeles. Follow him as he attempts various friendships and copes with a turbulent relationship with his strict father. The title comes from an experience Su had of visiting a white friend whose parents openly showed affection toward their son. I like the ending when Su realizes his own father’s harshness is, in fact, his way of showing love.
Headhunters on My Doorstep: A True Treasure Island Ghost Story
Watch out for the cannibals! Troost’s latest travel memoir weaves his recovery from alcoholism in with a journey to retrace Robert Louis Stevenson's epic voyage to the South Pacific. Jekyll battles Hyde to comic, sometimes sobering, effect. It’s filled with interesting anecdotes about famous interlopers in French Polynesia, from Paul Gauguin to Jack London. You’ll find yourself planning a vacation to the Marquesas Islands before you even finish this entertaining book.
-David C., Central
Data, A Love Story: How I Gamed Online Dating to Meet My Match
I heart a good memoir. Webb gives us the dreadful details of her “romantic” life prior to trying online dating. Things don’t improve with the wider cast of the (Inter)net. At her sister’s suggestion, Amy makes a list of all the traits she wants in her mate. She also uses her data-crunching background to help her find this person. Part of her research includes going back online as a man. Hilarity ensues. Caution: contains swears.
-Meadow, High Point