Understanding the Northwest through books - a newcomer's guide

Thursday, March 1, 2018

KCLS Director Lisa Rosenblum, who recently relocated to Issaquah from New York City, asked KCLS librarians to recommend their favorite regional books so she could familiarize herself with her new hometown.


“Being a librarian myself, I enjoy reading quite a bit, especially regionally,” said Rosenblum, who served as Director and Chief Librarian of Brooklyn Public Library before stepping into her new leadership role at KCLS in January. 
“Reading local fiction and non-fiction provides newcomers with a literary sense of all that the Puget Sound area has to offer,” she added.

KCLS’ regional book list offers titles for every reader, including those with native roots to others who want to learn about the area’s local history. The list includes stories set against a backdrop of breathtaking Pacific Northwest scenery to books written by popular authors who live in the Puget Sound area.



 1.  The Absolutely True Diary of A Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Although The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian is set in Eastern Washington, Alexie is well known within the King County literary scene. This beloved, young adult novel is a great introduction to his work.

2.  The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Olympics by Daniel James Brown

Still among one of the most checked-out books nearly five years after its release, this is the compelling true story of the University of Washington crew team and their quest for gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

3.  The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World by Pedro Domingos

A University of Washington professor, Domingos writes about machine learning, the algorithms that power Amazon and Netflix's recommendations, and a potential "master algorithm" that may be the key to unlocking artificial intelligence. It is a must-read for King County's tech community.

4.  The Good Rain: Across Time and Terrain in the Pacific Northwest by Timothy Egan

Journalist Tim Egan, who was a New York Times correspondent in the American West for many years, blends history, ecology, anthropology, and memoir in this series of essays about the Pacific Northwest.


Ford's bestselling debut, filled with historical details, tells the story of two young immigrants—one Chinese, one Japanese—in Seattle during World War II.


Guterson is best known for Snow Falling on Cedars, a moving novel about Japanese internment, but this story of an unlikely friendship is a hidden gem that introduces readers to the incredible natural wonder of the Cascade and Olympic Mountains.


Lynch is a fixture in the Seattle literary scene. This novel about an ambitious young journalist and a 70-something mayoral candidate moves back and forth between two pivotal times in the region's history: the 1962 Seattle World's Fair and the 2001 dot-com boom and bust.

8.  Native Seattle: Histories From the Crossing-over Place by Coll-Peter Thrush

This history of Seattle and the surrounding area focuses on the experience of indigenous communities from their early encounters with White settlers to the development of a multi-tribal Native community in greater Seattle today.

9.  Eruption: The Untold Story of Mount St. Helens by Steve Olson

The May 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens is one of the Northwest’s most significant events and a reminder that we live in a geologically active area. Olson's award-winning look at the eruption, particularly the human cost, is a staff and book group favorite.


Semple, a Seattle transplant, lovingly skewers the city as only a Seattleite can in this hilarious novel about a missing architect, her precocious daughter, and the untameable blight of blackberries.



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