Get abducted by aliens.
Statistics show that these are the most common new year’s resolutions people make*. Since the Broads are all about helping you live your best weird life, we’ve made a list of the 52 weird, wonderful, and Pacific Northbest books you need to read in 2018.
1. Urban Bestiary by Lyanda Lynn Haupt – A writer and nature-lover living in Seattle, Washington, in this book Haupt blends “science, story, myth, and memoir” to explore the secret world of our closest neighbors: the wildlife that lives in our own backyards. Devon is basically buying a copy of this book for everyone she knows because it is that good.
2. Crow Planet, also by Lyanda Lynn Haupt – Okay, so crows are fucking AWESOME. Super smart: they can use tools, solve multi-step problems, and recognize human faces. Crow researchers working in the wild have to wear masks when they work with crows, otherwise the crows will later recognize them and dive bomb them. And we have tons of them in the PNW, so if that ain’t on topic then I don’t know what is.
3. Crows are too damn weird to not be mentioned more than once, so you should also read Gifts of the Crow: How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like Humans. By John Marzluff, PhD, and Tony Angell, the title alone suggests that crows are actually better than a lot of humans. Especially that dingus who cut you off driving the wrong way down Washington Street the other day.
4. Lost Animals: Extinction and the Photographic Record by Errol Fuller is for all you beautiful souls who think that maybe – just maybe – a breeding population of thylacines still exists. It’s a collection of stories accompanied by surviving photos of animals now presumed extinct. Not specific to the PNW, but if you like the weird animal stories we tell, this is probably up your alley.
5. In kindergarten, you learn your A-B-Cs. Get into cryptozoology, and you also learn about ABCs, but this time it means “alien big cats” (those are large felines that are out of place, like lions being spotted in England.) Learn your ABCs (and more) in Varmints: Mystery Carnivores of North America by Chad Arment.
6. Arment also wrote Cryptozoology: Science & Speculation, an overview of the field.
7. If we’re gonna talk cryptids, we’re gonna talk Loren Coleman, so you’ll want Cryptozoology A to Z by himself and Jerome Clark. This is really useful if you’re interested in short, encyclopedic entries on cryptids worldwide.
8. Young readers who are interested in cryptozoology will dig the illustration-heavy Tales of the Cryptids: Mysterious Creatures That May or May Not Exist, by Halls, Spears, and Young.
9. Another good one for young readers is Bigfoot (Behind the Legend) by Erin Peabody and illustrated by Victor Rivas. It’s a fun, informative look at Sasquatch geared toward kids. They wrote similar books about other monsters, too!
10. This part of the list is animal-heavy because Devon is writing it. She has a weird experience with a coyote she might tell you some day. But until then, read Coyote America by Dan Flores, and learn the history and mystery behind this plains puppy.
11. The PNW is stuffed full of wonderful animals, and you should know them all. Do that by reading Wildlife of the Pacific Northwest: Tracking and Identifying Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, and Invertebrates by David Moskowitz.
12. Want to focus on our mammals? Then you need Mammals of the Pacific Northwest: From Coast to the High Cascades by Chris Maser. All the best titles have colons in them, apparently.
13. You know that Devon and Liz are both cowboys at heart. But, like, cowboys who are into consent and not mob justice and also have a spiritual connection to their horses and don’t use spurs. Our obsession with the Wild West, plus our canyon-wide environmental streak means we recommend All The Wild That Remains by David Gessner. “Gessner follows the ghosts of these two remarkable writer-environmentalists from Stegner’s birthplace in Saskatchewan to the site of Abbey’s pilgrimages to Arches National Park in Utah, braiding their stories and asking how they speak to the lives of all those who care about the West.” Not PNW, but still westerly. And cowboys.
14. You forget about that Sean Penn movie right now and instead read Into The Wild by John Krakauer. He talks about that idiot (okay, Devon thinks idiot- some people think idealistic sage) Chris McCandless is, but it’s really about a desire for a life closer to nature, a simpler life, an idealistic, and maybe not attainable life. And also about a college dude who gave up his possessions, moved to an abandoned bus in Alaska, and died of starvation. TBH, Into Thin Air is probably Krakauer’s best book, but Everest isn’t in Washington, so it doesn’t count for this list.
15. Around the Sound: Amusing Thoughts and Tales from Washington’s Puget Sound by Josh Kilen (what IS it with book titles needing colons?) talks about our favorite body of water. Full disclosure, we haven’t read this one, but it comes highly recommended.
16. I refuse to write the whole title, but Pacific Northwest Foraging, by Douglas Deur is a great place to start if you’re interested in eating the beauty of our area. Hey, though: don’t eat anything in the wild if you aren’t sure of what it is. Devon took a wild foraging class, and the teacher says that before you eat or use any plant you find, you should positively identify it over 3 full seasons, and have an experienced wildcrafter confirm the identity for good measure. The Broads take no responsibility for any magic mushrooms or funky berries you ingest. Just be smart and be safe, okay?
17. More plants! Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast by Jim Pojar and Andy MacKennon is another great reference book, less a thing to read like a book and more a thing to consult like an encyclopedia.
18. Eugenia Bone makes mushrooms F A C I N A T I N G and also really funny in Mycophilia: Revelations from the Weird World of Mushrooms. She talks about the great lengths mushroom hunters in the PNW go to harvesting, and guarding the locations of their favorite honeypots. Gonna do the caveat again, kids: DON’T EAT STUFF OFF THE GROUND, but if you do, the Broads are not responsible.
19. Okay, so we keep telling you about books that have plants in them and not letting you eat the plants. What else are you going to do with them? Get into natural dying. Seriously. Our pal Kate of Deep Sky Design is an incredible textile artist who works with natural dyes and recommends The Modern Natural Dyer by Kristine Vejar for anyone wanting to get into the art.
20. More than a memoir that covers A Brief Period In Author’s Life, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed covers Strayed’s upbringing, her familial and romantic relationships, her thoughts, the daily, boring complaints we all have- and she does it against the background of the PCT. It will make you want to hike all 2,650 miles of that bugger. (Ole Bill Bryson hasn’t written about the PNW, sadly, so he’s not included on this list, but if you want a fucking hilarious look at hiking the Appalachian Trail, read A Walk In The Woods. So good.)
21. A Field Guide to Deception by Jill Malone explores family, love, belonging, and more, set against the backdrop of our beautiful Pacific Northwest. It’s a lesbian love story, sure, but to call it a “romance novel” seems devaluing. A must read for any woman who has ever been in love with a woman. And a must read for the rest of you, because it’s a fucking good book, okay? Jill is a good friend, great soul, and incredible writer who lives and loves in Spokane, Washington with her wife, kiddo, and lots of pets. (Also, read her books Red Audrey and the Roping and Giraffe People. You’re welcome.)
22. Haven’t had enough of women figuring out their deeper selves? Neither have we, and so you should read Witches of America, by Alex Mar. In this memoir and personal journey, Mar digs deep into the types of modern American witchcraft, how new generations are finding comfort in the ancient craft, and more. This book is fascinating, super real, well written, and the perfect amount of woo. We give it 10 out of 10 black cats.
23. From woo to boo, Spook, by Mary Roach, is a hysterical, factual, and sometimes super disgusting (guess where seance ectoplasm comes from!?) look at the history and science (yes, science) of ghosts, seances, and the paranormal.
24. Devon grew up reading Hans Holzer’s books (thanks, mama!) about the paranormal. Not all of them, though- he wrote over 140 books in his life about ghosts, paranormal happenings, witchcraft, the occult. His anthologies of ghost stories collected from his own paranormal investigations and research are the second best way to stay up past your bedtime. Ghosts: True Encounters from the World Beyond has the best ratings on Amazon, but you could go with any of them.
25. Back to witches and novels: read Practical Magic, by Alice Hoffman. Take it to the beach for an easy read while you lounge under a gothic parasol, wearing tiny round sunglasses and a huge black sunhat. If the Owens Aunts aren’t your #CroneGoals they should be.
26. Devon will be reading this book first thing in 2018: Curators – Behind the Scenes of Natural History Museums, by Lance Grande. It’s a memoir by a long-time curator, comes highly recommended, and answers the question I get like twenty times a week: “so what is it that curators do?”
27. Wanna read another museum book Devon read in school but is a fascinating look at museums? Mister Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder by Lawrence Weschler was a required read in Museology 101, but it was worthwhile. Dude named David Wilson owns and runs The Museum of Jurassic Technology down in California. His museum is full of weird objects, displays, and exhibits. The kicker is, though, that some of them aren’t real. It begs the question: is this a museum? Does it count as a museum if the information within isn’t factual? How about art? Is it an art piece, an art experiment, a social commentary? You’ll have to read on and then make your own decision. Oh, also it talks about a fungus that infects ants and turns them into weird, horned zombie creatures.
28. Pacific Northwest Medicinal Plants by Scott Kloos is premier if you want to learn more about the health and wellness at your green fingertips. Again, our disclaimer about putting things on or in your body being SUPER DANGER unless you know what you’re doing stands.
29. Mothman is an east-coaster, but if you’re into cryptozoology then you’ll be interested to read the book that kind of started the genre and inspired the fairly good Richard Gere movie. The Mothman Prophecies by John A. Keel is the journalist’s investigations into the Mothman sightings near Point Pleasant, VA, and surrounding areas since the 1960s.
30. The thing that Devon is afraid of even more than sharks is Skinwalkers. So read Hunt for the Skinwalker: Science Confronts the Unexplained at a Remote Ranch in Utah, by Kelleher and Knapp and get a ton of info that you can tell Devon when you want to freak her out. Utah is close enough to PNW when creepy monsters are involved.
31. Back to novels and Washington authors, you should definitely read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie. Amazon’s blurb describes the book best: “Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.” Alexie is a Washington State treasure, and you can’t go wrong with any of his books, really, but True Diary is particularly great.
32: Twilight, by Stephanie Meyer.
33. Fantasy and Portland, Oregon are already kind of synonymous, so it’s no surprise that fantasy novels, the Wildwood Chronicles, are set in Portland. In the trilogy, our young protagonist’s brother is abducted by a murder of crows (not the band) and taken into a fantasy forest at the edge of the city called the Impassable Wilderness. You have to read the books to find out if she gets her brother back or if it’s some kind of Goblin King situation.
34. Lore the podcast now has Lore the books– so far two volumes of illustrated tales straight from the titillating tale-teller himself, Aaron Mahnke. It’s painful to include this on the list since OB doesn’t have their own books yet.
35. The Whisper Hollow series by Yasmine Galenorn, is set in Whisper Hollow, Washington. It’s the supernatural romance novel series for folks who can’t stomach any more sparkly vampires.
36. The Mercy Thompson novel series, starting with Moon Called, by Patricia Briggs, is a great beach read when you want to read about vampires, werewolves, fairies, and other supernatural beings… in Tri Cities, Washington.
37. Mink River, by Brian Doyle, set in a fictional Oregon town, weaves Salish and Irish stories together with the lives of the city’s inhabitants. Apparently there are also bears involved, but we don’t know for sure because we haven’t read it yet, either.
38. We’re still on a novel kick, so check out The Child Finder by Rene Denfield. It’s a mystery story, with the protagonist setting out to find a missing child deep in the Oregon woods. You should probably read this while alone in a cabin late at night. That won’t be spooky at all.
39. Want another spooky one? Don’t let the fact that Ten, by Gretchen McNeil was made into a Lifetime movie scare you off. Apparently (we haven’t read, but apparently) this novel is a fright-fest, a la Scream or I Know What You Did Last Summer. So if you want a horror novel where 10 teens are stuck on a PNW island while a serial killer picks them off one at a time, then this one’s written for you.
40. Read Trout Fishing In America, you little hipster, you. This cult-classic from the 60s is hilarious, and meanders all down the west coast. By Richard Brautigan, you will impress all of your friend who are still reading Jack Kerouac and Kurt Vonnegut and all those other authors who by now are so main stream. Stream. Trout. Get it?
41. Keep that hip fix going with Fugitives and Refugees: A Walk in Portland, Oregon, by Chuck Palahniuk. Here’s what Amazon has to say about this one: “Want to know where Chuck Palahniuk’s tonsils currently reside? Been looking for a naked mannequin to hide in your kitchen cabinets? What goes on at the Scum Center? How do you get to the Apocalypse Cafe? In the closest thing he may ever write to an autobiography, Chuck Palahniuk provides answers to all these questions and more as he takes you through the streets, sewers, and local haunts of Portland, Oregon.” So, clearly, you need to read this.
42. Remember when we all super into Titanic and Shakespeare in Love and Snow Falling on Cedars as these epic love stories set in beautiful scenes and basically a great excuse to s-e-x before we could watch R-rated movies? Okay, well Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson is actually a really beautiful book, weaving romance, race relations, and the human condition into a poignant little tale set in the islands of the Puget Sound. It’s your epic love story set in a beautiful place, and has seeeex. If I remember right.
43. That’s not the only thing that’s graphic- let’s talk graphic novels! Black Hole by Charles Burns is a surreal, murder mystery graphic novel set in 1970s suburban Seattle. It’s too hard to write about it, just check it out.
44. Geek Love, by Katherine Dunn. Okay, I (Devon) HATE this novel. It’s gross and too weird and not fun and makes my stomach feel icky. But I’m including it because it is a) set partially in Portland, Oregon, b) about circus geeks (or freaks, if you don’t mind the pejorative), and c) apparently I am the only person on earth who doesn’t like it because it won a fuck-ton of awards and shit. Ugh. Read it, and you’ll probably love it and I’ll remain alone on my island, loudly hating this book and most of Tim Burton’s projects. (Liz here – the author went to the same college as me! That’s all I wanted to tell you.)
45. Remember that blessed time in Jack Nicholson’s life before he was making movies like Something’s Gotta Give and As Good as it Gets? Back when he was doing what he was born to do: star in The Shining and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Go back to that blessed time and read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, a novel by Ken Kesey. The ending is as sad as the middle parts are funny, while Chief Bromden recounts his stay in an Oregon mental institution, punctuated by the arrival of Randal McMurphy and his ensuing struggle with Nurse Ratchet.
46. The Jump-Off Creek, by Molly Gloss, is a novel, but one that’s based on meticulous research. It features the widowed homesteader Lydia Sanderson as she struggles to make a life for herself in 1890s Oregon. Gloss consulted pioneer journals and family stories to try and authentically recreate the setting for her fictional protagonist.
47. Let’s get real for a minute: Weird Washington is your travel guide to real-world weirdness you can visit in our great state. If you prefer Oregon or California, they have books for those too. They’re great conversation-starter coffee-table books that will point out all the roadside attractions of yesteryear. Castles, plaster dinosaurs, famous sites, these books have it all.
48. Coeur d’Alene tribal member and author, Janet Campbell Hale, published a memoir of sorts: Bloodlines, Odyssey of a Native Daughter. Considered to be required reading for anyone wanting a first-hand account of what it means to be Native American, Hale weaves personal accounts with stories of family and ancestors, illuminating a nation of people who are often talked about but not always allowed to speak for themselves.
49. Sarah Vowell’s Assassination Vacation is a really funny book about a really treasonous act: presidential assassination. Vowell records her road trip across America (including PNW locales) as she visits “locations immortalized and influenced by the spilling of politically important blood, reporting as she goes with her trademark blend of wisecracking humor, remarkable honesty, and thought-provoking criticism.” TLDR: Todd Lincoln is a jinx.
50. The Klondike Gold Rush may have led folks to the Alaskan frontier, but prospectors’ major jumping off point was Seattle, Washington. From there, one would buy supplies, look for outfits to join, and watch as Sami herders brought over from Scandinavia drove hundreds of reindeer north to the mining camps. In Howard Blum’s The Floor of Heaven: A True Tale of the Last Frontier and the Yukon Gold Rush, we read a real-life mystery of missing gold bars, meet a cast of colorful and historic characters, and take a rugged, cross-country journey to America’s last frontier.
51. If you’ve heard our episode on the Stanley Hotel in Colorado, then you know it was Stephen King’s inspiration for his horror masterpiece, The Shining. Jack Torrance fights a losing battle against supernatural energies as well as his own internal demons, topiaries come to life, Wendy and Danny argue over proper lipstick application, and more in this truly terrifying read. Definitely a classic horror book for a reason.
52. We’ll end with an Atwood: Alias Grace. Set in Canada, this book has everything we like: strong female lead, spiritualism, and mysterious murders. (Liz: AND QUILTS.) Margaret Atwood is on a roll, since both Handmaid’s Tale and Alias Grace have both been turned into wildly popular TV shows as well. Atta girl.
*25% of statistics are made up, according to statistics**.
About 90% of these stories are based on recommendations from the Broads or their friends and family. For the few more titles we needed to make it to 52, we consulted Powell’s Required Reading: 40 Books Set in the Pacific Northwest. If you can, support Powells and other local bookstores. You’ll get great prices on Amazon, but you’ll do great things for your community by putting your dollars back into small retailers. These links are Amazon affiliate links: you don’t pay any more, but the Broads get a few pennies’ kick-back from each sale made from one of these links.