Summertime is all about relaxing on the deck with a cold drink and a good book. Or... at least that’s what we hope for in the spare moments when life doesn’t get in the way.
If you’re planning a trip or carving out some time for relaxation, here’s your essential summer reading list of Portland literary favorites from Urban Nest.
Of course, we’d be remiss to simply recommend our own book ideas and not send you on your own journey: to Powell’s City of Books, of course! Plan to spend at least an hour in this relaxing mecca of literary euphoria as you meander through the aisles and browse intriguing staff recommendations.
Sometimes you just want to flip through a magazine, and Portland Monthly is an enjoyable one. The publication profiles unique Portland projects and happenings. They have their finger on the pulse of the arts scene and definitely the food scene. If you like keeping up with the restaurants, bakeries, and hidden gems of delicious Portland, Portland Monthly is a gold mine.
by Lauren Reeves, Jude Buffum
Pack your wagons, find your ride-or-(literally) die friends, and roll up to Matt’s General Store with a sack of cash - it’s time to hit the Oregon Trail, 21st-century style! Those who grew up here have a fondness for the Oregon Trail computer game, and in the last few years spoofs on it have started to pop up, such as a Travel Oregon “Play the Game” campaign and now this book.
…And Then You Die of Dysentery is the perfect send-up to the sometimes frustrating, always entertaining and universally beloved Oregon Trail computer game. Featuring a four-color design in the game’s iconic 8-bit format, alongside pop culture references galore, the book offers 50 humorous, snarky lessons gleaned from the game’s most iconic moments.
by Robert Dietsche
The building for our Williams office used to be home to the Cleo-Lillian Social Club and a couple of years ago the Historic Black Williams Project installed a sidewalk mural and a sign honoring the place, so this book really hit home for us.
“A visitor to Portland today might not realize that the city has a rich history in jazz. Fueled by the shipbuilding boom of World War Two, the city's black population grew rapidly throughout the 40's, creating a vibrant community on the east bank of the Willamette. This was a land of wild nightclubs, neighborhood bars, shady speakeasies that were open all night. Big names came to play, artists like Duke Ellington, Dizzie Gillespie, and Louis Armstrong, but the city also produced a number of local talents, like Wardell Gray and Doc Severinsen. It was not, however, to last; the construction of the Memorial Coliseum wiped out much of the jazz scene, and much of its history was lost. Dietsche's Jumptown: The Golden Years of Portland Jazz sets out to record that lost history.
Jazz lovers will no doubt understand the laundry list of names better than the average reader, and there is enough obscure history of the city that it will prove a worthy edition for Portland historians wishing for a truly broad library.” - Reviewed by Alexander Craghead
by Chuck Palahniuk
The Oregonian says Fugitives and Refugees “is the book that shows you how deep the Rose City has gotten into Chuck Palahniuk's soul.”
Fugitives and Refugees is more than a book about the weird people and dark corners of Portland. Tucked surreptitiously between chapters are eleven 'postcards,' which, cobbled together, make up a sort of memoir of Palahniuk's years in his adopted city. Told in Palahniuk's signature voice a blend of nihilism, pathos, and biting wit these stories make the book. Most readers will never drive out to Newberg to the self-cleaning house, but any reader with an ear for a well-turned anecdote will appreciate these dark, funny, poignant stories of life on the fringe. A few may even discover that the world outside their Outback windows is a bit more fascinating, and less predictable, than they'd realized.
by Cheryl Strayed
If you’re looking for a captivating summer read that you won’t want to put down, Wild is the book for you.
This book from celebrated Portland author Cheryl Strayed is a powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe — and built her back up again.
At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother's death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State — and to do it alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than "an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise." But it was a promise of piecing back together a life that had come undone.
The book was made into a movie, but don’t let that stop you from getting lost from cover to cover.
by Jeff Alworth
Portland, Oregon, didn't always have the wildly successful craft brew scene it has today, someone had to be daring enough to build, and the Widmer brothers were just the men for the job.
This book chronicles Kurt and Rob Widmer's journey from humble homebrewers to craft beer pioneers and purveyors of the iconic Widmer Brothers Hefeweizen.
Kurt and Rob Widmer have a deep affection for the city that fostered their success, providing sports team sponsorships, support for up-and-coming brewers, and hundreds of jobs. The Widmer Way emphasizes this special relationship with a story that will resonate with Portland's legion of beer aficionados as it illustrates how Portland became "Beervana."
by Martha Gies
Author and night owl Martha Gies guides readers on a nocturnal tour of unique workplaces the waiting ambulances that encircle the darkened city, the maze of conveyor belts at the industrial bakery, the Internet service provider's help desk. She visits and vividly describes the cold, gritty, and isolated settings of night work the truck cab, the silhouetted cubicle, the empty street.
"On the Skidmore fountain is inscribed: 'Good citizens are the riches of the city.' In Up All Night, Martha Gies brings many of Portland's riches to life in a very intimate way, giving an insight into the reality of the city not seen by us daytime 'normals.' A fascinating spectrum of people, a fascinating read. Once started, I couldn't put it down."
- Bud Clark, former Mayor of Portland, Oregon
by Mitch Luckett
"Loon reads like a cross between Carl Hiaasen and Edward Abbey. Mitch Luckett has invented crazy but convincing characters, both human and animal, in a magically realistic whodunit. I loved it, especially for its subtle message that without a connection with the natural world, humans are destined to wander about the earth with no real spiritual grounding. I've always wanted to come back as a raven. Now, I'm not so sure."
- Mike Houck, Portland-based Urban Naturalist and co-editor of Wild in the City Review
by Steve Duin
Fatherhood. Whether it's coaching little league or coaching one's kids through adolescence, author and columnist Steve Duin has been there. Emergency room visits, field trips, chaperoned dances, family vacations, sex talks, and rock concerts are all part of the deal. This selection of Duin's columns from THE OREGONIAN, which span twenty years, chronicles the pains, joys and beauty of being a father.
by Robin Chilstrom
Portland artist, Betty Chilstrom is said to have painted the town during the second half of the 20th century. Living through the great depression, homeless throughout her childhood, Betty had a keen appreciation for the value of a home place, and Portland became her permanent home during World War II.
Living in the same Buckman neighborhood home for seventy years, Betty spent 40 of those years chronicling Portland's historic homes, architecture, and cityscapes, before urban renewal swept them away.
Told by her youngest daughter, artist Robin Chilstrom, this is the story of Betty's life, her evolution as a self-taught artist, and how she came to create a stunning and prolific archive of over 1,000 paintings and countless drawings - of which more than 250 are featured in this book.
by Rick McMonagle
“I began writing these poems in the fall of 2017 after starting a new job in downtown Portland, Oregon. Orange is my MAX line and it takes about twenty minutes on a good day to reach my destination. The cars are often packed with Clark County residents, Reedites, the medical herd heading toward OHSU, PSU students, city bureaucrats, and a mix of others like me.
“I wonder if you’ll be able to tell what time of day a specific poem was written? And then there was the outside - morphing tag posts, gazing goddess murals, trickster crows and purposeful gulls, zipping bikes, homeless compounds and railroad crossing stuck cars. I saw it all.I sure got my money’s worth! A ticket to ride revealed a kaleidoscopic universe of committed commuters peppered with Portlandia possibilities. Please hold on…”
by J B Fisher
In December 1958, Ken Martin, his wife Barbara, and their three young daughters left their home in Northeast Portland to search for Christmas greens in the Columbia River Gorge - and never returned. The Martins' disappearance spurned the largest missing persons search in Oregon history and the mystery has remained perplexingly unsolved to this day.
For the past six years, JB Fisher (Portland on the Take) has pored over the case after finding in his garage a stack of old Oregon Journal newspaper articles about the story. Through a series of serendipitous
encounters, Fisher obtained a wealth of first-hand and never-before published information about the case.
by David Oates
Portland's Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) was designed to hold the bursting metropolitan area in check while protecting Willamette Valley orchards and fields from sprawling suburbia. David Oates traveled the 260-mile boundary that defines Portland to discover how the UGB has contributed to that success. City Limits is his record of the journey.
From conversations with the people he encounters on his walks, Oates comes to view the UGB as a long-running experiment in community control over development. Oates sometimes invites along for the day's walk artists, writers, urban planners, environmentalists, developers, a politician, a wine grape grower.
by Walter Cole, Sharon Knorr
Before he was Darcelle XV, Portland, Oregon's most celebrated female impersonator, he was Walter Cole, a boy from the small suburb of Linnton. In commemoration of his 80th birthday, Walter/Darcelle tells stories from his past and present.
by John Trombold, Peter Donahue
There are so many notable Portland authors, too many include on this list. So instead, we’ll include this literary exploration of the city's past and present. In over eighty selections, Portland is revealed through histories, memoirs, autobiographies, short stories, novels, and news reports. This single volume gives voice to women and men; the colonizers and the colonized; white, Hispanic, African American, Asian American, and Indian storytellers; and lower, middle, and upper classes.
Included here are the voices of Carl Abbott, Kathryn Hall Bogle, Beverly Cleary, Robin Cody, Lawson Fusao Inada, Rudyard Kipling, Ursula K. Le Guin, Joaquin Miller, Sandy Polishuk, Gary Snyder, Kim Stafford, Elizabeth Woody, and many more.
by Eugene Snyder
Who is the Skidmore behind Skidmore Fountain? The Benson behind the bubbler? What about the oddly named Couch Street - pronounced Cooch?
Hundreds of street, school, and park names are in daily use in the city, but most of them have become mere labels, their origins forgotten. This book contains more than 950 such names -- alphabetically arranged- with biographical and historical information about what lies behind those names and what persons they honor.
by Matt Love
On June 5, 1977 the Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Philadelphia 76ers to win their first and only NBA Championship. The next day, two hundred and fifty thousand fans jammed downtown Portland to celebrate in what remains the largest public gathering in Oregon history. A good social disease known as Blazermania and an electrifying community energy known as Rip City had overtaken an entire state.
As the Blazers are on the rise in popularity once again, this book will be a fun read for those infatuated with Rip City.
By Rich Jackson
While investigating a homicide in an upscale section of Portland, Detective Ramos finds an envelope that connects the murder to his home town of Portillo, Mexico. Two days later, he and his partner are called to a car bombing in an equally exclusive part of the city. When a connection is made between the two murders, they find themselves embroiled in a dangerous war between rival drug cartels.
As the mystery intensifies and the body count mounts, the two detectives follow clues to the border town of Portillo, a town that has special significance for Ramos and hides a dark secret from his past.
Partial synopsis for some of these books were provided by the publishers and reviewers.