Richard H. Engeman, The Oregon Companion
Timber Press, 429 pages, $27.95
Did you know that Aloha has been classified “suburban” since 1915? Or that the term “Pearl District” was popularized by Alaska Airlines’ in-flight magazine? Now you do, thanks to Richard H. Engeman’s quietly witty, hyper-comprehensive almanac of all things Oregon. More than just a coffee-table trophy, The Oregon Companion opens a window onto a distinctly Oregonian version of the past, one that leads (however unexpectedly) into our uncanny Oregonian present. Speaking of which, remember that 1950 UFO sighting in McMinnville? Its authenticity remains unverified. CAITLIN MCCARTHY.
Michael McLeod, Anatomy of a Beast
University of California Press, 222 pages, $24.95
One of documentary filmmaker Michael McLeod’s first assignments as a TV news cameraman was to cover a rash of Bigfoot sightings along the Columbia River in 1969. Forty years later, he’s back on the job. For his new book, McLeod took a road trip to pin down the origins of the Northwest’s most persistent myth—if not the creature itself. The author follows the evolution of the Sasquatch story through wingnut conventions, amateur museums, misty woodlands, dubious newspaper accounts and the journals of outlandish explorers. Even better, he introduces readers to the colorful gang of kooks and weirdos—most of them earnest believers—who make up the brotherhood of Bigfoot researchers. It’s an entertaining and thoroughly researched travelogue, as much about America’s need for mystery as the elusive denizens of the Klamath forests. BEN WATERHOUSE.
Travis Williams, The Willamette River Field Guide
Timber Press, 218 pages, $24.95
Portlanders tend to think of the Willamette River as a brown strip of occasionally toxic water between Oregon City and Sauvie Island. But there’s a lot more to it than that, and Travis Williams is just the man to open it up. In his new book, Williams, executive director of Willamette Riverkeeper and winner of a 2004 Skidmore Prize, explores the Willamette from its headwaters at Waldo Lake right up to its confluence with the Columbia at Kelley Point Park. Packed with paddling itineraries, landmark histories and breathtaking photos, the Field Guide is a comprehensive work about the magnificent, troubled river, as well as an indispensable reference for would-be explorers. BEN WATERHOUSE.