Portland is a city of writers and readers. It’s sometimes overwhelming how much talent we’ve got crammed into this town. To wrap up 2011, I thought I’d offer a list of 10 very notable titles published by local authors. I’ll be honest: I haven’t read all of these books yet, but they’re the ones my friends are buzzing about and have made it to my bedside table or my eternal list of library holds.The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
[Fiction] A comic Western set in the 1850s, deWitt’s novel tells the story of brothers Charlie and Eli Sisters, hired thugs heading from Oregon City to California on a murderous mission. Based on so many strong recommendations, there might be multiple copies waiting under my Christmas tree.
A Simple Machine, Like the Lever by Evan P. Schneider
[Fiction] The “simple machine” of the title is a bicycle, a ubiquitous accessory for so many Portlanders. The protagonist of this memorable first novel is a carless thirtysomething, trying to move forward in a world where many roads seem like dead ends.
The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch
[Memoir] Chuck Palahniuk has read this book a dozen times, which should be enough of a recommendation for many Portlanders. For the rest of us, it’s said to be a heart-searing memoir by a swimmer and writer who narrates a lifetime of challenges with beautiful poise and prose.
Curses and Wishes by Carl Adamshick
[Poetry] Adamshick has rightfully gotten a lot of press for his first book, especially after winning the Walt Whitman Award. His sparse, enigmatic poems make the reader pause to consider what’s being said and what’s missing.
Out Here: Poems & Images from Steens Mountain Country by Ursula K. Le Guin
[Poetry] I’m cheating a little, as this book came out in late 2010, but I can justify it: Le Guin’s coffee-table book makes me pine for a region in the southeast corner of the state that I’ve never visited. Oregon’s high desert is unearthly, especially as seen in Roger Dorband’s photos. Le Guin’s love poems for this landscape are enough to make me grab my camping gear and head out.
Voodoo Vintners by Katherine Cole
[Nonfiction] Oregonian wine writer Katherine Cole has spent some time with Oregon’s biodynamic wine growers, who go beyond organic farming to time plantings to the phases of the moon. This well-researched book on a unique and almost spiritual style of farming is engaging and eye-opening. Pairs well with Oregon Pinots.
Rethinking Paper & Ink by Ooligan Press
[How-To] All of us paper-and-ink–loving book fiends must justify not only our e-book phobia but the environmental costs of the format we prefer. Ooligan Press’ Rethinking Paper & Ink provides a look at how publishers and consumers can make responsible, eco-friendly choices in their reading material.
Habibi by Craig Thompson
[Graphic Novel] A very thick book, Habibi could double as an ornamental paperweight—if you could put it down long enough. Graphic novelist Craig Thompson has kept us waiting for years for his next major work after 2003’s Blankets. The time was put to good use as Thompson spent some of it learning the Arabic calligraphy that plays such an important role in Habibi.
Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor
[Young Adult] A naturally blue-haired teen gets mixed up in some crazy business involving strange, unworldly monsters. Apparently it’s riveting even for adults who normally scorn young-adult books, and will help fans pass the time while waiting for The Hunger Games movie to come out.
Wildwood by Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis
[Young Adult] Unless you’ve been under a rock, you’ve already heard about this title from illustrator Carson Ellis and her husband, Colin Meloy of the Decemberists (WW published an excerpt in August). It makes going for a stroll in Forest Park seem infinitely more dangerous and scary.