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Set in Seattle: Seattle-centric books to quench your lust for the Emerald City

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We just updated this one...a bit. Here are some great (or possibly great, we haven't read all of them but we eventually want to) books set in the Emerald City.

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Cheryl

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I just recently updated this post — just a bit — to add a couple of recent reads to it. I initially wrote this during 2020 and I apologize if I haven’t removed all the pandemic references here. I plan to keep updating it as I find appropriate books for the list. Note that there are affiliate links here and if you click and book link and end up buying it on Amazon, I might get a small commission that helps keep the little wheels of this website spinning.

Do you have any books set in or near Seattle that you think should be added to this list? Have you read any of these? Feel free to discuss by leaving a comment!

I enjoy reading books set in places with landmarks that I recognize. And there isn’t any city that I know better than Seattle, where I grew up, and still live nearby. Here are a bunch of Seattle fiction books from literary fiction, to silly and fun, to graphic novels. Some, I’ve read, some I’ll be working my way through to distract myself through social distancing, and some which I’ll be adding to my “to read” list.

It’s not an exhaustive list — and I plan to update a bit as I read some of the unread ones or discover a new “add” for this list. And it doesn’t include wonderful books like Snow Falling on Cedars, which are set in the Puget Sound area, but not in Seattle. I may write a separate list for other areas as well in the future.

Fiction Set in Seattle

Hollow Kingdom and Feral Creatures

Our latest favorite featuring lots of things with love: a crow with attitude, Seattle, zombies (or something like them), apocalypic fiction, and nature. Read our review here.

In Kira Jane Buxton’s books (there are two so far, and we’ll hope we see more), S.T., a human-raised crow, has a problem: his human, Big Jim’s eyeball has suddenly fallen out of his head. And other humans have something strange happening to them as well. Together with Big Jim’s dumb but lovable dog, Dennis, he sets out on an adventure that takes him through Seattle…and beyond.

Remarkably Bright Creatures

We recently reviewed this charming book by Shelby Van Pelt. We were attracted to it due to the octopus on the cover, and it didn’t disappoint. Marcellus is a Giant Pacific Octopus with a sort of dry wit who befriends an older woman who works at the aquarium where he is counting his days in captivity. It’s a warm book, set in a community north of Seattle, and celebrates family and community. Read our review here.

Wizard of the Pigeons

I’m still working my way through this one, but I like it so far. Megan Lindholm is a Portland-area author who also writes fantasy under the name Robin Hobb. If you like fantasy, I’d strongly recommend checking out her Liveship Traders trilogy or Farseer Trilogy, starting with Assassin’s Apprentice.

Wizard of the Pigeons was written before either of those series. The book follows a homeless Seattle vet with a special magic — the power to “know things.” This extends to talking to Sylvester — the mummy in the Old Curiosity Shop that was the stuff of childhood nightmares to me (and that I had thought about doing something similar in that book that I’m not writing).

Is it magic — or mental illness? I can’t give you spoilers as I haven’t finished the book yet, but this might be my next to finish during self-quarantine.

Update: Wow. I had to work hard to find my old copy of this book. They now have an illustrated 35th anniversary edition of this book out.

JA Jance’s JP Beaumont Series

JA Jance’s Seattle Detective visits places now long-gone. For example, he frequents the Dog House. You’ve live in Seattle for a long time if you recall the Dog House.

To get to know Detective Beaumont, start with the first book: Until Proven Guilty. If you like what you read, go from there.

Aqua Follies by Lynn Rancourt

Aqua Follies is a m/m romance novel set in the 1950s at Greenlake’s Aqua Theater when it was actually in use for the Aqua Follies.

Having growing up near West Greenlake and often roaming around the Aqua Theater remnants, this one’s “read next” on my Seattle novels reading list. And it has a Kindle edition!

Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

I read Where’d You Go Bernadette a while back — the story of a once-genius architect who hasn’t created anything for 20 years since a failure and has retreated into semi social isolation using an “Indian virtual assistant,” her daughter and huband, Seattle private school moms, and a trip to Antarctica.

It was a fun read with an overall good ending but, until I recently watched the movie, what I mostly recalled were the Seattle moms.

As someone who once long ago had the following sentence said to me: “Seattle moms are thinking moms and we don’t need any membership pins like we’re members of a club” (there’s a longer story behind that which I’m not telling here,) I suppose I kind of identified with this part of the book.

The Single Dads of Seattle

While I haven’t read it, Whitley Cox’s series, starting with Hired by the Single Dad seems like it might be a fun read: According to Amazon:

Ten sexy single fathers who play poker every Saturday night, have each other’s backs, love their children without quarter, and hope to one day find love again.

TEN sexy poker-playing men who are also great Dads and are SINGLE? Seems a bit too good to be true. But a nice fantasy escape.

Boneshaker

Cherie Priest, you had me at the name “Leviticus Blue,” and at the words “Dr. Blue’s Incredible Bone Shaking Drill Engine.”

But Boneshaker isn’t about Dr. Blue but takes place years later after the aforementioned drill engine turned downtown Seattle toxic and zombie-filled and follows a young man who has to go beyond the wall and into the toxic city. Steampunk? Zombie apocalypse? A definite add to my (eventual) reading list!

Black Hole (Graphic Novel)

While it’s not available as a Kindle edition for easy download, Charlie Burns’ comic book series, Black Hole, looks intriguingly dark.

It follows Seattle teens in the 1970s during a strange, sexually-trasmitted, epidemic. If you want a sneak peek, you can see some examples here.

Sword of Shanarra

Though it doesn’t explicity say that, Seattle author Terry Brooks’ fantasy series is set, in part, in a post-apocalytic Seattle. They make this a little more explicit in the TV series based on the book:

Remnants of the Space Needle. I assume MoPop has sunk into the swamp.

It’s an enjoyable read, for classic fantasy lovers, though the first book is less polished than future books, but it won’t be satifsying if you’re looking for actual Seattle landmarks.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford follows a Chinese-American and Japanese-American student the times of WWII and Japanese-American internment, with jumps forward to artifacts uncovered at Seattle’s Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle’s “Japantown.”

Truth Like the Sun

I want to check out Jim Lynch’s book Truth Like the Sun as part of it relates to the 1962 World’s Fair and the building of the Space Needle.

While I’m too young to have experienced the fair myself, my parents had many memories of the event — and artifacts from the fair.

The book follows the character to later years and a mayoral bid.

Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist

I lived in Seattle during the 1999 WTO riots, but only recall watching from my television as a had a newborn on my lap at the time.

Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa takes place during those riots following a biracial young man and his SPD father on opposite sides of the barricades.

The Art of Racing in The Rain

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Seattle author Garth Stein is narrated by golden retriever mix Enzo – who believes that he just might be reincarnated as a human in the next life if he plays it right.

Enzo helps us follow his person, a man who works at a Seattle high end auto dealership but wants to be a race car driver, through the ups and downs of his life. My daughter recommended this one and it ended up being a satisfying, easy, and touching vacation read during a long RV trip.

I haven’t watched the movie yet but will probably end up doing just this during stay-at-home restrictions.

Who the Hell is Wanda Fuca?

Who is the Hell is Wanda Fuca? I know her. She lives up a ways North of Seattle. The title itself suggests to me that this Seattle-based crime book by G.M. Ford would have a certain sense of humor.

So if our time needing to stay in place turns out to be extended, I plan to learn more about who “Leo Waterman” is — and who the hell asked the title question of the book!

Witch Slapped (Witchless in Seattle)

While I have not read this series (I came across it on Amazon), Witchless in Seattle appears that it could be a light, silly read, truly for the purposes of escapism.

It follows a witch who returns to Washington State after her powers are “slapped” out of her. She has a bat familiar named “Belfry,” which suggests to me just what the tone might be of these books. While some Amazon reader complained about word mis-use and misspellings (which would be jarring for me), many found the series a funny and pleasurable read.

Still Life with Woodpecker

When I was much younger, I used to be a fan of reading author that used satire to comment on society, politics, religion, and such. I was an avid Vonnegut reader during college but, somehow even though I’m from Seattle, I missed reading any of Tom Robbins’ novels.

The snippet from Amazon for this book says:

Still Life with Woodpecker is a sort of a love story that takes place inside a pack of Camel cigarettes. It reveals the purpose of the moon, explains the difference between criminals and outlaws, examines the conflict between social activism and romantic individualism, and paints a portrait of contemporary society that includes powerful Arabs, exiled royalty, and pregnant cheerleaders. It also deals with the problem of redheads. “

It sounds like my kind of reading — and it’s set, in part, in Seattle.

Lake City

What has sold me on reading Lake City by Thomas Kohnstamm is simply the fact that he wrote a book about Lake City and that it includes scenes inside the neighborhood’s Fred Meyer store.

As a former employee (long ago) at a different Seattle Fred Meyer and familiar with its Lake City counterpart, I can’t wait to find out what happens there.

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Read more

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