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I was going to finally finish this post when I had actually read all of these books. But now, under COVID-19 social distancing, I’m making a resolution to finish this list — but I’m writing the post first. Some of these titles are readily available as eBooks, others are out of print and there may be a wait getting them from Amazon. When social distancing first started, I had the strong temptation to go out and get those photos of the market and other tourist places sans-crowds. But I resisted and am holing up in my house on the other side of the “pond.” But I miss being able to go into Seattle, so here are some books to get through this time.
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
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.
If you like mystery books or if you miss old Seattle, following detective JP Beaumont of the Seattle Police Department might scratch your vintage Seattle itch.
I haven’t read this series for years, but I fondly recall that Detective Beaumont liked to have coffee at the Dog House on 7th and Bell — now long gone but memorable.
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!
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.
While I haven’t read it, Whitley Cox’s series, starting with Hired by the Single Dad seems like a serious (though temporary) distraction from COVID-19 anxiety. 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.
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 quarantine read list!
Black Hole (Graphic Novel)
During a pandemic, why is it somehow morbily reassuring to watch movies like Contagion and read apocalyptic novels?
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:
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.
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.”
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.
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 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 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!
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.
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.
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.
Do you have any favorites that aren’t here? Please share in the comments section below!