These 10 must-read books set in Oregon include bestselling fiction, compelling memoirs, unputdownable stories, and more. Travel to the Pacific Northwest and the Beaver State with these books that take place in Oregon.
1. Mink River by Brian Doyle
“In a small fictional town on the Oregon coast there are love affairs and almost-love-affairs, mystery and hilarity, bears and tears, brawls and boats, a garrulous logger and a silent doctor, rain and pain, Irish immigrants and Salish stories, mud and laughter. There’s a Department of Public Works that gives haircuts and counts insects, a policeman addicted to Puccini, a philosophizing crow, beer and berries. An expedition is mounted, a crime committed, and there’s an unbelievably huge picnic on the football field. Babies are born. A car is cut in half with a saw. A river confesses what it’s thinking. . .”
2. The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin
“In a future world racked by violence and environmental catastrophes, George Orr wakes up one day to discover that his dreams have the ability to alter reality. He seeks help from Dr. William Haber, a psychiatrist who immediately grasps the power George wields. Soon George must preserve reality itself as Dr. Haber becomes adept at manipulating George’s dreams for his own purposes.”
3. One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
“In this classic novel, Ken Kesey’s hero is Randle Patrick McMurphy, a boisterous, brawling, fun-loving rebel who swaggers into the world of a mental hospital and takes over. A lusty, life-affirming fighter, McMurphy rallies the other patients around him by challenging the dictatorship of Nurse Ratched. He promotes gambling in the ward, smuggles in wine and women, and openly defies the rules at every turn. But this defiance, which starts as a sport, soon develops into a grim struggle, an all-out war between two relentless opponents: Nurse Ratched, backed by the full power of authority, and McMurphy, who has only his own indomitable will. What happens when Nurse Ratched uses her ultimate weapon against McMurphy provides the story’s shocking climax.”
Bonus: Don’t miss Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion.
4. Hard Rain Falling by Don Carpenter
“Don Carpenter’s Hard Rain Falling is a tough-as-nails account of being down and out, but never down for good—a Dostoyevskian tale of crime, punishment, and the pursuit of an ever-elusive redemption. The novel follows the adventures of Jack Levitt, an orphaned teenager living off his wits in the fleabag hotels and seedy pool halls of Portland, Oregon. Jack befriends Billy Lancing, a young black runaway and pool hustler extraordinaire. A heist gone wrong gets Jack sent to reform school, from which he emerges embittered by abuse and solitary conﬁnement. In the meantime Billy has joined the middle class—married, fathered a son, acquired a business and a mistress. But neither Jack nor Billy can escape their troubled pasts, and they will meet again in San Quentin before their strange double drama comes to a violent and revelatory end.”
5. Stubborn Twig: Three Generations in the Life of a Japanese American Family by Lauren Kessler
“Masuo Yasui traveled from Japan across the other Oregon Trail–the one that spanned the Pacific Ocean–in 1903. Like most immigrants, he came with big dreams and empty pockets. Working on the railroads, in a cannery, and as a houseboy before settling in Hood River, Oregon, he opened a store, raised a large family, and became one of the area’s most successful orchardists.”
6. Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
“Here is the unforgettable story of the Binewskis, a circus-geek family whose matriarch and patriarch have bred their own exhibit of human oddities (with the help of amphetamine, arsenic, and radioisotopes). Their offspring include Arturo the Aquaboy, who has flippers for limbs and a megalomaniac ambition worthy of Genghis Khan . . . Iphy and Elly, the lissome Siamese twins . . . albino hunchback Oly, and the outwardly normal Chick, whose mysterious gifts make him the family’s most precious—and dangerous—asset.”
7. No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July
“In No One Belongs Here More Than You, Miranda July gives the most seemingly insignificant moments a sly potency. A benign encounter, a misunderstanding, a shy revelation can reconfigure the world. Her characters engage awkwardly—they are sometimes too remote, sometimes too intimate. With great compassion and generosity, July reveals her characters’ idiosyncrasies and the odd logic and longing that govern their lives.”
8. Ricochet River by Robin Cody
“It’s 1960. In a small logging town called Calamus that’s about as far in the middle of nowhere as you can get, Wade Curren, star of the high school baseball and football teams, is content living out his role of local hero, holding court in the corner booth of the town diner where his girlfriend Lorna waits tables.
“Lorna, working to support her family, is plotting her escape from their small town. Fiercely independent and an avid reader of the kinds of books that aren’t taught in school, Lorna wants a bigger life. She tries to show Wade that Calamus is a trap, that as an individual he should fear the town’s rigid “boxes” and expectations. But Wade’s box is too comfortable and she can’t make him understand.
“When Jesse Howl arrives from the Klamath Warm Springs Reservation, his presence shakes up the town. Jesse doesn’t seem to know how an Indian “should” act. Yet even as he and Wade compete for the top spots on the baseball and football teams, they become friends. As they raft the river, fish, and listen to Wade’s grandfather’s stories, Wade, Jesse, and Lorna forge a lasting bond and discover exactly how much it could cost them to be themselves.”
9. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
“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. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone.”
10. Heartsick by Chelsea Cain
“In Chelsea Cain’s bestselling series debut, Portland detective Archie Sheridan has spent years tracking Gretchen Lowell, a beautiful serial killer. In the end she was the one who caught him, but after torturing him for days she mysteriously let him go and turned herself in. Since then the she has been locked up, leaving Archie damaged but alive in a prison of another kind―addicted to pain pills, unable to return to his old life, powerless to get those ten horrific days or Gretchen off his mind.
“When another killer begins snatching teenage girls off the streets, Archie has to pull himself together to head up a new task force, but even then he can’t stop him without getting information from Gretchen―an encounter that may destroy him.
“With Susan Ward, a hungry young newspaper reporter, profiling Archie and his team, Archie, the killer, and Gretchen enter into a dark and deadly game. Each novel in Chelsea Cain’s scorching series leaves readers wanting more of the twisted and destructive relationship introduced in Heartsick.”
Bonus: Don’t miss the other books in the Archie Sheridan & Gretchen Lowell series.
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