By EW staff and other readers
As journalists we know the way to being a good writer is by being a good reader. And we at Eugene Weekly love to read and to support local writers. This year, as ever, we focus on Oregon and the Pacific Northwest, but let our curiosity roam to national authors, too. Dive in and curl up with a good book.
And if you want to meet the scribes, almost 50 local authors will be signing their works at the Authors & Artists Fair in Eugene on Saturday, Dec. 9. The free event is 10 am to 5 pm at the Lane Events Center, and a portion of the book sales benefits the Lane Library League, a nonprofit group that supports rural volunteer libraries. For a full list of the authors, go to EugeneWeekly.com. And to buy and read these books, go to your local library or bookstore. — Camilla Mortensen
⁕ = Oregon Author
⁕ Bookstore Clerks and Significant Others by various authors, Tsunami Press. $20.
What makes a bookstore isn’t that it sells books or that it smells like old, faded paperbacks. It’s the people who work behind the counter and the customers who stick around for long conversations about literature and life. Tsunami Press’s Bookstore Clerks and Significant Others brings together some of its past and current staff, along with a few notable customers, for an anthology of poetry and short stories. The anthology follows the local publishing company’s debut of Ken Babbs’ Cronies, a Burlesque: Adventures with Ken Kesey, Neal Cassady, the Merry Pranksters and the Grateful Dead.
Bookstore Clerks and Significant Others is a unique dive into the creativity of the bookshop, almost like turning Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity record shop conversations about top-five lists and mixtapes into the characters actually making music. Most importantly, the book is a way to support a literary Eugene gem. — Henry Houston
⁕ Extreme Vetting: A Thriller by Roxana Arama, Ooligan Press. $18.00.
The other day, a friend of mine mentioned her sister was coming for Thanksgiving — a welcome visit after spending five months in an ICE detention center. For my friend and her family, immigrants from Mexico, threats of deportation are very real and present, something they are not for many Eugene readers. Author Roxana Arama takes those looming threats and not only makes them real, but blends in the intricacies of the legal system and social injustices into a dramatic thriller, set in Seattle, with stolen data, human trafficking and, of course, ICE. It’s a thriller with a social justice edge. — Camilla Mortensen
⁕ About the Carleton Sisters: A Novel by Dian Greenwood, She Writes Press (Phoenix, Arizona). $13.99.
The beauty of the three sisters that make up the Carleton family — a Las Vegas showgirl, a diner waitress and a heartbroken alcoholic — is that each member holds dear memories of a broken past that have not been reconciled. Author Dian Greenwood does a masterful job in her debut novel of making you care about these women. You will feel their aching pain as they gather for a reunion in the late 1990s, a prelude to their mother’s death in the mobile home they grew up in and that contains all their secrets. There’s rivalry, jealousy and grace — sometimes laced with snark — that makes you want to turn the pages. You also will feel the countryside of the fictitious and beautifully named town of River’s End in California’s Central Valley. Greenwood is a Portland resident who has been a writing instructor and a family therapist, and she is a good friend of Laura Stanfill, the publisher of Forest Avenue Press in Portland, who has championed this novel. I recommend it, too. — Dan Buckwalter
Good Material by Dolly Alderton (London, U.K.). $28.
Dolly Alderton may be a prophet to young women flailing through their 20s. After her breakout memoir-turned television show, Everything You Need to Know About Love, became a massive hit selling over a million copies, the witty and wise author is back, but different than ever before. Unlike her last book, Alderton’s newest work is a fictional depiction of heartbreak and told from a male perspective, which Alderton credits to several male friends and colleagues she interviewed in preparing to write as a man.
Readers watch aspiring comedian Andy as he blunders through the trials and tribulations of having your heart shattered by the person you thought you’d grow old with. Good Material has all the heart and quick pacing of a romantic comedy while maintaining a level of relatability that pierces through in Andy’s refusal to accept the end of a relationship as it comes. Alderton digs deep into the psyche of what she calls “The Madness” that occurs when you’re heartbroken — the irrational fears of running into an ex, the obsessive social media stalking, and worst of all the inevitable rebounds — all wrapped up in a manner that reads as if it’s straight off a page in Andy’s diary. Good Material is a fresh take on what Alderton does best: write as candidly as possible about universal pain in a way that is hopeful rather than upsetting. Good Material comes out Jan. 30 and can be pre-ordered at penguinrandomhouse.com/books/goodmaterial. — Emerson Brady
⁕ AfterStrike by L.J. Sellers, Spellbinder Press. $13.99 Amazon.
Local author L.J. Sellers strikes again with another self-published book, After Strike, no pun intended. In the plot, a preschool teacher, Remi Bartel, risks her life to rally the students into the school during a monstrous storm when all of a sudden lightning strikes, leaving her in chronic pain and with a loss of memory. Slowly her memories fade in and realizes she’d been hiding in fear before the incident. Falling in love with a mystery man may not be the best once she tries to piece together his story, but it doesn’t add up. Then, Remi gets pulled into a van and kidnapped by a “crime-family patriarch” who forces her into a criminal vendetta plan. — Brianna Murschel
⁕ Tribal Histories of the Willamette Valley by David G. Lewis, Ooligan Press. $24.95.
A land acknowledgement at the start of public meetings has become de rigueur — deservedly so. But such acknowledgements can ring hollow if we don’t take the time to understand the histories of the lands we occupy. Oregon Indigenous historian David G. Lewis, a member of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, addresses the untold stories of the peoples who have lived in Oregon’s Willamette Valley for 10,000 years. The history Lewis writes is not one of distance but one that hits close to home and whose repercussions still continue and must be acknowledged with not only words, but action. He writes, “The process of restoring our culture will take decades, but it is vital for the welfare of our people in the future.” — Camilla Mortensen
⁕ The Jackson County Rebellion: A Populist Uprising in Depression-Era Oregon by Jeffrey Max LaLande, Oregon State University Press. $29.95.
A populist uprising that gains national attention, a tradition of protests that include the Ku Klux Klan, media and demagogues fanning rage and relentlessly accusing the “elite” of corruption and conspiracy. That’s not just the politics of today. It’s part of the Depression-era politics of southern Oregon that Jeffrey Max LaLande — who was concurrently a history professor at Southern Oregon University and an archaeologist with the U.S. Forest Service for 30 years — expertly chronicles in The Jackson County Rebellion. Readers will certainly draw parallels with today’s political climate, including the hotly contested 1932 election. Afterward, there was the murder of a police officer by Llewellyn Banks, a wealthy orchardist who owned one of two inflammatory papers in the Medford area at the time and who was to be placed under arrest. The hero of the story is Robert Ruhl, the owner-publisher of the Medford Mail Tribune, whose editorial staff fought back threats of boycotts and sabotage to resolutely report on the uprising. The paper won the Pulitzer Prize in 1934 for its efforts, the first Oregon newspaper to win the award. — Dan Buckwalter
The Making of the Northwest Forest Plan: The wild science of saving old growth ecosystems by K. Norman Johnson, Jerry F. Franklin and Gordon H. Reeves, Oregon State University Press. $39.95.
I moved to Oregon in the late 1990s, at the tail end of the Timber Wars, and just in time to appreciate just how much went, and goes, into saving the old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest. I remember being surprised to learn our public forests were logged for profit. The landmark 1994 Northwest Forest Plan is what moved federal forest management away from logging old growth for profit to attempting to preserve the forests’ ecosystems and species. The Making of the Northwest Forest Plan starts, unsurprisingly, with the spotted owl and is written by the scientists who forged the plan that has helped preserve that species. Contributors include attorney Susan Jane Brown and forest scientist James Johnston, who are both on the current committee charged with updating the Northwest Forest Plan. The book is a must read for those who care about the past and future of our forests. — Camilla Mortensen
Mac Dre: A Crime That Was Never Committed by Donald Morrison, BookBaby. $9.99 eBook, $39.99 hardcover.
Eagle-eye Eugene Weekly readers may recognize this author. Donald Morrison’s name once appeared regularly in this newspaper, reporting about a certain “blue balls” candidate for district attorney and college students being coerced into sex trafficking. In 2021, Morrison set the hip-hop world ablaze when he published an in-depth investigative piece in the online music magazine Passion of the Weiss about the 2004 killing of rapper Mac Dre. Morrison follows up with an equally deep dive into the life of Mac Dre, the man behind songs like “Thizzle Dance,” “Feelin’ Myself” and many other tracks that influenced hip hop in the Bay Area — and beyond. But you don’t need to know much about Mac Dre to enjoy the drama of his life that Morrison captures through interviews with the people who knew him. Morrison has written a page turner that is hard to put down, from federal prosecutors using rap lyrics in court as evidence to Mac Dre recording tracks over a phone behind prison walls. Being a “Mac,” Mac Dre said in an interview published in the book, means you’ve “mastered the art of communication” because rap is all about communication. (Yes, there are also other definitions of being a Mac.) The feat that Morrison has accomplished in writing this book should easily earn him the title of “Mac.” — Henry Houston
Collision of Power: Trump, Bezos, and The Washington Post by Martin Baron, Flatiron Books. $34.99
This is a long read, especially interesting to anyone curious about the workings of the press and what happens with major changes in ownership of powerful papers. Marty Baron led newspaper powerhouses like The Miami Herald and The Boston Globe. Less than a year after Baron took the helm of The Washington Post, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos purchased the paper. Two years after that, Trump was elected president and stepped up his attacks on the media. Baron chronicles it all with his journalistic flair in Collision of Power — Anita Johnson.
Promise: A Story of Race, Culture and Black Potential by Ron Tinsley, Adamsterdam House. $16.99.
Ron Tinsley moved to the Northwest the day Mount St. Helens blew up, and faked his way into a job with the U.S. Forest Service, saying he knew how to fell trees. He found himself in Oakridge, and “realized I was probably the only Black person for 50 miles in either direction, but that was OK, I did a lot of educating.” Tinsley’s memoir and life take him from Jim Crow era Cincinnati to the military to a career as an R&B and jazz vocalist to the aforementioned Forest Service job to the ownership of two international corporations, while dealing with everything it means to be Black in America — like getting pulled over in front of Fifth Street Market for “driving while Black.” The racism Tinsley chronicles is infuriating, and he chronicles it — as well as other alternately funny and surprising life adventures — with writing that is both crisp and reflective. — Camilla Mortensen
⁕ The Hank Show: How a house-painting, drug-running DEA informant built the machine that rules our lives by McKenzie Funk, St. Martin’s Press. $30.
McKenzie Funk kicks off The Hank Show with his LexID. I had no idea what a LexID is, and you probably don’t, either. Funk writes, “Maybe it’s best just to think of it as a shadow Social Security number, one of the many issued not by the government but by data brokers like LexisNexis — and used behind closed doors to determine who you are and what you’re worth and what opportunities you’ll be given in life.” Hank Asher, a drug running pilot turned “father of data fusion,” is the wild, freewheeling heart of the book that’s as much about this charismatic character as it is about business, data and the machines and technology that control our lives. You can preview the book in the Sept. 24 The New York Times article Funk adapted from it, “The Man Who Trapped Us in Databases,” or you could wait for the mini-series that this book begs to be spun into. But I suggest you buy a copy at your local bookstore and dive right into a tale that spins from drinks by the pool in Fort Lauderdale to “The Facebook” to COVID. — Camilla Mortensen
Scene Shifting: Photographs From Left of Iowa by Dan Powell. Oregon State University Press. $40.
Retired University of Oregon art professor Dan Powell spent a decade photographing the American West — or, as he calls it here, the “Left of Iowa” — with a strong focus on the empty landscapes of eastern Oregon and Washington. We’re not talking about taking an iPhone on the road; instead, he made photos with ungainly big cameras that take single sheets of film as large as 8 by 10 inches. This is careful, considered work on a tripod, not impulsive snapshots. More challenging than lugging a big camera is the nature of the landscape itself. Urban first-time visitors to eastern Oregon often see it as nothing but an empty wasteland, devoid of anything that might be properly called a photographer’s subject. Here’s what Powell has to say about that in his introduction to this gorgeous collection of 101 sumptuous black and white photos: “I was less interested in the genre of conventional landscape photography than in the constant flickering of events that moved through my view as I was driving on back road, off-road and even on highways.” The title of the book, Scene Shifting, comes from that constant flicker. A beautiful collection of work. — Bob Keefer
Harry Styles by Alex Bilmes, Aya Kanai and Jem Aswad, Hearst Books. $19.99.
As an avid Harry Styles fan, I was excited to read what the pocket-sized hardcover gift book Harry Styles had in store. Overall, this book would be a fantastic gift for your Styles-loving friend or family member. With its focus on Styles’ music, fashion and social impact, Harry Styles runs through his career, hitting some incredibly special moments from the former member of boy band One Direction. There are photos of almost all of his creative outfits with small snippets describing the event and the background of the image, which is especially great for the newer fans, who maybe haven’t seen some of Style’s now-famous fashion looks such as the Gucci suit. The aesthetic and layout of this book are great. Some of the reviews featured in the beginning were the weakest portion of the book, coming across as a jumbled combination of opinions and descriptions of Styles. But the following content makes up for it and is what really makes the rest of the book much more enjoyable. For someone who follows Styles and his story and already knows a lot about him and his career, some of the information might be repetitive. Nonetheless, it was joyful to reflect on Styles’ career, making for a light and fun read. — Chloe LaMonica
⁕ I Lost My Elephant by Donna McFarland, illustrated by Gayatri Ray. $9.99 paperback on Amazon.
I Lost My Elephant takes the reader through the chaotic mind of a little boy who lost his pet elephant. Each page leads you to the next scene through easy-to-read lines and colorful, detailed graphics with child-like humor and entertainment. The elephant appears each time the boy asks someone if they have seen her. With silly depictions, the elephant acts according to where the boy is. For example, he asks an art teacher if she has seen his pet. In the background, the elephant is painting on a canvas, but no one notices. Be on the lookout for fun facts about elephants throughout. This 2023 children’s book is perfect for a bedtime story, as it ends with the boy finding his elephant sound asleep. — Brianna Murschel
⁕ Eliza Jane Finds Her Hero by Eliza Kelley and Debra Whiting Alexander, illustrated by Patricia Culwell and Jazlin Sobel, Luminaire Press. $10.95.
Quiet Eliza Jane has the strength of the love from her Chihuahua, Archie, and her blind horse Popcorn as well as her own inner strength, which she discovers in this locally written book. Eliza Jane has Tourette syndrome and negotiates friendship, being different and how to be your own hero in this charmingly written and illustrated book. — Camilla Mortensen
Smoothies and Juices: Prevention Healing Kitchen by Frances Largeman-Roth, Hearst Home Books. $9.99 eBook, $19.99.
When gifts and to-do lists fill our minds this time of year, keeping up with our overall health may be tough, but these simple recipes from Smoothies and Juices have you covered. From a balanced gut, glowing skin and inflammation fighters to a healthy heart and strong muscles, the book provides numerous options for each category. The first taste of the bright pink fruity Pomegranate-Berry smoothie felt like a breath of fresh spring air while sunbathing on warm grass and reading a good book. Each sip was refreshing with a tangy and sweet taste. It falls under the “Inflammation Fighters” tab with three ingredients: pomegranate juice, vanilla low-fat yogurt and frozen mixed berries blended for an unforgettable flavor. — Brianna Murschel
Good Housekeeping Air Fryer Magic: 75 Best-Ever Recipes for Frying, Roasting & Baking by Good Housekeeping, Hearst Home Books. $30.
My mom was an avid reader of Good Housekeeping magazine, and like me, I think it was more of an aspirational thing — most of my cooking is limited to the microwave. But when my friend Alex gifted me with an air fryer, I thought I would be excited to try the recipes in Air Fryer Magic. Apparently, that was also aspirational. Luckily, Alex jumped at the chance to demonstrate the fun of air frying cooking and showed me over Thanksgiving weekend that air fryer artichokes are in fact fast and delicious. The buffalo cauliflower bites also proved to be in my wheelhouse, and easier than I thought. The recipes also come with notes on calories, saturated fats and so on. Good for the aspirational chef as well as those of you who do know your way around a kitchen. — Camilla Mortensen