The best books about Cascadia, unreal and real

Bonnie Henderson Author Of The Next Tsunami: Living on a Restless Coast
By Bonnie Henderson

Who am I?

I love the quirky, restless Pacific Northwest, also known as Cascadia, my home bioregion. Nonfiction is my jam, but I enjoy stories both unreal and real (stealing and tweaking Oregon author Ursula Le Guin’s use of the terms). I’m also an avid hiker. I’ve often wondered how I could provide folks heading here to hike the 400-mile Oregon Coast Trail (another passion of mine) with my personal book list introducing them to this landscape and its history, human and natural. Here is a start.

I wrote...

The Next Tsunami: Living on a Restless Coast

By Bonnie Henderson,

Book cover of The Next Tsunami: Living on a Restless Coast

What is my book about?

A surprise tsunami, thought to be the first. A 300-year-old tsunami, rediscovered. Ancient stories echoing evidence that scientists—independently, in different parts of Cascadia—almost simultaneously stumble upon. A fault line whose next earthquake—due any day now—scientists expect will be nothing short of apocalyptic. And at the center of the story, a geologist trying to figure out what it all means, to him and to his hometown of Seaside, Oregon, the town with perhaps the most to lose in the next convulsion of the Cascadia Subduction Zone. It’s all true, but I think you’ll find, as others have, that it reads like fiction.

The books I picked & why

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Where Bigfoot Walks: Crossing the Dark Divide

By Robert Michael Pyle,

Book cover of Where Bigfoot Walks: Crossing the Dark Divide

Why this book?

Pyle is a leading butterfly expert and a brilliant natural history writer. And he happens to be bigfoot-curious. As am I. The past few years have seen Sasquatch—at least images of the mythical-or-not-mythical beast—cropping up widely in this region, usually to try to sell something. Pyle takes it more seriously, without being boring or sensationalist. In this telling, Pyle packs his rig with camping gear (and plenty of IPA) and—with his expansive knowledge of nature, his keen skills of observation (of all species, us included), and his humor—heads into southwest Washington’s Dark Divide to try to clear up what, exactly, he heard decades earlier on a camping trip in this remote corner of Cascadia. As to what he finds, you be the judge. 

The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring

By Richard Preston,

Book cover of The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring

Why this book?

Before Richard Powers’s bestseller The Overstory, there was The Wild Trees. We love our trees in Cascadia—three of the world’s tallest tree species grow here. We’ve also harvested the hell out of them; just a small fraction of the biggest, oldest trees remain unlogged. Preston’s book about coast redwoods and the people who study, climb, and live among them is not only compelling journalism but a kind of memoir and, I’d venture to say, love story. I read it while hiking the Oregon Coast Trail, then gave it to a southbound cyclist I met at a campground on the state’s southern coast who was about to ride into the redwoods. He left it out in the rain. Bad move.

She's Tricky Like Coyote, Volume 224: Annie Miner Peterson, an Oregon Coast Indian Woman

By Lionel Youst,

Book cover of She's Tricky Like Coyote, Volume 224: Annie Miner Peterson, an Oregon Coast Indian Woman

Why this book?

This biography from a small academic publisher takes readers to a place in-between: the Oregon Coast at the turn of the 19th century, as native people and their culture were being displaced by white settlers. It tells the story of Annie Miner Peterson, a Miluk Coos Indian woman who became a minor celebrity among anthropologists and linguists. She was born in the days when “the passage of time was marked by fish and leaves;" upon her death in 1939, “the Miluk language became extinct.” It’s a sensitive and unflinching portrait of a memorable woman navigating her fraught era.

A Gathering of Finches

By Jane Kirkpatrick,

Book cover of A Gathering of Finches

Why this book?

Kirkpatrick is a prolific writer of historical novels, often romantic, often deemed “inspirational.” I’m not a big fan of the genre, but her story about Cassie Simpson, a compelling and compellingly flawed woman who ditched her husband and kid in 1899 in Washington to take up with her lover on the shores of Coos Bay, where he was helping to build a shipping and logging empire, gave me a whole new way of looking at that place today. And, by extension, other port towns on the Northwest coast. And, by extension, the difficulty, and price paid, of being a woman in the early years of the 20th century who chose an unconventional life and paid some heavy dues for it.

Wild Life

By Molly Gloss,

Book cover of Wild Life

Why this book?

Charlotte Drummond is a sort of anti-Carrie Simpson: same era, but fictional and feminist, living on the lower Columbia River. She joins a search for a girl lost from a remote logging camp and discovers more than she bargained for. There’s so much to love in this quiet novel, mainly the vivid and unflashy rendering of landscape and unfolding of memorable characters.

And, bigfoot. 

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