The best books to get people thinking about the bigger picture

Who am I?

I’m a longtime writer and author, who basically learned the craft of writing from over 17 years with the Portland Police Bureau. Some of the best writers are working and retired police officers because, when you write those daily reports or detailed investigative reports, you learn how to write. I've written six books, two of which have been published by Oregon Greystone Press, the Indie Publishing company operated by my wife, Theresa. I graduated from Portland State University in 2017 and was listed in the commencement program as “the oldest PSU graduate” of that year. I was 80. I live in Portland with my wife, Theresa, also a writer and author. 


I wrote...

Behind the Badge in River City: A Portland Police Memoir

By Don Dupay,

Book cover of Behind the Badge in River City: A Portland Police Memoir

What is my book about?

Behind the Badge in River City: A Portland Police Memoir is a memoir detailing the struggles and challenges I faced in my 17 years as a street cop and detective in Portland. It details the corruption and working conditions of the early 1960s when I was assigned to the Albina ghetto and my success as a young detective for over eleven years. The theme of the book is basically how the arc of “burn-out” can end a career. If I had gotten more support and had not been expected to internalize all the stress I endured from the trauma of police work, I might have been able to last the 25 years that it took an officer to get the pension and might have been able to help more people. 

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond

By Bruce Shlain, Martin A. Lee,

Book cover of Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond

Why this book?

Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD, the CIA, the Sixties and Beyond is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Even though I worked in Naval intelligence while I was on active duty in Germany, during the Cold War, I was still surprised at what Acid Dreams revealed about the US government and how for example, government officials were actively searching for a drug that would make American soldiers more amenable to killing. The book details how the government set out to destroy the black culture and imprison young black leaders for mostly minor drug offenses. It further explores the ways the government secretly studied the effects of LSD on its citizens. I loved this book because it opens the reader's eyes to the radical ways some government factions tried to manipulate the masses and deceive them, using the guise of the greater good as justification.

Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond

By Bruce Shlain, Martin A. Lee,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Acid Dreams as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Few events have had a more profound impact on the social and cultural upheavals of the Sixties than the psychedelic revolution spawned by the spread of LSD. This book for the first time tells the full and astounding story—part of it hidden till now in secret Government files—of the role the mind-altering drug played in our recent turbulent history and the continuing influence it has on our time.

And what a story it is, beginning with LSD’s discovery in 1943 as the most potent drug known to science until it spilled into public view some twenty years later to set…


Smoke Signals

By Sherman Alexie,

Book cover of Smoke Signals

Why this book?

This is a book that shares intimate glimpses into the lives of a handful of Native Americans living on an Indian Reservation in the late 20th century. The book is full of humor, irony, and wit and was later made into a popular film. There are moments that are amusing and funny, but loneliness and a sense of apathy make their way into the storyline as well, as Victor, the lead character, tries to navigate the unpredictable family life he finds himself in. As a small boy he witnesses the damaging effects of alcoholism and what it does to his father and other family members, much like Sherman Alexie did himself. Victor is deeply resentful of his father’s abandonment when he was a child, and resents his friend Thomas for admiring his father for things like eating 15 pieces of fry bread in one sitting.

Victor struggles to find his true nature and vacillates between being cynical and aggressive, and melancholy and sentimental. Tasked with the obligation of going to his father’s beat-up mobile home to get his effects and then his father’s ashes, after he passes away, Victor learns to forgive his father for his weaknesses and learns about his father and himself in the process before releasing his ashes into a river and letting go of some of the pain of the past. I enjoyed this book because it shows the human side of Native Americans struggling to survive in a hostile and isolated landscape. You learn to care about the characters as you read and find that you can’t forget them.

Smoke Signals

By Sherman Alexie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Smoke Signals as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Book by Alexie, Sherman


White Crow

By John W. Wood, Richard Wildbur (editor),

Book cover of White Crow

Why this book?

White Crow is a story that takes place in the early 1800s in California when it was still a territory, a part of Mexico, and before it became a state. The book details the story of a white boy, raised by Indians because his parents were killed. He becomes an Indian warrior whom they call White Crow and accept into their tribe. The book is like a western story, but much more complex. It shares the struggles of the lead character, Isaiah Crow, and how he becomes a part of the tribe. He marries an Indian woman and they have a child. Their son, Jedadiah grows up and carries on many of the traditions and customs he learns from the tribe but in a more modern California. I enjoyed this story because it's such a gripping story and Wood does an outstanding job of character development in this book. You learn to care about the characters in this book, because they seem so real and accessible, as if they really existed.

White Crow

By John W. Wood, Richard Wildbur (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked White Crow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the 19th century West begins the saga of a powerful family.

After mountain man Isaiah Crow arrives in Alta California, he saves a group of people from local bandits.

As luck would have it, they are family and Vaqueros from the rancho of Don Hernando Batista, one of the most powerful families in Southern California - and very anxious to take their new friends to meet the Patron.

After Señor Batista introduces his daughter Francisca to Isaiah, the two soon fall in love. From this union a child - Jedadiah - is born. He will learn not only how…


The Great Gatsby

By F. Scott Fitzgerald,

Book cover of The Great Gatsby

Why this book?

This is a book everyone should read. The language is as fresh today, as when it was published in 1925 and demonstrates a uniquely American lingo. The intensely romantic prose centers on the immorality of wealthy people and how lower-income people pay the price but the rich never do. Gatsby is a handsome “young roughneck” who cannot get over his youthful love for the now-married Daisy Buchanan. But “Rich girls don’t marry poor boys” and so their love is doomed. Gatsby makes it his obsession to earn the money he thinks he should in order to win Daisy back, despite the fact that she’s married and has a child. All the sad characters in the book are punished, like George Wilson and his wife, Myrtle, the ones who were or are poor.

The rich are able to fall back into the lush protection of their money. The last thing the protagonist Nick says to Gatsby, (who is a transparent depiction of Fitzgerald’s real-life persona) is…”They’re a rotten crowd. You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.” This book is a masterpiece for many reasons. Namely, because the issues presented in the book are timeless and repeated decade after decade. Class, gender power struggles, wealth, and deception are all themes in The Great Gatsby and contribute to its universal appeal and it is for these reasons that I enjoyed reading this wonderful novel.

The Great Gatsby

By F. Scott Fitzgerald,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked The Great Gatsby as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As the summer unfolds, Nick is drawn into Gatsby's world of luxury cars, speedboats and extravagant parties. But the more he hears about Gatsby - even from what Gatsby himself tells him - the less he seems to believe. Did he really go to Oxford University? Was Gatsby a hero in the war? Did he once kill a man? Nick recalls how he comes to know Gatsby and how he also enters the world of his cousin Daisy and her wealthy husband Tom. Does their money make them any happier? Do the stories all connect? Shall we come to know…


A Moveable Feast

By Ernest Hemingway,

Book cover of A Moveable Feast

Why this book?

A Moveable Feast is a wonderful book for the way that it goes into such minute detail about living life in Paris France as an expatriate writer and in many ways as a rebel. The drunken nights, what they drank, how many drinks they had, it is all detailed in this book. His memories of this time in his life are vivid, warm, witty, and full of affection for those other writers of note who were also expatriates and authors, escaping prohibition in America for the free-wheeling fun of Paris and booze. The book depicts his early life as a writer, seeking the approval of other writers like Gertrude Stein and even F. Scott Fitzgerald, with whom he had something of a competitive relationship. Part of the book details the drunken escapades that he and Fitzgerald engaged in, to the point where they crashed a car, while driving drunk. The book, for any writing student, teaches the importance of details, or as Heminway was once quoted as saying, the importance of “writing the one true sentence.” A Moveable Feast is a fun book to read and insightful and informative all at the same time. The flow is perfect and it shows how Hemingway was able to write more than a few “true” sentences.

A Moveable Feast

By Ernest Hemingway,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked A Moveable Feast as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Published posthumously in 1964, A Moveable Feast remains one of Ernest Hemingway's most beloved works. Since Hemingway's personal papers were released in 1979, scholars have examined and debated the changes made to the text before publication. Now this new special restored edition presents the original manuscript as the author prepared it to be published.

Featuring a personal foreword by Patrick Hemingway, Ernest's sole surviving son, and an introduction by the editor and grandson of the author, Sean Hemingway, this new edition also includes a number of unfinished, never-before-published Paris sketches revealing experiences that Hemingway had with his son Jack and…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in film, Ernest Hemingway, and California?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about film, Ernest Hemingway, and California.

Film Explore 148 books about film
Ernest Hemingway Explore 37 books about Ernest Hemingway
California Explore 253 books about California

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Denial of Death, Homage to Catalonia, and Thomas Jefferson's European Travel Diaries if you like this list.