The best books about Oregon

7 authors have picked their favorite books about Oregon and why they recommend each book.

Soon, you will be able to filter by genre, age group, and more. Sign up here to follow our story as we build a better way to explore books.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission (learn more).

Christians on the Oregon Trail

By Jerry Rushford,

Book cover of Christians on the Oregon Trail: Churches of Christ and Christian Churches in Early Oregon, 1842-1882

You may not realize that the reason many came across the Oregon Trail was because of their religious and moral beliefs. Christians on the Oregon Trail highlights many well-known Oregon pioneers and details how their Christian beliefs inspired them both on the trail and once they arrived in Oregon. Some of those detailed are: Jason Lee, the Whitmans, Reuben Lewis, and many others. The book gives you also some of the theological underpinnings of the pioneers. 


Who am I?

I’ve always been a history lover. Since my 7th-grade teacher brought history to life I have been interested in a wide variety of topics and times. After living in Oregon for twenty-five years I found myself wanting to contribute to the cataloging of this great state’s history. The niche I discovered was to explore the world of work over Oregon’s history. Researching Oregon at Work: 1859-2009 I spent many hours across kitchen tables with the descendants of Oregon pioneers. They had boxes of ancient documents and photographs on their side, I came equipped with my laptop and scanner. Through this process, I researched thousands of documents, books, maps, diaries, photos, and more. I became an expert on the subject and my interest only grew.


I wrote...

Oregon at Work: 1859-2009

By Tom Fuller, Art Ayre,

Book cover of Oregon at Work: 1859-2009

What is my book about?

Travel through time as we trace the lives and occupations of twenty Oregon pioneers from state founding and into the 21st century. With many never-before-seen photographs and diaries of those who lived the life of true pioneers. We weave into the narrative many fun and interesting facts about life in three major periods of Oregon history. We also feature special sections on minority and indigenous people who form a vital part of Oregon history. “An immersive read” one reviewer said.

Something Worth Doing

By Jane Kirkpatrick,

Book cover of Something Worth Doing: A Novel of an Early Suffragist

Jane Kirkpatrick, a New York Times bestselling writer of over 35 books, specializes in fictionalizing true stories of prominent women in history who are often unknown to today’s readers. Something Worth Doing, a historical novel, brings to life the story of Abigail Scott Duniway, an early suffragist and pioneer in the 19th century Pacific Northwest. As a married woman and mother of eight living children, Kirkpatrick weaves together Dunn's challenges as a newspaper publisher, primary breadwinner, and national speaker fighting for the rights of women and the vote. 

Kirkpatrick, a psychologist, illustrates the universal pulls between career and family in a male-dominated sphere. One of my favorite genres is historical fiction and Kirkpatrick backs her novels with significant historical research.  


Who am I?

While a history student at the University of Washington I became aware that courses never included more than a paragraph on the important contributions of women, such as Eleanor Roosevelt or Jane Addams. I longed to know more. What gave some women motivation to defy conventions and use their talents?  When I first learned that Helga Estby’s audacious achievement was silenced for over 100 years, it launched me into over 15 years of research trying to recover this forgotten woman’s story.  As a writing professor for twenty years, I saw how assigning papers that led to exploring and understanding the women in one’s family background deeply enriched college students' lives.


I wrote...

Bold Spirit: Helga Estby's Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America

By Linda Lawrence Hunt,

Book cover of Bold Spirit: Helga Estby's Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America

What is my book about?

Defying all assumptions about women in 1896, a determined and desperate eight living children, Helga Estby and her daughter Clara dared to walk over 3500 miles on a $10,000 wager trying to save her family farm. Using their wits and a Smith and Wesson, they battled snowstorms, hunger, mountain lions, and the occasional thief walking from Spokane, Washington to New York City.

Accomplishing what was once deemed impossible, they arrived in New York heralded by the city’s newspapers for their astonishing achievement. But their triumph was quickly complicated by deep disappointment, betrayal, and heartbreaking news from home, all of which combined to silence their remarkable story among their family and friends for generations. A favorite with book clubs and winner of several literary awards.

Annie's Song

By Catherine Anderson,

Book cover of Annie's Song

This was the first romance I ever read that featured a deaf character. I loved how much research the author did on the subject and how much I learned. This book broke my heart as Annie was again and again mistreated and underestimated until Alex realized that the problem was her ears, not her mind. 

I really loved Alex's character. He marries Annie because she was raped by his brother and becomes pregnant. I loved his sense of duty and honor. I loved his attempts at trying to do right by Annie even when they were misinformed. 

My favorite takeaway from this book was that no one should decide for another person what they need and the able community needs to not make assumptions but to listen to what those with disabilities say about their needs.


Who am I?

I think it is so important for everyone to be able to see others get their happily ever after. Illness and disability doesn't mean a person can't or shouldn't find love. Everyone should be able to find love. I love seeing characters find their happily ever after even if they aren't physically perfect. 


I wrote...

Wedding the Widow

By Jane B. Night,

Book cover of Wedding the Widow

What is my book about?

Wedding the Widow is a historical romance. Charlotte is widowed, pregnant, and unable to continue her journey westward on a wagon train. Augustus, whose previous girlfriend left him when he became an amputee, agrees to a marriage of convenience however it doesn't take long for both parties to realize there is a real potential for love.

A Girl from Yamhill

By Beverly Cleary,

Book cover of A Girl from Yamhill: A Memoir

Beverly Cleary's kid's books have been enjoyed by many generations of readers. I loved her true to life, tinged with humor books as a reader, teacher, and writer.

Like me, many readers wonder about the lives of people we admire and luckily Cleary has written a riveting, direct, and insightful memoir that helps us connect her fiction with her real-life experiences. Throughout Cleary comes across as someone we wish we knew.


Who am I?

From the time I was a kid, I loved books about real people who lived through difficult and colorful times.  As a writer, I’ve written about people whose lives fascinated and inspired me like Franklin Law Olmsted (The Man Who Made Parks) I believe that a riveting story or memoir gives the reader a strong sense of a person and the times in which they lived. And after reading one of these books, I wanted to know more about the person and the period in which they lived.


I wrote...

Avis Dolphin

By Frieda Wishinsky, Willow Dawson (illustrator),

Book cover of Avis Dolphin

What is my book about?

Avis Dolphin is an unforgettable novel inspired by the true account of a young girl on the ill-fated Lusitania. It’s also a story of friendship, courage, and resilience set amidst war and unexpected terror.

The Jump-Off Creek

By Molly Gloss,

Book cover of The Jump-Off Creek

An immersive and atmospheric novel, The Jump-Off Creek follows a taciturn widow named Lydia into the Oregon wilderness where she hopes to homestead. Resourceful, fiercely independent (and determined to stay that way) she nonetheless finds herself drawn into a bedraggled community of homesteaders and frontiersmen. Yes, there’s a love interest, but that is a subplot, not the story. The story is one of survival and grit set in a landscape as beautiful and unforgiving as the weather.

Molly Gloss is a master storyteller. I find each of her books quite different but equally compelling. The Jump-Off Creek might be my favorite only because it was my first taste of her work. And, of course, I remain in awe of the indomitable Lydia.


Who am I?

I don’t write about well-behaved women. I prefer rebels and outcasts, women who, by choice or circumstance, live outside of social norms. 19th-century American history is full of such women—if you know where to look. Hint: not in most public-school textbooks. They’re found, instead, in archives and libraries, in old newspapers and journals, in family letters and autobiographies. The characters in my most recent novel, Reliance, Illinois, were inspired by badass 19th-century women, such as Victoria Woodhull, Mary Livermore, and Olympia Brown. Each of the novels in the list below were inspired by or based on audacious women. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have!  


I wrote...

Reliance, Illinois

By Mary Volmer,

Book cover of Reliance, Illinois

What is my book about?

Illinois, 1874: With a birthmark covering half her face, thirteen-year-old Madelyn Branch is accustomed to cold and awkward greetings and expects no less in the struggling town of Reliance. Her mother, Rebecca, was careful not to mention a daughter in the Matrimonial Times ad that brought them there.

When Rebecca weds, Madelyn poses as her mother’s younger sister and earns a grudging berth in her new house. Madelyn soon leaves to enter the service of Miss Rose Werner, prodigal daughter of the town’s founder. Miss Rose is a suffragist and purveyor of black market birth control who sees in Madelyn a project and potential acolyte. At first, Madelyn simply wants to feel beautiful and loved. But, when a series of troubling events threaten the small town, Madelyn must make a life-changing choice. 

Silver Thaw

By Catherine Anderson,

Book cover of Silver Thaw

This story stayed with me for some time after I read it. The main character's situation was so palpable my heart ached for her. Any book that touches my heart is a must-read for all my friends. The setting is winter; to really understand it, read it then. It will add to its power. The courage both characters show when facing the odds is heartwarming.


Who am I?

Like many, I am a sucker for a Happy Ever After. I want to drift upon the clouds of peaceful surrender. But let's face it, we hurdle back to reality and face plant. And because of that, I write romance with the heartache of truth. I gravitate toward contemporary romance because of the tough topics characters face as they find love. I’ve written seven romance novels and one YA. I run three writing groups and work for Munchkin Lane developing/designing Early Childhood Readers. I have a master’s degree in creative writing with an emphasis in Young Adult and a bachelor's in creative writing. 


I wrote...

Midnight's Dream: Book One of the Verbecks of Idaho

By R.E.S. Tidmore,

Book cover of Midnight's Dream: Book One of the Verbecks of Idaho

What is my book about?

Emma Verbeck has always lived in the shadows of her older brothers. After a tragic accident befalls the Verbeck family, her loving brothers are too overprotective, and Emma has been struggling ever since to find her own voice. Her sensitive and empathetic nature as the town doctor offers her an identity all to herself.

In the first book of the Verbecks of Idaho series, the past has the power to turn lives upside down and family loyalties are tested. This is a story about love against all odds and learning how to forgive.

A Sweetness to the Soul

By Jane Kirkpatrick,

Book cover of A Sweetness to the Soul

This story takes place in the 1800's in the area where I live, so it holds a special connection for me. But beyond that it is an interesting tale of real-life struggles and overcoming those obstacles. The book describes frontier life in an authentic and stirring way. The local author knows the history and facts of the area and weaves them well into the story.


Who am I?

While the subject matter of the books on my list may vary, the thing that ties them together is the suspenseful tension that builds and keeps the reader on edge. The unexpected twists and turns are the "secret sauce"  that adds flavor and fervor. I like the way each of these books keeps your mind from wandering by combining vivid imagery with a compelling storyline. As an author myself, I am always fascinated by those who make it look so easy and effortless. And as an avid reader, I constantly search for these kind of books; the kind that make you feel as if you just have to keep reading.


I wrote...

Over My Dead Body

By Bruce A. Borders,

Book cover of Over My Dead Body

What is my book about?

When the director of Child Protective Services uses his position to exact a personal vendetta in removing three-year-old Ashley from her home, a protective father, Jeff Blake, puts up a fight. The situation quickly becomes violent and by the end of the short encounter, three people are dead. Ironically, Ashley is still taken.

To further complicate matters, Amy, the wife and mother, winds up in a mental ward due to the trauma she witnessed in her home. Ashley is placed in foster care, while the family’s attorneys attempt to salvage what they can and re-unite the family. The police, as well as the courts, understandably, are not too concerned with the needs of the family and it seems the entire justice system is against them.

The First Oregonians

By Laura Berg (editor),

Book cover of The First Oregonians

I love the authenticity of this book. The voices are of First Residents, not settlers. It gives the reader the inside story as to what native Oregonians thought of incoming pioneers and how they impacted tribal life. It captures not only the decimation brought on native tribes but also how they reconstructed and revitalized themselves over time. To truly understand Oregon you must understand its native residents - this book accomplishes that in spades!


Who am I?

I’ve always been a history lover. Since my 7th-grade teacher brought history to life I have been interested in a wide variety of topics and times. After living in Oregon for twenty-five years I found myself wanting to contribute to the cataloging of this great state’s history. The niche I discovered was to explore the world of work over Oregon’s history. Researching Oregon at Work: 1859-2009 I spent many hours across kitchen tables with the descendants of Oregon pioneers. They had boxes of ancient documents and photographs on their side, I came equipped with my laptop and scanner. Through this process, I researched thousands of documents, books, maps, diaries, photos, and more. I became an expert on the subject and my interest only grew.


I wrote...

Oregon at Work: 1859-2009

By Tom Fuller, Art Ayre,

Book cover of Oregon at Work: 1859-2009

What is my book about?

Travel through time as we trace the lives and occupations of twenty Oregon pioneers from state founding and into the 21st century. With many never-before-seen photographs and diaries of those who lived the life of true pioneers. We weave into the narrative many fun and interesting facts about life in three major periods of Oregon history. We also feature special sections on minority and indigenous people who form a vital part of Oregon history. “An immersive read” one reviewer said.

With Her Own Wings

By Helen Krebs Smith, Gladys Chilstrom,

Book cover of With Her Own Wings: Historical Sketches, Reminiscences and Anecdotes of Pioneer Women

We often think of Oregon pioneers were hardy men setting off for a new promised land. In reality, the women who made the perilous journey and carved a life out of the Oregon wilderness are the real heroes. This book captures the pioneer spirit of the women who ventured out west, and those already in the land. One of the things I like best about this book is the narrative fashion - as if we are living in the shoes or moccasins of the women featured. There is a great article about Sacajawea, the only woman in the Lewis and Clark expedition.


Who am I?

I’ve always been a history lover. Since my 7th-grade teacher brought history to life I have been interested in a wide variety of topics and times. After living in Oregon for twenty-five years I found myself wanting to contribute to the cataloging of this great state’s history. The niche I discovered was to explore the world of work over Oregon’s history. Researching Oregon at Work: 1859-2009 I spent many hours across kitchen tables with the descendants of Oregon pioneers. They had boxes of ancient documents and photographs on their side, I came equipped with my laptop and scanner. Through this process, I researched thousands of documents, books, maps, diaries, photos, and more. I became an expert on the subject and my interest only grew.


I wrote...

Oregon at Work: 1859-2009

By Tom Fuller, Art Ayre,

Book cover of Oregon at Work: 1859-2009

What is my book about?

Travel through time as we trace the lives and occupations of twenty Oregon pioneers from state founding and into the 21st century. With many never-before-seen photographs and diaries of those who lived the life of true pioneers. We weave into the narrative many fun and interesting facts about life in three major periods of Oregon history. We also feature special sections on minority and indigenous people who form a vital part of Oregon history. “An immersive read” one reviewer said.

Schoolmarms

By Helen Rees Guyton,

Book cover of Schoolmarms

This book details the life of Ada Bell, a young woman who traveled all by herself to the tiny community of Bakeoven, Oregon to teach school. The “town” consisted of a hotel, a blacksmith’s shop, a store, a post office, a stage stop - and not much more. Ada got off the stage with no idea where to go or how to start her life as a teacher. Ada encapsulates the pioneer spirit as she forges a life and impacts the lives of her students over the years.


Who am I?

I’ve always been a history lover. Since my 7th-grade teacher brought history to life I have been interested in a wide variety of topics and times. After living in Oregon for twenty-five years I found myself wanting to contribute to the cataloging of this great state’s history. The niche I discovered was to explore the world of work over Oregon’s history. Researching Oregon at Work: 1859-2009 I spent many hours across kitchen tables with the descendants of Oregon pioneers. They had boxes of ancient documents and photographs on their side, I came equipped with my laptop and scanner. Through this process, I researched thousands of documents, books, maps, diaries, photos, and more. I became an expert on the subject and my interest only grew.


I wrote...

Oregon at Work: 1859-2009

By Tom Fuller, Art Ayre,

Book cover of Oregon at Work: 1859-2009

What is my book about?

Travel through time as we trace the lives and occupations of twenty Oregon pioneers from state founding and into the 21st century. With many never-before-seen photographs and diaries of those who lived the life of true pioneers. We weave into the narrative many fun and interesting facts about life in three major periods of Oregon history. We also feature special sections on minority and indigenous people who form a vital part of Oregon history. “An immersive read” one reviewer said.

Or, view all 37 books about Oregon

New book lists related to Oregon

All book lists related to Oregon

Bookshelves related to Oregon