I first learned about Jack Nisbet when I was visiting my Aunt Noreen in Chewelah, Washington. Jack had just released his book Sources of the River: Tracking David Thompson across Western North America and was working on his next book, Purple Flat Top: In Pursuit of a Place, a collection of short stories about the people and places he’d encountered in the Inland Northwest. The stories included one called Carousel about my grandfather, who Jack at one time lived nearby.
I’ve seen Jack speak and read from his books on numerous occasions since. The first was when he accepted the Washington Governor’s Award for his book Sources of the River in 1995; then a year or two later, I attended a reading of Purple Flat Top. For the latter, I wore my grandfather’s striped bib overalls to mark the occasion.
While reading Jack’s books, I became a fan of his narrative style and the tales he tells of people and place throughout the Pacific Northwest. I particularly enjoy the way that he weaves stories of natural history and cultural history while bringing his deep knowledge of the subjects to bear. The wonderful thing about Jack’s books is that you feel you’re along for the ride, traveling by canoe or horseback and meeting the fur traders, naturalists, Native Americans, and others that cross paths with the subject.
Most recently I saw Jack in January 2011, when he was a keynote speaker at an annual event of the Book Club of Washington. At that time his most recent book was The Collector: David Douglas and the Natural History of the Northwest. For an engaging hour or two Jack shared slides, photographs, maps, trivia, and the like from his research.
After reading the Collector, I’m excited to read Jack’s latest book, David Douglas, a Naturalist at Work, and I’m looking forward to Jack’s presentation at the Central Library on November 13th. Here’s a list of books I’ve compiled that complement Jack’s work and the themes he explores, including Pacific Northwest natural history.