20 Essential Seattle Books, Part 3: Place

Next in our ongoing series of 20 books that capture the essence of Seattle, we look at a variety of titles that capture a sense of our city and its environs. Whether you’re new in town, just passing through, or you’ve lived here all your life, these titles will enhance your awareness of and appreciation for the misty charms of this city on the Sound.

cliff-massThe bluest skies that you’ll ever see are in Seattle, unless of course they’re hidden by fifty shades of grey. While less extreme than many other areas of the country, our soggy maritime weather has always been a big part of our identity and outlook: not for nothing are Puget Sound natives called “mossbacks.” Given that weather forms a lion’s share of our small talk, reading Weather of the Pacific Northwest, by local climate celebrity Cliff Mass will up your game when it comes to discussing convergence zones, onshore flow, and our Seattle specialty, the “occasional sunbreak.”

tim-eganMeteorology not your thing? Check out Tim Egan’s 1990 The Good Rain: Across Time and Terrain in the Pacific Northwest for a more personal and evocative exploration of the beauty and fragility of the Northwest landscape. In vivid prose Egan etches the water-shaped, forested home looking back over a century into the past, and presciently forward to the increasing sprawl, clearcutting and traffic of the past twenty-five years. (For more particular approaches to our environs, check out Richard Morril and Michael Brown’s Seattle Geographies, David Williams’ Too High and Too Steep: Reshaping Seattle’s Topography, and Matthew Kringle’s Emerald City: An Environmental History of Seattle. Or for a disturbing look at what simmers beneath our city’s surface, locals are well advised to check out Sandi Doughton’s Full Rip 9.0: The Next Big Earthquake in the Pacific Northwest. (Long story short: have your emergency plans ready.)  Continue reading “20 Essential Seattle Books, Part 3: Place”

20 Essential Seattle Books, Part 2: Diversity

Here at the library, we’re often asked by both locals and newcomers, “What books are must reads for Seattleites?” While we’re not much for ‘must’ or ‘should,’ we thought we’d list twenty titles that capture essential aspects of the history and culture of this place. Not a definitive list: a jumping off place. Our first post looked at Seattle’s history, and in today’s post we revisit that history through the lens of diversity.

no-no-boyThere are many excellent books about the Internment of Japanese Americans during the second World War, but one of the earliest – and one that holds special significance for Seattleites – is John Okada’s 1957 novel No-No Boy. After two years in an internment camp and two years in federal prison for declining military service and a loyalty oath, Ichiro Yamada returns home to Seattle to find himself alienated on all sides. For another view of experiences of Seattle’s Japanese Americans before and during the War, check out Monica Sone’s 1953 memoir Nisei Daughter
Continue reading “20 Essential Seattle Books, Part 2: Diversity”

A Little History of Seafair

 Photo of Seafair royalty with Navy men, ca. 1950 Courtesy Paul DorpatWith Seafair just around the corner, ever wonder about the history?

The Seafair Beginnings article on HistoryLink,org writes, “The first Seafair took place from August 11 to 20, 1950. Hundreds of thousands of people enjoyed more than 100 events throughout King County. The events ranged from a 25-mile bicycle race around Lake Sammamish to a decorated-boat parade on Lake Washington with 350 participating boats. Spectators witnessed a Police Pistol Contest at 106th Ave S and East Marginal Way, a steamboat race on Elliott Bay, a Coast Guard lifeboat race, also on Elliott Bay, a “husband calling” contest at Seward Park, and an operetta called “The Desert Song” at Volunteer Park attended by 10,000. Continue reading “A Little History of Seafair”

New Ways to Research Neighborhood History

View up Washington St. into Tenderloin District from Jackson St. Wharf, ca. 1892, Seattle Historical Photograph Collection

Curious to learn more about your neighborhood’s past? This month, we’ve added a great new resource to our Neighborhood History Project – The Northwest Subject Index Collection. This collection contains selected cards from the Seattle Room Northwest Subject Index and Post-Intelligencer Index. These cards contain citations which point to books, newspaper articles and archival collections available for research on particular neighborhoods. Often you will find little descriptions of a neighborhood’s history or an accompanying article. If you look at the cards in order, you can establish a good timeline of each neighborhood’s story. Continue reading “New Ways to Research Neighborhood History”

Wheedle’s Groove: Seattle’s Forgotten Soul of the 1960s and ’70s

On June 2nd, as a part of the African American Film Series, we will be screening the documentary Wheedle’s Groove: Seattle’s Forgotten Soul of the 1960s and ’70s. This documentary, directed by Jennifer Maas, and distributed by local record label Light in the Attic Records, captures some of the heyday of Seattle’s soul, funk and R & B that was lost to time until avid record collector DJ Mr. Supreme came across some Seattle labels and amazing Seattle sounds. But Seattle’s living legends and fans remember, and Wheedle’s Groove brought this important history to life and back into the limelight. Continue reading “Wheedle’s Groove: Seattle’s Forgotten Soul of the 1960s and ’70s”