You may have heard that Oregonians love books. We love to read them, write them and host book clubs about them. In fact, did you know that we have a City of Books with a fully-fledged Mayor? Ummm ok…well maybe we’re stretching it a wee bit…but you get the picture. Oregonians love books!

Being the book lovers that we are, we’ve compiled a list of some fabulous books written where Oregon figures as a main character. Because we love characters, I mean, dreamers.

I dig stories about people who leave their creature-comforts behind and set out on epic road trips or crazy journeys to experience a new part of their world. William L. Sullivan, a fifth-generation Oregonian, has hiked pretty much every trail in Oregon. His entertaining book, Listening for Coyote: A Walk Across Oregon’s Wilderness recounts his earnest and sometimes amusing search for true wilderness.

His 1,361-mile solo backpacking trek across Oregon from the westernmost beach at Cape Blanco to the easternmost depths of Hells Canyon took him two months back in 1985. He blends interesting facts with personal observations about the quirky folks he met and pristine places he saw. It made me want to put on my hiking shoes and hit the trail.

Listening for Coyote: A Walk Across Oregon’s Wilderness may be purchased here .

Here are some favorite books from some of our friends around Oregon:

“For me, Ken Kesey’s Sometimes A Great Notion captures the essence of the character and lifestyle of Western Oregon’s loggers in the mid-twentieth century. I grew up in a small farming/logging town at the base of the Coast Range, and when I first read this book I felt an instant sense of authenticity of people and place that I still feel at the mere mention of the book’s title.” - Merrialyce Blanchard, Librarian, Oregon State Library (Salem)

Sometimes A Great Notion may be purchased at

“One of my very favorite Oregon novels is Bernard Malamud’s A New Life, set in Corvallis, where Malamud taught at OSU for about a decade. Especially if you’ve moved to Oregon from a far-away part of the U.S. (as I did), you will enjoy this bittersweet portrait of a New Yorker trying to come to terms with his new home.” - Jim Scheppke, State Librarian, Oregon State Library (Salem)

A New Life may be purchased at Powells.


“I highly recommend Sheila Evans’ collection of interconnected short stories, Northport, Stories of the Coast. It is set in the fictional town of Northport, which is where the author lives.” - Sheryl Eldridge, Librarian, Newport Public Library (Newport)

Northport, Stories of the Coast may be purchased at Powells.


“Robin Cody’s eloquent Voyage of the Summer Sun chronicles his canoeing adventure from the source of the Columbia, in Canada, to the treacherous sand bar where the great river meets the Pacific.”Beth McKinnon, Manager, Estacada Public Library, (Estacada)

Voyage of the Summer Sun may be purchased at Powells.

“Beverly Cleary’s books about Ramona, Beezus and Henry Huggins are set on Klickitat Street in Portland (Ramona the Pest).” - Jane Ahern, Youth Services Manager, Jefferson County Library (Madras)

Ramona the Pest may be purchased at Powells.


Here’s another list to get you started: Literary Oregon, One Hundred Books, 1800-2000.

What is your favorite Oregon book? Leave a comment and tell us about a book that made you want to visit Oregon. Or just visit us vicariously through a great story. That’s okay too!

- Jennifer

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  1. Valery King says…

    For science fiction lovers, David Brin’s The Postman is a fascinating post-apocalyptic novel set in Oregon. It deals with the breakdown of civilization after a world war destroys all forms of electronic communication, and the power of a myth–a character dressed in a postal worker’s uniform and all that represents. I was most enthralled by the sections that take place in the Willamette Valley, that follow the protagonist from Cottage Grove to Corvallis. There’s a shoot-out in the University of Oregon’s Erb Memorial Union. OSU appears to be the last remaining pocket of modern civilization with the only functioning computer left in the world (reportedly, Brin once attended OSU). Portland, unfortunately, is only a nuclear glow on the horizon. Ignore the bad Kevin Costner movie: the book is much deeper, more thoughtful–and a lot more entertaining!

    Written on February 22nd, 2007 / Flag this Comment
  2. Julie Lopez says…

    Hi Jennifer,
    This is a great idea. I’ll take a look at my books at home and get back to you!! Thanks for sending me this link!!


    Written on February 23rd, 2007 / Flag this Comment
  3. Matt says…

    Listening for Coyote and Sometimes a Great Notion are two of my favorite books of all time — but they’re both pretty old. If you’re looking for a newer Oregon classic, check out Rogue River Journal from John Daniel. It’s the best new book about Oregon I’ve read in a very long time.

    Written on February 23rd, 2007 / Flag this Comment
  4. Distilled Publishing says…

    For anyone who is into a bit of history, I just published my own book about the bars of Portland, and the history behind many of them. The book is called, “Shots of Portland”. I know it isn’t exactly a character-driven novel, but Portland itself can be its own character for many of us.

    Written on May 22nd, 2007 / Flag this Comment

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