Set in the West: Your Novel Picks

October 22, 2013 | By | Comments (5)


I’ve only been to Seattle once (what? I’m new here.), but that didn’t stop me from cracking up on nearly every page of Maria Semple’s novel Where’d You Go, BernadetteHer lovingly satirical depiction of the city gave me an idea: What better way to get to know the West than by reading books set in it? I took to Twitter for your recommendations and found out you guys love Steinbeck. You are so cool.

Here are your top picks:

East of Eden by John Steinbeck Monterey was my first destination when I moved to California four months ago. I’m not going back until I’ve read my fill of this Cain and Abel parable, plus The Grapes of Wrath and Cannery Row. I owe it to the literary giant who set much of his work in my new state–and to the former English major languishing in me.

The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin Poetic talk of growing food, mystery, and a historical setting: This debut novel set in the Cascades has all the signs of becoming the next book I tell everyone I know to read.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion It’s by Joan Didion. Do I need another reason to read this? OK, here’s one: These essays will give me smart things to say about the history of Haight-Ashbury when I take friends to sightsee.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed This book is the one that got away for me. I’ve passed it in bookstores, I’ve hunted for it in the library, I’ve even been taunted by a copy balancing on an elephantine stack of books in a colleague’s office, but another book has always gotten in the way. Not any more. This account of Strayed’s hike of the Pacific Crest Trail is shooting to number one on my fall reading list.

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner Someone on Twitter said this all-across-the-west epic family history is “Just about the perfect piece of writing.” Apparently the Pulitzer judges agreed because they awarded this novel their prize in 1972. Scratch the fall reading list, this one’s going on the bucket list.

Rounding out the list: On the Road by Jack Kerouac, Death Comes for the Archbishop by the unsurpassed Willa Cather, Jack London’s Valley of the Moon, and the Silicon Valley lifehack novel The Unknowns by debut novelist Gabriel Roth.

What did we miss? Share your favorites in the comments. 


  1. Gayle

    I live in Montana and ADORE Ivan Doig, especially his trilogy English Creek …all takes place in brutal Eastern Montana.

    October 23, 2013 at 9:40 am
    • linbergj

      Gayle, yay for a Montana recommendation! That’s going on my list.

      And Willa Cather’s anything is a good choice.

      October 25, 2013 at 2:56 pm
  2. arayofsun

    I just finished “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” and now I’m reading “Wild”! But my favorite Western book of all time (the one that got me thinking about living here) is Willa Cather’s “My Antonia”.

    October 22, 2013 at 5:07 pm
  3. Sonja

    One of my Seattle-based favorites: The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. From Amazon: A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope–a captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life . . . as only a dog could tell it.

    October 22, 2013 at 12:59 pm
    • linbergj

      Oooh, that sounds good. Thanks, Sonja!

      October 22, 2013 at 4:22 pm

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