Your Oregon-Made Fall Reading List
Temperatures are dropping, fireplaces are burning, and the concept of “curling up with a good book” is waking from a summerlong slumber to dust off its knit sweaters. With long nights in on the horizon (and the Portland Book Festival just around the corner), Portland Monthly has prepared a locals-only reading list to end all locals-only reading lists.
Behold: your Oregon-grown best-bets for fall 2022 reading.
Denial by Jon Raymond
This potent sorta-thriller from author-slash-screenwriter Jon Raymond offers a refreshingly low-key vision of the future that’s bracing in its lack of lurid detail. Set in Portland in 2052, Denial imagines a world where we’ve prosecuted the worst propagators of climate change—namely fossil fuel CEOs—and then been forced to forge on anyway, slightly better off but not exactly utopia-bound. The crux of the action centers on a journalist who traces a fugitive CEO to Mexico, but Raymond is less interested in pace and more interested in moral murk, which makes for a speedy, satisfying, thought-provoking read.
The Stars Did Wander Darkling by Colin Meloy
It bears repeating: more horror stories should take place on the Oregon coast. Decemberists front man Colin Meloy knows that, and in his latest book for young readers he harnesses all the misty foreboding and barely tamed wildness of Beaver State beaches for a surprisingly potent chiller about bike-riding kids who face down an evil, body-snatching force. Any echoes of Stranger Things are certainly intentional, but The Stars Did Wander Darkling is more impressive for the way it deviates from traditional adolescent entertainments than the way it mimics them.
This is marketed as a middle-grade read for tweens 8–12, but there’s no compromise in its brutality, vocabulary, or intelligence. With the rare page-turner that truly transcends age groups, Meloy has constructed a book kids will stay up reading with a flashlight while their parents do the same across the hall.
Thrust, Lidia Yuknavitch
Yuknavitch’s Oregon Book Award-netting career has taken some fascinating shapes: she’s penned off-kilter memoirs and essay collections, a TED book and a speculative retelling of one of Freud’s most famous case studies. Her first published work, Caverns, was a novel forged beside 13 other writers under the guidance of Ken Kesey, and her most famous, The Chronology of Water, is set to become Kristen Stewart’s big-screen directorial debut. This year, she put out Thrust, her first foray into talking-animal fiction, whose “sensitive attunement to marine ecosystems,” the New York Times proclaimed, “had [them] looking at [their] bathtub sea sponge with new eyes.” Fans of Yuknavitch's rich eccentricities would do well to take the plunge.
Playing the Long Game by Christine Sinclair
The Olympic gold medalist slash Thorns captain has something big to offer soccer fans this fall: a memoir from one of the all-time greats. Beside Canadian sports journalist Stephen Brunt, one of the Rose City's brightest athletic stars digs into her past, present, and future, demystifying athletic greatness and strengthening our city's image as one of the foremost women's soccer havens on the planet.
The Nineties by Chuck Klosterman
The ’90s were the last wave of universal societal norms, says pop culture essayist Chuck Klosterman. Revolutionary advents of social media, before that cell phones, and before that, caller ID, marked a sea change of how we navigate social relationships. In the ’90s, you answered the phone to find out who’s calling and you watched Seinfeld, says Klosterman—you being everyone. Klosterman, a long-time Portlander and lauded archivist of a particularly angsty facet of pop culture (2003’s Sex Drugs and Coco Puffs detailed, among many other things, why exactly we are all so enamored with Pam Anderson’s boobs) may well be the most poised American to catalog the decade of Nirvana, Oprah, and Alan Greenspan.
Maya’s Song by Renée Watson
The latest work from this Jefferson High School grad and New York Times bestselling author (to say nothing of her contributions to Portland Monthly) is a biography in poems of Maya Angelou, geared towards readers aged four to eight. The book, illustrated by the Coretta Scott King Award-winning artist Bryan Collier, explores Angelou’s friendships with Martin Luther King Jr. and James Baldwin, and has been applauded for its accurate but kid-friendly storytelling of Angelou’s difficult life.