Summer is always a great time for reading. It’s the prime season for taking vacations, going to Idaho’s mountains and lakes, or perhaps even to the Oregon Coast. Regardless, it’s always a great time to relax with a good book.
If you pick your books, as many do, from the New York Times best seller’s list, then you have a great opportunity to read books by two Idaho authors. Remarkably, both the number one fiction and non-fictions books on the list are currently by Idaho authors.
Delia Owns’ novel, “Where the Crawdads Sing,” is the current number one work of fiction and has been on the list for 42 weeks. She lives near Bonner Ferry in Boundary County.
Tara Westover’s memoir, “Educated,” is currently at the top of the non-fiction list. It has been on the list for 72 weeks. She was born and raised in Clifton, in Franklin County.
Although one is fiction and the other non-fiction, both books focus on similar themes. They are about young women from dysfunctional families who succeed in making their way in the world on their own terms.
Idaho has a wealth of terrific authors and summer is the time to become more familiar with them.
In 2015, Boise author Anthony Doer won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction with his book “Al the Light We Cannot See.” If you’ve read that, consider one of his earlier collections of short stories, “The Shell Collector” or Memory Wall.”
Denis Johnson, another Boundary County resident, won the National Book Award in 2007 for his novel “Tree Smoke.” But my favorite of his books is “Train Dreams,” a novel about a common laborer in northern Idaho who helped build the rail lines over a hundred years ago that served the timber and mining industries. Johnson passed away in 2017.
Another Pulitzer Prize winner with northern Idaho roots is Marilyn Robinson. She grew up in Sandpoint and won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2005 for her novel “Gilead.” My favorite Robinson novel is “Housekeeping” which is about two girls growing up in a town modeled after Sandpoint. The book won the PEN/Hemingway Award. In 2012, President Obama presented Robinson with the National Humanities Medal.
Your summer reading can be both enjoyable and teach you things about our great state. “Educated” takes you inside the culture of a rural area in southeastern Idaho. “Train Dreams” gives you a close-up look at the struggles of working people who helped develop Idaho. “Housekeeping” gives you a look at the culture in northern Idaho, but 650 miles – and a world --away from the location of “Educated.”
When you are out enjoying all that nature has to offer in Idaho, you might consider taking along “Idaho Wilderness Considered,” published by the Idaho Humanities Council. The book is a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. It features essays and interviews by 25 contributors looking at the politics, history and esthetics of wilderness.
There are a number of fine Idaho guidebooks to take on your travels. One of the best is Cort Conley’s “Idaho for the Curious.” It’s a 700-page travel guide that will taker you to nearly every corner of the state and into places that you may or may not have ever heard of, regardless of how long you’ve lived in Idaho.
If you enjoy drinking wine and visiting wineries, pick up a copy of “Idaho Wine Country” by Alan Minskoff and Paul Hosefros. It takes you from the Magic Valley to the Panhandle and provides a fascinating history of Idaho’s wine industry that began in the 1870s in Lewiston. Hopefully, someone is currently working on a similar guide to Idaho’s substantial beer industry.
There is lots to see and experience in Idaho. I had a friend who used to maintain that the residents of Moscow know more about the moon than they do about Idaho Falls. So pick up some books by Idaho authors to both entertain you and help you to know your state better. Here’s a toast with a glass of Idaho wine to good summer reading?