If you are packing a book for the plane ride, planning to curl up with a good book in a cozy B&B, or stashing a book in your beach bag for the lake or river...here is a list of great books about Oregon or by Oregon authors. Delve into the diverse stories from and about Oregon's people, places, events and ideas — all illustrating the irrepressible spirit manifest across the Eugene, Cascades & Coast region.
Danuta Pfeiffer is a vibrant member of the Eugene, Cascades & Coast community. She and her husband Robin are natural storytellers and entertainers, both in person with their knack for hosting events, and through the pages of Danuta's literature.
Pocket Full of Seeds Trilogy
"Libertas" and "Firmitas" are the first two books in a planned trilogy chronicling the adventures of Fredericka, the daughter of a White plantation owner, and Horace, a Black house slave, and their quest for freedom during the 19th century. In the second book, the two flee for freedom along the Oregon Trail enduring narrow escapes and plenty of hardships.
A must read! The remarkable story of one amazing woman's life from single motherhood in Alaska to evangelical Christian television to a winemaker's life in the Willamette Valley. Danuta Pfeiffer's memoir eventually lands in Veneta and Junction City, Oregon with a deep love for the land and its fruit.
Together they created Pfeiffer Vineyard with a unique wine grotto tasting room, water gardens and grand event pavilion where they hosted large wine tasting events. In early 2023, they sold business. However, you can still taste their wine at Pfeiffer's urban tasting room in downtown Eugene's Market Alley for a few more months.
A shoe empire began here, modestly created from a waffle iron and hawked from the back of a Volkswagen. Read the fantastic story firsthand from the perspective of Nike's Phil Knight.
Today Nike's stamp is evident across the University of Oregon campus from sports uniforms to spectacular sports facilities (Autzen Stadium renovations, Matthew Knight Arena, PK Park, Hayward Field) to the academic contributions (the Knight Library, the Willam W. Knight Law Center, the John E. Jaqua Academic Center for Student Athletes, and the new Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact). Nike's headquarters may be in Portland, but "Uncle Phil's" heart is obviously here in Eugene.
This is Cheryl Strayed's personal account of her ambitious solo trek along the Pacific Crest Trail on a determined journey of sheer will power and the mercy of nature. An inexperienced hiker with nothing to lose, she hiked from California to Washington, passing through the wilderness of Oregon's Cascade Mountains. The subsequent movie "Wild" was filmed here in Oregon.
Touch the PCT yourself at several trailheads that pass through the Eugene, Cascades & Coast region: Willamette Pass and McKenzie Pass. Today, Strayed lives in Portland, Oregon.
A fifth generation Oregonian, William L. Sullivan, is an avid outdoorsman and has published numerous guide books to the area. He has a masters degree in German literature from the University of Oregon and currently lives in Eugene, Oregon.
Listening for Coyote
This is Sullivan's story of hiking across Oregon from the coast to the eastern border in 1985. Based on the journal he kept during his two-month journey, the pages are packed with riveting descriptions of Oregon's rugged landscape.
Join Sullivan as he and his wife build a log cabin in Oregon's remote coastal range.
Notorious and prolific Springfield author, Ken Kesey caught the nation's attention with spectacles like the Merry Pranksters and his brightly painted bus "Furthur". His raw, edgy books push boundaries and incite questions. Tributes to Ken Kesey include "The Storyteller" statue at Kesey Square and a large mural of Ken Kesey in downtown Springfield on the wall of Plank Town Brewing Company. His family and his pals reside here, still big players in the community — from Nancy's Yogurt to Kesey Enterprises which operates music venues from the McDonald Theatre to the Cuthbert Amphitheater.
Two books to read (which also became movies filmed here in Oregon) include:
Sometimes A Great Notion
Kesey's second authored book, considered his best by many, is a novel about a logging family that logs independently for a local mill despite union logger strikes. Kesey uses the homestead setting to personify the family dynamics and explore relationships. Springfield's own lumber town roots make this an interesting dive into the history and culture around timber.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
This '60s novel is about a fictional insane asylum set in Florence, Oregon. Kesey's most famous book, it has been adapted to the stage and has been banned from some schools due to its sexist and racist framing. It draws from the author's personal experiences both working in a mental health facility and volunteering for LSD experiments conducted by the CIA. The book explores the theme of institutional oppression and the tensions between individuality and society
Babbs and Kesey were best friends, and Babbs is also a counter-culture author. His most recent book is "Cronies", available at Tsunami's bookstore.
The Singing Creek Where the Willows Grow
The Rediscovered Diary of Opal Whiteley by Benjamin Hoff
In 1920, the diary of a little girl from Cottage Grove was published and created a sensation. It was purported to be Opal Whiteley's (born in 1897) musings from when she was six years old — and if so, it portrayed a naturalist savant as she described the area's flora and fauna in exquisite, innocent and "beyond her years" detail. Later this work was declared to be fraudulent and Whiteley, spurned by her family and struggling in her community, ultimately died far from home in a London mental health hospital.
Portland author Benjamin Hoff, known for his book "The Tao of Pooh", revisits the contested diary and investigates her life and the stories that swirl about her past. This is an intriguing look into the history of Whiteley, her mystical and brilliant works, and the society that rejected them. Whatever conclusion you draw about the diary's authenticity, you can feel her integral presence in Cottage Grove simply by mediating before the beautiful butterfly mural of Opal.
Bob Welch is Oregon's native son. An award-winning columnist for the Register-Guard, his book "My Oregon" is a love letter to all of Oregon with an emphasis on his hometown of Eugene. His written vignettes are history-packed treasures, but it is the vibrant descriptions that resonate. If you want to experience Eugene with all your senses, to really travel here and be here — there is no easier way than through these pages.
On to Oregon
Adults will also love this 1926 children's book about a young boy, John Sager, and his family traveling the difficult trail to Oregon in 1844. The harrowing adventure is a fictional account of a real story and illustrates the hardships of the Oregon Trail. The early pioneers that arrived in the Willamette Valley, home to the Kalapuya, were hearty souls indeed. The Applegate Trail which stems from the Oregon Trail, brought wagon trains into the South Willamette Valley. Portions of the trail parallel Interstate 5 and you can visit interpretive centers, museums and monuments dedicated to the Applegate Trail from Creswell to Veneta.
Walk a Mile in My Shoes
The Casey Martin Story
In 1998, Eugene native and golf professional Casey Martin sued the PGA Tour, and won, for the right to use a cart in competition. Martin has been disabled since birth with a degenerative condition impacting his ability to walk without pain. His story shook the golf world and brought into focus inclusivity vs. historical rules of the game and this book retells the courtroom saga and the perspectives of those around him.
Martin has chalked up many awards and honorable recognitions, and today serves as the University of Oregon's men's golf coach. Golf enthusiasts will love to play a few rounds on the courses Martin grew up playing from Laurelwood Golf Course to the Emerald Valley Golf Course in Creswell where the UO Ducks practice today.
More Authors & Books
Lane County is home to many more authors and poets that have found quiet places to reflect and write. Here are other regional and statewide authors and books to help round out a sense of place in this multi-deminsional and varied community.
Ursula Le Guin — A feminist science fiction writer known best for "Left Hand of Darkness" and her "Earthsea" series inspired by the Oregon Coast. Le Guin lived in Portland, Oregon and Eugene's UO Library houses the largest collection of her work nationwide.
L.J. Sellers — Eugene-based author Sellers writes crime fiction often set in Eugene - Springfield. With over twenty mystery thrillers, the pages can't be turned quick enough.
Gerald Duane "Boomer" Wright — A native Oregonian, Wright is a children's author and former educator who just so happened to spend many years managing the famous Sea Lion Caves on the Oregon Coast. "Caption Cox and The Cave of Many Voices" is historical fiction about the discovery of the sea lion caves — aptly written for the many children that marvel year round at the massive, barking sea lions.
Geri Larkin — A Zen Buddhist teacher and author, best known for "Stumbling Toward Enlightenment", Larkin choose the solace of Eugene's gentle landscape for her home. Read "Plant Seed, Pull Weed" for a spiritual exploration through gardening. Her masterful insights and lyrical prose transform reading into a walk through the garden of the soul. You'll be inspired to visit the nearest nursery and plant your own seeds.
Eline Kristina England — "Eating Close to Home" is not just a cookbook, it is a guide to connecting with Lane County's local foods. Organized by seasons and with detailed descriptions of regional crops and what to do with them, this is a perfect way to acquaint yourself with the culinary rhythms of eating local.
"Eugene Oregon Walks" — A simple, hand-printed book by Tyler Burgess, this is the guide to your neighborhood! A collection of 32 maps with step by step directions to notice Eugene's highlights. Like Frog's Joke Books, this a book that every longtime Eugenian has or should have.
Pick up a copy of these area-based books at a local bookstore. Oregon's authors are also frequently available for book signings and discussions at regional markets and fairs.
Smith Family Bookstore offers online orders and shipping for rare books that they have in stock. Their downtown Eugene location is jam-packed with an exciting collection of used books.
Tsunami Bookstore bundles up selections grouped around age/genre to make gift giving easy. Or go explore their South Eugene store in person. Check their calendar for author signings, lectures, live music and other community events.
Additionally, the Eugene Public Library can connect local residents with an extensive e-books inventory, or you can visit in person. Smaller community libraries are throughout the region.
Books 'n' Bears is a beloved boutique bookshop in Historic Old Town Florence which showcases new and used books — and teddy bears!
The Duck Store on campus in the University of Oregon bookstore for students, so academic books can be scouted out there.
Another tip for book lovers: The Shelton McMurphey Johnson House frequently hosts book club meetings. The schedule is listed on their website.