Seattle Travel Guide › Books
Updated: November 20, 2018
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- Seattle Fiction Books
- Seattle Non-Fiction Books
- Seattle Young Adult Books
- Seattle Books for Middle Readers
- Seattle Picture Books
- Seattle Coloring and Activity Books
Maybe it’s the weather, or maybe it’s something in the water, but there’s something about Seattle that inspires both writers and readers. (We may be the only city that has a best-selling action figure modeled after a beloved city librarian.) Consistently ranked among the nation’s most literate urban centers, Seattle’s neighborhood sidewalks are dotted with “little free libraries,” and our public library’s central branch is a vast architectural masterpiece that is a shrine to literacy. We’re book crazy here.
The Best Seattle Fiction
- The Art of Racing in the Rain: A Novel • Garth Stein
A heart-filled and canine-narrated tale of love, loss, redemption, and hope. See also Stein’s A Sudden Light, Raven Stole the Moon, and How Evan Broke His Head and Other Secrets.
- Black Hole • Charles Burns
A graphic novel cult fave set in 1970’s suburban Seattle; a mysterious and horrifying STI afflicts the city’s teenage population.
- Blueprints of the Afterlife • Ryan Boudinot
A darkly funny and mind-bending sci-fi story of technology and its human counterpart in post-apocalyptic Seattle.
- Boneshaker • Cherie Priest
Mad inventors, pirates, and wild west zombies abound in this swashbuckling steampunk alternate-reality tale set in 1880’s Seattle.
- Broken for You • Stephanie Kallos
An elderly Seattle recluse takes in a young woman with a mysterious past in this compelling story about chosen families and the healing power of friendship.
- Disclosure • Michael Crichton
A taut psychological thriller revolving around an accusation of sexual harassment in 1990’s corporate Seattle.
- Firefly Lane • Kristen Hannah
A heartwarming coming-of-age tale and story of true friendship, spanning three decades in the Pacific Northwest.
- Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet • Jamie Ford
Poignant coming of age tale set in 1940’s Seattle amid the racial tensions of WWII and Japanese-American internment. See also Ford’s Songs of Willow Frost.
- Indian Killer • Sherman Alexie
A Native-American serial murderer terrorizes Seattle, seeking vengeance for the crimes against his people.
- Long for This World • Michael Byers
Richly-told story of a geneticist wrestling with an ethical dilemma, and finding comfort in his family – set in late 1990s Seattle.
- Love and Other Consolation Prizes • Jamie Ford
A poignant historical tale inspired by the true story of a young Chinese-American boy who was raffled off at the 1909 Seattle World’s Fair. By the author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.
- Madison House: A Novel • Peter Donahue
The future of modern-day Seattle hangs in the balance as a group of disenfranchised boardinghouse residents attempt to hold back the re-grading of Denny Hill in the early 1900’s.
- No-No Boy • John Okada
A young Japanese-American man faces imprisonment and community resentment when he refuses to pledge allegiance to the country that has interned him.
- Set This House in Order: A Romance of Souls • Matt Ruff
Science Fiction meets psychological thriller meets romance in this dark but touching story of two people with multiple personality disorder who fall in love. Set in Seattle.
- Snow Falling on Cedars • David Guterson
A haunting and evocative account of a murder trial, set in an isolated Puget Sound island in the 1950’s.
- Still Life with Woodpecker • Tom Robbins
Zany and philosophical, sexy and psychedelic – an oddball love story by one of Seattle’s best-loved authors.
- Truth Like the Sun • Jim Lynch
Political cat-and-mouse between a modern-day journalist and a mastermind of the 1962 World’s Fair.
- Until Proven Guilty • J.A. Jance
The first installment in a popular murder mystery series featuring J.P. Beaumont, an old-school and unconventional Seattle homicide detective.
- Waxwings • Jonathan Raban
A British expat and a Chinese immigrant navigate an unlikely friendship during Seattle’s turn of the millennium dot-com boom.
- Where’d You Go, Bernadette: A Novel • Maria Semple
This sharp and satirical family comedy joyfully skewers modern Seattle and its eco-conscious, craftsman-home-loving, Microsoft-working denizens. See also Semple’s Today Will Be Different.
- Who in Hell is Wanda Fuca? • G.M. Ford
A wisecracking Seattle sleuth and a group of alcoholic vagrants attempt to retrieve a mob-boss’s daughter from the clutches of an environmental cult.
The fates of seven disparate strangers are altered during the dramatic and history-making 1999 World Trade Organization protests in Seattle.
The Best Seattle Non-Fiction
- The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics • Daniel James Brown
The working-class eight-oar crew team at the University of Washington attempt to beat the odds and row for the gold in Nazi Germany.
- Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage • Molly Wizenberg
The author of the award-winning food blog Orangette and the wonderful memoir A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from my Kitchen Table writes about love, marriage, and opening one of Seattle’s best pizza restaurants. Recipes included.
- The Good Rain: Across Time and Terrain in the Pacific Northwest • Timothy Egan
A contemplative exploration of the effect of climate and topography on Pacific Northwest history, culture, and politics.
- Heavier than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain • Charles R. Cross
A comprehensive biography of the iconic Nirvana frontman, set largely amid the Seattle grunge scene of the 1990’s.
- The Hustle • Doug Merlino
A compelling narrative nonfiction account of ten disadvantaged inner-city boys sent to attend and play basketball for an elite Seattle private high school.
- I’m Down: A Memoir • Mishna Wolff
A humorous account of the author’s childhood attempts to assimilate into a poor, black Seattle neighborhood, while being raised by her single father, a white man who believes he is black.
- Anybody Can Do Anything • Betty MacDonald
A charming and lighthearted autobiography detailing Seattle life during the great depression, by the author of the beloved Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle children’s book series.
- Jackson Street After Hours: The Roots of Jazz in Seattle • Paul De Barros
Vintage photographs and recollections of the Seattle jazz scene of the 1940s and 50s, and the important artists cultivated within: Ray Charles, Ernestine Anderson, and Quincy Jones; to name a few.
- Making Certain It Goes On: The Collected Poems of Richard Hugo • Richard Hugo
Anthology of published work by Seattle’s most highly-regarded native poet.
- Passage to Juneau: A Sea and Its Meanings • Jonathan Raban
The author’s personal and regional insights from piloting a 35-foot sailboat from Seattle to Alaska.
- Rains All the Time: A Connoisseur’s History of Weather in the Pacific Northwest • David Laskin
A funny and conversational look at regional weather patterns and thier personal, historical, and cultural impact.
- Seattle: City of Literature • Ryan Boudinot, editor
Reflections on the Seattle literature scene, by some of the city’s best and most beloved authors.
- Seattleness: A Cultural Atlas • Tera Hatfield, Jenny Kempson, and Natalie Ross
A gorgeous infographical deep-dive into Seattle’s culture, demographics, geography, and history.
- Shrill • Lindy West
Hilarious and thought-provoking memoir chronicling a Seattle writer’s struggle with self acceptance, the patriarchy, and Internet trolls.
- Skid Road: An Informal Portrait of Seattle • Murray Morgan
A humorously engaging narrative of Seattle history and the city’s first century.
- Starvation Heights: A True Story of Murder and Malice in the Woods of the Pacific Northwest • Gregg Olsen
A grizzly and fascinating account of medical malpractice and murder at a secluded turn-of-the-century sanatorium.
- This Boy’s Life: A Memoir • Tobias Wolff
A grim but darkly humorous account of the young author’s life with, and escape from, his desperate mother and abusive stepfather in 1950’s Pacific Northwest.
- The Pacific Northwest: An Interpretive History • Carlos Arnaldo Schwantes
Comprehensive look at Seattle’s regional history; from the time of the first white-Native contact to the late 1980s.
- While the City Slept: A Love Lost to Violence and a Young Man’s Descent into Madness • Eli Sanders
A Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter’s riveting exploration of a 2009 Seattle murder, the lives it affected, and society’s role in the crime.
The Best Seattle Young Adult Fiction
- Adios, Nirvana • Conrad Wesselhoeft
A gifted young man is supported by poetry, music, and his friends as he struggles with survivor’s guilt in the wake of his twin brother’s death.
- Don’t Breathe A Word • Holly Cupala
A 16 year old girl escapes an abusive boyfriend and lives as a runaway on the streets of Seattle.
- Five Flavors of Dumb • Antony John
Heart-filled story of a deaf high school senior who agrees to manage her school’s ultra-popular rock band.
- Hold Me Closer, Necromancer (Necromancer Series) • Lish McBride
A sweet and funny paranormal series about a Seattle teen who discovers he has the power to raise the dead.
- The Nature of Jade • Deb Caletti
An anxious 18 year old girl falls for a handsome and secretive single father while working with the elephants at the Woodland Park Zoo.
- The Twilight Series • Stephanie Meyer
Vampires, werewolves, and the Pacific Northwest. Most of the series is set in Forks, a small town on the Olympic Penninsula.
The Best Seattle Books for Middle-Grade Readers
- The Boxcar Children Mysteries: The Seattle Puzzle • Gertrude Chandler Warner
The Alden children vacation in Seattle and solve a mystery as they sightsee.
- Dear America: The Fences Between Us • Kirby Larson
Set in early 1940’s Seattle, a young girl’s life is turned upside down after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the internment of her Japanese-American neighbors.
- Hannah West Series • Linda Johns
A plucky, 12-year-old amateur sleuth solves mysteries in various Seattle neighborhoods.
- Jackie’s Wild Seattle • Will Hobbs
Shannon, age 14, and her younger brother, Cody, spend the summer in Seattle with their animal-rescuing uncle.
- Our Only May Amelia • Jennifer Holm
The adventures of a headstrong girl in a family of Finnish immigrants in 1890’s Washington State.
- Ruby Lu, Brave and True • Lenore Look & Anne Wilsdorf
The first in a series of books about a spunky, Asian-American eight-year-old living in Seattle. See also Ruby Lu, Empress of Everything and Ruby Lu, Star of the Show.
- Dash • Kirby Larson
A fifth-grade girl and her dog are separated as her family is moved from Seattle to a WWII Japanese-American Internment camp.
The Best Seattle Picture Books
- Brother Eagle, Sister Sky • Susan Jeffers
Chief Seattle’s message of unity and respect for the Earth gets a child-friendly adaptation and charming pen-and-ink illustration.
- A Day at the Market • Sara Anderson
Bright illustrations and playful rhymes describe a typical day at Pike Place Market.
- Good Night Seattle • Jay Steere
A child bids goodnight to favorite Seattle places in this sweet and simple bedtime board book.
- Larry Gets Lost in Seattle • John Skewes
A young boy’s search for his lost dog takes him through iconic Seattle locations. See also Larry Loves Seattle.
- Seattle ABC:A Larry Get Lost Book • John Skewes & Robert Schwartz
A is for Aquarium, B is for Bridges. A delightfully illustrated alphabet picture book by the author of Larry Gets Lost in Seattle.
- S is for Salmon: A Pacific Northwest Alphabet • Hannah Viano
Gorgeous cut-paper representations of Northwest wildlife, from Anemone to Zephyr. See also Viano’s B is for Bear, and Arrow to Alaska.
- Storm Boy • Paul Owen Lewis
A small boy finds himself on the shores of a coastal village in this beautifully illustrated Coast Salish folk tale from tribes of the Pacific Northwest. See also Lewis’ Frog Girl and Davy’s Dream.
- The Wheedle on the Needle • Stephen Cosgrove & Robin James
A Seattle classic about a lovable mountain creature who finds a home at the top of the Space Needle.
- Where Do I Sleep?: A Pacific Northwest Lullaby • Jennifer Blomgren & Andrea Gabriel
Northwest animals prepare to sleep in this beautifully-illustrated bedtime storybook. See also Why Do I Sing? and Where Would I Be in an Evergreen Tree?
The Best Seattle Coloring and Activity Books
- Colorful Seattle – Explore and Color • Laura Lahm & Steph Calvert
- Color the Pacific Northwest – A Timber Press Coloring Book • Zoe Keller
- I Love Seattle Mad Libs • Price Stern Sloan
- Seattle Seahawks Coloring and Activity Book • Brad M. Epstein and Curt Walstead
I grew up in the Volunteer Park area. One of our neighbors was Helen Rucker, a Seattle author who wrote the book, Cargo of Brides. It was about a few of the ladies that came over from Boston in the second Mercer expedition. Rich with Seattle history. Much of the television series Here Come the Brides was taken from her book, which is why you don’t see it anymore.
Thanks Mary. Such a strange and interesting part of Seattle’s history. Anyone interested in checking out the book can find it here at Amazon. Cheers!
I would also add to the fiction/ mystery list, “First Avenue.”
Thanks Nancy. Will check it out.
For middle readers may I suggest:
Ruby Lu, Brave and True (and other Ruby Lu books) by Lenore Look
and Dash by Kirby Larson
These are great suggestions.
Hi! I’m looking for a good book on the general history of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest region. Are there any in particular that you’d recommend over others? Thanks in advance,
Two suggestions for you: The Pacific Northwest: An Interpretive History is a fantastic resource – comprehensive and easy to read, though it’s now out of print and can be difficult to find. My personal favorite, however, is The Good Rain: Across Time and Terrain in the Pacific Northwest. It’s a wonderful and well-written blend of history, geography, anthropology, and politics by one of the region’s very best authors.
When I was in 4th grade at Crown Hill Elementary School my teacher, Miss Solveig Lee, used to read to us every day. I’m trying to find a book she read to us about Seattle, I do remember “the Denny boys”, Asa Mercer, etc being in the story. I used to wonder who, in the book, might have been Jason, Joshua or Jeremy Bolt, from the TV show Here Come the Brides. I guess I kind of reversed that. ;o). I’m wondering if anyone can help me figure out what the book might be called. It was read to us in the early 1970’s, probably was not new. I would love to read it again, and read it to my granddaughter when she is old enough. Thank you in advance–I love your lists here!
I’m wondering if the book you’re thinking of might be Murray Morgan’s Skid Road. One of the most classic and bestselling books on Seattle history, it was originally published in 1951. And while it’s not written primarily for children, it would certainly be suitable for them. One Amazon reviewer recalls the author visiting their grade school in the 1960s, and another remembers the book being a part of their Kitsap High School curriculum.
It could also be Sons of the Profits, by Bill Speidel. This popular book continues to be a best-seller as far as Seattle history goes (helped along by promotions at Speidel’s popular Underground Tour in Pioneer Square), and is now in it’s 19th edition. It was originally published in 1967.
If the book you’re remembering was written primarily for children, I’m afraid that nothing of that sort comes to mind for me.
Thank you for including Starvation Heights on your list.
Thank you for documenting such a fascinating bit of local history!
Great list! Another novel set in Seattle is ‘Mountain Murder‘ by Ida Vincent.
Thanks for the suggestion, Kristian – I’ll have to check it out!
The picture books by Paul Owen Lewis deserve a spot on this list!
You are so right, Wendy – I don’t know how I forgot about these. Thanks!
Thanks for this list. I own three of these, two of which I’ve read. I spent 16 months living in Seattle and my son has lived there for quite a few years now. It’s a wonderful city and WA is a beautiful state. It looks like my Goodreads TBR will have some new books added.
I agree that we are quite spoiled here in Seattle and WA State – not only in scenery and landscape, but in literature as well! If you find any others that you feel should be added to the list, come back and let me know. (I’m always looking to add to my Goodreads list.)
Great list. Even better company!
Big fan of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, and happy to recommend it to others.