The Pacific Northwest likes to read, and what better way to get book suggestions than to ask around? In this monthly feature, we ask prominent Northwest residents what books they’re reading, rereading and recommending — and why.
This month: Daniel James Brown, local author of the bestselling 2013 nonfiction book “The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Olympics” (soon to be made into a major feature film) about the legendary University of Washington crew team, and, more recently, the nonfiction book “Facing the Mountain: A True Story of Japanese American Heroes in World War II.”
What book are you reading now?
I’m about halfway through Amor Towles’ “The Lincoln Highway” and enjoying it enormously. I ordinarily don’t much like novels with constantly shifting points of view, but Towles manages to pull it off more or less seamlessly. The plot pulls you along quite briskly. (I’m always a sucker for any kind of tale couched as an epic journey, and that’s what we have here.) The characters are the best part of it, though — wonderfully drawn, quirky and unforgettable.
What book have you reread the most times?
Every few years, I sit down and reread Laura Hillenbrand’s “Seabiscuit.” By now, of course, I know the plot inside out as do millions of us who have read the book or seen the movie. But I continue to reread it for the craft. As I’ve said many times, it was a model and an inspiration for “The Boys in the Boat.” I think it’s as good as narrative nonfiction gets on pretty much every level, from its overall structure to the smallest details of phrasing. Among many other lessons I’ve learned from repeated close readings is what I’ve heard Laura herself call the remarkable power of restraint — resisting hyperbole, abjuring linguistic excess, constraining a scene or a sentence to the absolute essence of the matter at hand.
What book would you recommend everyone read, and why?
There are so many books I love going back deep into English and American literature, but if I had to pick one contemporary novel it would be another bestseller — Anthony Doerr’s “All the Light We Cannot See.” The story is absolutely gripping and the writing transcendent. Most importantly though, it grabs the heart and won’t let go until the last page is turned, and indeed for long after that. I’m looking forward now to reading Doerr’s “Cloud Cuckoo Land,” which my wife, Sharon, tells me is not a book but an experience.