When we’re mourning, it often shows up in what we’re reading. This week was no exception, as the region said goodbye to Toni Morrison through the words she left behind. Amid recent releases and longstanding bestsellers, two books by Toni Morrison appeared on the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Associations list of what’s most in demand at local independent bookstores for the week ending Sunday, Aug. 11.

“Beloved,” arguably Morrison’s best-known work, was the region’s third most-popular work of fiction in paperback, and “The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations,” a 2019 book of Morrison’s nonfiction, was our second most-purchased hardback in that category.


While “The Source of Self-Regard” is a new release, it came out back in February. That time lag, coupled with the reemergence of “Beloved,” tells me we’re revisiting Morrison’s body of work as an act of mourning. I get it. When the news of Morrison’s death broke, my first thought was to reread “Sula,” the 1973 novel that, at 17, blew me away with its portrayal of a woman who viewed a friendship as her most central relationship.

But Morrison’s legacy extends beyond her own books. Although the modifier feels wholly inappropriate given the stature and canonical significance of her work, Toni Morrison was not just a writer. As an editor, she created vital space for people of color. In a statement sent on Aug. 6, the day after Morrison died, her publisher mapped out in stark terms the reach of her influence.

“Morrison also worked as an editor at Random House — the first female African-American editor in company history — from 1967 to 1983,” the statement read. “There, she published Gayl Jones, Toni Cade Bambara, Henry Dumas, Huey P. Newton, Muhammad Ali, and Angela Davis, among others. Her work as an editor and publisher at Random House demonstrated a unique commitment to writers of color, and helped in opening industry doors to them.”

This should be no surprise coming from the woman who once told O magazine “I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game. ”

The day after Morrison died, I saw this quote everywhere: in memes and tweets and Instagram stories. But our reading habits show that public grief on social media was only one component of our mourning. And I can’t think of a more private, yet fitting way to grieve a beloved writer than to bear witness once more to the challenge, the beauty and the cry for justice embedded in every word she wrote.



Current bestsellers from the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association

Hardcover fiction

1. Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens

2. The Nickel Boys, Colson Whitehead

3. City of Girls, Elizabeth Gilbert

4. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Ocean Vuong

5. The Turn of the Key, Ruth Ware

6. Circe, Madeline Miller

7. Chances Are … , Richard Russo

8. Deep River, Karl Marlantes

9. The Women of the Copper Country, Mary Doria Russell

10. Fleishman Is in Trouble, Taffy Brodesser-Akner

11. Raised in Captivity, Chuck Klosterman

12. Lady in the Lake, Laura Lippman

13. Dark Age, Pierce Brown

14. Gods of Jade and Shadow, Silvia Moreno-Garcia

15. Hollow Kingdom, Kira Jane Buxton

Hardcover nonfiction

1. Educated, Tara Westover

2. The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations, Toni Morrison

3. Becoming, Michelle Obama

4. Three Women, Lisa Taddeo

5. The Moment of Lift, Melinda Gates

6. Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion, Jia Tolentino

7. The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben

8. Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat Samin Nosrat, Wendy MacNaughton

9. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, Neil deGrasse Tyson

10. Everything Is F*cked, Mark Manson

11. Dare to Lead, Brené Brown

12. The Pioneers, David McCullough

13. The Mosquito: A Human History of Our Deadliest Predator, Timothy C. Winegard

14. Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country, Pam Houston

15. Elderhood: Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine, Reimagining Life, Louise Aronson

Paperback fiction

1. The Overstory, Richard Powers

2. A Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles

3. Beloved, Toni Morrison

4. There There, Tommy Orange

5. Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng

6. My Sister, the Serial Killer, Oyinkan Braithwaite

7. The Witch Elm, Tana French

8. The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Heather Morris

9. Warlight, Michael Ondaatje

10. Before We Were Yours, Lisa Wingate

11. The Clockmaker’s Daughter, Kate Morton

12. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman

13. Washington Black, Esi Edugyan

14. The Immortalists, Chloe Benjamin

15. All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr

Paperback nonfiction

1. Calypso, David Sedaris

2. How to Change Your Mind, Michael Pollan

3. They Called Us Enemy, George Takei, et al.

4. White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo

5. Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari

6. Born a Crime, Trevor Noah

7. The Mueller Report, The Washington Post

8. My Own Words, Ruth Bader Ginsburg

9. The Soul of an Octopus, Sy Montgomery

10. The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz

11. The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War, Ben Macintyre

12. The Perfectionists, Simon Winchester

13. The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel van der Kolk

14. How to See, Thich Nhat Hanh

15. The River of Doubt, Candice Millard