The time has come for pumpkin-spice lattes and their discontents, artful layering and new notebooks, jarringly early holiday-themed endcaps at the grocery store, decorative gourds and staying in more. That’s right: October is here, Halloween is coming, and with it darkness approaches. But fear not: There’s no better season for wrapping yourself burrito-like in a blanket, embedding said burrito-self in a couch, and widening your eyeballs over cozy mysteries and creepy lore.

Here’s what the Pacific Northwest is reading, according to the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Associations list of bestsellers at local independent bookstores for the week ending Sunday, Sept. 29. Just in time for spooky season, we’re leaning into the darkness. Consider it our very own, very macabre episode of “Reading Rainbow.”


The wonderfully titled “Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?” by the indomitable Caitlin Doughty, with illustrations by Dianné Ruz, is at lucky  No. 13 on the hardback bestseller list. As the host of the charmingly geeky webseries “Ask a Mortician,” Doughty has made it her life’s work to demystify death and dead bodies, breaking down her vast knowledge of the death industry (she once worked as a crematory operator) in accessible, funny, even life-affirming videos and anecdotes. “Ask a Mortician” has addressed what happens to bodies’ artificial hips when they’re cremated, how morticians close the mouths of the deceased (anyone with the needle phobia should skip that one), and why hanging out in cemeteries can help you to confront your own fear of death. “Ask a Mortician” and Doughty’s previous books, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” and “From Here to Eternity,” provide a generous, open-minded route to breaking down a subject too often taboo-laden and primally frightening. In “Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?,” Doughty answers children’s questions about death, including the one in the title, continuing her work of helping the living face their existential anxiety with kindness, a dash of science and a can-do, it’s-gonna-be-OK spirit.

Less friendly spirits can be found in Stephen King’s new novel, “The Institute,” No. 6 on the hardcover fiction list. “The Institute” employs very few of King’s supernatural tropes, and instead examines the relative ease with which ordinary people can end up doing extraordinarily evil things. The Institute of the title houses gifted children who’ve been separated from their parents and made into test subjects for unspecified purposes. It sounds like the cruelty of “It” crossed with Arendt-style meditations on the banality of evil, an intersection King’s explored with humanity and fearlessness in some of his best work.

J.A. Jance, who, like King, is another bestseller frequent flyer, follows at  No. 11 on the hardcover fiction list with “Sins of the Father,” bringing our tour de spooky full-circle with a Seattle-set story in her J.P. Beaumont series. This time around, the eponymous investigator thinks it’s time to hang up his holster and retire, so we already know he’s not going to anytime soon.

Whether you’re seeking a reliable detective series, an approachable conversation about the unthinkable, or a serious investigation of evil through fiction, look no further than what your fellow Pacific Northwest readers are exploring through their strange book appetites. You don’t have to take my word for it.



Hardcover fiction

1. The Testaments, Margaret Atwood

2. The Water Dancer, Ta-Nehisi Coates

3. Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens

4. The Dutch House, Ann Patchett

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

6. The Institute, Stephen King

7. The Nickel Boys, Colson Whitehead

8. A Better Man, Louise Penny

9. Land of Wolves, Craig Johnson

10. Red at the Bone, Jacqueline Woodson

11. Sins of the Fathers, J.A. Jance

12. This Tender Land, William Kent Krueger

13. Chances Are … , Richard Russo

14. Gideon the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir

15. The Ten Thousand Doors of January, Alix E. Harrow

Hardcover nonfiction

1. Talking to Strangers, Malcolm Gladwell

2. Year of the Monkey, Patti Smith

3. Educated, Tara Westover

4. How to Be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi

5. On Fire, Naomi Klein

6. Permanent Record, Edward Snowden

7. Know My Name: A Memoir, Chanel Miller

8. Trick Mirror, Jia Tolentino

9. Three Women, Lisa Taddeo

10. How To, Randall Munroe

11. The Pioneers, David McCullough

12. The Moment of Lift, Melinda Gates

13. Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?, Caitlin Doughty, Dianné Ruz (illustrator)

14. The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck, Mark Manson

15. The Education of an Idealist, Samantha Power

Paperback fiction

1. The Overstory, Richard Powers

2. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood

3. There There, Tommy Orange

4. A Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles

5. The Witch Elm, Tana French

6. The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Heather Morris

7. Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng

8. The Great Alone: A Novel, Kristin Hannah

9. All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr

10. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman

11. The Winter Soldier, Daniel Mason

12. Before We Were Yours, Lisa Wingate

13. The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt

14. My Sister, the Serial Killer, Oyinkan Braithwaite

15. Whiskey When We’re Dry, John Larison

Paperback nonfiction

1. Born a Crime, Trevor Noah

2. All That the Rain Promises and More, David Arora

3. White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo

4. Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer

5. Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari

6. Calypso, David Sedaris

7. The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers, Maxwell King

8. The Field Guide to Dumb Birds of North America, Matt Kracht

9. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, Yuval Noah Harari

10. How to Change Your Mind, Michael Pollan

11. Astoria, Peter Stark

12. Whose Story Is This?: Old Conflicts, New Chapters, Rebecca Solnit

13. Braving the Wilderness, Brené Brown

14. Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann

15. The Spy and the Traitor, Ben Macintyre