Autumn always brings a bumper crop of new titles to mid-valley bookstores and libraries, and this season is no different, with a new history of Oregon State University, a in-depth look at the state's wild rivers and new fiction by mid-valley writers leading the way.
Here's a glance at some of the season's most intriguing new titles:
• "The People's School," William Robbins
Just in time for Oregon State University's 150th anniversary, Robbins, the retired emeritus professor of history at OSU, takes an in-depth look at the institution's first 150 years. Robbins views the university's history through the lens of broader events such as wars and economic depressions that shaped the campus. This serves as an unofficial companion volume to Larry Landis' pictorial history of OSU, "A School for the People."
• "This Must Be the Place," Susan Jackson Rodgers
Jackson, who teaches creative writing at OSU, delivers a charming coming-of-age novel set in the summer of 1983 in Kansas. The novel follows Thea Knox, a young woman who winds up one summer in a small college town nestled in the Kansas prairie. You don't need to follow the "Wizard of Oz" allusions sprinkled throughout to enjoy the book, but they're fun to track. (For a conversation with Rodgers, see page C4.)
• "Wrench," Wayne Harrison
Harrison, another teacher in OSU's resurgent creative writing department, offers a strong collection of short stories to follow up his novel "The Spark and the Drive." Harrison worked as a mechanic before he started writing, and many of those stories share that blue-collar background. (For a conversation with Harrison, see page C4.)
• "Wild and Scenic Rivers: An American Legacy," Tim Palmer
Writer and photographer Palmer marks the 50th anniversary of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act with this gorgeous volume, containing photographs of the waterways protected by the legislation and interviews tracing its history and challenges.
• "Grass Roots: A History of Cannabis in the American West," Nick Johnson
Johnson, a journalist and associate editor of the Colorado Encyclopedia, checks in with a timely history of marijuana -growing in the American West, from early Mexican-American growers on sugar beet farms to today's huge growing operations. The book highlights efforts underway to make marijuana growing more sustainable.
• "Dangerous Subjects," Kenneth Coleman
Portland writer Coleman offers a biography of James D. Saules, a black sailor who was shipwrecked off the Oregon coast in 1841. But once white settlers started arriving in the area in 1843, Saules had to contend with a series of laws designed to exclude African-Americans. The topic, of course, remains timely today.
• "The Alternate Route," Thomas Graham Jr.
Graham's long U.S. diplomatic career included a role in nearly 30 years of arms-control treaties. In this unfortunately timely book, he outlines the regional nuclear treaties in place throughout Latin America, Africa, the South Pacific, Southeast Asia and Central Asia — treaties that helped to make those areas free of nuclear weapons. And he suggests a way in which the regional treaty approach could be expanded.
• "Queen of Spades," Michael Shou-Yung Shum
This debut novel from Shum, a graduate of Oregon State University's creative writing program who now lives in Atlanta, is drawing word-of-mouth buzz. It's based in part on his time dealing poker in a Washington state casino and is described as a mash-up of Pushkin's short story of the same name and a Hong Kong gambling flick.
• "Ventriloquisms," Jaclyn Watterson
This short-story collection from another graduate of Oregon State University's creative writing program won the Spokane Prize in Short Fiction, and will be published this month by Willow Springs Books/Eastern Washington University. (Watterson and Shum, who are married and now live in Atlanta, will be reading from their new books Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Lab Theatre in Withycombe Hall, 2921 SW Campus Way on the OSU campus.)
• "The River of Consciousness," Oliver Sacks
A collection of essays from the late neurologist tackles some of his long-running themes: evolution, creativity, memory, time, consciousness, and experience.
• "We Were Eight Years in Power," Ta-Nehisi Coates
Coates, a National Book Award winner for "Between the World and Me," returns with a book of new and collected essays probing the election of Barack Obama and the ensuing backlash, which led to the election of the man Coates calls America's "first white president."
• "Going Into Town," Roz Chast
Everything you need to know about the new graphic memoir from Chast (following up on her remarkable volume "Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant") is there in the subtitle: "A Love Letter to New York."
• "Sing, Unburied, Sing," Jesmyn Ward
The new novel from National Book Award winner Ward is billed as a road novel set in rural 21st century America. This story of a Mississippi family offers a journey through the American past and present.
• "Little Fires Everywhere," Celeste Ng
Ng, author of the haunting "Everything I Never Told You," returns with a novel set in a placid Cleveland suburb that's upended when a single mother with an enigmatic past moves into the neighborhood and rents a house.