Reading the Salish Sea and beyond | Fresh Reads

By David Brewster | Sep 07, 2018
Courtesy of: The Overlook Press

All the attention paid lately to the plight of J35 – also known as Tahlequah, a member of the endangered southern clan of orcas who carried her dead calf for 17 days in a presumed state of mourning – is a useful prompt to consider the trove of great books written about the Salish Sea and its environs.

Nonfiction, literary and children’s book authors from local precincts and beyond have found in our native Northwest habitat the ideal and specific settings for guidebooks, environmental reporting, novels and books for younger readers that underscore how fortunate we are to live with Olympic Range vistas and the occasional scent of the tide.


“Orca: How We Came To Know And Love The Ocean’s Greatest Predator,” by Jason M. Colby, $29.95

Colby provides a colorful and comprehensive history, from the era when they were more commonly referred to as killer whales, hunted to near-extinction in the ’50s, to the transformation of our perspectives through the antics of Shamu, to become our beloved orcas. The book is the result of deep research, and is full of great detail, memorable anecdotes and extensive footnotes.

“Of Orcas and Men: What Killer Whales Can Teach Us,” by David Neiwert, $17.95 paperback

The newly released paperback edition of Seattle journalist Neiwert’s well-received mix of cultural history, environmental reporting and scientific research garnered many positive reviews. Niewert will join the whale-watching boat during Puget Sound Bird Fest Sept. 14-16.

”The Salish Sea: Jewel of the Pacific Northwest,” by Audrey DeLella Benedict and Joseph K. Gaydos, $24.95 paperback

This detailed and beautifully illustrated guide to the history and biodiversity of our special waters is the ideal book to guide readers toward greater appreciation of our local environment. The Salish Sea encompasses Puget Sound and the straits of Juan de Fuca and Georgia, comprising a surface area of more than 6,500 square miles, including 1,400 square miles on 419 islands.

Several hundred mammals, birds, fish and reptiles, along with eight million humans, call this place home.

”By The Shore: Explore the Pacific Northwest Coast Like A Local,” by Nancy Blakey, $22.95 paperback

A fresh and useful activity guide for the whole family, Blakey breaks her book into seasonal sections, and provides loads of information and insight into travel, cultural events, regional foods and recipes, and beach and water activities to fit the seasons.

A majority of the outings and adventures are set in and around the Salish Sea and Bainbridge, Camano, Whidbey and the San Juans islands; there are additional sections devoted to the Washington and Oregon coasts and British Columbia/Vancouver Island.

This is a useful guide to some of the best active sightseeing our region has to offer, suitable for longtime residents and newbies alike.


”The Highest Tide,” by Jim Lynch, $17, paperback

Local author Jim Lynch’s first novel remains a favorite of regional booksellers and readers a dozen years after its publication. Thirteen-year-old Miles spends his summer exploring the tide flats of South Puget Sound, turning over sea stars and unearthing snails and clams.

One day, Miles discovers an exotic fish that is not known to inhabit these waters, and his summer becomes one full of media attention and more dramatic changes than he anticipated. We always recommend this book as introduction to one of the key literary voices of our region.

”The Same River,” by Lisa Reddick, $16.95 paperback (forthcoming in October)

This contemporary novel set along a river very much like Oregon’s Umpqua River is a story of environmental activism versus the commercial and political pressure on the fate and culture of a signature river in Oregon. Reddick will visit Edmonds Bookshop noon Saturday, Oct. 20.


“The Orca Scientists,” by Kim Perez Valice, $18.99

This timely book, full of great photos and illustrations, focuses on the work of whale biologist Ken Balcomb and his crew from the Center for Whale Research, who track, photograph and collect data on the resident and transient pods of orcas, including the Southern Resident orca pods, J, K and L.

Set largely on research vessels, the reader experiences firsthand the behaviors of orcas as individuals and in their pods. The sights, sounds and scents are all studied closely, and Valice’s reporting opens our eyes to the lives of this amazing species.

”Explore The Salish Sea: A Nature Guide for Kids,” by Joseph K. Gaydos and Audrey DeLella Benedict, $19.99

A companion volume to “The Salish Sea: Jewel of the Pacific Northwest,” written especially for younger readers, provides the same depth of information and level of passion about our inland sea.

The many photos and illustrations tie together with age-appropriate descriptions of the flora and fauna of our special region.

”Whales: An Illustrated Celebration,” by Kelsey Oseid, $17.99

A wonderful introduction to the entire family of cetaceans – whales, dolphins and porpoises – covering evolution, taxonomy and behaviors, as well as our human connections and interactions with the species, both good and bad.

Throughout the book are hundreds of detailed drawings paired with clear, well-written text suitable for aspiring young nature lovers.




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