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Washington Reads (Summer 2007) - Spokane and the Inland Empire

An independent spirit, a spectacular natural world and a thriving, livable city make up Spokane and the Inland Empire. The area boasts magnificent natural beauty such as the Palouse, the rushing Spokane River, and Mount Spokane. The vibrant city of Spokane features the Davenport Hotel, the Looff Carousel, the Bloomsday Race and the ultimate red wagon in the park, the Childhood Express.

In addition, the eastern region of the state is distinctive in the number of extraordinary and award-winning authors it has nurtured, enabling a Washington Reads mix of three superb young adult books (which adults will enjoy too), and adult nonfiction and fiction works set in Spokane and the Inland Empire. Enjoy reading excellent books that convey the spirit of this unique area of our state.

Alexie, Sherman. Reservation Blues.

The novel, which won the American Book Award in 1996, is a poignant look at the rise and fall of an Indian rock band, Coyote Springs, and the people and spirits that surround it. The book has a wonderfully subtle sense of humor, as well as insight into religious, political and social issues on the reservation and beyond.

Egan, Timothy. Breaking Blue.

Pend Oreille County Sheriff Tony Bamonte, in the process of writing a master's thesis, uncovers new evidence about a 1935 murder of a town marshal. The evidence involves the Spokane Police Department, and he "breaks blue" by implicating another police officer, in a true "quest for justice" story rich in regional color.

Gurche, Charles. Spokane Impressions.

This slim volume is packed with majestic photos of Spokane and the Inland Empire. From the beauty of the area's nature to the vibrant city, these photos do indeed leave an impression.

Olsen, Jack. "Son": A Psychopath and his Victims.

This true-crime book about Fred "Kevin" Coe, a sociopath rapist in Spokane in the 1980s, is intriguing. Olsen chronicles the series of rapes, Coe's relationships with women and his family, how Coe eluded discovery and arrest, and the criminal investigation and legal proceedings. This is an easy read that is difficult to put down.

Stratton, David H., editor. Spokane & the Inland Empire: An Interior Pacific Northwest Anthology.

This anthology, now in its second edition, gathers together chapters on diverse topics about the history, geography and sense of place of the Spokane region, including information on Expo '74, the suffrage movement in eastern part of the state, farming, the Palouse Indians, and more.

Walter, Jess. Citizen Vince.

The 2006 Edgar Award Winner for best mystery novel, the book follows Vince Camden as daytime donut-maker and night time participant in a credit card scam in Spokane. He is also a member of the FBI witness-protection plan, who eventually must face his past. This is exceptionally well-written crime novel.

Young Adult
Crutcher, Chris. Whale Talk.

Smart and funny T.J. Jones helps to assemble a swim team made up of outsiders in a school with no pool, in order to retaliate for injustices from the establishment. The team bus rides enable the teens to share their personal conflicts and feelings in a compassionate story of intense athletic competition and abuse. This is a wise and readable tale that will appeal to all young adults. Age 12 and up.

Harmon, Michael. Skate.

Ian McDermott has basically raised himself and a brother who has fetal alcohol syndrome. He learns about life's hard knocks when he hits his coach and must run away with his brother. With their skateboards, they head for Walla Walla and their estranged father. The plot, with multiple twists as Ian struggles with good intentions and self-destructive actions, will appeal to all young adult readers, including reluctant ones. Age 12 and up.

Trueman, Terry. Inside Out.

Schizophrenic Zach, waiting in the coffee shop for his mother to bring his antipsychotic meds, is held hostage with others when two teen brothers attempt a hold-up. The brothers are themselves desperate and scared for their single mother who has cancer. Viewing the ensuing events through Zach's mental illness makes for a gripping tale, one that is both dark in the telling and enlightening about mental illness. The heart-breaking truths will appeal to teens. Ages 13 and up.