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Great Reads by A&S Alums

Story by
Nancy Joseph

Books are always a welcome holiday gift, and works by talented Arts & Sciences alumni are a great place to start. Check out these recent books* by alumni authors in six categories: fiction, non-fiction, books for foodies, memoir, children/teen books, and poetry. And remember—it's okay to keep a few books for yourself! You can always share them later. (Or not.)

book cover for Lila

Lila, by Marilynne Robinson (MA for Teachers, 1968; PhD, English, 1977) was a finalist for the National Book Award. The title character, homeless and alone after years of roaming the countryside, steps inside a small-town Iowa church and ignites a romance and a debate that will reshape her life. She becomes the wife of a minister and begins a new existence, but also struggles to reconcile the life of her previous makeshift family with the gentle Christian worldview of her husband—which paradoxically judges those she loves. Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014.

book cover for The Dismal Science

The Dismal Science
Named a New York Times Editor's Choice, the latest from Peter Mountford (MFA, Creative Writing, 2006) tells of a middle-aged vice president at the World Bank who publicly quits his job over a seemingly minor argument with a colleague and systematically burns every bridge to his former life. A recent widower, he is at a complete loss as to what to do with himself. An exploration of the fragile nature of identity, The Dismal Science reveals the terrifying speed with which a person’s sense of self can be annihilated. Published by Tin House Books, 2014.

book cover for Fly Away

Fly Away
In Fly Away, Kristin Hannah (BA, Communication, 1983) tells the story of Tully Hart, who thinks she can overcome anything until her best friend dies. Tully has promised to be there for her friend’s children, but she knows nothing about family or motherhood, having been abandoned repeatedly by her own mother during childhood. A single, tragic choice will bring mother and daughter together and set them on a journey of redemption. Published by St. Martin’s Press, 2014. The Department of Communication profiled Kristin Hannah earlier this year. 

book cover for The Lost Art of Mixing

The Lost Art of Mixing
For her new novel, Erica Bauermeister (MA, PhD, English, 1984, 1989) returns to the story of restaurateur Lillian, first introduced in The School of Essential Ingredients, who has a way of drawing people together.  As people’s lives collide and mix with those around them, they sometimes join in effortless connections, at other times sift together and separate again, creating a family that is chosen, not given. The Lost Art of Mixing is a meditation on the power of love, food, and companionship. Published by the Penguin Group, 2013.

book cover for Red Light to Starboard

Red Light to Starboard: Recalling the Exxon Valdez Disaster
Angela Day (BA, Business Administration, 1994; MPA, Public Affairs, 2006; MA, Political Science, 2009), currently a graduate student in Labor Studies, tells the story of the Exxon Valdez oil spill and its personal impact on an Alaska herring fisherman whose livelihood was shattered. Day discusses policy decisions that contributed to the disaster and policy steps taken since the spill, and offers hope for preventing future disasters. Published by Washington State University Press, 2014. UW Today profiled Angela Day earlier this year.

book cover for Overbooked

Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism
Tourism has become a colossal enterprise, with the number of tourists traveling the world reaching one billion in 2012 and with one in twelve people employed in the industry. Elizabeth Becker (BA, South Asia Studies, 1969) explores the business’s profound impact on countries, the environment, and cultural heritage. Her investigation is a first examination of one of the largest and potentially most destructive enterprises in the world. Published by Simon & Schuster, 2013.

book cover for A Mind for Numbers

A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel in Math and Science (Even if You Flunked Algebra)
A professor of engineering at Oakland University in Michigan, Barbara Oakley (BA, Slavic Languages and Literatures, 1977; BS, Electrical Engineering, 1986) has received numerous awards for her teaching. She explains that while most people think that there’s only one way to do a math problem, in actuality there are often a number of different solutions—you just need the creativity to see them. Published by Tarcher, 2014.

book cover for Seafood Lover's Pacific Northwest

Seafood Lover’s Pacific Northwest: Restaurants, Markets, Recipes & Traditions
Karen Gaudette Brewer (BA, Communication, Political Science, 2000), a seasoned food writer, celebrates the region’s seafood traditions in this volume that includes menu offerings from top seafood restaurants, profiles of local fishmongers and seafood markets, recipes from local chefs and restaurants, and more.  Published by Globe Pequot Press, 2014. The Department of Communication profiled Karen Gaudette Brewer earlier this year.


book cover for Pie School

Pie School: Lessons in Fruit, Flour & Butter
In this cookbook, Kate Lebo (MFA, Creative Writing, 2012), the founder of the traveling pastry academy Pie School, shares her recipes for fifty perfect pies—served with a dose of humor and encouragement. Lebo also invites readers to ruminate on the social history, the meaning, and the place of pie in the pantheon of favorite foods. Published by Sasquatch Books, 2014.  (Poetry lovers might want to pair this volume with Lebo’s 2013 book of poetry, A Commonplace Book of Pie.)

book cover for Delancey

Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage
This memoir by Molly Wizenberg (MA, Anthroplogy, 2005) recounts how opening a restaurant sparked the first crisis of her young marriage. After she and her husband built Delancey into a successful pizza restaurant in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood, she tried to convince herself that she was happy in their new life, but realized that she hadn’t been honest with herself or her spouse. Delancey is a moving and honest account of two young people learning to give in and let go in order to grow together. Published by Simon & Schuster, 2014.

book cover for My Body is a Book of Rules

My Body is a Book of Rules
For Elissa Washuta (MFA, Creative Writing, 2009), the transition from college kid to independent adult was complicated by the harrowing effects of mood-stabilizing medications. Her crisis of American Indian identity bleeds into other areas of self-doubt. Mental illness, sexual trauma, ethnic identity, and independence become intertwined. My Body Is a Book of Rules pulls no punches in its self-deprecating and ferocious look at human fallibility.  Published by Red Hen Press, 2014.

book cover for The Last Forever

The Last Forever
The latest from National Book Award finalist Deb Caletti (BA, Communication, 1985) is a novel about love and loss, intended for readers ages 12 and above. It tells the story of Tess, who feels lost after her mother passes away. Tess's father, also grieving, takes her on an impromptu road trip that lands them in a small coastal town. But it takes meeting a new friend for Tess to begin healing. Published by Simon Pulse, 2014.


book cover for Order of the Unicorn

Order of the Unicorn
This is the fourth book in "The Imaginary Veterinary" series by Suzanne Selfors (MA, Communication, 1990), for readers ages 7-12 years. The series focuses on Ben Silverstein, whose summer visit to his grandfather becomes exciting when he and a friend discover a secret hospital for imaginary creatures and become apprentices to a veterinarian at the hospital. Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2014. The Department of Communication profiled Suzanne Selfors earlier this year.

book cover for Songs for a Summons

Song for a Summons
This is the first book of poetry for David Guterson (BA, MA, English, 1978, 1982), author of award-winning Snow Falling on Cedars and other novels and essays. UW colleague and author Charles Johnson remarks, “…[Guterson] is on these pages a poet acutely, even achingly, aware of the beauty and sometimes absurdity of the natural and unnatural forms that surround us, …With each elegant poem…, Guterson liberates our seeing, our senses, and beckons us to live more fully, more authentically, more deeply." Lost Horse Press, 2014.

book cover for The Three Einsteins

The Three Einsteins
In a review in CityArts, this book of poetry by Sarah Galvin (BA, MFA, Creative Writing, 2008, 2014) is described by fellow poet and alum Rich Smith as "the funniest, most surprising collection of poetry I’ve ever read. Refreshing, liberating and totally freakin’ weird, the book delivers delightful shocks to the sensorium, big belly laughs, and compassionate perspectives on human desire." Note: many of the poems are sexually explicit. Poor Claudia, 2014.

book cover for The Dead Wrestler Elegies

The Dead Wrestler Elegies
These elegies and illustrations by poet W. Todd Kaneko (BA, Creative Writing, 2003) cover themes of loss, love, regret, redemption, and remorse, blending Charles Bukowski's raw-boned verse and Randy "Macho Man" Savage's devastating elbow drop to mine the history of professional wrestling and examine complex relationships between fathers and sons. "Rarely has a book of poetry...managed to be so profound while being so entertaining," says fellow author Matthew Gavin Frank. Curbside Splendor Publishing, 2014.

*All book descriptions are excerpted from author and/or publisher websites.