On a chilly spring day, what could be better than a dive between the covers?

We mean, of course, the covers of the nominees for this year’s Oregon Book Award. While there are many worthies, we decided to meet the contenders for the general nonfiction category. These incredible books cover all kinds of topics; from the fight against climate change to the commodification of feminism. 

The winner will be announced at the Awards ceremony this coming Monday, April 24th, in Portland.

Tracy Daugherty Looks Into The Life And Work Of Joan Didion

Courtesy of the author

Author Joan Didion remains, in her eighth decade, one of the most indelible voices in arts and letters. In 2016, writer Tracy Daugherty peeled back the curtain on a notoriously private literary giant, whose life could itself be the subject of a great American novel, full of transcontinental journeys, glitzy parties of New York and Hollywood power players, and terrible reckonings. The book, “The Last Love Song: A Biography of Joan Didion,” put Daugherty in contention for a fifth Oregon Book Award.

We spoke to him in Corvallis, where he teaches in Oregon State’s School of Writing, Literature and Film.

Andi Zeisler On How Feminism Became A Brand

Courtesy of the author

Andi Zeisler is the founding editor of Bitch Media, which churns out the groundbreaking magazine of the same name, blogs, podcasts and more for progressive-minded women. And she noticed a curious trend. Over the past two decades, feminism has undergone a transformation: once ridiculed and reviled, it now has a certain cache.

So what happens when a political and social movement becomes a brand, just another way to sell a celebrity, yoghurt, or a pair of underwear? Zeisler explores that question in her book, “We Were Feminists Once: From Riot Grrrl to CoverGirl©, The Buying and Selling of a Political Movement.”  

Zeisler spoke with “Think Out Loud” host Dave Miller last May. Hear the entire interview here.

Kathleen Dean Moore On Speaking Out Against Climate Change

Courtesy of the author

Kathleen Dean Moore is using every tool available in her fight against climate change. She made her name as a nature writer, philosopher, and environmental advocat and is now up for the general nonfiction award for her title “Great Tide Rising: Toward Clarity and Moral Courage.” It’s a series of essays calling for action, both personal and political.

She spoke with “State of Wonder” from Oregon State University, where she is a distinguished professor of philosophy emerita, about “Great Tide Rising” and her recent debut novel, “Piano Tide.” You can find a link to the full video of “A Call to Life,” Moore’s collaborative performance with pianist Rachelle McCabe here.

Bill Lascher’s Star-Crossed Lovers

Courtesy of the author

Bill Lascher has written the kind of nonfiction book that would seem improbable, if it were fiction. It’s about a dashing couple, both journalists during World War II. The two survived aerial bombardments and naval blockades, and spent their honeymoon on a treacherous naval adventure that took them from the Philippines all the way to Australia. The book is called, “Eve of a Hundred Midnights: The Star-Crossed Love Story of Two WWII Correspondents and Their Epic Escape Across the Pacific.”

Bill Lascher spoke with “Think Out Loud” host Dave Miller last fall, about when he first heard of his grandmother’s cousin, Melville Jacoby. There is a lot more to the interview, including how Mel and Annalee spent their honeymoon babysitting a pair of pandas for the Chinese government. You can hear the full interview here.

Sue Armitage On The History Of Women In The Pacific Northwest

What did women actually do on the Oregon Trail? Contrary to popular belief, it was not all berry picking in bonnets and petticoats.

Courtesy of the author

Historian and author Sue Armitage is an Emerita Professor of History and Women’s Studies at WSU in Pullman, Washington. She’s spent years collecting pieces of regional women’s history for her historical survey, “Shaping the Public Good.” It traces the stories women, from native villages along the Columbia to pioneer settlements, orchards, ranches and newly-industrialized towns in the Willamette Valley.

We visited Armitage at her home in Portland and heard all about her book that took 30 years to research.