Whether you’re tearing into your holiday gift books or clearing the shelves in anticipation of next year’s reads, this one’s for you. We’re dedicating the whole show today to the pleasures of reading and books. We’re drilling down with the pros to find reads that challenge, reads that work in far-flung places and reads that will stay in your head years after you put down the book.


Retired Seattle librarians Nancy Pearl published her first novel, "George and Lizzie" in 2018.

Retired Seattle librarians Nancy Pearl published her first novel, “George and Lizzie” in 2018.

Courtesy of Simon & Schuster

Super-Librarian Nancy Pearl Turns Novelist

Nancy Pearl is the voice from Seattle that’s recommended books for generations of readers on NPR’s Morning Edition. Did you know she’s also the creator of the public reading programs that libraries around the country use to kick-start community conversations about tough issues? Pearl is so fascinating, she’s the only librarian we know with her own action figure.

Now we can add “novelist” to her lengthy list of titles. This year she published “George and Lizzie,” a funny, engaging story about a couple of kids in love with books and each other, trying to transcend the secrets of the past. We talked to Nancy Pearl in October at an event for the Manzanita Writers Series. (Happy 10th birthday, you guys!) She’s delightful.


Don Evans works Stephenson Mountain Lookout for five months out of the year and has over 500 books.

Don Evans works Stephenson Mountain Lookout for five months out of the year and has over 500 books.

April Baer/OPB

Alone In The Sky With 500 Books

What kind of books make for good company when you’re all by yourself in Oregon’s gorgeousness? We first talked with fire lookout Don Evans in May, just before he headed out to his annual posting at the Stephenson Mountain Lookout, a job he’s had since the 1970s.

For five months out of the year, Evans lives by himself, in the middle of a forest outside of Prineville, looking for fires. He has no internet and very little contact with the outside world. But what he does have are lots of books. We’re looking forward to the memoir he’s writing — it would take an entire Tumblr blog to list all the books he’s absorbed over the years. Here are just a few of his recommendations:


Forrest Van Tuyl

Forrest Van Tuyl

April Baer/OPB

Reading Cormac McCarthy In Hells Canyon

It wasn’t a complete surprise to learn that Forrest Van Tuyl’s favorite author is the master of the Western Gothic, Cormac McCarthy. After all, Forrest makes his living packing and guiding horseback trips into Hells Canyon when he’s not playing and singing around Wallowa County.

He had some things to tell us about the pace of McCarthy’s prose, and the way certain passages in “The Crossing” can tumble and flow through your mind when you’re out on a trail. Can a good read change the place and structure of your thinking? We think there’s a case. Here are Forrest’s book recommendations:


Lara Messersmith-Glavin

Lara Messersmith-Glavin

Courtesy  Lara Messersmith-Glavin 

Boat Books From The Queen of Pirates

Oregon’s wild places are not all found on land. Lara Messersmith-Glavin grew up partly in Eastern Oregon, partly on fishing boats, spending the summers near Kodiak Island, Alaska. She’s one of our favorite people to hang out with at the annual Fisher Poets gathering in Astoria.

Today, she teaches writing at Portland Community College, helping a new generation of readers wake up to literature. She’s currently working on a memoir about growing up on the boat.

Music Heard On 'State Of Wonder'

A Spotify playlist to share all the music we feature on our show and anything else that inspires us while we’re making it.