There are many well-written and insightful books about history in the Pacific Northwest! Here, you’ll find a list of non-fiction books recommended by the team at the Washington State Historical Society. Do you have a favorite non-fiction history book you’d like to bring to our attention? Contact Marketing and Communications.

  • Staff Pick by Gwen Whiting

    Overground Railroad: The Roots of Green Book Travel in America
    by Candacy Taylor

    Gwen says, “Overground Railroad: The Roots of Green Book Travel in America takes us on a journey through what life was like for Black travelers during Jim Crow-era America, a time when segregation made recreation an act of resistance for communities of color. Taylor doesn’t shy away from the hard truths of history including the impact of ‘sundown’ legislation, and how over time, many Black businesses who advertised in the Green Book succumbed to economic, political, and civic pressures. These issues are still very much alive today and Overground Railroad challenges us to reflect on that.”

    Meet author Candacy Taylor at our Third Thursday event May 19!

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    Uniting the Salish Coast through Cross-Cultural Marriages
    by Candace Wellman

    Peace-weaving marriages between Salish families and pioneer men played a crucial role in mid-1800s regional settlement. Candace Wellman illuminates this hidden history and shatters stereotypes surrounding these relationships. The four exceptional women she profiles left a lasting legacy in their Puget Sound communities.

    2018 Willa Literary Award, scholarly nonfiction; 2020 Washington State Historical Society WOW selection

    Excerpt published in COLUMBIA summer 2019, p. 25.

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  • Staff Pick by Emily Gogerty-Northrip

    Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter
    by Ben Goldfarb

    Emily says, “Beavers are a surprisingly controversial animal, and Ben Goldfarb explores why in this book about the past, present, and future of these industrious mammals. Learn about the natural history of beavers, why they were hunted so voraciously—especially in the Pacific Northwest—and why self-styled ‘Beaver Believers’ seek to restore them to landscapes across North America.”

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  • Hiking Washington’s Fire Lookouts
    by Amber Casali

    This guide to hiking the fire lookouts of Washington’s Cascades and Olympics will appeal to a wide range of hikers. Includes 44 fire lookouts with trail access. Routes are not technical—hikers just need boots, trekking poles, and, probably, lunch. Lookout history, anecdotes, and full-color photos throughout!

    Hear from author Amber Casali in this COLUMBIA Conversations podcast.

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  • Staff Pick by Michael King

    Chief Seattle and the Town That Took His Name: The Change of Worlds for the Native People and Settlers on Puget Sound
    by David M. Buerge

    Michael says, “Buerge’s biography recounts the life of Chief Seattle and the role he played in shaping the early growth of the largest city in our region. This is an indispensable book for readers seeking to understand the history of Seattle and its indigenous communities.”

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  • Emerald Street – A History of Hip Hop in Seattle
    By Daudi Abe

    “In Emerald Street,  Abe chronicles the development of Seattle hip hop from its earliest days, drawing on interviews with artists and journalists to trace how the elements of hip hop—rapping, DJing, breaking, and graffiti—flourished in the Seattle scene. He shows how Seattle hip-hop culture goes beyond art and music, influencing politics, the relationships between communities of color and law enforcement, the changing media scene, and youth outreach and educational programs.”

    Hear from author Daudi Abe in this recorded WSHS program from Feb. 4, 2021.

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  • Julia Butler Hansen:
    A trailblazing Washington politician
    Biography by John C. Hughes

    In 1967, Julia Butler Hansen, from a tiny town along the Columbia River, became the most powerful woman in the U.S. Congress.  John C. Hughes, chief historian for Legacy Washington, Office of the Secretary of State, considers her remarkable 43-year career as an elected official, including seven terms in the House of Representatives, and explores the life of the charming, tough, colorful, and complicated Hansen.

    Hear from author John Hughes in this COLUMBIA Conversations podcast.

    History Booklist
  • Staff Pick by Michael King

    Hiking Washington’s History
    by Judy Bentley and Craig Romano

    Michael says, “Bentley and Romano offer an informative and entertaining book that covers a wide range of historical hikes across the state of Washington. This book is perfect for adventurers and history-lovers alike.”

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  • Staff Pick by Michael King

    The River That Made Seattle: A Human and Natural History of the Duwamish
    by BJ Cummings

    Michael says, “Cummings’ book is a fascinating examination of the Duwamish River and the many people and debates that have shaped the history of the waterway. This compelling book suggests that any understanding of the region’s history, culture, and environment is incomplete without fully grasping the centrality of the Duwamish River, and will appeal to readers interested in urban history and environmental justice.”

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  • Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle
    Edited by Elizabeth Hutton Turner and Austen Barron Bailly

    Celebrated artist Jacob Lawrence taught at the University of Washington and lived much of his life in Seattle. His works are held in prestigious museums internationally (including the WSHS collection).

    “The American Struggle explores Jacob Lawrence’s radical way of transforming history into art by looking at his thirty panel series of paintings, Struggle . . . from the History of the American People (1954–56). … a multitude of voices responds to the episodes representing struggle from American history … Statements by these artists amplify how they and Lawrence view history not as a distant period of the past but as an active imaginative space that is continuously questioned in the present tense … .”

    See also a public program about Lawrence presented by WSHS with the Northwest African American Museum (2021).

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  • Staff Pick by Michael King

    Emerald City: An Environmental History of Seattle
    by Matthew Klingle

    Michael says, “Klingle combines environmental and urban history to explain how human efforts to reshape the physical landscape of the Seattle region over the last two centuries have generated detrimental effects on the environment and profound social injustice. This meticulously researched book is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of Seattle, social justice, or environmental issues.”

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