San Juan Reads

reviews and descriptions of favorites, memoirs, histories, novels,
and children's books by islands authors or set in or about the San Juan Islands

Beth Helstien wearing glassesBeth Helstien, the outreach coordinator for the San Juan Island Library, writes book reviews for the Journal of the San Juans.

The reviews cover the world of the San Juan archipelago--the islands off the northwest coast of Washington State's inland sea. Books have been written by local authors, or are about the area, or are set in the San Juans.

The San Juans Islands of Washington State are fertile habitat for orca whales and other marine wildlife, sea birds, native plants and more recently introduced species. The islands are also home to a vibrant community of individualists and human characters. A sense of community predominates, but conflicts are real, if sometimes minimized.

This most northwestern corner of the country has spawned a suprising amount of literature by llocal authors. The beautiful San Juans are a setting well-known authors often choose for their fiction. The presence on San Juan Island of the University of Washington Friday Harbor Labs provides for a certain depth to the scholary research about the San Juan Islands.



cover of Inpenetrable Forest

The Inpenetrable Forest
Thor Hansen

A Peace Corps park ranger recounts with humor and compassion his work in Uganda to make gorillas safe for tourism

cover of the the Land of Smaerd The Land of Smaerd
Andrea von Botefuhr, Angela Russell, illustrated by Bryn Barnard

Dreams spelled backward

Folly: A Novel

Laurie R. King

Rebuilding a burned house to rebuild her life, an island new-comer meets some true-to-life island characters

cover of Orca Encounters

Orca Encounters
Monca Wieland

Images capture the emotional experience of encountering orca whales up close

new cover of Why We Garden

Why We Garden: Cultivating a Sense of Place
Jim Nollman

Highly literate—even poetic Demanding a new ethics for how we treat the land as gardeners

cover of In Season: An Island:Culinary Adventures of a San Juan Island Chef

In Season: Culinary Adventures of a San Juan Island Chef
Greg Atkinson

Recipes and reflections on San Juan life, families, loving,
eating, and cooking

cover of Natural Areas of the San Juan Islands

Natural Areas of the San Juan Islands
Terry Domico

Get outside. This book tells you where to go and how to get there

cover of Andrew Henry's Meadow

Andrew Henry's Meadow
Doris Burn

If they want to keep them living in the village, adults must learn to respect their children's talents

cover of Wherever I Wander

Wherever I Wander
Judith Azrael

Magic in the mood woven by piecing together images and self reflection from journals and poetry

cover of Alaska's Search for a Killer

Alaska's Search for a Killer
Susan Meredith

A bracing ocean voyage serving Alaska's Native peoples in the fight against TB, a memoir set at after the end of WW II.

Memoirs & Island History

cover of Island Ebb and Flow

Island Ebb & Flow
Frances K. Lovering

Life on Waldron in the 1930s and 40s comes to life and you remember the meaning of words like "remote" and "self-reliant"
cover of Underpinning

Underpinning: a Vivid Recollection of Life in Washington State in the Early Part of This Century
Caroline Reed

Spend a decade before the first world war in Friday Harbor

cover of James Francis Tulloch Diary

James Francis Tulloch Diary
compiled and edited by Gordon Keith

A cantankerous voice delivering a disjointed memoir -- surprisingly contemporary

cover of Blakely Island in Timecover of The Pig War The Pig War: Standoff in Griffin Bay
Michael Vouri
Blakely: Island in Time
JoAnn Roe

The Pig War is not a cute story but the triumph of diplomacy over warcraft
cover of Island Bush Pilot

Island Bush Pilot
Roy Franklin

A great storyteller recounts adventures in aviation, including founding San Juan Airlines and developming Friday Harbor airport
cover of The Burma Road

The Burma Road
Donavan Webster

In the middle of the steaming Burmese jungle you'll meet an islander who served heroically with Merrill's maurader rangers.


Novels and Children's

    cover of My Champion

My Champion
S.K. Carnes

Original oil paintings illustrate the girl's transformation as she learns to accept herself and her horse the way are--good enough

cover of Phoenix Island

Phoenix Island
Charlotte Paul

Not exactly a 70s back to the land fantasy, this novel imagines life after the tsunami. Was a bestseller in its day!

cover of You May Now Kill the Bride

You May Now Kill the Bride
Deborah Donnelly

The bride wears purple and lavender, but the wedding planner stumbles into bad things on the way to weddings...

cover of Educating Waverly

Educating Waverley
Laura Kalpakian

World War I in France, Isadora Island (think Orcas) in the present and WW II--alternating times and values for women and a girls' school

cover of Last Clear Chance

Last Clear Chance
Bob Tripp

Take off on a spiritual quest with the pilot who crashed the plane and killed most of the passengers, including his wife
cover of Rainbow's End

Rainbow's End
Irene Hannon

Grace for scarred lives--two broken hearts meet and heal on Orcas Island, in the midst of archetypal island figures
cover of Of the Law

Of The Law
Susan Wingate

Murder, madness and the sheriff has to find out. I liked this rendition of the sheriff of San Juan County, dark and lurking



cover of Shredding the Social Contract

Shredding the Social Contract: The Privatization of Medicare
John Geyman, M.D.

Debunks arguments that free markets deliver health care with less cost than government

cover of Real World Intelligence

Real World Intelligence
Herbert E. Meyer

A look at intelligence gathering for business based on the spy world, by a former Reagan administration spook

cover of We All Have a Purpose for Being Here

We All Have a Purpose for Being Here
Jean Hendrickson

A memoir documenting her new age journey; weird, challenging, uplifting; well crafted

cover of MS and Your Feelings

MS and Your Feelings
Allison Shadday, LCSW

Success stories for chronically ill patients plus strategies for living better while ill. Not just for people with MS

cover of Getting Around in China

Getting Around in China
Fred Richardson

Reminisce over two decades of journal entries about travel in China, or make detailed plans for your trip with this practical guide

cover of Naturally Attracted: Connecting With Michael J. Cohen

Naturally Attracted: Connecting with Michael J. Cohen
Charley Scull

A documentary DVD about an island original--Dr. Mike Cohen is a musician, an environmental educator, and one of a kind

Subject Guide to More Reading
These short annotations will help you discover more books about the San Juan Islands.
Precious Cargo
Clyde Ford

An investigator delays his cruising plans aboard his wooden boat to look into the deathof a young Mexican girl off Cypress Island. He finds a world of crime and evil, illegal immigration and indentured labor.