Recent Not-To-Overlook Books

      "Where'd You Go, Bernadette," by Maria Semple. Is Seattle the dullest city in the country? That's the premise of this sassy novel by a former writer of comedy TV shows, who satirizes the Emerald City in all its Earth-shoe earnestness through a young woman named Bernadette who relocates from sunny L.A. to gray Seattle -- and can't stand her new home. Great fodder for Portlanders who envy our more muscular neighbor to the north.

      "The Revised Fundamentals of Care-giving," by Jonathan Evison. Sticking with the same landscape -- and the same sassy attitude -- this award-winning Seattle area author gives us a story about redemption that's as hip as it is heart-warming. Ben Benjamin, a stay-at-home dad whose two children were killed in an accident under his watch, is in a trough he can't climb out of. But financial need takes him to a job as a caregiver for Trevor, a 20-year-old man with muscular dystrophy. Determined to give Trevor more taste of life than he can see from home, Ben takes him on a road trip. Buckle your seat belt, dude!

      "Little Century," by Anna Keesey. Fall back a century, and this novel by a Linfield College prof is a well-told story of a young woman who heads west to restart her life in Oregon during its pioneer days. Resettled on a patch of land east of the Cascades, she gets caught up in the range wars, finds romance and witnesses an era and the tiny rural towns of the past that are now gone with the sagebrush.

      "The Orchardist," by Amanda Coplin. Here's a novel set in the same time period by a Portland writer who creates a solitary fruit rancher living his life according to the rhythms of the land whose life is suddenly disrupted when two pregnant girls take refuge on his land. Another great read about a vanished time in which his decision to protect these young interlopers changes his life -- and theirs.

      "Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child," By Bob Spitz. Julia Child would have turned 100 this month, and what better gift to her memory than this affectionate biography. It tells the story of a 6-foot-three woman from a privileged background who goes to Paris to be a spy and ends up revolutionizing the way Americans cook and think about food. Quelle energy! Quelle enthusiasm! Bon petit!