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Originally published Sunday, January 15, 2012 at 5:01 AM

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Lit Life

Lit Life: 6 regional prizewinners to add to your reading list

In her Lit Life column, Seattle Times book editor Mary Ann Gwinn reports on the winners of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association, including "West of Here" by Jonathan Evison.

Seattle Times book editor

Author appearance

Jonathan Evison

The author of "West of Here," a Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association winner, will read at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 31 at the Eagle Harbor Book Co. on Bainbridge Island (206-842-5332 or He will read at 7 p.m. Feb. 2 at Seattle's Elliott Bay Book Co. (206-624-6600 or
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Lit Life |

Your Lit Life correspondent took time out to celebrate the holidays, entertain visiting family and clear out some of the hundreds — OK, thousands — of volumes that have accumulated during her 13-year tenure as the book editor. Our offices are moving. Here's a thought you should always second-guess when it pops into your head: "This book looks so interesting. I know I'll get time to read it someday ... "

Those books are now headed to the Seattle Public Library Friends of the Library book sale, and I'm back to tell you about six books that look so interesting ... the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association winners, announced early this month.

The PNBA is an association of independent booksellers in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Alaska and British Columbia. Winners (who must reside in one of these states) were chosen by a committee of nine. There are two Washington winners, four Oregon winners, all from Portland, and nary a Seattle author in the mix. Put a bird on it! ("Portlandia" joke.)

The winners (all quotes are from the committee citations):

"The Sisters Brothers" by Patrick deWitt (Ecco). This novel, about two very different brothers in the old West, "is a Western novel for people who think they don't like Westerns. Soft-hearted brother Eli's narration in the trail dust of gun-slinging brother Charlie is philosophical and funny — very funny — amidst a stark and violent backdrop." The author lives in Portland.

"West of Here" by Jonathan Evison (Algonquin). Bainbridge Island author Evison's novel begins on the Olympic Peninsula of 1890, "when dreamers, drifters, scoundrels and hardworking settlers dove in with unrestrained ambition ... (and continues) to 2006 and their descendants, now suffering the consequences of that wild enthusiasm."

"Feathers" by Thor Hanson (Basic Books). Friday Harbor resident Hanson was honored for his nonfiction account of everything you have ever wanted to know about feathers: "Feathers are pretty remarkable. And reading about them in Thor Hanson's well-researched book is like sitting down for a lively chat with a particularly bright friend."

"Shards" by Ismet Prcic (Black Cat). Portland writer Prcic won for his first novel, in which the main character (also named Ismet Prcic) tries to write stories of his native Bosnia to heal his anguish at leaving his family and country. "Powerful, gorgeous writing, complicated without a hint of intellectual grandstanding. This novel is a difficult treasure."

"Habibi" by Craig Thompson (Pantheon). Portland author/illustrator Thompson's graphic novel tells the story of a girl and boy in a Saudi Arabia-like country who undergo a series of harrowing trials. "The intricate artwork in Habibi weaves the beauty of Arabic calligraphy and traditional patterns into a story that feels simultaneously ancient and modern, starkly realistic and mythological."

"The Chronology of Water" by Lidia Yuknavitch (Hawthorne Books). This memoir by a Portland author revisits the author's abused childhood and unsettled adulthood as she studies under Ken Kesey, gets her doctorate and swims, competitively and for herself. "Yuknavitch has a striking story to tell, but the way she tells it is even more striking. The book becomes experiential, which fosters an intimacy between the writer and reader."

Mary Ann Gwinn: 206-464-2357 or On Twitter @gwinnma. Mary Ann Gwinn appears on Classical KING-FM's Arts Channel at /pages/10057476.php

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