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What are the best books set in Whatcom County? Read on ...

Kent Holsather, left, and Wes Gannaway are authors of a book about the history of baseball in Whatcom County. Seen here, Friday June 11, 2010 in Bellingham, with a uniform from the Lynden Pioneer Museum that dates from the 1890's to 1905.
Kent Holsather, left, and Wes Gannaway are authors of a book about the history of baseball in Whatcom County. Seen here, Friday June 11, 2010 in Bellingham, with a uniform from the Lynden Pioneer Museum that dates from the 1890's to 1905. THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

I recently came across a list from Powell's Books in Portland, Ore., called "Required Reading: 40 Books Set in the Pacific Northwest." I'm a sucker for lists and it made me wonder: Is there a list of must-read books set in Whatcom County?

So I asked Herald readers to name their favorites. With their banquet of suggestions, it's now easy to "read local."


The 12 Miss Zukas mysteries by Jo Dereske

Classic examples of the cozy mystery: The female protagonist and her best friend finding themselves in the middle of murder and mayhem. ... Throughout the series, old secrets and old rivalries come to light, bringing mystery and danger at every turn. - Carolyn Leeper

"The Living" by Annie Dillard

Amazing description of life in Whatcom County from the perspective of the pioneers and the subsequent generation. The way the forest meets the beach and the endless work of taking the big trees down is marvelous to imagine. ... She also details the endless economic booms and busts, which were sometimes based on local developments but more often on what was happening in the settled East. - Lorraine Earle

"Angel Falls" by Kristin Hannah

She does an amazing job at describing the landscape in the area, and took care to name local landmarks, like Bellis Fair. ... Her books are true page-turners. She bases this particular book on Maple Falls. - Lynn Toennessen

"Mariella, of Out-West" by Ella Higginson

This 1902 novel is worthy for a variety of good reasons. First ... in her short stories, poetry, nonfiction, novel, and essays, Higginson put the Pacific Northwest on the literary map in her time.

Secondly, there is Mariella itself. The novel is fascinating, telling us the compelling story of a young white girl from a poor family growing up in Whatcom County during a time of the arrival of many Easterners and an economic boom.

Finally ... there is the deep pleasure of reading a celebrated novel and seeing our home described. - Laura Laffrado

"The Ferndale Sector" by Lawrence Kadow

This post-apocalyptic tale takes place in Ferndale, where the survivors of a destroyed civilization try to slowly rebuild a stable life by being self sufficient farmers.

At its heart, this story tells of the struggle between those who want to work together to build a new way of life, and those that want to survive by treachery, and theft. - Terence Diffley

"The Button Boy" and "The Ferndale Sector" by Lawrence Kadow

I've loaned those books out to numerous friends and family members, and they were loved by all. - Lora Stoeckl

"Border Songs" by Jim Lynch

An accurate depiction of life along the border, one of the more unusual features (an international border and all that goes with it) this county can claim. ... Lynch's story tells about many of the facets of life along the line, from border jumpers to families that have border guards and smugglers in the same family, to dairy farmers perplexed by all the activity. - Jack Kintner

"Border Songs" ... is a beautifully written book that showcases the natural history of the area in context of living right on the border. - Lara Gaasland-Tatro

"All Is Silence" by Robert L. Slater

A post-apocalyptic, edgy novel set in our very own Bellingham. ... After most of the world's population is wiped out by plague, twists and turns take the reader through a thought-provoking plot as the characters struggle to survive. - Jeremy Birklid

My high school students can't put it down and are secretly trying to read it during class! - Melissa Engels

Bellingham is as fully realized and vivid as the novel's characters, and it even comes alive as a character in its own right. - KR Vulic

It is targeted to a young audience, however, I enjoyed it and I am 79 years old. I found it to be a page-turner from the very beginning. - Evelyn Nystrom


"Bellingham Then and Now" by Kent Holsather and Wes Gannaway

The old and new pictures helped me understand the significant changes that have occurred over the course of time to the community that we live in. They also did a great job with "Whatcom Then and Now." - Ray Moore

"Bays to Bells: The Story of Baseball in Whatcom County From The Earliest Known References to 2011" by Kent Holsather and Wes Gannaway

Across our country even the smallest of communities and settlements had a baseball team made up of local loggers, fisherman, farmers and others, and Whatcom County was no different. ... Some of their sights and scenes seem so real that I could almost smell the popcorn and taste the hot dogs. - Brian Lynch


Can you think of other worthy books set in Whatcom County? Send the book's title and author, and why you like it, to

The author need not be or have been a county resident, but the book must focus in total or in good part on Whatcom County. Authors cannot nominate their own work.