Chamber Music Northwest Lincoln Recital Hall Portland State University Portland Oregon

Portland Book Festival: One venue’s reading list

An afternoon in the Winningstad Theatre yields an armload of recommended reading.


George Orwell has never ceased to be relevant, authors Jon Raymond and Mat Johnson agree.

One of the joys of the Portland Book Festival is hearing participating authors talk about books they love and think other readers should know.  I spent Saturday in Portland’5 Winningstad Theatre, which yielded the following short list of recommended reading.

Lidia Yuknavitch, in explaining her non-linear plot structure in Thrust, mentioned The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction, an essay by Ursula K. Le Guin.  I’d never heard of this piece, then in a delightful bit of synchronicity, an article in Sunday’s New York Times Book Review references it.  I love stuff like that.

When an audience member asked Jon Raymond how he felt about George Orwell’s renewed relevance, Raymond responded that Orwell had never ceased to be relevant, and cited his 1946 essay, Politics and the English LanguageMat Johnson, who appeared with Raymond in the session “Future Tense,” agreed, adding, “Orwell, Toni Morrison, and Joseph Heller are part of my DNA.”  Johnson also praised a graphic novel set during the Weimar Republic: Berlin by Jason Lutes.

When asked what she had read recently, Melissa Febos had two recommendations: White Ivy, a “delicious” novel by Susie Yang, and Helen MacDonald’s upcoming novel, Prophet (co-authored by Sin Blaché) which Febos read in galleys.  That one’s not due out till August, so you’ll have to be patient.  But I bet you have something else to read in the meantime.

Karen Pate worked 29 years as an editor at The Oregonian, most of that time overseeing community news and features in Washington and Clackamas counties. She’s written about storytellers and banjo players, English-language bookstores in Paris and horses who starred in movies. Her work has appeared in The Oregonian, Oregon Magazine, Reed Magazine and various equestrian publications. She wandered into journalism after studying creative writing at Reed College. Karen lives in Portland and has a job that lets her travel around the state, tagging along after racehorses.


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