Local Authority: Nancy Pearl

Local librarian and literary critic Nancy Pearl goes global with her new book
Nancy Pearl travels to countries near and far-all from the comfy chair in her home library

NAME: Nancy Pearl
OCCUPATION: Author; National Public Radio commentator
TV PRESENCE: Book Lust with Nancy Pearl, a monthly show on the Seattle Channel
LOCAL LITERARY STRENGTHS: “You really get a palpable sense of place from Northwest writers.”
ON SETTING BOOKS IN THE NORTHWEST: “You have to live through a Seattle winter to really capture the place.”

Does anyone know more about books than Seattle’s beloved librarian, Nancy Pearl? Famously the model for Archie McPhee’s librarian action figure and formerly the executive director of the Washington Center for the Book at the Seattle Public Library, the frequent NPR book commentator has written seven of her own, all addressing the bookworm’s recurring quandary: what to read next. In her latest, Book Lust to Go: Recommended Reading for Travelers, Vagabonds and Dreamers (due out October 1) she suggests books—nonfiction, fiction and poetry—that “really bring to life” 120 places all over the world, including a few that exist only in the writers’ imaginations.

SM: What inspired you to write Book Lust to Go?
NP: I realized that many of my favorite books are exploratory tales or books about going places. And I have also had many people ask me about what books to read because they were traveling to a particular place.

SM: Have you ventured beyond the printed page and visited all the places discussed in your book?
NP: No, so in some ways I’m the wrong person to write a travel book, because I dread the planning and such involved in traveling. When it comes right down to it, I’d rather curl up in my living room and read about a place. But, in another way, I’m the perfect person to write a travel book, because I travel to many faraway places through all the books I read.

SM: If someone were traveling to Seattle, what would you recommend they read?
NP: For books about the Pacific Northwest in general I suggest: Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey—set in Oregon more than 40 years ago, it really captures the forests and lush green surroundings; The Good Rain: Across Time and Terrain in the Pacific Northwest (nonfiction) by Timothy Egan; The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch—set around Olympia, it gives a good sense of water, ocean and tidal pools; The Living by Annie Dillard—historical fiction set generally around Bellingham; and Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson—it’s the Northwest novel.

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