Take advantage of cozy winter weather to catch up on reading.
Short days and crisp weather create the perfect environment for cozying up with a good book, and the Oregon Coast is a great place to do it. We asked Charlie J. Stephens — owner of Port Orford’s Sea Wolf Books & Community Writing Center — for their recommendations of what and where to read on the Coast this winter. Here are some favorites to check out on your next coastal vacation.
Check Out Oregon Coast-Inspired Reads
The Oregon Coast has inspired many a great book. Ken Kesey’s “Sometimes a Great Notion” is among the best known — and one that Stephens read in 2023 when they moved back to the Coast. The novel follows the Stamper family as they refuse to participate in a loggers’ strike in the fictional Oregon coastal town of Wakonda, says Stephens. The logging town, interpersonal drama and even the effects of winter weather will strike a chord with anyone familiar with small-town life on the Coast.
Other books Stephens recommends include Brian Doyle’s “Mink River” — an “Oregon Coast classic that follows a theatrical range of characters in the fictional town of Neawanaka” — and “Trask,” by Don Berry. The protagonist Trask ends up on the North Coast in the mid-19th century on his quest for both land and truth. Stephens notes that Berry was friends with Gary Snyder and other luminaries, and was “very interested in Eastern philosophy, nature and wilderness, a trifecta that is very much a part of this novel.”
And Stephens’ own novel, “A Wounded Deer Leaps Highest,” may be the latest Oregon story on bookshelves — it releases in April 2024. Although the book is set in a fictional town in inland Oregon, Stephens finished it up while living at the Coast. Set in the 1980s, the book tells the story of a child named Smokey who finds solace in the woods while dealing with a tumultuous relationship with their mother.
Explore the Region’s Independent Bookstores
You’re never far from a great book on the Oregon Coast. South Coast favorites include Stephens’ own Sea Wolf Books, which offers carefully curated new and used titles along with workshops and antique typewriters for sale. Gold Beach Books & Art Gallery is another great choice for new and used books, with art and a small cafe on the ground floor and special selections upstairs. Forecastle Books and Gallery in Brookings includes a gallery of local artists’ work and a robust selection of art and comic books.
In Newport’s Nye Beach neighborhood on the Central Coast, the aptly named Nye Beach Book House sells new and used books from an old house that’s been converted into a welcoming bookstore. If you’re in the market for rare and antiquarian books, head up to Robert’s Bookshop in Lincoln City, where you’ll find a gargantuan selection of secondhand books spread across 8,709 lineal feet (equivalent to 1.64 miles) of shelves.
The North Coast is no stranger to independent bookstores either, from Manzanita’s Cloud & Leaf Bookstore, just two blocks from the shore, to the Cannon Beach Book Company, which has been dishing out great reads to residents and visitors for over 40 years. Stop by Seaside’s spacious Beach Books to pick up new books, greeting cards and gifts, or head to Lucy’s Books in Astoria to see a large selection of carefully curated books for all ages, some of which are displayed inside the store’s very own Dr. Who-inspired Tardis.
Find Your Perfect Winter Reading Nook
Once you’ve stocked up on books, it’s time to find somewhere to start reading. There are plenty of reader-friendly cafes throughout the region, from Brookings’ The Bell & Whistle Coffee House to Insomnia Coffee Co. in Cannon Beach, which has big windows to let in lots of natural light plus a cozy fireplace. Astoria’s Cambium Gallery is another great choice, combining the beauty of an art gallery with the coziness (and tasty drinks and baked goods) of a coffee shop.
Stephens’ personal favorite is Newport’s literary-themed Sylvia Beach Hotel, where every room is inspired by and named after a notable author. Stephens loves the Gertrude Stein room, which features Stein’s thought-provoking quote framed on the wall: “’I like a view, but I like to sit with my back turned to it.’” If you prefer to take in the views while you read, you can head up to the third-floor library and reading room, which faces the Pacific Ocean. “You can sit on a comfy couch with a blanket and read for as long as you want,” Stephens suggests, “watching as the sun makes its nightly dip below the far horizon.”
– By Margot Bigg
Top photo of Sea Wolf Books & Community Writing Center by Jennifer Burns Bright.
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