Fifteen years ago my wife and I bought 40 acres in the remote mountains of northern Idaho where we spent altogether too much of our time fixing fence, cutting firewood and plowing snow. Those winters were some of the most severe on record—honestly, I have no idea what we were thinking. I do know that spending at least a few hours a month at BookPeople down in Moscow, or Auntie’s Bookstore over in Spokane, was not only a luxury, but a necessity. Passing time in the company of books—and the people who love them—was one of the few ways we knew to keep our sanity.
Ultimately we moved to the East Coast, and then to the Midwest, but we always knew we’d end up in the West. When the chance came to teach in Missoula, Montana (probably the most writer-infested spot on the planet), I jumped at it. Yes, there was a lot of snow there and, yes, I nearly broke into a panic attack every time it started to fall, but I could always regain my calm by stepping into one of Missoula’s fine bookstores, such as or Shakespeare and Co. or Fact & Fiction.
Now we’re in Boise, which probably has more in common with the Southwest of my heritage than the Northwest (For one thing, the snow won’t strike fear in your heart—it always melts within a week or so.). There have been several great bookstores here over the years, the latest and best of which is Rediscovered Bookshop, right downtown. And going in there, I can assure you, will calm your nerves whether it’s snowing or not.
I love the Northwest for many things, but probably most for its book culture. There are so many good bookstores here, so many wonderful booksellers—not to mention the readers, the books clubs, the fine literary organizations. And then there are the book people who you don’t hear about as often, people like W. W. Norton rep and sales director Dan Christiaens (a fixture in Northwestern book culture for years), who have made good books—and getting them into readers’ hands—their mission in life.
So why do I live here? It’s simple: this is book country.