Back to Military Life

Winter reads

A shortlist of stunning regional books

The Olympia Brewing Company is a hardbound, historical collection of photographs, prints, advertisements and facts about the famous Olympia Brewery. Photo credit:

Email Article Print Article Share on Facebook Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon

As the weather outside gets colder and holiday fervor creeps into our weekly schedules, it's no wonder many of us are looking for an excuse to retreat to the safety (and solitude) of our sofa. There, a good book and a warm blanket await us. If the only thing holding you back from this quiet, literary bliss is indecision about which book to read, we've got you covered. Here's a shortlist of our regional favorites this winter:

Finding Grace Within by Shannon O'Donnell

Hot off the press by Pilgrim Spirit Communications, this book is about to steal the holiday thunder in the South Puget Sound. Finding Grace Within is a memoir about Pacific Northwest author Shannon O'Donnell. Its narrative centers on O'Donnell's work as a prison chaplain. It implores readers to find common ground with those living behind bars and strives to bring to light the humanity within each of us. O'Donnell, a chaplain since 1999, is also the author of Save the Bones. $14.95, published October 2018 by Pilgrim Spirit Communications, available at

How to Be Married After Iraq by Abby E. Murray

This hard-hitting poetry collection explores the "impact of war beyond the combat zone" and is excellent reading material for family members and friends of servicemembers. It delves into the psyche of those who are left behind when a loved one goes to war. Themes inside this collection include combat stress, transition and perseverance. Murray, who is a military spouse herself, teaches writing at University of Washington Tacoma (UWT) and offers regular, free writing workshops to veterans, servicemembers and military families. How to Be Married After Iraq is her third poetry collection. $13.99, published March 2018 by Finishing Line Press, available at

Lightfall by Christian Carvajal

Nothing says "Happy New Year!" like a sci-fi novel about the end of the world. Written by Olympia author Christian Carvajal, Lightfall is a satirical story set in Oklahoma. There, ominous events unfold and churchgoers of different denominations become convinced the end of the world is upon them. Although published in 2009 as Carvajal's debut novel, Lightfall still feels relevant considering our nation's current social discontent. In addition to writing, Carvajal is also a local director, actor and playwright. $21.90, published November 2009 by Fear Nought Publishing, available at

Meet Behind Mars by Renee Simms

If you're on the hunt for a short-story collection that'll knock your socks off, this is it. Meet Behind Mars features 11 contemporary stories in which ancestry, desire, geography, and memory affect relationships. Some of the stories are humorous, while others leave you contemplating cultural issues affecting our nation. Meet Behind Mars is Simms' debut story collection. The author is also an assistant professor of African American studies and contributing faculty to English studies at University of Puget Sound (UPS) in Tacoma. $18.99, published April 2018 by Wayne State University Press, available at

The Olympia Brewing Company by Paul Bialas

If your holiday gatherings start to go awry (and they will), lighten the mood with this coffee-table beauty. The Olympia Brewing Company is a hardbound, historical collection of photographs, prints, advertisements and facts about the famous Olympia Brewing Company. It includes pre- and post-prohibition information about the brewery, which was founded in Tumwater in 1895 but is now abandoned. Created with the help of Kickstarted funds, and written by independent author Paul Bialas, this is the perfect gift for Washington state history buffs and art collectors. $40, published December 2018 by Paul Bialas, available at

The ‘Stan by Kevin Knodell and David Axe, illustrated by Blue Delliquanti

Shake up your reading routine by picking up a copy of the graphic novel, The ‘Stan, which is a collection of short comics about the Afghanistan War. The comics are based on reporting by journalists David Axe and Kevin Knodell, and feature stories told through U.S. military, Afghan civilians and Afghan military narrators. "You're getting the deleted scenes of the Afghanistan War," Knodell told The Ranger in a previous interview. "They're stories that may not be newsworthy but are still human stories." Knodell lives in Tacoma and regularly covers conflict, crime and culture in his work as a journalist.
$16.95, published September 2018 by Dead Reckoning Press, available at Destiny City Comics

Read next close


Letting potential off the leash

comments powered by Disqus