Coming home for the holidays: Oregon-themed gift books

In some families, exchanging books is part of the holiday gift tradition. For others, a gift book may represent a moment of inspiration — or desperation. Rather than selecting the latest best-seller, there can be some satisfaction in identifying and purchasing a “niche” book. What better niche than this year’s crop of Oregon-themed books?

Of the most venerable of the gift book genres is the coffee-table book: pictorials of Oregon’s dramatic scenery are an easy sell, and this year, “Mount Hood: the Heart of Oregon” is a lovely addition to this pantheon. A Hood River native, photographer Peter Marbach knows his subject well and it shows.

For those who prefer “travel” writing, or what might be better called “place-memoir,” two interesting volumes this year include another by Shannon Applegate, descendant of the Applegate pioneer family. She has written a tender memoir of becoming caretaker for the historic Applegate family cemetery in Yoncalla, “Living Among Headstones: Life in a Country Cemetery.”  In contrast,  Applegate’s “city-cousin,” Brian  Doyle, editor of Portland Magazine, celebrates a bacchanal with “The Grail: A Year Ambling and Shambling Through an Oregon Vineyard in Pursuit of the Best Pinot Noir Wine in the Whole Wild World,”  based on his year at the Lange Vineyards in the Dundee Hills.

Sports lovers and athletes might well enjoy the work of Kenny Moore, Olympian and Sports Illustrated writer. He creates an intimate and surprisingly candid biography of his coach, Bill Bowerman, in  “Bowerman and the Men of Oregon: The Story of Oregon’s Legendary Coach and Nike’s Cofounder.” Another pick is Stephen Goodwin’s “Dream Golf: The Making of Bandon Dunes,” which describes the unlikely choice of the Oregon Coast for a world-class golf course by a Chicago greeting-card heir.

For the true crime readers, Oregon can provide some entertaining examples of both historic and contemporary bad guys. James Yuskavitch offers the former in “Outlaw Tales of Oregon: True Stories of Oregon’s Most Infamous Robbers, Rustlers and Bandits.”

For the pure mystery lovers, a pair of Portland authors has each produced a pair of thrillers. Miriam Zellnick has recently delivered two Libby Seale mysteries, with a female seamstress/sleuth set in turn-of-the-century “Portland: A Death at the Rose Paperworks,” and “Murder at the Portland Variety.” For George Wright fans, “Tillamook, 1952,” has followed close on the heels of “Baker City, 1948,” as the second of a trio set in small Oregon towns of the author’s childhood.