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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Which Timothy Egan book will you bring to Bing?

The Spokesman-Review

The phrase “Spokane’s own” comes to mind as Timothy Egan returns for a stop on his book tour.

A Washington native – born in Seattle, raised in Spokane, Timothy Egan has a Husky pedigree with a degree from the University of Washington. Brought up with a love for the Pacific Northwest that was instilled by his mother, Egan became a reporter for the Seattle Post Intelligencer.

He got his break to work as a Pacific Northwest correspondent for the New York Times in 1991 during one of the worst oil disasters in American history – the Exxon Valdez spill – and he’s been writing for it ever since. In 2001, Egan shared the Pulitzer Prize with fellow New York Times reporters for the project “How Race Is Lived in America.”

Here’s a quick rundown of his work that is interspersed between his bi-weekly opinion column for the New York Times:

“A Pilgrimage to Eternity: From Canterbury to Rome in Search of a Faith” (2019)

This personal story melds a journey over the ancient trail of Via Francigena and a history of Christianity.

Reviews are in: “A pilgrimage to find religion – or truth, or the way – that pleasingly blends memoir, travelogue and history.”

“The Immortal Irishman” (2016)

New York Times Bestseller, winner of 2017 Montana Book Award

An epic story of a legendary Irishman leaving you wondering how on earth all of these things could possibly happen to one person. File this one under difficult to believe but true: the story of Thomas Meagher (1823-1867), an Irishman radicalized by the famine who became a hero on three continents.

Meagher led a failed uprising against British rule, was then banished to Tasmania for life, but then moved to New York to become one of the most famous Irish Americans. Fighting for justice was in Meagher’s lifebook, so he joined the U.S. Army during the Civil War, rising to the rank of brigadier general. There is even a Currier & Ives print depicting one of his successful battles.

Meagher later moved to Montana, where he was acting governor at the request of President Andrew Johnson. Meagher then died under mysterious circumstances. Records indicate that he fell overboard while sick – or drunk – traveling by steamboat down the Missouri River. Egan suggests Meagher may have been murdered.

“Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher” (2012)

Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction

The name of Edward Curtis (1868–1952) is eponymous with American Indian photography, but how did that evolve? In 1896 while running a Seattle photography studio, Curtis photographed Chief Seattle’s impoverished daughter Angelina (Kick-is-om-lo). Curtis was astounded that she was living in poverty in the city named for her father.

Photographing this population of original Americans consumed his life, and Curtis then made it his life’s mission to photograph and chronicle Native Americans all over the country. His marriage fell apart as he traveled and photographed thousands of images of North America’s indigenous citizens sponsored by enthusiasts J.P. Morgan and Theodore Roosevelt. His endeavor is referred to as the “largest anthropological enterprise ever undertaken.”

“The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America” (2009)

A Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award winner and the Washington State Book Award

Bicyclists and hikers in the Northwest know the hiking trails along the Idaho-Montana border that skirt the worst forest fire in history. The Great Fire of 1910 scorched 3 million acres and killed as many as 100 people of the 10,000 gathered by the forest rangers to help fight the tumultuous force of nature. The magnitude of this fire, although devastating, also was a turning point in forest management in the United States under the leadership of outdoorsman President Theodore Roosevelt and chief forester Gifford Pinchot. Conservation was an unheard-of concept, and out of this disaster, Roosevelt and Pinchot were motivated to create ownership of the forest in every U.S. citizen.

“The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl” (2006)

2006 National Book Award for History/Biography and the Washington State Book Award – featured prominently in Ken Burns’ 2012 documentary “The Dust Bowl”

Ten long years of agriculture-destroying drought and dust plagued the United States during the Depression, particularly the states of Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Nebraska and Colorado, the area referred to as the Dust Bowl. The magnitude of one of the greatest agricultural natural disasters in American history is chronicled by following a dozen families and their survival.

“The Winemaker’s Daughter” (2004)

Egan’s facts find their place in his first novel as the New York Times noted: “ A good read showcasing Mr. Egan’s lived-in sense of place, as well as his knowledge of wine culture.” The story centers around Brunella Cartolano, an architect who strives to save the family vineyards in the arid wine country east of Washington’s Cascade Mountains.

“Lasso the Wind – Away to the New West” (1998)

Winner of the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association Award. A New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

A classic road trip across the county includes the American West – though not perhaps all of the places that Egan visits in “Lasso the Wind.” In his quest to capture the old and new stories of the area, Egan dissects a new location in each chapter – encompassing travel, history, geography, culture and geology of the area.

“Breaking Blue” (1992)

An unsolved murder case for 54 years slowly unraveled as a diligent student and Spokane cop writing his master’s thesis on the 10 previous sheriffs of Pend Oreille County discovered a 1955 deathbed statement. Forget about quick resolution of today’s “Live PD,” this story weaved through multiple secrets as witnesses between the ages of 80 and 90 years old came forward to confess what they knew of the cover up of town marshal George Conniff’s murder. (Characters in Spokane’s history are hardly lacking. You may recognize the more things change, the more they stay the same.)

“The Good Rain – Across Time and Terrain in the Pacific Northwest” (1990)

Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award winner

Considered one of the essential books on the history of the Northwest, Egan retraces the travels of Theodore Winthrop, one of the areas first travel writers, to discover what has changed in the 100+ years since Winthrop’s own book was written.