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Book City: Gov. Jay Inslee talks reading

Gov. Jay Inslee Credit: Jay Inslee/Flickr

Jay Inslee is a home-grown governor. His Dad was a biology teacher at Garfield and Sealth high schools, and Inslee’s first foray into public service was when he fought for a new public high school during the years he lived near Yakima. Our 23rd governor went to Ingraham High School and the University of Washington, then attended Willamette University to earn his law degree. He lives on Bainbridge Island.

Are you able to find time to read for pleasure now you’re the governor?

Not nearly as much as I’d like. I try to read before I go to bed, and am usually able to finish about three pages before falling asleep.

Any books open on your nightstand right now?

H is for Hawk, a memoir by Helen Macdonald. It’s taking me a while, but I always enjoy reading books that have some tie to nature.

Have you read a truly great book you’d unhesitatingly recommend to friends and colleagues?

Two books come to mind, both of them read some time ago: Dirt, the Erosion of Civilizations, by David R. Montgomery, and Eating the Sun: How Plants Power the Planet, by Oliver Morton. They’re both fascinating books that will make you think differently about the world around us.

Do you read mostly fiction or non-fiction?

Non-fiction, no question. I usually read historical or science-based books.

Is there a political/civic book you hope every citizen of Washington would read?

I’m not sure about a specific book, but for a well-balanced diet of ideas I’d suggest reading columnists like Paul Krugman, David Brooks and David Horsey.

Which newspapers, blogs, magazines do you turn to regularly to stay current?

All of them, except for the ones Sarah Palin reads. Just kidding. I’m regularly scanning daily papers from around the state, and usually take time to read my local paper in the morning before going to the office. That’s the Olympian when I’m at the capitol, the Kitsap Sun when I’m on Bainbridge.

Do you have favorite Washington state or regional authors?

I really enjoy reading Tim Egan. Sherman Alexie and Ivan Doig are on my list too. And, of course, everyone is reading Daniel James Brown right now. Boys on the Boat is such a fantastic book.

What were your most cherished books when you were a child?

This probably isn’t a conventional choice but I remember reading Brave Men, by Ernie Pyle when I was a teenager and feeling really affected by those stories. It was one of the first accounts of the war that was really told from the perspectives of the soldiers, the ones on the front lines. It was riveting.

Do you have a book or two that youve re-read over the years and will no doubt read again?

I’ve probably read Moby Dick, by Herman Melville at least five times.

Can you recall a powerful passage from a book thats stayed with you?

“It is not down in any map; true places never are.” A great line from – yes – Moby Dick.

What book do you plan to read next, and why?

The Sixth Extinction: an Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert is on my list. I know some would like to say my concerns about the health of our planet aren’t legitimate, but I’m afraid they are.

What Val’s Reading this Month: David McCullough’s The Wright Brothers, like all the best biographies, makes you feel as if you’re watching the subjects’ lives unfold in real time. Wilbur and Orville Wright are likable characters, so Ohio-normal, courageous and yet brilliant, each in his own way. McCullough brings to life this pair of bike mechanics’ years in Europe, and chronicles the world’s fascination with their taking to the skies. Then there’s the surprising twist of how the brothers’ gutsy sister Katharine was instrumental in their success.

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