Ocean Vuong, whose powerful readings turned roomfuls of cynical adults into crying children on his last poetry tour, will come to town again with his first foray into fiction, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, on June 20. Ebru Yildiz
Below, we've compiled all of our critics' picks for the season's literary events, like fiction writer and memoirist Elizabeth Gilbert, poet Ocean Vuong, New Yorker essayist Adam Gopnik, feminist playwright Eve Ensler, and crime-fiction titan James Ellroy. You can also find a complete list of readings & talks in Seattle this summer on our Things To Do calendar, or check out the rest of our critics' picks from Seattle Art and Performance.

Found something you like and don't want to forget about it later? Click "Save Event" on any of the linked events below to add it to your own private list.


Jump to: Fiction | Poetry | Sci-Fi/Fantasy | Essays | History | Memoir/Biography | Politics/Current Issues | Science/Nature | Food | Open Mic/Storytelling | Miscellaneous

Fiction



Wed June 12

Tara Conklin: The Last Romantics Progenitor of the bestselling The House Girl will read from a new novel about four loyal siblings facing a family crisis and, decades later, facing the decisions they made. Laurie Frankel will host a Q&A. (Folio: The Seattle Athenaeum, 7 pm, $10)

Watch the SLAY Film Fest online OR at the SLAY Drive-In Movie Show at On the Boards!
What better way to spend the Halloween season than watching horror films at a drive-in movie?
Earshot Jazz Festival | Oct 16 – Nov 8
This week: Amy Denio, Tarik Abouzied, Johnaye Kendrick, Tarbaby, John Hollenbeck, and Eugenie Jones

Fri June 14

Stephen Markley: Ohio Markley sets his first novel in an American wasteland devastated by the Iraq War and the Great Recession. It follows four people who've grown up in the fictional town of New Canaan and whose return to their hometown ends in an act of horrific violence. Michael Schaub of NPR writes: "The novel is intricately constructed, with gorgeous, fiery writing that pulls the reader in and never lets go. It's obvious that Markley cares deeply about his characters, even the unsympathetic ones." (Elliott Bay Book Company, 7 pm, free)


Sat June 15

Elizabeth Gilbert: City of Girls Gilbert's career has been defined by one book: Eat, Pray, Love, a runaway bestseller about self-discovery and meeting her now ex-husband—the man she would, years later, end up leaving for Rayya Elias. She was wildly open about this development in her life, announcing on Facebook in September 2016 that she'd fallen in love with her best friend, who'd been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Gilbert was a successful magazine writer before Eat, Pray, Love and has now written 10 books, including City of Girls, which comes out in June. The book, which is largely set in the 1940s, follows a 19-year-old Vassar dropout who gets involved in a major scandal in the New York theater world. It's light and—in typical Gilbert fashion—funny, but Gilbert wrote it from the depths of her grief over Elias's illness and death. Katie Herzog (Moore Theatre, 7 pm, $36)


Wed June 19

James Ellroy: This Storm The best blurb about crime fiction patriarch James Ellroy's new novel probably comes from the man himself: "This Storm is chock-full of my trippingly trenchant crime shit, political shit, racial shit, cop shit, sex shit, and passionate men and women in love shit!!! It's gonna bite the boogaloos of worldwide readers, en masse!!!!!" It's set in 1942 and concerns a corpse, a crooked vice cop, a Japanese forensics genius threatened by internment, a disgraced female Navy lieutenant, and a fascist officer who clash in Los Angeles in 1942. (Town Hall, 7:30 pm, $5/$32)

Nicole Dennis-Benn: Patsy Dennis-Benn's debut novel, Here Comes the Sun, won the 2017 Lambda Literary Award and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year for 2016. Her new story follows a woman, the title character, who leaves Jamaica for New York, where her friend and former lover has settled. But America isn't quite as she expected, and she's left behind two very important people: her mother and her five-year-old daughter. (Central Library, 7 pm, free)


Thurs June 20

Ocean Vuong: On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous When he toured with his recent collection of poetry, Night Sky With Exit Wounds, Ocean Vuong's powerful readings would turn roomfuls of cynical adults into crying children. His use of cinematic imagery in poetry was enthralling. The gentle intensity of his reading style was mesmerizing. And though he was writing about all the old subjects—loneliness, family, pain—every poem seemed fresh and alive. Expect similar results with his first foray into fiction, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, which centers on a son writing a letter to his illiterate mother. The book seems like a fictional extension of the incredible personal essay he published in the New Yorker, "A Letter To My Mother That She Will Never Read." Vuong's mother couldn't read, but he expresses himself best through writing. The piece explores the ways in which language shapes our identities and limits (or enhances) our ability to communicate. "I am writing because they told me to never start a sentence with because. But I wasn't trying to make a sentence—I was trying to break free," he writes. RS (Central Library, 7 pm, free)


Tues July 23

Kristen Arnett: Mostly Dead Things Arnett amassed a large following, in part, for refusing to reveal the location of a lizard to 7-Eleven's corporate Twitter account because she didn't want to "narc" on her new reptilian friend, whom she had met during the course of her regular wine run to the convenience store. The only thing more Florida than that is her debut novel, Mostly Dead Things. We begin with a father's bloody suicide in the family's taxidermy shop. In her grief, his wife begins to "make aggressively lewd art with the taxidermied animals," according to press materials. His son retreats from life. That leaves his daughter, Jessa-Lynn Morton, to run the family business and to deal with everybody's damage. This is one of the most highly anticipated novels of the year because, in addition to being a loyal friend of lizards, Arnett is one of the funniest, most beguiling writers to emerge from that strange state, south of the south, since Padgett Powell. Read any of her dispatches from her days as a law librarian in Maitland, Fla., and you'll see what I mean. RS (Elliott Bay Book Company, 7 pm, free)


Thurs Aug 8

Chuck Klosterman: Raised in Captivity Traditionally, Chuck Klosterman keeps his wry writings in the nonfiction realm, like his collections of essays on pop culture matters ranging from internet porn to reality in films to progressivism in American football (ala 2003's Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto), or his music-driven work, like his exploration of the relationship between death and rock stars (2005's Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story), or even his more recent examination of modern perceptions in a thought experiment sort of book, 2016's But What If We're Wrong? Raised in Captivity is "fictional nonfiction," which the press materials describe as "a collection of stories so true they had to be wrapped in fiction for our own protection." Among the synopses: An obscure power pop band wrestles with its new-found fame when its song becomes an anthem for white supremacists; a couple considers getting a medical procedure that will transfer the pain of childbirth from the woman to her husband; and a lawyer grapples with the unintended side effects of a veterinarian's rabies vaccination. LP (Elliott Bay Book Company, 7 pm, free)


Last Tuesday

Loud Mouth Lit The writer Paul Mullin, winner of a Stranger Genius Award, curates a "fresh, local, organically sourced" monthly literary event called Loud Mouth Lit dedicated to "the amazing writers living in Seattle." (St. Andrews Bar and Grill, 8 pm, free)


Poetry



Wed June 12

A Sand Book: An Evening with Ariana Reines After the success of her last book, Mercury, Ariana Reines is finally out with a new collection of poetry. And it's a big one. She links her whip smart lines using imagistic associations—"From Hurricane Sandy to the murder of Sandra Bland to the massacre at Sandy Hook," according to press materials—in an attempt to contain the whole of this rented world in a single book. She certainly accomplishes that goal tonally, swinging from academic registers to common vulgarities to high symbolism to sex. RS (Hugo House, 7 pm, free)


Thurs June 13

Jorge Pech Casanova, Claudia Castro Luna, Fulgencio Lazo Washington State Civic Poet Claudio Castro Luna will join documentary filmmaker Jorge Pech Casanova and Oaxacan artist Fulgencio Lazo for an evening of border-busting, bilingual art and culture about refugees and migration. Learn about the march of the Central American asylum seekers and share some humanity in these cruel times. (Elliott Bay Book Company, 7 pm, free)


Sat June 22

If You Want to See Something: Allen Ginsberg in Art and Action "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked..." If you know these words by heart, definitely join artists and poets Rae Armantrout, Ron Silliman, Sadie Dupuis, Andrew Schelling, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, and others for a celebration of famous beatnik Allen Ginsberg. You'll see poetry performances in front of Geoffrey Farmer's photo installation If You Want To See Something Look at Something Else (Allen Ginsberg 1926-1997), consisting of 50 tree-mounted framed portraits of the writer. (Volunteer Park, 2—4 pm, free)

Sun June 23

Rae Armantrout and Ron Silliman Don't miss Rae Armantrout; she's won a goddamn Pulitzer (for her 2010 poetry book Versed). Her other recent work includes Wobble, Money Shot, Just Saying, Itself, Partly: New and Selected Poems, and Entanglements. According to Rich Smith, "Ron Silliman is a big-time thinker and important member of a large poetry movement that started in the 1970s called, annoyingly, L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E." (Open Books, 5 pm, free)


Fri June 28

Dobby Gibson and Zachary Schomburg Schomburg, a Portland poet who combines narrative techniques with surrealism to great effect, is traveling up north with a new book from Black Ocean called Pulver Maar (Poems 2014-2018). The title is a reference to the name of a crater lake in Germany, where many of these poems may have originated. The subtitle portends goodness; all books should just be a collection of poems the poet has written over the last four years. Schomburg will be joined by Dobby Gibson, a chatty poet who uses humor and associative logic to leap down the page. His latest is Polar. Expect a night of unexpected laughter. RS (Open Books, 7 pm, free)


Thurs July 11

Dana Levin and Natalie Scenters-Zapico Hear poetry by two renowned writers, Dana Levin (an NEA, PEN, Library of Congress, and Guggenheim grantee) and Natalie Scenters-Zapico (winner of the PENAmerican/Joyce Osterweil Award, GLCA's New Writers Award, NACCS Foco Book Prize, and Utah Book Award). (Hugo House, 7 pm, free)


Sat July 20

Poets in the Park If you're on the Eastside, buy poetry, hear free readings of environment-themed writing, eat ice cream (nothing goes better with poetry!), share your own verses at the open mic, and more. Bring lunch! (Anderson Park, 11 am—6 pm, free)


Mon Aug 12

Filipinx Reading with Michelle Penaloza and Friends Discover Pinoy talents like the excellent Seattle-based poet and essayist Michelle Peñaloza (landscape/heartbreak, Last Night I Dreamt of Volcanoes) and friends. (Elliott Bay Book Company, 7 pm, free)


Wed Sept 11

Poetry in Translation: Fiestas Patrias Washington State Poet Laureate Claudia Castro Luna presides over this wonderful series that reminds us of the linguistic diversity and wide-ranging talent of Seattle denizens. You'll hear poetry and song in the original languages and translated into English. The Fiestas Patrias edition will also feature video poems. It's open to everyone—no one will be turned away for lack of money. (Northwest Film Forum, 6:30 pm, $5—$15 sliding scale)


Second Monday

African-American Writers' Alliance Poetry Reading Hear poets from the Northwest's African American community in a reading organized by the NW African American Writers' Alliance, which promotes emerging and seasoned writers and publishes anthologies. (Third Place Books Seward Park, 7 pm, free)


Sci-Fi/Fantasy



June 20–26

Ted Chiang: Exhalation The lauded recent sci-fi film Arrival was based on Ted Chiang's short fiction "Story of Your Life," which combined a gorgeously nerdy and profound examination of alien grammar with a sad and equally profound exploration of love and fate. Which is to say, Ted Chiang is a genius, and "Story of Your Life" should be viewed as a gateway to his body of literature, not a companion to Denis Villeneuve's (admittedly pretty cool) movie. Better yet, catch up with the author at this reading of his new collection, Exhalation. JZ (Thurs June 20: University Book Store, 7 pm, free; Tues June 25: Third Place Books Ravenna, 1 pm; Wed June 26: Third Place Books Seward Park, 7 pm, free)


Tues June 25

Clarion West Presents: Elizabeth Hand Elizabeth Hand has been granted scads of horror, sci-fi, and speculative fiction prizes, including such prestigious accolades as the World Fantasy Award (four times!), the Nebula Award, the Shirley Jackson Award, and more. The sci-fi/fantasy writing program Clarion West has invited her to read, and if you love genre fiction, you should go. (Hugo House, 7 pm, free)


Tues July 30

Clarion West Presents: Ann Leckie Hugo, Nebula, and Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning author Ann Leckie is best known for Ancillary Justice, a novel set in a futuristic space empire. Leckie imagines a far-flung part of the human race as radically changed, with notions of gender vanished and AIs controlling synchronized human bodies. Seize your chance to hear from one of the most inventive sci-fi minds of the day. (Central Library, 7 pm, free)



Essays



Mon July 22

Elissa Washuta and Theresa Warburton: Shapes of Native Nonfiction Elissa Washuta and Theresa Warburton will present their anthology of essays by 27 Native writers, which is inspired in form and theme by the traditional art of basket weaving. They take off on the idea of "coiling and plaiting" to structure this collection. (Central Library, 7 pm, free)


Thurs Aug 15

Chavisa Woods: 100 Times The author of the Lambda Literary Award finalist Things to Do When You're Goth in the Country, which contains the Shirley Jackson Award-winning novelette "Take the Way Home That Leads Back to Sullivan Street," turns to essay format. She meticulously documents 100 instances of sexist violence, harassment, and discrimination that she's experienced as a queer woman. 100 Times is an attempt to give an individualized face and voice to victims of perpetual, systemic sexism. (Elliott Bay Book Company, 7 pm, free)


History



Wed June 12

Rick Atkinson: The British Are Coming The Pulitzer Prize-winning author (who wrote the Liberation Trilogy about World War II) is embarking on a new trilogy about the American Revolution with The British Are Coming, covering the first 21 months of the war. Revisit a period of history that may have been taught to you in mangled form. (Central Library, 7 pm, free)


Wed June 19

Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic: Indianapolis The USS Indianapolis sank on July 30, 1945, after being hit by Japanese torpedoes in the Philippine Sea. Of the approximately 1,200 sailors on board, only 316 survived the wreck and subsequent five days in the sea. Vincent and Vladic draw on new research, including interviews with the survivors, to tell the story of the tragedy and its aftermath—including the fight to exonerate Captain Charles McVay III, who was court-martialed. (Third Place Books Lake Forest Park, 7 pm, free)


Fri June 21

Frederick Brown: The City Is More Than Human Instead of focusing on great men, great women, great artists, or great whomever, UW Historian Frederick Brown focuses his history of Seattle on animals. In The City is More Than Human, Brown looks at the way the relationship between people and animals shaped the city, from the days of livestock and imperialism to the days of pets in grocery stores. As far as I can tell, all other books about Seattle's past focus on brothels and vice lords. Brown's angle should delight old mossbacks who think they've heard it all, but also people who walk their Shiba Inu at Dogwood Play Park and Bar. RS (Elliott Bay Book Company, 7 pm, free)



Memoir/ Biography



Mon June 10

William Shatner Find out what William "Not-Really-James-T.-Kirk" Shatner has to say about his life and career in film, television, music, and publishing as well as, possibly, his alleged bronyism. (Okay, he might not actually touch on that last one.) (McCaw Hall, 7:30 pm, $72—$128)


Fri June 14

Eve Ensler: The Apology "My vagina is pissed off!" begins one memorable diatribe in Eve Ensler's 1996 feminist theater classic The Vagina Monologues. In Ensler's new book, she deals with a less localized but no less urgent anger: the fury of women waiting for overdue apologies from their abusers—in Ensler's case, her own father. (Hugo House, 7 pm, free)



Politics/Current Issues



Mon June 17

Lawrence Lessig: Fidelity and the American Constitution Famed legal scholar Lessig will present his new book Fidelity and Constraint, which is about the complex process of "translating," or interpreting, the very old, arguably outdated Constitution. Hopefully, you'll come away with an understanding of "fidelity to role"—" a practice by which judges determine if old ways of interpreting the Constitution have become illegitimate because they do not match up with the judge's perceived role"—and other issues of constitutional limitations. (Town Hall, 7:30 pm, $5)


Tues June 18

Adam Gopnik: A Thousand Small Sanities Criticize him if you must, but Adam Gopnik, staff writer for the New Yorker, is a talented essayist, and he's also a talented speaker. I saw him give a talk for Town Hall a year or two ago that was phenomenally arranged and presented, seemingly off-hand, undoubtedly practiced, edifying, funny, etc. (By the way, if you do decide to criticize Gopnik—for being an apologist of bourgeois culture or whatever your argument is—you should know Renata Adler beat you to it. She wrote a stirring, almost convincing takedown of his work in her stirring, almost convincing attempted takedown of the New Yorker itself, a strange and fascinating book called Gone.) Anyway, Gopnik. He's good. CF (Town Hall, 7:30 pm, $5)

Sun June 23

Thom Hartmann: The Hidden History of Guns and the Second Amendment Guns and their lobbyists in America have never been politically neutral. Thom Hartmann, billed as "the most popular progressive radio host in America," will speak about how they were used in Native American genocide and ethnic cleansing, slavery, and Jim Crow society. He'll go on to address the current uptick in mass shootings and the (he says) specious arguments used by Supreme Court justices to justify widespread access to firearms. (Town Hall, 7:30 pm, $5)



Science/Nature



Fri June 14

Robert Macfarlane: Underland We live for a geologically insignificant amount of time, so how can we think on the scale of nature? Robert Macfarlane will read from his Underland: A Deep Time Journey, a journey into myth, literature, and science that ranges from "Arctic sea caves" to "Bronze Age burial chambers" and from Parisian catacombs to a deep subterranean nuclear waste dump. (Town Hall, 7:30 pm, $5)


Sat June 15

Margaret O'Mara: The Code O'Mara, formerly a member of the Clinton White House, witnessed the intertwining of private, academic, and federal programs that led to the birth of the internet. But Big Tech nowadays tends to believe in its own mythology of heroic entrepreneurship. O'Mara is here to set the record straight in this book, subtitled Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America, which emphasizes the institutional boost given to Big Tech and reveals the hypercapitalist, elitist, and "homogeneous" side of the Valley. (University Book Store, 6 pm, free)



Food



Wed June 26

Ed Levine: Serious Eater The founder of the popular blog Serious Eats will chat with J. Kenji López-Alt about creating a publication that covers "the best of everything edible." (Town Hall, 7:30 pm, $5)


Open Mic/Storytelling



Thurs June 27

The Moth Seattle GrandSLAM Listeners of The Moth know the deal: each storyslammer has a short period of time to tell a compelling story, whether poignant, funny, tragic, or edifying. This night's raconteurs are the top slammers from the previous 10 months, so they're sure to be unmissable. (Town Hall, 8—10 pm, $25)


Third And First Monday

Works in Progress Open Mic Attend an open mic at one of the best literature spots in the city. This ultra-supportive but intellectually engaged environment is perfect for writers of all levels who want to tackle any form of the written word. Prepare to hear material that might burn the most sensitive of ears. (Hugo House, 7—9 pm, free)


First Thursday, Third Friday

Seattle StorySLAM A live amateur storytelling competition in which audience members who put their names in a hat are randomly chosen to tell stories on a theme. Local comedians tend to show up, but lots of nonperformers get in on the action as well. First Thursday readings take place at the Fremont Abbey, followed by third Friday events at St. Mark's Cathedral. (Various locations, 8 pm, $10)


Miscellaneous



Sun June 16

Vicinity / Memoryall The two former owners of Open Books, Christine Deavel and J.W. (John) Marshall, will read from and discuss their new play Vicinity/Memoryall, which "follows two characters as they struggle to find the memorial that marks the site of a violent act that had a traumatic effect on their city," according to press materials. "Lost in their rapidly changing and now unfamiliar downtown, they are led to unexpected places and responses." John and Christine are linguistic wizards who have been publishing poetry forever. I have no doubt their talents will translate to the stage, but I bet this staged reading will highlight the lyricism of the text. RS (Elliott Bay Book Company, 3 pm, free)


Sun July 14

Queer Press Fest The gallery, in association this year with Emerald Comics Distro, will host a variety of queer zine and print creators. Give them some love and pick up some art, including free stickers, plus books and other merch. Bring the kids—there will be plenty of clearly designated family-friendly zines and books. (Push/Pull, 12—7 pm, free)


Sept 12–14

Kathy Acker in Seattle Symposium This symposium will be dedicated to the important experimental and feminist author and proto-Riot Grrrl Kathy Acker, who came to Seattle's Center on Contemporary Art for residencies in 1980 and 1989. The gathering is co-organized by University of Cologne's Daniel Schulz and Fantagraphics's Larry Reid. (Fantagraphics Bookstore and Gallery)


First Wednesday

Silent Reading Party The Silent Reading Party is one of the weirdest, most wonderful parties you'll ever go to, because no one talks to you and you can get some reading done. You curl up on a couch or in a wingback chair with a book or magazine or whatever you feel like reading, while Paul Moore plays piano and waiters bring you things. Whenever Paul starts playing Erik Satie, I find myself staring into the fireplace or closing my eyes and melting into the couch. The reading party, which turns 10 years old in 2019, is so popular that there is often a line out the door just to get a seat. The people who know what they're doing get there an hour before it starts. CF (Hotel Sorrento, 6 pm, free)


Last Tuesday

Literary Happy Hour A young writer and bartender named Josh Potter has turned the Ballast Bar at Capitol Cider into an "institution of Seattle literature," not just a rustic-looking hangout for gluten-shy people who want to flirt. A well-lit, modest stage sits opposite a long bar where drafts are $1 off before 6 pm. Each reading is loosely organized around the theme of "drafting." (Drinking drafts and readings drafts. Get it?) Over the course of two hours, the four participating writers are encouraged to use part of their time onstage to read an old draft, give a craft talk about some element of literary composition, or else show their work in some way. I've long held that readings in bars ruin both readings and bars, but Capitol Cider feels like an exception. Also, I am sympathetic to the romantic dream of maintaining as many non-academic, non- literature-specific venues for literature as possible. Low-key, consistent nights like this one can help readers find their writers (and vice versa), and a city of this size needs places for happy, un-dumb literary accidents to happen. RS (Capitol Cider, 5 pm, free)