Mark Twain and John Steinbeck are just two writers who drew inspiration from Lake Tahoe’s blue waters and rugged mountains. Here, we’ve sifted past pages of TQ and rounded up a reading list of some of Tahoe’s best novels, history, guides and photo books, by a few of the region’s most talented authors.
In the mood for an action-packed Tahoe thriller? Pick up one of the Owen McKenna mystery series books by South Shore writer Todd Borg. The title character is a private detective with an office on Kingsbury Grade; in his latest adventure, Tahoe Night, McKenna hides a woman on a sailboat anchored in The Lake while he tries to track down her stalker.
The Nina Reilly thriller series is written by Perri O’Shaughnessy—pen name of sisters Pamela and Mary O’Shaughnessy—who have lived in South Shore and Incline Village. South Shore attorney Reilly solves crime and injustice around The Lake; titles like Motion to Suppress and Obstruction of Justice have her working through murders, messy divorces and controversial casino jackpots.
However, it’s not all bloodshed in Tahoe fiction; children will love Kings Beach resident Bob McCormick’s The Story of Tahoe Tessie: the Original Lake Tahoe Monster, which mingles local history with the tale of Tahoe’s friendly, aquatic dinosaur.
E.B. Scott was known as “Tahoe’s Ambassador at Large” when he published his two-volume Saga of Lake Tahoe in 1957 and 1973, respectively. The works cover a century’s worth of The Lake’s prominent people and places and is still one of the region’s defining history books. Try also North Shore author and historian Mark McLaughlin’s two-volume Sierra Stories: True Tales of Tahoe, which includes details about Mark Twain and Captain Dick Barter, the Hermit of Emerald Bay, or the more whimsical Tales of Tahoe, a compilation of columns that David John Stollery Jr. wrote for the Tahoe City World (now the Tahoe World) from 1963 to 1975. Stollery’s collection encompasses stories like “The Plug in the Bottom of the Lake” and “The Place that was Once Called ‘Dirty Sock’” (the latter refers to today’s Brockway Hot Springs). William W. Bliss, together with Nevada historian Sessions Wheeler, chronicled generations of Bliss family legacy in local lumber, railroad and hospitality in Tahoe Heritage, published in 1997.
Other history books include Castle in the Sky, in which Reno residents Ronald and Susan James detail the life of Thunderbird Lodge’s George Whittell Jr., and Jennifer Woodlief’s Ski to Die: The Bill Johnson Story, which chronicles the former ski champion’s troubled career. Woodlief is also the author of the recently released Wall of White, the story of the tragic 1982 Alpine Meadows avalanche.
Individuals who have shaped the area are documented in longtime local and TQ contributor Robert Frohlich’s story Mountain Dreamers: Visionaries of Sierra Nevada Skiing. In this book, Frohlich, who also wrote Skiing with Style: Sugar Bowl: 60 Years, includes histories of over two dozen of the area’s most influential players, including Alex Cushing, Wayne Poulsen, Peter Klaussen, Jimmie Heuga and Tamara McKinney.
With all the hiking, skiing and other outdoor activities here, it’s no wonder that there is a guide for everything. For example, Squallywood: A Guide to Squaw Valley’s Most Exposed Lines, by legendary local skier Robb Gaffney, rates runs by difficulty, and hero and fun factors.
The other must-have ski book is Ski the Whole Mountain: How to Ski Any Condition at Any Time, a guide to tackling steeps, powder, crud and bumps, authored by extreme skiers and brothers Eric and Rob DesLauriers, with photography supplied by local Hank deVre.
North Shore writer Tim Hauserman’s books include Cross-Country Skiing in the Sierra Nevada and Tahoe Rim Trail, as well as the popular Monsters in the Woods: Backpacking with Children, an essential companion for any parent looking to take their spawn into the wild. Reno resident Mike White has authored several handbooks, including Top Trails Lake Tahoe, Snowshoe Trails Tahoe and Backpacking Nevada.
Sierra Nevada College professor Laird R. Blackwell’s pocket-sized guide Wildflowers of the Tahoe Sierra details more than 100 of the area’s most common species of flora, complete with color photos. His latest book is Tahoe Wildflowers—A Month-by-Month Guide to Wildflowers in the Tahoe Basin and Surrounding Areas.
Another local expert is Nevada City resident Julie Stauffer Carville, who takes readers on 30 guided hikes through flowery meadows and summit gardens in her book Hiking Tahoe’s Wildflower Trails (originally printed as Lingering in Tahoe’s Wild Gardens). Carville doesn’t stop with the tour; her book also includes aspects of botany, how the Washoe used the plants and how insects have influenced their shapes.
Photography and Art
It’s impossible to capture Lake Tahoe’s beauty in words alone, which accounts for the abundance of photo and art books. One popular example is Truckee photographer Elizabeth Carmel’s Brilliant Waters: Portraits of Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, and the High Sierra. This beautiful coffee table book sets water-themed images alongside poems by writers such as John Updike and Octavio Paz; Carmel’s newest tome, The Changing Range of Light: Portraits of the Sierra Nevada, will be released later this year.
Other display-worthy volumes include South Shore photographer Jon Paul’s Visions of Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe resident Jim Hildinger’s Tahoe in Black & White and The Color of My World, a compilation of Tahoe sketches and paintings by North Shore artist Andy Skaff.
Tahoe’s past is a popular theme, with many books displaying classic and images, as those in Ellen Drewes’s Historic Photos of Lake Tahoe and Tahoe City resident Jim Bell’s Tahoe’s Gilded Age and Memories of Tahoe; both Bell’s books feature introductions written by TQ publisher Chaco Mohler.
While photo books are mainly aesthetic, one in particular, Hearts of Light: Impressions of Lake Tahoe, is political as well. In 2000 and 2001, J.T. and Lindé Ravizé, who own Stateline’s A Frame of Mind Gallery, journeyed to Washington D.C. in a mission to convince the Senate to sustain funding for Lake Tahoe. On the couple’s second trip, they distributed copies of their book, a compilation of photos by J.T. set alongside Lindé’s poetry, lobbying lawmakers to pass the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act, a federal commitment of $300 million to Lake Tahoe.
Beyond The Lake
Tahoe is home to plenty of other talented authors. A few honorable mentions for writers whose themes lay beyond The Lake of the Sky’s waters include New York Times–bestselling author and longtime TQ contributor Ellen Hopkins (Crank, Burned), the recently deceased novelist and Squaw Valley Community of Writers pioneer Oakley Hall (Warlock, Corpus of Joe Bailey), Incline Village writer Graceann K. Deters (Divine Betrayal), Norris van den Berg (The Waterman), Incline Village couple Jan and Bob Davidson (Genius Denied) and Lake Tahoe Community College instructor and poet Suzanne Roberts (Nothing to You, Shameless), who includes several Tahoe-based poems in each collection.