Art Culture/History

Coastal Books Bonanza: Lighthouses, Highway 101 & Pacific Islands

These recently published books, by Oregon authors, cover lighthouses, the building of Highway 101, and faraway Pacific Islands.

South coast resident Michael Kew debuted his new book, Rainbownesia: A Kaleidoscopic Arc Across Odd Oceania, last December. Kew’s second book (his first was Crossings) takes readers on a 225-page non-fiction voyage amid isolated islands into the far reaches of the Pacific Ocean, including Tuvalu, Nauru, Wallis and Futuna, Yap islands, Tokelau, Niue, Ra’ivavae, and more. Never heard of those islands? If not, this is the perfect book to curl up with and discover new places that go beyond the stereotype of Pacific island paradise.
Like digging your feet into the sand on a sunny day, the book is enjoyable, gritty, and glaring. Kew journeys to each location looking for surfable waves and adventure, but his interviews and observations reveal far more than where the right-hand breaking waves will be. Colonialism, struggles with modernization, geopolitics, environmentalism, seafaring, subsistence, religion—it’s heady reading—but his discussions reveal the unique cultures and challenges to these remote outposts of Oceania.
Michael Kew has written for Oregon Coast magazine, including his latest story on Oregon coast redwoods, in the Summer 2019 issue. Cover art is by artist Spencer Reynolds, owner of Semi Aquatic Gallery in Brookings.
Kew will have book signing and reading events up and down the coast this year, check his website for a schedule. Rainbownesia is on Amazon in paperback and ebook formats, or personally signed copies are available from Kew’s website.


A newly published book highlights the history and allure of lighthouses along the Oregon coast, but also serves as a unique coloring book. Lighthouses of Oregon: A Coloring & History Book, by Florence area resident Marcia Phillips, highlights stories and facts from each of the coast’s nine lighthouses, paired with a drawing of each that can be colored.
“Lighthouses keep memories of the maritime heritage of Oregon alive,” writes Phillips in her book. “They speak to us of a past that is quickly fading, when isolated towns and harbors connected to the outside world via the sea…They also remind us of the power of primordial forces of wind, tide, and wave…”
The book’s drawings depict each of the coast’s lighthouses, along with bonus drawings of the Umpqua River lens, “Terrible Tilly,” and detailed depictions of Fresnel lenses. She also includes a handy comparison chart that summarizes important features from all of Oregon’s lighthouses and a glossary of lighthouse-related terms.
Marcia Phillips is a naturalist and an artist who worked for 30 years as a guide and ranger at U.S. National Parks and other federal lands. She also worked as a tour guide at Heceta Head Lighthouse.
Anyone wanting to learn more about lighthouses, either in words or pictures, will appreciate this book. The book retails for $10, available for purchase online (drawing4nature.
com), at most Oregon lighthouse gift shops, and several coast bookstores.


Arcadia Publishing’s latest book about the Oregon coast, Oregon Coast Highway, written and compiled by Laura E. Wilt, showcases the history of the road that runs from north to south along the coast, also known as Highway 101. Hundreds of historic photographs from the archives of several state agencies and local historical societies appear throughout its 128 pages. Author Laura Wilt is an Oregon librarian who enjoys doing historical research and spending time on the Oregon coast.
The book chronicles modes of travel along the coast before the highway was in place, how the vision of a coastal highway came to fruition, the 12 years it took to construct the highway over stretches of rugged headlands and thick forests, the importance of bridges and the legacy of bridge-builder Conde McCullough in linking the highway, and how the eventual construction opened access to the Willamette Valley and beyond for many formerly isolated communities. The presence of Highway 101 signaled an economic shift that included the promotion of tourism and the accommodation of visitors eager to take advantage of the spectacular vistas along the Oregon coast.
The book retails for $21.99, available online and through Arcadia Publishing & The History Press.


This story appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of Oregon Coast magazine.