About David Guterson

David Guterson was born May 4, 1956, in Seattle, Washington. During his childhood, he attended Seattle public schools and later attended the University of Washington where he earned Bachelor of Arts Degree in English literature and a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing. Guterson is also a Guggenheim Fellow.

Before writing professionally, Guterson worked as a teacher for 12 years. It was during his teaching career that Guterson began to publish stories and essays in small magazines and periodicals, later selling pieces to Esquire, Sports Illustrated and Harper's Magazine. Published in 1989, his first book, The Country Ahead of Us, the Country Behind was a collection of short stories set mostly in the Pacific Northwest.  His third, and so far most popular novel, was Snow Falling on Cedars, published in 1994.

David Guterson's reputation as a writer began with his first novel, Snow Falling on Cedars. It is a blend of courtroom drama and romance that takes place in a small town in Washington. Set in 1954, the novel examines the dynamics of the fictitious community of San Piedro Island after World War II. The past and present stories of many of the citizens of the small community spin off the central murder trial.  Central is the internment of Japanese citizens during the Second World War. 

Critics have embraced this novel for its sensitivity, vivid imagery, well-rounded characters, and thoughtful handling of difficult issues. Guterson admits that Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird was a major influence on his novel. He was inspired by the structure, which brings together separate stories, and the drama created by a racially-motivated trial in a small community.

Snow Falling on Cedars went virtually unnoticed until it was published in paperback, then the book, gaining momentum largely from word of mouth , became a paperback bestseller. In fact, Guterson's novel became the fastest-selling book in Vintage Books' history.  Snow Falling on Cedars has been translated into fifteen languages. The success of the book enabled Guterson to quit his teaching job and focus on writing. In addition, the novel won the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award and the prestigious PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction in 1995.

Snow Falling on Cedars was adapted into a screenplay for the 1999 film of the same title. The film was directed by Scott Hicks and starred Ethan Hawke, James Cromwell, Sam Shepherd, and Max von Sydow and went on to receive an Academy Award nomination for cinematography.

David Guterson’s books are:

The Country Ahead of Us, the Country Behind: Stories (1989)

Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense (1992)

Snow Falling on Cedars (1994)

The Drowned Son (1996)

East of the Mountains (1998)

Our Lady of the Forest (2003)

The Other (2008)

Ed King (2011)


With your $200 tax-deductible donation, we can purchase 20 copies of The Boys in the Boat to share with Whatcom County residents as part of our Free Range Books program. Thank you!

Click on the link above or mail your check to: Whatcom County Library Foundation - 5205 Northwest Drive - Bellingham, WA 98226 - Memo note: Whatcom READS! 2014 R&R books