To compare this summer and last summer would be like comparing my life before and after I went gluten-free: completely unrecognizable. Last summer, I was earning minimum wage at a restaurant in Tucson and spending my days by the pool reading a book a week, or a book a day, if I was feeling really ambitious. Now, I’m earning exactly zero dollars an hour while interning nine to five, five days a week. My “to-read” stack of books is growing exponentially and I’ve gotten so far behind on “Game of Thrones” I’m afraid to go on Facebook in case anyone has posted spoilers.

The magazine where I’m working tries to limit itself to local, instead of national, content. So when I was handed a very ambiguous assignment that essentially gave me free reign over what I wanted to write, I wasn’t given the go-ahead to call up Jonathan Safran Foer and schedule a time to Skype (a girl can dream.)

A lot of books have taken place in Seattle, books that I absolutely adore, not just because they’re incredibly well-written and rich, but because I know the streets characters are walking on, and the non-imaginary restaurants are probably ones I’ve passed or eaten in myself. And for the most part, books based in Seattle are written by authors based in Seattle (with the exception of both “Twilight” and “Fifty Shades of Grey”).

Novels like Jamie Ford’s “Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” and Garth Stein’s notable “The Art of Racing in the Rain” come to mind when considering exceptional pieces of literature set in Seattle. When I first read them, it convinced me that local authors were cool, but mainly in the sense that I might bump into them at the grocery store.

But spending half my week in the magazine office, where gourmet meals are hardly new, nearby restaurants are dissected, news editors can be heard on the phone with senators and other politicians and the arts and entertainment editor is having an intern transcribe an interview with a famous, Seattle born-and-bred musician or ballerina, makes it hard not to have a lot of local pride.

And that’s something that I really missed the first time I read Ford or Stein’s books. I didn’t appreciate how much these authors really loved their city, how much their books weren’t just amazing novels, but also a tribute to their hometown and its influence on them. Because that’s the really great thing about reading a book from someone who lives where you’ve lived: you get to see your home through someone else’s eyes. You get to share memories of favorite haunts and learn aspects of where you’re from that you had never noticed before.

Maybe the whole idea is cloyingly sentimental, but maybe that’s just the place I’m in right now. I haven’t ever let myself consider Seattle’s influence on me; how growing up here and in this environment has shaped my views and my goals and my sense of self. It took me almost 20 years to figure out just how much I’ve been inspired and impacted by the Pacific Northwest’s culture, but I guess it’s pretty in character to have eventually realized all this through books.

Kim Bussing is a rising junior in the College. Top Shelf appears every other Wednesday at

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