BOOKBEAT: A book on politics and a book on the bomb
By Mike Dillon

Though it’s not as prolific as the University of Washington Press, the Washington State University Press in Pullman does notable work. A pair of recent books caught our eye.

In this season of political vaudeville, “Governing Washington: Politics and Government in the Evergreen State,” edited by Cornell W. Clayton and Nicholas P. Lovrich, reminds us politics is not all about attack ads, sound bites and spin.

It is, in fact, supposed to be about the people’s business: governing.

And governing requires knowledge and data.

“Governing Washington” compiles contemporary research and analysis of Washington’s evolving political landscape, from chapters like “Changing Faces of Diversity in Washington State” (plenty of graphs and numbers), “Media and Politics in Washington in the Post-Post-Intelligencer Age,” to more wonkish treatments like “Public Financing and Budgeting in Washington State,” to “The Executive Branch in Washington State Government.”

The editors have drawn from a wealth of experts to contribute essays and analysis. With all momentous activity happening in Olympia this legislative session, “Governing Washington” gives us the quantitative landscape underpinning the headlines.

“Governing Washington: Politics and Government in the Evergreen State,” Washington State University Press. Paperback, $25.95.

‘Made in Hanford’

On another front, former Seattle Times reporter Hill Williams has written a riveting account of the making of the atomic bomb: “Made in Hanford: The Bomb that Changed the World.”

It was the specter of the bomb that brought the memorable lines from the Bhagavad-Gita, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds,” to the mind of nuclear scientist Robert Oppenheimer.

Williams was a senior at Pasco High School when two engineers in a small plane looked down on a trio of small Eastern Washington farming towns near the Columbia River and figured: This is the place. And so the world’s first plutonium factory came to the Tri-Cities.

Within a couple of years the site was operational; the plutonium it produced fueled the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945.

When the factory’s purpose was revealed, William’s father, editor of the Pasco Herald, set the headline in large type: “IT’S ATOMIC BOMBS!”

This is the story behind the story, replete with fascinating characters. Williams is a masterful storyteller.

“Made in Hanford: The Bomb that Changed the World,” by Hill Williams. Washington State University Press. Paperback, $22.95.