“Larison writes with unrelenting momentum and thoughtfully explores questions of gender identity, power, and violence.” — Outside Magazine

John Larison was born in 1979 in Philomath, Oregon. The son of National Geographic filmmakers, he spent much of his childhood on-assignment, often staying in remote tropical or mountainous regions among subsistence communities. He attended the University of Oregon and studied philosophy and literature, and stayed to earn a Master’s of Education. While learning to write fiction, he worked as a fly fishing and whitewater guide in the Pacific Northwest. In 2007, he earned a MFA at Oregon State University.

His first book was a how-to text on fly-fishing, The Complete Steelheader (Stackpole 2008). He went on to publish two fishing-related novels Northwest of Normal (Barclay Creek 2009) and Holding Lies (Skyhorse 2011).

His 2018 novel, Whiskey When We’re Dry, was a Los Angeles Times and Seattle Times bestseller, an Indie Next Pick in hardcover and paperback, a finalist for the Ken Kesey Award and the Gold Crown Award (UK), and winner of the Will Rodgers Medallion. It was named a Best Book by O Magazine, Goodreads, Entertainment Weekly, Outside Magazine, Powell’s, The Times (United Kingdom), the BBC, and others. It was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered.

His 2024 novel, The Ancients, will be released by Viking in October. It has been selected a Buzz Book by Publishers Marketplace.

He teaches classical mythology and creative writing at Oregon State University.

John's Featured Titles

The Ancients: A Novel

Viking |
Literary Fiction

A richly imagined, sweeping novel set in the climate-changed world of our own descendants, by the acclaimed author of WHISKEY WHEN WE’RE DRY

A young boy and his older sisters find themselves suddenly and utterly alone, orphaned in an abandoned fishing village. Their food supplies dwindling, they set out across a breathtaking yet treacherous wilderness in search of the last of their people.

Down the coast, raiders deliver the children’s mother, along with the rest of their human cargo, to the last port city of a waning empire. Determined to reunite with her family, she plots her escape—while her fellow captives plan open revolt.

At the center of power in this crumbling city, a young scholar inherits his father’s business and position of privilege, along with the burden of his debts. As the empire’s elite prepare to flee to new utopia across the sea, he must decide where his allegiance lies.

With a rapidly changing climate shifting the sands beneath their feet, these three paths converge in a struggle for the future of humanity—who will inherit what remains and who gets to tell its story. At once a sweeping survival story; an epic of the distance future; and a post-apocalyptic vision of hope and optimism, THE ANCIENTS weaves a multilayered narrative about human resilience, hope, and stewardship of our world for future generations.

Whiskey When We’re Dry: A Novel

Viking |
Literary Fiction

Named a Best Book by Entertainment WeeklyO Magazine, Goodreads, Southern Living, Outside Magazine, Oprah.com, HelloGiggles, Parade, Fodor’s Travel, Sioux City Journal, Read it Forward, Medium.com, and NPR’s All Things Considered.
 
“A thunderclap of originality, here is a fresh voice and fresh take on one of the oldest stories we tell about ourselves as Americans and Westerners. It’s riveting in all the right ways — a damn good read that stayed with me long after closing the covers.” – Timothy Egan, New York Times bestselling author of The Worst Hard Time 

From a blazing new voice in fiction, a gritty and lyrical American epic about a young woman who disguises herself as a boy and heads west

In the spring of 1885, seventeen-year-old Jessilyn Harney finds herself orphaned and alone on her family’s homestead. Desperate to fend off starvation and predatory neighbors, she cuts off her hair, binds her chest, saddles her beloved mare, and sets off across the mountains to find her outlaw brother Noah and bring him home. A talented sharpshooter herself, Jess’s quest lands her in the employ of the territory’s violent, capricious Governor, whose militia is also hunting Noah–dead or alive.

Wrestling with her brother’s outlaw identity, and haunted by questions about her own, Jess must outmaneuver those who underestimate her, ultimately rising to become a hero in her own right.

Told in Jess’s wholly original and unforgettable voice, Whiskey When We’re Dry is a stunning achievement, an epic as expansive as America itself–and a reckoning with the myths that are entwined with our history.

Holding Lies: A Novel

Skyhorse |
Suspense Thriller

With Holding Lies, John Larison takes us deep into a thriving subculture of the Northwest, one born of ferns and firs, rain and hot-springs, salmon and whitewater. He takes us even deeper into the troubles of Hank Hazelton, a fifty-nine-year-old river guide, as he struggles to reconnect with his daughter after a long estrangement. Before his daughter’s arrival, Hank discovers a drift boat stranded below a rapid, its oarsman missing. Within days, the sheriff has opened a murder investigation, one that to Hank appears more about old grudges than objective evidence. When Hank himself becomes a suspect, he’s forced to confront the violent past of his home valley— and his own culpability. In a novel about finding family in unlikely places, Larison breathes life into a community rich with history, sin, and hope, a place where bears still wander side streets and time is still marked by the seasons of the river. Holding Lies is a taut, big-hearted novel, steeped in the ecology of place and peopled with unforgettable characters.

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Reframing the Climate Crisis

What happens to our conception of the climate crisis–and its solutions–when we view climate change through a deep-time context? Join John Larison, author of The Ancients, as he tells the million year-old story of human beings surviving catastrophic climate events.

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The Case for Climate Optimism

In an era of climate change, we are regularly bombarded with news of environmental collapse. But what if “collapse” is only half of the story? Join John Larison, author of The Ancients, as he deconstructs the “collapse” narrative to reveal new, ecologically grounded reasons for climate optimism.

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Why Technology Will Never Save Us from the Climate Crisis

Electric cars, hydrogen power, engineered food–societies around the world are reaching to new technologies to solve the climate crisis. But what if technology, by definition, is incapable of solving a problem like climate change? Join John Larison, author of The Ancients, as argues against a technological solution to the climate crisis and instead makes a case for empirically-supported solutions that are already within reach.

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Can Books Make Us Better Neighbors, Lovers, and Friends?

What can literature teach us about forging deeper bonds with the people in our lives? Join novelist John Larison, author of The Ancients, as he explores what the art of writing (and reading) fiction reveal about forging more meaningful interpersonal bonds.

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The How is the Shape of the What

What can the process of writing literature teach us about excelling in our personal and professional lives? Join John Larison, author of The Ancients, as he explores the creative writing process and its intersections with personal and creative success.

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Embracing the Mystery of Our Characters

Fiction-writing textbooks often include a variation on the idea of “know thy characters.” But what if this advice directly undercuts our ability to bring our characters to life on the page? Join novelist John Larison for an exploration into the contradictions at the heart of effective characterization.

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The Collapse of the Bronze Age and the Birth of Greek Myth

Can ancient Greek myths like The Iliad and The Odyssey be read as windows on the historic collapse of the Mediterranean world at the end of the bronze age? If so, what lessons can these texts offer about why civilizations collapse and how their societies recover? Join novelist and university lecturer John Larison for this fascinating look at ancient history and two foundational works of Western Civilization.

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Bank Robberies, White Cowboys, and Other Lies the Western Genre Taught Us

Most Americans don’t read or watch Westerns anymore, and yet our collective vision of the American West and its history continues to be shaped by the tropes of the genre. The fictionalization of this core chapter of American history continues to empower White supremacists and fuel an especially toxic form of American masculinity. Join novelist John Larison for this shocking look at the truth behind the genre.

John’s Events Link

Honors, Awards & Recognition

Whiskey When We’re Dry
Indie Next Pick for Sept 2018 and July 2019
Los Angeles Times and Seattle Times Bestseller
Named Book of the Month, July 2019 —The Times (United Kingdom)
Named a Book of the Year for 2019 —BBC History Magazine
Named a Best Book by Entertainment Weekly, O Magazine, Goodreads, Southern Living, Outside Magazine, Parade, Fodor’s Travel, Sioux City Journal, Read it Forward, Medium.com, and others.
Featured on NPR’s All Things Considered.
Selected a Best Book of the Year by Powell’s
Finalist for the Ken Kesey Award
Winner of the Will Rodgers Medallion
Finalist for the HWA Gold Crown Award (UK)

Media Kit

By clicking the link below you will be directed to a Google Docs Folder
where you can download author photos and cover images.

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