Talking Politics

Most of the time Island Books is a good place to get away from the cares of the world, and that’s the way we like it. Sometimes, though, the world insistently intrudes. Even the most apolitical among us couldn’t help but notice that the must-have book of December was Obama: An Intimate Portrait by photographer Pete Souza (reprint due at the end of the month, we’re told), for example. And then came the sudden January release of Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, an even hotter ticket. We’re doing our best on the supply end but at this point demand is still winning—barely. We’re waiting on the publisher to print more copies so we can fulfill our last few pre-orders, and should be all caught up soon (you can always download the ebook or audio version if you need truly instant gratification).

With all this hubbub on everyone’s mind, it seems to us that it’s a good time to come together as a community to share some ideas about what we can do to take care of each other and keep our national ideals alive. So we’re hosting an event where we can do just that. This Saturday January 20th we’re welcoming writer and Seattle Weekly editor Mark Baumgarten to our store to discuss the new political action anthology Fly to the Assemblies! Seattle and the Rise of the Resistance ... continued

Reading Resolutions

For the last few years around December or January, James and I have fallen in the habit of reviewing our personal reading lists. Sometimes I blog about mine, sometimes he blogs about his. This year, we decided to discuss our 2017 reading together. Whether your tastes align with James, mine, or neither, we’d love for you to join in with your year-end recaps. Read on for ours and respond below or on Facebook/Twitter, whatever suits you.

Miriam: Okay James, let’s take a look. As I’ve done in previous years, I kept my reading list to books I read with my full attention, from first to last page. I omitted the books I skimmed or quit after 50 pages and only counted titles I read like a layperson, for my own curiosity and pleasure and not out of obligation (although I always include our Island Books Open Book Club titles, since I’m the one who picks them).  After reviewing my list, it looks like I read a grand total of 31 books in 2017. That’s down from 37 in 2016, and only 4 books were by male authors and there were only 5 works of nonfiction, all memoirs. I’m sure you read at least double what I did, since pregnancy, a new baby, and three other kids made reading a major challenge this past year. My top reading resolution is to read at least 50 books in 2018. So tell me what your 2017 reading life looked like. And what are your goals for the coming year? ... continued

January 2018 eNewsletter

"There was only one place I could go to for help. I needed to go to the bookstore."
—Stefani Chaney

Another holiday season is over, filled with bookselling moments great and small. With each present wrapped and customer problem solved, we spent December fully dedicated to the spirit of giving. The excitement, extended hours, and relentless pace pushed us every day. Victor solved a major delivery screw up and even drove to Portland and back to make sure our customers had their books (and he brought Voodoo Doughnuts for the masses, no less).

We had special friends helping us gift wrap, long-time-no-see customers back in town for the holidays, and gifts galore we wanted to take home for ourselves. If we had a dollar for every Happy Hanukkah or Merry Christmas exchanged we could probably have taken the whole island out to dinner. Marni even dressed up as a Christmas tree. 

After picking our favorite books of the year in December, when January rolls around we always take a look at your choices. Thus it's time to round up the most popular titles amongst our customers in 2017. We consider it a testament to Lori R.'s bookselling taste and skills that our top seller was Amy SnowWhile we all cheer for our individual favorites, collectively we always find it good to see authors we've hosted, like Nancy Pearl and Taylor Jenkins Reid, Open Book Club choices like HomegoingThe Last Painting of Sara De Vos, and Just Mercy, as well as local subjects, like Mercer Island History, on this list (read about the test trip James took with Seattle Walks on our blog). 

In the Kids and Teens category, WonderThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, and (to an extent) The Hate U Give were all driven to their position by strong appeal to adult readers as well as kids (and Wonder came out in the movie theater and was our pick for Open Book Club last July). It's also worth noting that those were the #WeNeedDiverseBooks titles on the list.

The white Christmas that blanketed Mercer Island last week seems like a good omen for things to come. Besides all the high quality reading we're looking forward to in 2018, it's time to get back to our regular Storybook Corners, PJ Story Times, Open Book Clubs, Cookbook Book Clubs, and a variety of author events. Soon we'll have a new neighborhood bakery next door, a swell of new gifts, and as always, plenty of community to welcome you here. Come by and see us soon. 

Your Booksellers,

Laurie, Victor, Marni, Cindy, Marilyn, Lillian, James, Miriam, Lori, and Nancy

... continued

A Boxing Day Indulgence

Most of you who read this, perhaps in an eggnog-induced haze, will do so on December 26th. According to some calendars, this is St. Stephen’s Day, honoring the first Christian martyr, who was stoned to death in the year 36 of the Common Era. This would hardly be a cheery reason for holiday celebration, but the date is also associated with another saint of the tenth century, the patron of the Czech people, Svatý Václav. So popular was he that it sometimes seems as if half the men in Bohemia are called Václav, including the secular literary saint Václav Havel. This irreverent playwright, a dissident and political prisoner under the Soviet regime, rose to become the first president of a newly free and democratic nation, occupying the landmark castle that loomed large in Kafka’s imagination, the same one featured on the cover of Benjamin Black’s historical mystery Wolf on a String. But I see I have wandered from my path, which is dangerous at this time of year ... continued

Top Ten Anticipated Fiction for 2018

This time of year is often a time to look back. We make best of the year lists, we reminisce and reflect over holiday cards, and we travel and celebrate and make memories. It’s the closing of a chapter.

But 2017 was a tough year in the world for global citizens and community members. Welcoming a new baby and watching my kids grow and change made this year particularly poignant. And to be honest, I’m ready to stop looking back and face forward toward next year. One thing I always anticipate is good reading, and so I like to keep tabs on the titles coming out in the new year. Instead of dwelling on the backwards-looking 2017 lists, I’m turning towards a list of fiction I can’t wait to read in 2018. Here are my top ten ... continued

Paperback Power Trio

When you hear the phrase “power trio,” you probably think of obscure hard rock bands from the 1980s. Or maybe that’s just me. Not to worry—no one’s going to make your ears bleed with any high-pitched screaming today. I’m simply appropriating the phrase to refer to a few of my favorite recent works of fiction. These titles didn’t quite make our collectively produced Island Books Best of the Year list, but if I were a solo artist, they probably would have. So while you’re considering our official Top Ten (which you absolutely should) don’t forget about these other great books waiting in the wings. And if you’re a holiday shopper whose budget allows for stocking stuffers rather than big-ticket items under the tree, you’ll be extra-appreciative that this 2017 power trio is available right now in paperback.

The first book on the set list is In the Distance by Hernan Diaz, a revisionist take on that hoariest of genres, the Western ...

The next number is Queen of Spades by Michael Shou-Yung Shum, a book that’s easy to enjoy but devilishly hard to describe ...

Our encore comes from Carmen Maria Machado via her debut story collection Her Body and Other Parties. The book earned her a spot on the National Book Award shortlist and also the honor of being the number one Indie Next pick for October, which is even higher praise in my mind ... continued

December 2017 eNewsletter

"The real purpose of books is to trap the mind into doing its own thinking."
—Christopher Morley

"Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes / Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear / Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes / How do you measure, measure a year? " 
 
As I drove up to Steven's Pass last month, I couldn't get the song "Seasons of Love" from Rent out of my head. Where has 2017 gone? I was making a list and checking it twice–my list of Top 10 favorite Island Books-related moments this year. Here they are:

10) Throwing an Independent Bookstore Day champion party

9)  Reading Anthony Doerr’s Four Seasons in Rome and then being in Rome to finish the book

8) Parking a ridiculously big truck in front of the store to feature Finn Murphy, author of The Long Haul

7) Joining up with other local businesses for the Where’s Waldo competition

6) Hosting local legend Nancy Pearl to discuss her first novel, George and Lizzie

5) Paying it forward on our second annual Book Fairies mission around Mercer Island

4) Sponsoring the Mercer Island Farmer’s Market and guest performer Caspar Babypants 

3) Welcoming author Taylor Jenkins Reid, author of one of my favorite novels of the year, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

2) Celebrating the anniversary of our 500th blog post

1)  Most of all, feeling the community support we received to win the Best of Western Washington award. I feel like a broken record but you know I’m so grateful! 

There was so much to relish and appreciate in this last year. We’ve hosted some fabulous author events, weekly story times, open book and cookbook book clubs, and our quarterly local author festival. The store has been reworked and revitalized in small special ways and we’re so happy to see each of you come through the door as often or as little as you can. We welcomed a handful of brand new itty-bitty baby customers this year and we lost some dear ones as well. (Bruce, Saturday morning just isn’t the same without a hug and a kiss from you.) It truly has been a season of love.

May the new year bring you all peace, love, and lots of joy. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and may it be a Happy New Year in 2018. 

Laurie Raisys
Owner

... continued

The Last of the Light

Sunday, November 5th wasn’t marked as a holiday on any calendar, but it was nonetheless one of the most significant dates of the year. That was the day we all reset our clocks (or let our computers do it for us). We woke up to paler skies that morning and drove home from work in total darkness. Though we tried to pretend it wasn’t a big deal, our bodies told us otherwise.

It’s more than a little weird, really. No one remembers at this point why we decided to create Daylight Saving Time, the benefits it produces are a mixed bag at best, and the negative effects it has on productivity and safety are manifold. But bleary-eyed we carry on with it, year after year.

Maybe it’s a function of age, but I find the change more profoundly affecting each time it happens. It’s a deep disturbance to physical, intellectual, and emotional rhythms that I’m not normally aware of at all, and I don’t think enough attention is paid to it. By me at least. To rectify that, I turned in the direction I always do, toward the bookshelf, where I found The Last of the Light: About Twilight by Peter Davidson. It doesn’t directly address the time change issue, but it meditates at length on the meaning of darkness, light, and the ineffable slide from one to the other. In addition to being a tapestry of the deepest thoughts on the subject by artists, scientists, and philosophers from antiquity to the present, it’s a gorgeous visual record of the “cartography of dusk” mapped by those same great minds. Perusing it in the watery light of late afternoon (which now falls at 2:00 or 3:00 p.m.) I felt like a cloistered monk seeking inspiration in an illuminated manuscript created by a brilliant, vanished predecessor ... continued

Pay It Forward 2017

I have something to tell you about the Island Books staff. We are just a tiny bit addicted to having fun and spreading good cheer. According to Moira McDonald’s recent article in The Seattle Times, there are book fairies at work in the Seattle area, but for the record, we were ahead of the game. Last year at Thanksgiving-time, we came up with a new way to feed our addiction. We had such a good time dropping books around the island that we decided to make it an annual tradition. This year we chose copies of The Wisdom of Sundays by Oprah Winfrey, Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, Callings by Dave Isay, Turtles All the Way Down by John Green, and Becoming by Clint Gresham.

See if you can figure out where we went from the pictures and hunt them down ... continued

Our BEST Year Yet

Wait, what? We WON?

The King 5/Evening Magazine’s “Best of Western Washington” is a time honored tradition around these parts.  It’s a chance for local businesses to be chosen as “the best” in their category by popular vote. Last Friday night, the rumors started flying. We hadn’t heard anything official, but there it was, this, online. You can only imagine the texts that started pinging around between us. 

Were we really just selected BEST Bookstore of 2017 by the voters of Western Washington?

Yes folks, we were ... continued

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