Everybody knows that Shakespeare sits at the pinnacle of the authorial pyramid, his work deservedly considered as the finest example of the wonders of the written word. Other writers have avid fans–Dickensians and Janeites, for example–but he’s the only one who inspires fervor that approaches worship. “Bardolatry,” in other words....

I’m not knocking the guy—if any literary figure is deserving of this level of adulation, it’s him. There are problems with building him so high a pedestal, though. For one, it encourages readers and playgoers to see him as superhuman, and to distrust his established biography. Hence the rising tide of anti-Stratfordian nonsense that culminated in 2012’s absurd cinematic flop Anonymous, which claimed not only that the Earl of Oxford was the actual author of Shakespeare’s works, but that he was both lover and son of Elizabeth I.

A more serious problem with obsessive bardolatry is that it leaves you nowhere to go. Since nothing else measures up, you might as well skip it all and stick with the creme de la creme. But even the most devoted fan will eventually tire of re-reading Troilus and Cressida. What do you do when you’ve had your fill of Shakespeare? What you should do is branch out by reading some of his contemporaries .... continued

To my great delight, last week I learned that my mother-in-law, her best friend, and I were all reading the same book at the same time. “I’m so into this thriller,” my MIL confessed, “that when someone on my flight said, ‘Hey Chuck!’ I looked up and said ‘Yes?’”

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins drove all of us to distraction. Rachel is a divorced woman who has developed a voyeuristic fascination with a “perfect” couple she sees regularly on her daily commute. As her train passes their courtyard each day, she develops her own fiction for their livesa life she wishes were her own. The fact that they live a few doors down from her own previous residence, now inhabited by her ex-husband, his current wife, and their new baby, is no coincidence.

Rachel’s fixation isn’t the story, except that she witnesses something about the couple one day that she shouldn’t have seen. Add in Rachel’s severe drinking problem, a night of poor decisions when she gets off at the “perfect” couple’s stop, and a blackout that leaves her with no memory of that night, and suddenly Rachel is a central figure in a woman’s disappearance....continued

How long has it been since we paid a call on you and had ourselves a good old-fashioned First Line Friday? Too long, we say. So pull up a chair, set down for a spell, and enjoy some great literary samples. And don’t worry about us dominating the conversation. We’ve let some top writers chip in their two cents this time. All the choices below are theirs, and in our humble opinion, they have excellent taste ... continued

"Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy."

Last week brought the remarkable news that Harper Lee has been sitting on a manuscript. And come July, this piece of gold (whether it’s good or not, there’s no question the book will rake in a fortune) will be hitting our shelves. According to a multitude of reports, Go Set a Watchman was apparently written before To Kill a Mockingbird, but Lee abandoned it when her editor told her to write a prequel instead. For decades the author presumed the manuscript had been lost. Her lawyer recently discovered it, and now, we’ll finally get a glimpse of what Scout is like as a grown up.

Just like the rest of you, I’m excited. It’s a fairy tale. We’ve been clamoring for another Harper Lee book since 1960, and she’s notoriously clammed up when asked if she was working on anything. Beyond a few short essays, as far as we know Lee never wrote again after Mockingbird. I have no doubt the new book will be as warm, funny yet ironic, and complex as the classic we already know and love. It won’t be a Blidungsroman though, and that’s going to be a huge shift in the way we relate to Scout. Her crumbling innocence in the original played a huge role in making the story so poignant. This new older Scout will be returning to Maycomb, Alabama, to visit Atticus about twenty years later....continued

If you happen to be in New York before February 7th, you might want to stop by the Julie Saul Gallery’s solo exhibition with Dutch photographer Reinier Gerritsen. For physical book lovers, Gerritsen is an artist to champion. One of his biggest projects over the last few years has been photographing people reading in the New York City subways. What started as a small experiment fueled by the photographer’s fear that printed books were doomed turned into vivid proof that they’re in fact alive and well. People are reading books. Not just reading devices. Books. He catalogues his vivid documentary portraits by author and the books range from bestsellers to classics to thrillers and more.

For those that want the pleasure of exploring this project in Gerritsen’s preferred form, you can have all the photographs in one place with his recently released body of work, aptly titled The Last Book....continued

(Our store journal keeps you posted on books we're excited about, our literary musings, and other reading-related rambles. If you like, you can sign up to receive our posts by email.)

When the Seahawks made it to the Super Bowl last year, we played it a little cute, talking on the blog about what a stretch it was for a highfalutin’, highbrow outfit like ours to be interested in sportsball. You saw right through that pretense, of course ....

In their honor, but even more in honor of you, the all-important 12th-Man fans, we’re doing this year what we did last time around. This Sunday, February 1st, we’ll be keeping special holiday hours by opening from 10am to 3pm. Even better, everything in the store will be discounted 12%. That includes football-related books to read during halftime, but also all of our non-sports items ... continued

I ran across a couple of sentences the other day that struck a chord:

All that needs to be said has already been said. But since no one was listening, everything must be said again.

—André Gide (1869-1951)

This wasn’t something I found myself, but something Nancy Pearl shared on social media. Speaking of that esteemed advocate of the written word, she’ll be appearing at the Mercer Island Community Center on Wednesday, January 28th to speak on the topic of “The Pleasures and Perils of a Life of Reading.” The event is a fundraiser for the University of Washington’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, and Island Books will be there to sell some great books, Nancy’s own and the ones she recommends most highly.

Anyway, it’s a catchy little quote, isn’t it? The reason it registered so strongly with me was that it perfectly encapsulates something I’d been trying to say at much greater length ... continued

As sure as the sun follows rain, the publication of our Best Books of the Year list is followed by the publication of our Wait Wait Don’t Forget About These Other Great Books list. There are too many titles for one post to contain them all, so we’ve broken the WWDFATOGB announcement into two parts. We covered fiction previously, and now, before we say goodbye to 2014 forever, we’re pleased to share with you our (near-)favorite nonfiction books of the year .... continued

There are many reasons I enjoy my job at Island Books. The financial advantages (staff discount and free advance copies), social perks (my colleagues are even more amusing behind the scenes), and bragging rights (I do indeed work for that magical bookstore) are just a few of the more obvious incentives. 

But sometimes, it’s the small things I particularly relish. There’s one ritual that has become both increasingly challenging and a source of immense pleasure. Those of you who read our eNewsletter may have noticed we always have a quote about books or reading as the header. (If you aren’t receiving our monthly eNewsletter by email, you can sign up here.) We’ve been sending them since the end of 2011, so this has been going on for quite some time. While occasionally I wonder if we’ve used up all the good quotes to be had, each month a new gem presents itself. Fortunately authors, celebrities, publishers, and other great minds talk about reading and books everywhere, all the time.

Before I spend some time browsing for a good zinger to use in the February eNewsletter, I thought it might be fun to assemble a quote pile of what we’ve used in the past. It’ll keep me from repeating myself, and hopefully inspire us all to pick up a good book and start the new year off right. And if you have a favorite quote to add, don’t hesitate to share it. We might just put it in the eNewsletter....continued

(Our store journal keeps you posted on books we're excited about, our literary musings, and other reading-related rambles. If you like, you can sign up to receive our posts by email.)

Authors in our region may just be getting over their New Year’s hangovers, but several of them will want to break out the champagne again anyway. Why? Because the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association has just handed out its annual awards. These literary prizes are perhaps the closest to our hearts, as they’re the product of Independent bookstores like us all across Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. We member stores get to nominate our favorite books by Northwest writers, and the judges take it from there. We’re always happy to see the results, but this year even more so than most. Half of the winners were on our own list of the best books of the year, and the group as a whole makes our region look extremely impressive to the nation at large.

The most inevitable choice had to be All the Light We Cannot See. That novel, by Boise’s Anthony Doerr, was the hands-down phenomenon of 2014 ... continued

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