It’s that time of year where we are thinking about goals and resolutions: what worked for us last year, what didn’t work so well, and where we’d like to go. I know for many of our book-loving patrons reading more tops that list. I have to be honest that I’ve never put it at the top of mine, for the simple fact that reading more has never been a problem for me. What has been an issue is remembering what I read. You know what I mean: Someone asks you what you’ve been reading lately and you know that you’ve been reading, you have three books in various states of completion on your bedside table, yet when put on the spot you can’t think of a single title. You get to December and asked what the best books are you’ve read that year, can’t come up with a one outside of whatever you’ve read in the last month. You know you read something fabulous in January, but it’s so far away that you cannot remember
Elise Hooper is coming to celebrate the release of Learning to See: A Novel of Dorothea Lange, the Woman who Revealed the Real America on January 22nd at noon. She will be signing copies of her two books as well as passing out some Dorothea Lange postcards. Read below to look at my interview with her talking about her writing process and newest release!
Last Saturday was gorgeous, sunny, and temperate. Elise even commented later that she told the baristas, “I am going to go to the back of the shop because I am sort of blinded by this light.” I felt the same.
I arrived in a flurry, thinking I would be 15 minutes early, but she beat me there. Elise was writing in a vibrant blue notebook that she closed as I approached. I introduced myself in person (we had only talked over email). She commented that she thought she was early enough to get some writing done, which made me eye that notebook again. Learning to See is only a week from release, so it had to be something new. My first question came to me naturally…
Happy New Year! Community is one of the words we like to use to describe Island Books and this holiday season it has rang true. We had friends wrapping, dropping off bagels and chocolate treats, and assisting with our supply of the ever popular peppermint M&M's for the counter (thanks, Molly!). We love that you make us your community bookstore, and we look forward to seeing all your faces whether it's once a year, once a month, or every day of the week.
That being said, the return of new release Tuesday is welcomed. Already so many new and exciting books have been released, and many of us in store are reading ahead to the ones to come. For example, local author Elise Hooper will be joining us on her release date January 22nd to sign copies of Learning to See from noon to 1pm. Make sure to pre-order your copy online or by phone so you can snag a signed copy.
We are happy to announce our newest team member Caitlin Baker, who joins our already currently amazing staff. You can stop by anytime and say hello, but this Sunday we’ll be hosting a meet and greet with coffee and donuts from 10a.m. to noon. Come chat with Caitlin about what she has on her staff pick shelf!
Before we introduce the Top 40 bestsellers of 2018, we want to share our Top 5 Non-Book Items of 2018:
2) Rainbow Twirler
4) Star Cube
As always, we tallied the totals and ran down the numbers to look at your favorite books this year. We saw titles repeated from last year like A Gentleman in Moscow and Amy Snow that kept their strong hold as favorites in our community. Educated was our number one bestseller with Becoming as a close second. We love seeing local authors on the list too, like Laurie Frankel, Elise Hooper, and Jane Meyer Brahm.
In the Kids and Teens department we also saw some repeats, such as The Hate U Give and Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. We were delighted as well to see favorites such as The Digger and the Flower and Refugee sell so well through recommendations and word of mouth. It is what keeps this community so special!
Besides all the new releases we are looking forward to in 2019, it's also time to return to our regularly scheduled Storybook Corners, PJ Story Times, Open Book Club meetings, Cookbook Book Club meetings, and local author events. Come by and see us soon.
In early 2011, I walked into Island Books and asked Roger Page for a job. “No,” he said. “I haven’t hired anyone in over a decade and I’m not about to start now. You have no retail experience whatsoever. If you’re serious, come back in three months and maybe we’ll talk—and that’s a big maybe.”
My husband and I had just moved from Capitol Hill and bought a major fixer-upper a few blocks from the bookstore. After several years as an assistant editor at a major New York publishing house, a job as part of the Amazon Books Team had brought me to Seattle. Four years, marriage, and months of fruitless IVF treatments later, I’d left the position and couldn’t figure out where it was all heading. I spent the first few months in our new house fighting a half acre of abandoned garden.
Roger thought I wasn’t coming back, but I was. I watched the store carefully over the next few months. It was true I had no retail experience, but I’d been at the center of the book industry for nearly a decade and examined it from a variety of perspectives, from editing to writing to contract negotiations to data analysis to online marketing and beyond. I knew I could add something that was missing and I was already in love with Island Books ... continued
I’m Kelleen. You can recognize me by my very curly and very rainbow-colored hair. I graduated from Lewis & Clark College down in Portland with a degree in English with a concentration in dance. I tend to work in the children’s section, but I read many different things!
Yes, the uncanny is a slightly strange topic for the warmth and joy of the winter holiday season, but stick with me. Unlike the bright openness of summer and spring, fall and winter are seasons of quietude, darkness, and slumber. I most certainly hibernate in my off time. With said hibernation comes lots of reading, and the reading I have chosen of late has been quite unnerving.
Perhaps in a run-off from Halloween season, I have been reading quite a few books that focus on liminal spaces. Even into the winter holidays, this trend continues. Books like Alice Isn’t Dead, The Hole, and Melmoth all focus on the places where our brains become unsure of the solidity of reality. In our everyday lives, Moments like standing still in the dull quiet of snowy nights, walking through the sweet perfume of rotting leaves, and falling asleep next to a hot fire with eyes slightly open all have the liminal anxiety of the unreal ... continued
There are many, many types of readers that walk through the doors of Island Books, and some of them are like me. If I am reading a new novel, and have been captured by the story, I find it nearly impossible to put down. The drive to find out what happens to the characters overrides almost everything, including sleep. I still remember reading The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye on a summer vacation, realizing it was 1am and I had at least half the book still to go. It was one of the few times I actually put the book down and finished it the next day.
Needless to say, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried to be more sensible when it comes to evening reading. Lately my solution has been collections of personal essays. You can read one or two, and then put the book down for the next night. Here are two new collections, and one old one that would be a welcome addition to most any bedside table ... continued
"Luckily, I always travel with a book, just in case I have to wait on line for Santa, or some such inconvenience."
November was an amazing month of celebrations. Thank you to everyone who took part in our 45 Days to 45 Years daily specials and to all our loyal customers for stopping in to share cake, champagne and community. It's been an extra special year of feeling the love and support from all of you.
Where did the year go? Once again, I've been making a list and checking it twice. Here is my list of Top 10 favorite Island Books-related moments this year:
10) Hearing our ads on KUOW, KEXP and now KCTS.
9) Hosting and passing out books at the Mercer Island Farmers Market Harvest Market.
8) As ever, an exuberant Independent Bookstore Day.
7) Chowing down at our weenie roast with the Seattle7Writers.
6) Hosting Kate McDermott for our Cookbook Book club.
5) A special Storybook Corner visit from Sparkle Leigh.
4) Partnering with KCTS to host Novels and Notables for the Great American Read.
3) Garth Stein asked us to be his bookstore for personalized copies this holiday.
2) Celebrating 45 years of community magic.
1) Receiving the Mercer Island Citizen of the Year Award and walking in the parade!
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 2019.
Growing up, I loved getting lost in books. It didn’t matter to me if the book was adventurous, dramatic, suspenseful or fantastical, as long as it transported me somewhere else I was happy. I’d be so immersed in my book that I’d barely hear my parents calling me for dinner. Another chapter—just one more—often took priority over the chores my father asked me to do with decreasing patience. That love of reading has stayed with me. I love the way books push you out of yourself and into the lives of others, and how, with the best books anyway, you return to your life altered by the experience.
When Matt and I got married, he was convinced we would end up on Mercer Island raising our family. I was less sure. It was his home, not mine, and I wondered if it would ever feel like a home to both of us. Matt would often sell me on the merits: the small welcoming community, everyone knows each other, excellent schools, the beautiful setting. I saw all great qualities, but still was not entirely convinced. Then one afternoon, Matt took me to Island Books ... continued
This week the New York Times ran an article by the Times classical music editor Zachary Woolfe called 5 Minutes That Will Make You Love Classical Music. He poses a simple question: “What are the five minutes or so—longer than a moment, shorter than a symphony—that you’d play for a friend to convince them to fall in love with classical music?”
It’s worth your time to listen to what many big names in music recommend in response (I particularly love Zachary Woolfe’s personal pick, Lou Harrison’s Suite for Violin and American Gamelan: Chaconne, which Woolfe describes as “… an expansive yet deeply intimate meeting of cultural traditions that I find more moving by the day.”). All the musical excerpts are in the article, or the Times provides a briefer overview in a list on Spotify. It’ll slow down the world—and you—much the way reading can.
The reader comments are just as compelling as the article and excerpts. Browse through and see that people from all over the world shared the piece of music they want to listen to as they die, debated the merits of the recommendations, and told intimate stories of how a particular piece of music changed their lives.
People often comment on how lucky those of us who work in bookstores must be, getting to read for our jobs. It’s true, we are lucky. Our shelves are full of books we can’t wait to read, and then can’t wait to talk about to everyone who walks through the Island Books door. But what do you do when you’ve raved about an initial book, of an author, of a series, finally get your hands on the second, and find yourself unable to feel like it lived up to the potential of the first? It’s heartbreaking. And makes you approach sequels with more and more apprehension.
Two sequels to books I’d loved came out this fall, and I was scared to read them. I kept looking at them on my shelf and picking up something else, because I didn’t want to be disappointed. Thankfully my need to find out what happens next eventually won out ... continued