Doors to Inspiration

In her book on creativity and fear, Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert introduces her concept of ideas as a thing looking for a person to bring it to life in the world. Illustrating this point, she describes her inspiration to write a novel set in the 1960′s in the Amazon and centering around a failed highway through the jungle. It featured a middle-aged woman from Minnesota as the main character, who works for a international construction company, and is sent to the Amazon to deal with issues arising after construction has begun. Gilbert had worked at developing it, done extensive research and pitched it to her publisher. Then personal circumstances caused her to lay it aside for a few years, and when she finally returned to it, she says “the living heart of my novel was gone.” 

In the meantime, Gilbert made friends with the writer Ann Patchett, and in the course of their correspondence Patchett told her about a book she was working on, a contemporary story of a middle-aged women from Minnesota who is sent to the Amazon by her pharmaceutical company to investigate drug research being done there with seemingly miraculous results. Although there were some plot differences, many of the main details were oddly the same, from the characteristics of the central character, to the circumstances that lead her to travel to the Amazon. Gilbert concluded that the inspiration that had initially come to her had gotten tired of waiting for her to make it happen and moved on. And so Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder was published.


January 2020 eNewsletter

"In January it's so nice while slipping on the sliding ice to sip hot chicken soup with rice.
Sipping once.
Sipping twice.

—Maurice Sendak

2020 is here! I remember when Liuci, my third child, started school and realized with awe and delight that she would graduate high school in the year 2020. Feels like yesterday, the way the time has passed so quickly. Even the latest holiday season flew by with the joy of wrapping and recommending gifts. We had such a great time helping you find the perfect stories to share with your loved ones.

We have a handful of interesting and engaging events this month, including Mikaela Kiner, Julie Blacklow, and our Open Mic night at Barrels Wine Bar. We will end the month with Bookstore Yoga sponsored by our friends at the Mercer Island Athletic Club and taught by Marni Seneker. All are welcome.

It's also time to return to our regularly scheduled Storybook Corners, PJ Story Times, various book club meetings, and local author events. Come by and see us soon!

As tradition has it, we compiled our Top 40 "hits" of the year -- the books you have purchased the most from us in 2019. Two local authors are featured: Melinda Gates and her book, The Moment of Lift gets the top spot with Garth Stein's movie tie-in cover of The Art of Racing in the Rain a close second. The rest of the list is linked here. Stop by to see our Top 40 display!

We hope 2020 brings you a year of great reading, much happiness, and the opportunity to surprise yourself. As we look towards the new year, we invoke Neil Gaiman's new year blessing:

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art -- write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.

Laurie Raisys

The Joys of Rereading

It’s that time of year at Island Books when all our customers are looking for the perfect book to give to friends and family. When all of us behind the counter are focused on finding the best of what we’ve read this year to fit the eclectic interests of your nearest and dearest. We love to send you on your way with a bag full of brightly wrapped packages, carefully and thoughtfully chosen. It’s challenging and invigorating and incredibly satisfying to come up with that one special volume. December at Island Books demands that I search my memory of books read to come up with something to meet the unique requirements of each recipient. I am myself reduced to seeking out the vague clues from my memory, recollections of the the cover or a fragment of the title.

And every December I find myself looking to my personal shelf of unread books with lackluster interest. During my break time, or at the end of the work day, I instead want to reach for something familiar and comfortable, revisiting old friends and familiar faces in the pages of books read and reread.  It is a relief to sit down with words I’ve read before, characters I know, and a story where the ending is not in question.


December 2019 eNewsletter

"I heard a bird sing in the dark of December. A magical thing. And sweet to remember. We are nearer to Spring than we were in September. I heard a bird sing in the dark of December."

—Oliver Herford
December is here. The days are chilly, and the darkness comes way too quick, but our complimentary Peppermint M&Ms are out on the counter shedding a little light (Thanks, Molly!). Holiday wrap is up and getting used every day. We still have four book fairs to finish out... Needless to say, the years and seasons go by too quickly. It's hard to believe that Christmas and Hanukkah are only a couple weeks away. In preparation, we have stocked the shelves with a variety of great fiction and nonfiction titles, as well as many amazing non-book items, for you or for gifts.

As per tradition, here are my Top Ten Happenings from 2019 here at Island Books. While all events and interactions with our community are equally important, these are just a few that stood out to me.
  1. Hosting William Kent Krueger for his latest book This Tender Land
  2. Taylor Jenkins Reid returning to Island Books for her Daisy Jones and the Six Tour. I got to sit down and talk with her about this fantastic book
  3. Attending the Elton John concert with Victor and some fellow bookstore owners, Suzanne (Liberty Bay) and Janis (Queen Anne Book Company), compliments of Henry Holt Books
  4. Speaking with Covenant Shores Senior Group with Pastor Greg Asimakoupoulos about owning Island Books
  5. Being invited to chat with Lora Poepping on After the Blue Badge Podcast, a Microsoft Aumni Network project
  6. Celebrating 46 years as an independent bookstore on Mercer Island
  7. Being invited to sell books for Seattle Arts & Lectures for Melinda Gates's huge Moment of Lift event
  8. Updating the store with new carpets, shelves, signs
  9. Selling books and attending the Seattle premiere of Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain
  10. Hosting the candidate forums for the Mercer Island City Council race

We all look forward to seeing you during the holidays and throughout the next year. Your support means everything, as we would not be here without it.

Happy, Merry Everything from all of us to all of you,
Laurie Raisys


Audiobook Oasis

imageOver the past 6 months, I have discovered the joy and magic of audiobooks. For busy people audio books are a great way to immerse yourself in narrative and language, while moving at the speed your life goes. For most of the summer I nannyed (not sure on the spelling on this one) my cousins, one of which was born in May of this year. This meant I had no hands, but a lot of time just me and the baby. To stay awake I would listen to audio books while the warm bundle cuddled on my chest. Now, when I get ready for the day, brushing my teeth and making breakfast, I listen to an audio book. I listen to them while in the car. I listen to them while cooking. I listen to them pretty much any time I am alone and unable or not wanting to read a physical book ...continued.

Lori's Best of the Year

I keep forgetting it’s November. Even though I’ve had to pack my bag with a hat and gloves for chilly walks to the car, and I’m wearing my puffy jacket every day, it still doesn’t seem like we are this close to the end of the year, the long nights and the longer gift lists. It’s time to take a look back and see what stood out. These selections are my own personal favorites from the year. In my reading journal, I note the books that I’ve particularly loved. Last week I went through and made a list of all my starred reviews. Here it is for those of you who read like me and tend to shop my recommended shelf…


Romantic Reads for Fall

imageIt is not February, but love is in the air. I’m blaming it on myself. I have been walking around with my head in the clouds, narrowly avoiding car accidents, and staring off into space when I should be writing. Reader, I’m going to marry him, I repeat to myself because my longtime boyfriend and I have, in fact, decided to get married.

Although of little consequence to anyone other than us and our family, it sparked the idea for this blog post. All summer I devoured contemporary romance novels, preparing myself for what I knew and hoped was to come (a proposal) and getting into a festively romantic mindset. Once properly proposed to, I decided to do a scholarly investigation into the history of the romance novel that would deepen the appreciation I already have today... continued.

November 2019 eNewsletter

"November is usually such a disagreeable if the year had suddenly found out that she was growing old and could do nothing but weep and fret over it. This year is growing old gracefully...just like a stately old lady who knows she can be charming even with gray hair and wrinkles. We've had lovely days and delicious twilights."
— L. M. Montgomery

Hooray for fall! November is my favorite month; we focus on gratefulness, thankfulness, and the way the leaves turn beautiful colors. This year, as always, I am thankful for my staff and bookstore community. Throughout the month I send out bards to friends and customers with a note of thanks for their continued support of the store. It's fun for me to do because I absolutely love cards!!

In addition to Thanksgiving, November is also our birthday month! On November 2nd, we will be celebrating our 46th birthday with cookies and champagne. Please stop by to say hello and grab a cookie. Each staff member has chosen a book to be part of our birthday sale. Come by to see their picks!

Other events happening this month are the Cookbook Book Club, a signing with Susanna Ryan of Seattle Walk Report, a conversation with Kim Brown Seely, who wrote Uncharted, and our seasonal Local Author Festival. We are especially excited for the Cookbook Book Club this month! We are cooking from Cannelle et Vanille and welcoming the author Aran Goyoaga to our potluck feast.

Our evening with Kim Brown Seely is another event I am personally invested in. As my third child is off to college next year, I am getting to that empty nest stage where Victor and I have to think about what our future looks like. What are we going to do with the rest of our time? Uncharted offers unique answers to this question and probes at who parents are without their children.

This month also is the beginning of book fair season. And how special is it that we get to kick it off with Judy Witmer who helped us start our first book fair all those years ago! There are tons of book fairs over the next two months, so make sure to look at our calendar to see when your school is scheduled.

Be on the look out for the Book Fairy. She will be running around to all of the Little Free Libraries on the island.

Also look for us at the Harvest Market on November 24. We will be there giving away ARCs and sponsoring one of our favorite events of the whole year.

As much as I love Thanksgiving, I know that November is also the time for holiday cards. All of our festive cards will be out November 1st.

With thanks,
Laurie Raisys


Halloween Horrors

imageI hate horror movies, but I’ve always read scary stories. It began while reading Terrifying Tales to Tell at Night in my parent’s chiropractor’s waiting room and spread to the repertoire of scary stories I told my friends late into sleepovers. Scary stories always attracted me. Never movies. Let me repeat: I will not watch a scary movie.

Last week my boyfriend and I both had a day off of work and decided to watch something irreverent but festive. We chose Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, but the gore and body horror repelled me. I stuck it out for about an hour before my head was permanently tucked behind a pillow. Thankfully, Max turned it off. Horror books are different. I don’t know why, but I think it’s because I don’t have nightmares when I don’t physically see the images. I’m sure it doesn’t make sense to horror movie enthusiasts. In the same way a cinephile loves horror movies for the narrative structure, the plays on the genre, and the everlasting anticipation... continued.

Hidden History

In the last few weeks I’ve noticed a definite change in the air. Leaves are starting to crunch under my feet, I’m pulling out my knitted shawls and cozy sweaters, and I’m settling down with a hot cup of tea and fat historical novels. 

I’ve always loved books set in other times, from L.M. Montgomery’s Prince Edward Island at the turn of the century, to Sharon Kay Penman’s novels of thirteenth century Wales. I devoted a whole blog to my love of Dorothy Dunnett and her excellent Lymond Chronicles, as well as my serendipitous finding of Amy Snow by Tracey Rees. Across the counter I’ve confessed to customers that most historical knowledge I possess, patchy and uneven as it is, comes from reading historical fiction and not from what I learned in school days. I’ve always found it easier to remember the broad strokes of historical facts when I’ve invested in the personal lives of historical figures through a good story. Anglophile that I am, my knowledge base is concentrated heavily in England, to the detriment of most other places.



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