Washington State Book Awards

It’s always a pleasure to see the list of finalists for the annual Washington State Book Awards, not least because the judges are some of our favorite people, local booksellers and librarians. We especially wanted to take note of this slate of books, though, since so many of their authors have spent time at Island Books during the past year.

Laurie Frankel visited us to share This Is How it Always Is, a book we chose for our Best of the Year list and also added to our Open Book Club rotation ...

Another finalist in the fiction category is Elise Hooper, who spoke to the Mercer Island Woman’s Club Luncheon about her historical novel The Other Alcott ...

Legendary librarian and advocate for literacy Nancy Pearl was yet another island visitor. Long a favorite of ours for her astute book recommendations, this year she became a first-time novelist via George & Lizzie ...

The Washington Center for the Book didn’t forget about our favorite writers for children when the finalists were named. In the middle-grade category we find J. Anderson Coats and The Many Reflections of Miss Jane Deming ...

More local connections are made in Dori Jones Yang’s The Forbidden Temptation of Baseball, another historical tale based on truth ... continued

Open Book Club Preview

Whether you’re already a participant in our Open Book Club or toying with the idea of giving it a try, take a look at what we’ll be reading in the next few months. (We won’t be offended if you borrow these choices for your private book clubs either–they’re good picks!) We come together on the last Thursday of every month at 7:30pm and the staff chooses both fiction and nonfiction titles. Anyone is welcome to attend, and if you purchase your book here in the store you’ll always get a 10% discount. You can also join our Facebook group and chat about what we’re reading in between meetings. 

Us&Them by Bahiyyih Nakhjavani (August 30th): James had strong opinions about this book and it’s his pick, so he will be taking over as moderator at this discussion. Lili and Goli have argued endlessly about where their mother, Bibijan, should live since the Iranian Revolution. They disagree about her finances too, which remain blocked as long as she insists on waiting for her son–still missing but not presumed dead yet–to return from the Iran-Iraq war. But once they begin to “share” the old woman, sending her back and forth between Paris and Los Angeles, they start asking themselves where the money might be coming from. Only their Persian half-sister in Iran and the Westernized granddaughter of the family have the courage to face up to the answers, and only when Bibijan finally relinquishes the past can she remember the truth ... continued

August 2018 eNewsletter

"Reading makes immigrants of us all.
It takes us away from home, but more important, it finds homes for us everywhere." 

—Jean Rhys

We've been busy making memories this summer and despite the heat, marching in the Summer Celebration parade was a good one. It was the first time Island Books walked as a team. I could feel our community connection stronger than ever as we handed out books to happy faces along the way. We're always looking for new ways to strengthen our bond with you and what better way than to put books in those many outstretched hands.

Another high point (and temperature!) in July was our cookout with the Seattle7Writers. We raised $600 to donate to Team Read, a nonprofit organization that pairs struggling young readers with trained teen reading coaches for one-on-one tutoring after school and during the summer. Thank you to the Seattle7Writers, Team Read, and our community for making it happen. We mingled with some of our favorite local authors including Jim Lynch, Bridget Foley, Dori Butler, Robert Dugoni, J. Anderson Coates, and Clare Meeker and ate hot dogs grilled by Garth Stein himself. Garth also contributed an entertaining Q&A to our blog beforehand.

August is sleepy as people leave the island for vacations and to head back to school (mine left this week). Now is when we head to the gift show to buy for book fairs and the holidays. We plot our events and activities for the fall and it makes the year seem over all too quickly.

Ben Malcolmson is our first event of August (6:30pm tonight!) and what a way to kick it off. Come hear his inspirational story about hope, strength, and not always following the path you thought was yours.

Laurie Raisys

... continued

A Q&A With Garth Stein, Bestselling Author and Upcoming Island Books Grill Master

On Sunday, July 29th from 4-6pm, the remarkable Seattle7Writers are coming to Island Books! They’re a nonprofit collective of Pacific Northwest authors whose mission is to support literacy and the literary arts in the community. They’ve also done a tremendous job making connections between writers, readers, independent booksellers, and libraries.  Bestselling author Garth Stein will be on hand as our grill master with other S7W members serving up drinks and other sides. The first 50 customers to shop in the store that day will receive a Seattle7Writers tote, and you can also enter our raffle for a bag of signed books by the Seattle7. You’ll definitely want to stop by for a hot dog, meet authors, and pick up summer reads.

Along with Garth Stein, there will be a crowd of great authors including Jim Lynch, Bridget Foley, Dori Butler, Robert Dugoni, J. Anderson Coates, and Clare Meeker. During the event, 20% of all book sales will benefit Team Read, a nonprofit organization that pairs struggling young readers with trained teen reading coaches for one-on-one tutoring after school and during the summer.

To get everyone fired up for the party, we asked Garth a few questions. Read on for his book recommendations, grilling tips, and a funny story about Tim Egan’s missing car keys ... continued

Q&A with Michiko Kakutani

For decades the publishers of every book released in the US asked themselves the same question: “What will Michiko Kakutani think?” She started as a critic for the New York Times in 1983 and quickly became the leading arbiter of literary quality in print. She made no attempt to cultivate a public persona outside of her columns, but the opinions she expressed therein were so confident and clear that her authority was unquestioned. At least one writer referred to her as “the voice of God” and she won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 1998. More importantly, readers outside the industry responded in the same way, trusting her judgment about authors and turning her favorites into their own.

When the announcement came last year that Kakutani was retiring from her role at the Times, the consensus reaction was one of shock. But she had in recent years grown more and more interested in political and cultural movements that encompass a world wider than literature. She shares snippets from her highly active mind on Twitter (@michikokakutani) and Instagram (@michi_kakutani) and has signed a multi-volume contract with Tim Duggan Books, so her compelling voice will continue to be heard.

Ms. Kakutani was gracious enough to answer a few of my questions about her new book The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump, out this week, and on other subjects. Even better, she shared with us an exclusive list of the greatest writing from or about the Northwest ... continued

A Walk with David Williams

In the midst of these exciting events another incident occurred which, while it lasted, held Carsten Niebuhr’s attention completely. On 6th June 1761, the planet Venus appeared in its orbit in front of the sun. In order to observe and measure this rare phenomenon, Niebuhr set up his astrolabe and telescope on deck while all the sailors were rushing round getting the ship ready for battle. Unfortunately he had to complain that, despite the calm weather, the shaking of the boat prevented him from taking his readings with the desired accuracy. Nevertheless, there is something very engaging in the picture of the earnest astronomer standing on the foredeck busy with his instruments while the sailors make ready for battle all around him and the English warships lie waiting a little way off on the shining sea. One of the reasons why the world has not yet gone under is perhaps that even at the most dramatic moments there is always someone who unconcernedly looks the other way. At circles in the sand. At a gable in Delft. So on the ship on which guns are being got ready for their murderous debate, a man is completely absorbed in observing the path of Venus.

—from Arabia Felix: The Danish Expedition of 1761-1767 by Thorkild Hansen

Carsten Niebuhr, hero for our time? I acknowledge it can be frustrating to deal with someone who’s continually distracted, but in the main I think this passage is describing a man with admirable qualities. The people who notice things that no one else does point us toward possibilities we haven’t imagined. Sometimes those previously unseen details lead to monumental discoveries and groundbreaking inventions, but even the smallest observations bring unexpected color and joy to our lives.

Which is why we’ve invited one of our favorite writers to lead us on a journey through our own backyard. David Williams is the author of one of our bestselling titles in any genre and one of those people with an admirably keen eye. We’ve interviewed him about the ways in which humans have transformed our local landscape, we’ve field-tested his road maps, and now we’re finally hosting him in person. Join us on Thursday, July 19th as he takes us on an exclusive tour of our Mercer Island environs! ... continued

July 2018 eNewsletter

"You see, bookshops are dreams built of wood and paper. They are time travel and escape and knowledge and power. They are, simply put, the best of places."
—Jen Campbell

July 1st marked my third year as the owner of Island Books. When my kids were little, age three was one of my favorite times. They had no filter and said the funniest things. They drew hilarious pictures at preschool and told me how beautiful I was, despite the lack of a shower, make up, or a good hair brushing. They made life brighter and more fun. I fully expect Island Books will be working the same magic on me as we pass by our third year together. But don't worry, I'll try to brush my hair this time around.

And what a third year it's been. We won KING5’s Best of Western Washington Bookstore, which couldn't have been a bigger surprise. There were all the memorable author events, including visits from Jonathan Evison, Joyce Maynard, Taylor Jenkins Reid, Nancy Pearl, and more. Our story times and book club thrived, as did the annual book fair extravaganza. We celebrated another exuberant Independent Bookstore day and bought some colorful chairs to sit in outside as the weather turned. 

Coming up this month, the Where's Waldo? scavenger hunt starts this Friday, July 6th, so stop in and pick up your passport to find Waldo at local business. You can also check out our summer sidewalk sale happening the same day. Voting for our bookmark contest continues until Saturday, July 7th at midnight, so get in your entries soon. Thursday the 26th is another busy day, with a poetry reading from the Crest Learning writing class led by Michael Harper followed by a throwback book club:  The Dead Zone by Stephen King. There are even rumblings in my own house that Victor might read and join. And, to top it all off I'm especially looking forward to July 29th, when we're throwing a cook out with the Seattle7WritersGarth Stein will be roasting hot dogs! 

On a more personal note, recently Victor and I were honored with the 2017 Mercer Island Citizens of the Year award. Thank you to the city council for this great compliment. Victor and I love it here, and we know that any honor we receive is given to our entire staff and community for making Island Books what it is. We are nothing without the support of this island, all of the loyal customers and friends, the new faces we meet along the way, and those that still call in to place orders from their favorite childhood bookstore.

In a year when we lost some irreplaceable friends in our bookstore family, it's comforting to know that all the good news and happy memories would have made them smile.

Happy 4th of July!

Laurie Raisys

.. continued

Past Perfect

[At] the start of The Discovery of Honey, a coming-of-age story by Canadian writer Terry Griggs that I encountered last year ... it was another case of love at first line and I knew in an instant I wouldn’t be putting the book down until I’d finished it. It was a good decision: the hours I spent in the company of Hero, Discovery’s precocious narrator, were a delight ...

I’m happy to report that Griggs is back with a book that’s even better. The Iconoclast’s Journal is ribald and rambunctious like its predecessor, carrying you away with words as only a real writer can, but the greater pleasure of it is where it travels. Whenever you think you know where the tale is heading it zigs once and zags twice, bringing you to places you never imagined going.

Set among the ramshackle boom-and-bust towns of the late nineteenth century, The Iconoclast’s Journal kicks off with a literal bolt of lightning ...

While we’re on the subject of the nineteenth century, I also want to mention Mad Boy by Nick Arvin. Its title is the moniker earned by its protagonist, a pre-teen named Henry Phipps whose whole world is the decrepit farmstead he shares with his depressive mother and his drunken, ne’er-do-well father. Left almost entirely to his own devices, he’s not exactly wise beyond his years but he’s certainly resourceful, getting himself in and out of all kinds of trouble. When dad gets thrown into debtor’s prison, mom gets flattened by a falling cow, and the War of 1812 breaks out, Henry’s picaresque adventure really gets underway ... continued

The Hits Just Keep On Coming

It feels dismissive to lump multiple deaths together, but we only post so many times per month so here I go. I cannot let any more weeks go by without publicly crying virtual tears for the back-to-back losses of Philip Roth, Tom Wolfe, and Anthony Bourdain. These three didn’t need death to glorify their contributions, but the last month inevitably brings their work to the forefront of our minds. At least Roth and Wolfe were well into their 80s, but at 61, Bourdain went far too young. All so different and unique, yet similarly groundbreaking and provocative, the publishing landscape will never be the same without their ongoing contributions ... continued

Books Gave Us Gravity: A Postcard from the Edge

Non-fiction for the cold, hard facts, fiction for flights of fancy. One grounds you while the other sets you spinning. Most of the time, maybe, but my experience this week perfectly inverts that paradigm.

I’ve been reading a brand-new book from Oscar-winning documentarian Errol Morris, who is best known as the filmmaker behind such projects as The Thin Blue Line (which exonerated an alleged cop-killer serving life in a Texas prison) and The Fog of War (an extended interview with former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, architect of the Vietnam War). He is also a lifelong student of philosophy; while in the graduate program at Princeton University, he studied under Thomas Kuhn, author of the legendary The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, a book opposed to the existence of a stable, consistent reality outside the human mind. Morris on the other hand is an inveterate believer in fundamental external verities, and in the early ‘70s a philosophical argument between the two men grew so heated that Kuhn flung a glass ashtray at his pupil’s head. The Ashtray is Morris’s long-simmering return of serve, a systematic takedown of Kuhnian relativism that also builds a case for what we might call truth, justice, and the American way ...

I['ve also just finished] Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli. It’s a sliver of a book comprising fewer than a hundred pages, but it contains an encyclopedia’s worth of ideas. The first couple of chapters lay out the simple elegance of Einstein’s theories and the more convoluted concepts behind quantum mechanics, doing so in ways that may be familiar to anyone who’s dabbled with these matters before. Things begin to get more interesting as Rovelli examines the ways in which these models contradict each other. Even as the image of the cosmos he’s drawing grows more clear, he reveals vast territories of unexplored ignorance—he and his cohorts are learning every day how much more they don’t know ... continued


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