My first English class in college was the most varied and exciting. “Literature in Film” was probably the best 100 Level class offered in the whole college. The entire lesson plan consisted of reading amazing books that were adapted into movies. Then, of course, we watched the movies. I was introduced to film genres previously unexplored, like noir, and classic films, like Apocalypse Now or Double Indemnity. Best of all was reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and watching the requisite Blade Runner. I was in love with this cyberpunk aesthetic formed by simple and straightforward language. Young Harrison Ford didn’t hurt, either ...continued.
I have been in bookselling, and bookreading, for many years and in my opinion, I am undeniably an expert at choosing the right book for me to read at any given moment. I am always confident that I will choose a book to read that will be worth my while and that I will, without any doubt, be entertained, rewarded, and even maybe eternally changed for having read it ...continued.
"You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming."
April is finally behind us. We hope for better days ahead.
April has been a weird month for us at Island Books, as it has for everyone. I was struggling with what to write in the owner’s letter this month. Usually I write about upcoming events at the store, upcoming holidays that I’m looking forward to, and upcoming book releases that I’m excited about. Somehow that didn’t seem appropriate right now. I spoke to a friend, who is also an Island Books customer and supporter, about what to write this month; she encouraged me to speak from the heart about what we’re experiencing. So that’s what I’ll do this month.
This experience has been unreal and scary. We don't know what’s going to happen in the coming weeks and months. We don’t know what the new normal will look like when we begin to emerge from this. When this crisis began and we had to close our doors in late March, Victor woke up one night and found me on the family room couch crying at 2am. I was crying because I was scared and had no idea what the immediate future would hold. I was crying as I read post after post about little bookstores around the country closing their doors. I was crying because local businesses that I loved felt they could no longer stay open. The next morning, he gave me a note that you see in the picture. This past week I taped the note to the window so I could look at it every day and remind myself that Island Books has this community supporting us, and together, we will survive.
We’ve always said that Island Books is in the business of community and experience. Our tagline of “Real Books. Real People. Real Community” reflects that. As a result of the crisis, Island Books has been forced by necessity to work online and to try to bring “community” and “experience” to an online world. Our staff has struggled to figure out how to work remotely and virtually in a business that is essentially personal. We've made mistakes and we appreciate your kindness and patience when we do. Working online is not our comfort zone, and it’s not what we do best (but we’re quickly working on it). We can make your orders happen, but we love talking to you. We love finding the books or gifts for you or the special people in your life, then wrapping them up with a bow. That’s our thing – that’s what we do. We love giving personal attention to each of you. Not seeing all of you and not being able to personally help each one of you has been incredibly hard. We really miss it.
We have been fortunate to adjust our business and to be able to work from home and behind the closed doors of Island Books to fulfill your order for books, puzzles, toys, and gifts. Like other businesses in other communities across the country, we are one of many small businesses on Mercer Island trying to survive this crisis. We appreciate all you have done to give us your business, support, and love. It helps us survive this crisis, keep our employees working and paid, and it helps ensure that Island Books will be here to serve our community in better times ahead.
Also, Happy Mother’s Day to all of the amazing moms out there – especially my mom.
Lately, I have found myself in the not-so-unique position of being a bookseller who doesn’t know what to read to begin reading again. There is a lot going on in the world, and it can be very distracting from the now. As of late, stress has been my deterrent. Like many of my coworkers (unsurprisingly, not Lori Robinson, though), I have had trouble staying on task, let alone allow myself to get swept up into a book. And for a couple of weeks, it was okay. I didn’t particularly like it because half of my identity is reading, but I let myself exist in this state of overwhelm. Sometimes the only cure for all that overwhelms me in the world is reality TV, because books do not numb your mind the way that TV can.
But it has been almost a month since we have been at home, and even in the overwhelm I have been aching to read. All I want to do is curl up and get lost in a mythical world or good narrative. I have read bits and pieces of random books, stopping and starting as my mood dramatically changed. I tried family dramas, historical fiction, and even a mystery, but nothing kept my interest. Then it worked! I was sucked into Blue Flowers by Carola Saavedra. I think it was because of the intensity of the first person writing and the mystery behind the epistolary element. Nothing sucks me in like a forbidden romance. But then my stamina faded out, and I still have sixty pages left of this 200 page book... continued.
Hello mid-April. I started thinking about and drafting this piece in the early days of March, and with each passing week and new development in our current lives, the words I had to say around this subject changed. Little did I know then how apropos the subject of home would become. With at least the rest of the month to go, I think we’re all trying to make some sense of where we find ourselves: Home.
Back at the beginning of March our Island Books Knitting Book Club read Marisa de los Santos’s I’ll Be Your Blue Sky, which coincidentally has a predominant theme of home. De los Santos asks a series of questions in her novel: Where is home, who is home, what is the importance of have a home to go to? What happens when you lose your home? Her writing is beautiful, and I found myself envying both the homes described and the friendships enjoyed. In this dual timeline story the predominant “home” is Blue Sky House, a place of refuge for both Edith, in the 1950′s, and later for Clare in the present day. For Clare it contains a safe place to recover from a broken engagement, and also an intriguing mystery to solve concerning Edith and her life in the small coastal town in Delaware.
The Love in the Time of Cholera puns have become cliché, but it’s the most succinct way to conjure the way we are in a state, a historical time where things are different because of this external force. We are in the time of corona. We can’t escape it. There’s no denying it. Here we are.
The past five weeks have been a whirl-wind of intense emotions. The line running through all of them has been a deep sense of loss felt. Every person I have interacted with (virtually, over the phone, and in person) has mentioned one way or another that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected them. I am not talking about anger, frustration, or paranoia (or lack thereof) around the virus, but the reflection on what we have lost when we remove ourselves from each other. Whether it is a job, friendships, family, a trip, a celebration, or even a test, we are all collectively grieving the loss of the everyday lives we took for granted, as well as any loss we may have experienced at an individual level... continued.
"There is some good in this world, and it's worth fighting for
Bookstores are very lonely places without people. It's been sad to show up each morning to a dark store and no one walking into the door at 9:00am. The phone rings, though, and for that I am grateful.
As we wander through this mess, I thought of some things that I am grateful for during this time of Stay-at-Home:
1. Island Books customers are incredibly loyal.
2. Mercer Island is an amazing community to be a part of — the love and support you have shown us will never be forgotten.
3. The Island Books team is phenomenal — thank you for your resilience and flexbility.
4. The gift of family time, family toasts, and family dinners.
6. Zoom Happy Hours with friends.
7. Netflix (mainly, Tiger King, All American, and Schitt's Creek)
8. Coming to the bookstore with my husband each day.
9. My kids are grown and not toddlers! I am in awe of so many that are home with little ones. I'd be drinking by noon!
10. Walks, even if it is only back and forth through the bookstore.
Be well, we miss you all and hope to see you soon!
P. S. Happiest birthday wishes, Liuci.
If ever I didn’t want to dwell in the present, this day is that. Or maybe I should say these days are those — I don’t even know how to construct that sentence. But just as I am not one to dwell on sentence structure, I am also not one to wallow in the past, swollen with nostalgia looking to all the great tomes of yore in times of global stress — Not me! I am looking to all the fun reads of the future.
Luckily, I am uniquely positioned to share them with you... Continued.
To our valued customers, supporters and community:
First of all, thank you for your continued support over the past few weeks during this unprecedented health and economic crisis. As you no doubt have heard, this crisis has hit small businesses particularly hard and Island Books is no exception. We appreciate the outpouring of support from our community. Your support of Island Books not only supports a Mercer Island institution but it also supports 6 Island Books employees. Nobody knows what the next few days and months will bring. We are hoping for the best possible outcome given the circumstances.
Yesterday, Washington State Governor Inslee announced the closure of all non-essential businesses by midnight Wednesday, March 25. As a result, Island Books will be closing the doors of its retail store at the end of the business day tomorrow (Wednesday, March 25th). Complying with this order is the right thing to do for our customers and our community at large. We support the governor in his decision. We will, however, continue to fulfill orders online (email: firstname.lastname@example.org or www.mercerislandbooks.com) and phone orders (206-232-6920) as we always have. Our employees have the ability to fill these orders from home as long as there is a need and a demand for it from our customers and community. We will also continue to offer free shipping to anywhere in the US and free delivery on Mercer Island as we always have.
For today (Tues, March 24th) and tomorrow (Wed, March 25) we will be open from 9:00am to 8:00pm. If you’ve received a call from us regarding a pick-up of your order, we ask that you please pick up by end of day tomorrow (we are also happy to deliver on Mercer Island or ship your order – just let us know). During this time will continue the important practice of physical distancing (we will be our usual social selves but from a distance) within the store and we will limit the number of people in the store to 10 at a time. We ask for your understanding in helping us uphold these important health practices.
Please keep in touch and keep up with us on social media through Facebook and Instagram as well as our website. We’ll be making announcements and sharing important information about supporting local businesses and independent bookstores.
Shop local. Spend like it matters.
— The Island Books Team
To the Island Books community —
We are truly grateful and humbled by the outpouring of support our community has always shown to Island Books but especially over the last few weeks. Your support of Island Books not only supports a Mercer Island institution but also supports 6 employees and provides health insurance for some of those employees (which is obviously important in these times).
We live in scary and uncertain times. Nobody knows what the next few weeks and months will bring. Our thoughts are with our most vulnerable family members, customers, supporters, and residents. It appears that the COVID-19 crisis will not only bring a health crisis to our community, but it may also bring an unprecedented economic crisis as well.
Island Books not only needs your support to survive but we also need a strong small business ecosystem around us as well. So, in addition to supporting Island Books, we humbly ask that you support the businesses in our Town Center and on the south end shopping center. Yes, you might pay a little more than you would online or with a national chain but we ask that you view that extra cost as an investment in your community. We guarantee that the national chains and online retailers will still be there once this crisis has passed (and it’s important to keep in mind that it will pass) – we promise. Without your support, small businesses may not be there in the future.
We want to guarantee that our island has a thriving small business community once this has passed because it makes Mercer Island a better place to live. These businesses also employ people who are part of our local economy (and also spend money at other small businesses like Island Books). So we suggest the following: