What Are the Writers Reading?

Every Saturday I receive an email from Lithub.com that points me towards a dozen or so compelling literature/author/publishing-related articles. If you like our blog, you’ll go down a real rabbit hole on their website. Last week I took great pleasure in a story from Atlas Obscura called A Peek at Famous Readers’ Borrowing Records From a Private New York LibraryWho knew they had chronicled the reading habits of writers like Roald Dahl, Herman Melville, and Malcolm Cowley?

Then I started to wonder, what are the contemporary authors reading? A search on Twitter reveals a great deal. The first thing I noticed is that many popular authors tweet only about their own books, which is standard industry practice and a nice way to keep fans in the loop about new editions, author appearances, and awards. Many of them also tweet about politics. But a few of them spend time sharing their own reading behaviors, and those tweets can be interesting. Most (not all) authors read books similar to what they write, so it’s safe to say if you like their books you’ll like the ones they recommend. 

So today you don’t have to take my word for it on book suggestions. I’m pointing you towards some of the authors that are popular among the Island Books staff and customers ... continued

Robin Oliveira at Island Books

The month of March at Island Books kicks off in the best way, with an appearance by one of our favorite writers, Robin Oliveira. Since the publication of her first novel in 2010 she’s been one of our bestselling authors and a popular choice for local book clubs. Her success is easily explained, if not easily replicated: combine graceful prose with uncommon insight about the past and you end up with truly marvelous historical fiction.

In her latest novel, Winter Sisters, Oliveira returns to the 19th-century world of her most beloved character, Mary Sutter, a woman who had much to overcome as she reinvented herself as a surgeon during the Civil War ... After you pick up a copy of Winter Sisters, you’ll almost certainly want to read about the backstory of its heroine in My Name Is Mary Sutter, and you’ll probably want to explore Belle Epoque Paris in the pages of I Always Loved You, an account of the passionate relationship shared by painters Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas.

Join us on Thursday, March 1st to meet Robin Oliveira and find out why we’re so enthusiastic about her books and her visit ... continued

#ReadingBlackout Recommendations

Are you participating in the #ReadingBlackout for Black History Month? Even if you’re not, take a moment to consider picking up at least one book by an African American author this February. The hashtag comes from BookTuber Denise D. Cooper, who committed herself to reading only black authors for a full year.

Black History Month seems particularly important this year, considering the current political and social climate. Black history is for people of all skin colors, and even if you think it isn’t about white people, it is. Now more than ever we should reflect on how we can take the lessons of the past and commit to more compassion and fairness in our immediate surroundings. If we want to reinforce the inherent value of all people, we need to remind ourselves how and why we can and should do things better going forward.

Lillian made a list of Kids books for Black History Month for our February newsletter, filled with examples for our kids of how to fight injustice. These books can be the gateway to many important conversations at home. But giving our kids books about diversity isn’t enough. We should model it ourselves and the #ReadingBlackout is a good opportunity. 

Here are four books you can use to push the white authors to the back of your pile this month ... continued

February 2018 eNewsletter

"Grief is the last act of love we have to give to those we loved. Where there is deep grief, there was great love."
—Unknown

The past few weeks have been filled with grief for all of us at Island Books after the loss of Marni Gittinger. We not only lost a member of our book store family, we lost a dear friend. To say that Marni was a bright spot in many of our days is an understatement.

Mondays were my favorite day to see her bounding in the front door, with her Big Gulp and large handbag, checking the clip for specials, then walking and talking her way to the back room.

Marni was my biggest cheerleader. She wanted me to succeed as the owner of Island Books, she wanted us to be bigger and better than we have ever been. As many of the items purchased at the the gift show arrived this past week, I  longed to show them to her. She would have loved the Unicorn Snot and I already missed the way she oohed and ahhed over the new arrivals.

Thanks to the many bookstore friends who have shared flowers, food, cards and warm hugs with all of us during a difficult time. We are grateful.

Speaking of community, this week is the annual Mercer Island Youth and Family Services breakfast. MIYFS is a public/private partnership of the City and the sole full service provider for social and human services on Mercer Island. On February 7th and February 8th, we will be open from 9:00am to 7:00pm and 10% of sales will benefit this stellar local organization.

Valentine's Day is coming up also and to celebrate we will be offering Valentine pictures in the store this Friday, February 9th with Lisi Wolf Photography. Come by from 10am-2pm or 3pm-5pm and get a great deal on photos in a special setting. You can stock up on gifts, cards, and chocolate for your sweetheart at the same time.

Customers like you are the heart of our business, and this Valentine's day, we love and appreciate you more than ever.

Laurie Raisys
Owner

... continued

The Mystery of the Great Book Giveaway

Alan Bradley is a Canadian writer who didn’t publish his first novel until 2009, when he was about to turn 70. That’s a slow-starting career by most standards, but he’s made up ground since, producing a new book each new year. 2018 is no exception—today is the release date of The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place, the ninth in an ongoing series. Cutting to the chase: you should buy it. If you already knew about Alan Bradley, you were probably planning on doing just that. If his name is new to you, you may need some convincing, which is what I’m here to supply. And I’ll back up my argument with an offer: take a chance on this latest mystery and get a chance to win them all. Nine books for the price of one! What a bargain.

Free books are no bargain if they aren’t any good, of course, but Alan Bradley’s are far more than “any good.“ They’re excellent, and as regular Message in a Bottle readers may know, I don’t say that about many mysteries ... continued

With Heavy Hearts

Island Books exists to serve the needs of our community. Within our community, we are a family of people who share a love for books and a passion for book selling. We also deeply care for one another within our Island Books family. So it is with great sadness and heavy hearts that we are sharing the news that we have lost a member of our Island Books family. 

Long time Island Books employee, Marni L. Gittinger, has suddenly and unexpectedly passed away.

Bookstores are all about the written word. Unfortunately, today we have no words to describe how we feel having lost a member of our beloved Island Books family. We are devastated.

Godspeed Marni! We love you.

The Island Books staff (Laurie, Victor, Cindy, James, Lillian, Lori, Marilyn, Miriam, and Nancy)

2018 Open Book Club Preview

If your New Year’s resolutions include making new friends or reading more, we have the perfect way to follow through. Our Island Books Open Book Club kicks off our first meeting of the year this Thursday January 25th at 7:30pm, and we’ll be discussing Harmony by Carolyn Parkhurst. You can read my blog post about Harmony here. Even if you haven’t read the book, feel free to join us and see what our group is all about.

A little more background: 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. There are regulars and new faces each month, and trust me, we attract a wide mix of current and retired teachers, doctors, ballerinas, social workers, bus drivers, parents, grandparents, and more. When everyone sits down, we are all simply readers, eager to discuss the issues a powerful book can raise and make connections beyond what we’ve read alone.

Here’s a preview of what we’ll be reading in the next few months ... continued

Talking Politics

Most of the time Island Books is a good place to get away from the cares of the world, and that’s the way we like it. Sometimes, though, the world insistently intrudes. Even the most apolitical among us couldn’t help but notice that the must-have book of December was Obama: An Intimate Portrait by photographer Pete Souza (reprint due at the end of the month, we’re told), for example. And then came the sudden January release of Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, an even hotter ticket. We’re doing our best on the supply end but at this point demand is still winning—barely. We’re waiting on the publisher to print more copies so we can fulfill our last few pre-orders, and should be all caught up soon (you can always download the ebook or audio version if you need truly instant gratification).

With all this hubbub on everyone’s mind, it seems to us that it’s a good time to come together as a community to share some ideas about what we can do to take care of each other and keep our national ideals alive. So we’re hosting an event where we can do just that. This Saturday January 20th we’re welcoming writer and Seattle Weekly editor Mark Baumgarten to our store to discuss the new political action anthology Fly to the Assemblies! Seattle and the Rise of the Resistance ... continued

Reading Resolutions

For the last few years around December or January, James and I have fallen in the habit of reviewing our personal reading lists. Sometimes I blog about mine, sometimes he blogs about his. This year, we decided to discuss our 2017 reading together. Whether your tastes align with James, mine, or neither, we’d love for you to join in with your year-end recaps. Read on for ours and respond below or on Facebook/Twitter, whatever suits you.

Miriam: Okay James, let’s take a look. As I’ve done in previous years, I kept my reading list to books I read with my full attention, from first to last page. I omitted the books I skimmed or quit after 50 pages and only counted titles I read like a layperson, for my own curiosity and pleasure and not out of obligation (although I always include our Island Books Open Book Club titles, since I’m the one who picks them).  After reviewing my list, it looks like I read a grand total of 31 books in 2017. That’s down from 37 in 2016, and only 4 books were by male authors and there were only 5 works of nonfiction, all memoirs. I’m sure you read at least double what I did, since pregnancy, a new baby, and three other kids made reading a major challenge this past year. My top reading resolution is to read at least 50 books in 2018. So tell me what your 2017 reading life looked like. And what are your goals for the coming year? ... continued

January 2018 eNewsletter

"There was only one place I could go to for help. I needed to go to the bookstore."
—Stefani Chaney

Another holiday season is over, filled with bookselling moments great and small. With each present wrapped and customer problem solved, we spent December fully dedicated to the spirit of giving. The excitement, extended hours, and relentless pace pushed us every day. Victor solved a major delivery screw up and even drove to Portland and back to make sure our customers had their books (and he brought Voodoo Doughnuts for the masses, no less).

We had special friends helping us gift wrap, long-time-no-see customers back in town for the holidays, and gifts galore we wanted to take home for ourselves. If we had a dollar for every Happy Hanukkah or Merry Christmas exchanged we could probably have taken the whole island out to dinner. Marni even dressed up as a Christmas tree. 

After picking our favorite books of the year in December, when January rolls around we always take a look at your choices. Thus it's time to round up the most popular titles amongst our customers in 2017. We consider it a testament to Lori R.'s bookselling taste and skills that our top seller was Amy SnowWhile we all cheer for our individual favorites, collectively we always find it good to see authors we've hosted, like Nancy Pearl and Taylor Jenkins Reid, Open Book Club choices like HomegoingThe Last Painting of Sara De Vos, and Just Mercy, as well as local subjects, like Mercer Island History, on this list (read about the test trip James took with Seattle Walks on our blog). 

In the Kids and Teens category, WonderThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, and (to an extent) The Hate U Give were all driven to their position by strong appeal to adult readers as well as kids (and Wonder came out in the movie theater and was our pick for Open Book Club last July). It's also worth noting that those were the #WeNeedDiverseBooks titles on the list.

The white Christmas that blanketed Mercer Island last week seems like a good omen for things to come. Besides all the high quality reading we're looking forward to in 2018, it's time to get back to our regular Storybook Corners, PJ Story Times, Open Book Clubs, Cookbook Book Clubs, and a variety of author events. Soon we'll have a new neighborhood bakery next door, a swell of new gifts, and as always, plenty of community to welcome you here. Come by and see us soon. 

Your Booksellers,

Laurie, Victor, Marni, Cindy, Marilyn, Lillian, James, Miriam, Lori, and Nancy

... continued

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