For Those Who Missed It: Jonathan Evison at Island Books

On Tuesday, May 7th, author Jonathan Evison paid a call on Island Books to celebrate the paperback publication of his novel The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving. It tells the story of Benjamin, on whom Fortune hasn’t smiled of late. He’s down to his last dollar when forced to take a job as a caregiver for Trevor, a nineteen-year-old kid confined to a wheelchair. The friendship that unexpectedly—and sometimes painfully—grows inspires an audacious sense of healing and forgiveness.

This was the third in our series of author talks presented in conjunction with the Mercer Island Arts Council (the first two events featured Maria Semple, author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette and Tara Conklin, author of The House Girl). Three terrific, award-winning authors, all speaking right here in downtown Mercer Island. We’ll continue to host authors next fall and really hope to share these remarkable events with more people. Hint, hint....Read More

(Our store journal keeps you posted on books we're excited about, our literary musings, and other reading-related rambles. Remember, you can sign up to receive our posts by email.) 

New from Khaled Hosseini

It was with anticipation that I stayed up late a few weeks ago to read my advance copy of And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini. The book opens with a fable about parental love that a father tells to his son and daughter as they travel from their small Afghan village to Kabul. The story sets the stage for a novel about familial heartbreak and the length and depth of love.

The siblings Abdullah and Pari share a special bond. Since their mother’s death, Abdullah has basically been both father and mother to little Pari. So it’s with surprise and horror that upon their arrival in Kabul, their father sells Pari to a childless couple in order to make ends meet. The children are ripped apart and their lives are changed forever....Read More



The P.F.K.A.T.O.P., Wikipedia, and Women

In 1991, the shortlist for the Booker Prize, the UK’s most prestigious literary award, consisted of six male authors and no women at all. To that point, in fact, only ten percent of all shortlisted books in the history of that prize had been written by women. But the 1991 list was the one that sparked a movement of sorts, as a group was formed dedicated to doing something about this particular kind of gender disparity. By 1996 they’d launched their own award for women’s writing, with a corporate sponsor to promote it and an anonymous donor who agreed to contribute the funding for a £30,000 annual prize. Thus was born the Orange Prize, open to female writers from any nation whose books were published in the UK. Over the years, winners have included Ann Patchett, Zadie Smith, Rose Tremain, Ann Michaels, and many others. As of last year, the telecommunications company that had long sponsored the prize decided to focus its efforts elsewhere, so while new sponsorship is being sought, the award is officially referred to as The Women’s Prize for Fiction. I prefer the handle my colleague Cindy coined—The Prize Formerly Known As The Orange Prize, or The P.F.K.A.T.O.P. for short....Read More

May 2013 eNewsletter

                          "Writing is, of all arts, universally admitted to be that which is most useful to society.                        
It is the picture of the past, the regulator of the future, and the messenger of thought."
Motto of the International Association of Master Penmen, Engravers, and Teachers of Handwriting

Island Books

Island Books

Our editoral board met at Miriam’s house for breakfast last week to hash out the May newsletter. Amidst coffee, croissants, and six month old twins, I was assigned Mother’s Day for the theme of the owner’s letter. It was impressive watching the mother of twins in action. It struck me that these beaming, gurgling little people have absolutely no idea of the sacrifices already made on their behalf and this is just year one. When I witness my wife tending our ripening fruit (ages 17 and 19), I am in awe of her ongoing versatility, capability and just sheer willingness to get out of bed and care for all of us each day. This is bigger magic than I can claim. Bigger magic than I can describe.


My mother passed last month after a long and mostly peaceful decline. My siblings and I are corresponding about an upcoming memorial service. Words have never seemed so inadequate and powerless. As with any great sacrifice or gift, there is really no way to express your gratitude. Billy Collins captures this perfectly in "The Lanyard" (yes, I am asking you to read another poem!–it's worth it):


The other day I was ricocheting slowly

off the blue walls of this room,

moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,

from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,

when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary

where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.


No cookie nibbled by a French novelist

could send one into the past more suddenly—

a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp

by a deep Adirondack lake

learning how to braid long thin plastic strips

into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.


I had never seen anyone use a lanyard

or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,

but that did not keep me from crossing

strand over strand again and again

until I had made a boxy

red and white lanyard for my mother.


She gave me life and milk from her breasts,

and I gave her a lanyard.

She nursed me in many a sick room,

lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,

laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,

and then led me out into the airy light


and taught me to walk and swim,

and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.

Here are thousands of meals, she said,

and here is clothing and a good education.

And here is your lanyard, I replied,

which I made with a little help from a counselor.


Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,

strong legs, bones and teeth,

and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,

and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.

And here, I wish to say to her now,

is a smaller gift—not the worn truth


that you can never repay your mother,

but the rueful admission that when she took

the two-tone lanyard from my hand,

I was as sure as a boy could be

that this useless, worthless thing I wove

out of boredom would be enough to make us even.


Buy mom a card and this book of poetry. Make a small effort on her great behalf. 

Roger Page
Owner and Bookseller


Best Bets for Mom

This is the time each year we think about Mom and wonder, what would she really enjoy? Our handpicked gifts—including fine jewelry, chocolates, bags, soaps, candles—are a great way to show her how much you care. But the perfect way to let her know that you understand her is to give her a book she'll love.



Library of Forgotten Books

Oldies But Goodies

Our highly literate staff has selected an assortment of volumes that haven’t gotten the love they deserve, including a heartfelt memoir of a marriage of opposites, essays on old New York, and writing about the singular pleasures of the table.





Reading-Related Rambles

Our blog approached from many angles this month, including reflections on reading in light of recent tragedies, a recap of last month's store book club meeting, and an examination of books that bring the landscape of North Korea to life.

By the way, did you know you can get our Store Journal by email?



Island Books

3014 78th Ave. SE

MI, WA 98040

(206) 232-6920

Store Hours

Mon-Wed: 9:30 - 7:00

Thurs: 9:30 - 8:00

Fri: 9:30 - 7:00

Sat: 9:30 - 6:00

Sun: 11:00 - 5:00


Island Books

Sat, May 4, 6:30pm: PJ Story Time with Norm Brecke
Tues, May 7, 7:30pm: Jonathan Evison, author of The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving
Sat, May 18, 4pm: Galen Longstreth, author of Yes, Let's
Thurs, May 30, 7:30pm: Open Book Club: The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin

Here's What You Just Did

Shop Local

Discover ten ways that by shopping local you help our community.


Bike-To-Work Day

Bike-To-Work Day

Friday, May 17th is Bike to Work day.  We asked the experts at Mercer Island's independent bike shop, Veloce Velo, to tell us what we should be reading to get our pedals spinning.


Open Book Club

Island Books hosts an open book club that meets the last Thursday of each month at 7:30pm. All are welcome to attend, and if you purchase your book here in the store you'll always get a 10% discount.


20% Off Indie Bestsellers

Catch up on the titles dominating the indie bestseller lists and save 20% when you order online. More



Did you know you can download ebooks from our website and read them instantly? Or that we sell top-notch ereaders and tablets ourselves?

Read more about it. You'll be glad you did.


Attempting an Audiobook

This past week I listened to my very first audiobook. Generally I prefer to take in information by reading with my eyes and reserve my ears for music. My husband, however, loves listening to NPR and talk radio. So as we embarked on a road trip from Mercer Island to southern California, I suggested we meet in the middle and try something new: an audiobook.

We each picked a title for which we hadn’t yet found the time. I chose In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson—not exactly light fare. The book is narrative nonfiction about America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany, William E. Dodd and the critical period in history leading up to World War II. Larson draws a compelling picture of Berlin during the rise of the Third Reich and demonstrates why the world failed to understand the extent of the evil coming into power. Beasts was a huge bestseller and I know a number of people who found it fascinating. Since my husband likes history and nonfiction I thought we would both get into it....Read More


A Dance to the Music of Time: At Lady Molly's

At Lady Molly’s begins with Nicholas Jenkins, having broken off his affair with Jean and now concocting “scenarios” for the film industry, being introduced through a studio colleague to the slackly-run home of the titular Lady Molly Jeavons, where he meets various members of the sprawling Tolland family (of which Molly is a part) and hears the news of Widmerpool’s engagement to an older woman, Mildred. Jenkins later lunches with Widmerpool, who quizzes him awkwardly on the propriety of premarital intercourse with one’s intended. Quiggin invites Jenkins to weekend in the country with him and Mona, who have been cohabiting since she divorced Templer. While there, Jenkins meets Quiggins’ landlord, the wealthy but left-leaning eccentric Erridge, who heads the Tolland family, and his sisters, realizing instantaneously that he’s fated to marry the younger one, Isobel. Jenkins then dines at a night club with a group that includes a jaundiced Widmerpool and his fianceé. Mr. Jeavons confidentially reveals to Jenkins a long-ago connection he has to Mildred, and dances her off as Widmerpool retires from the scene because of his illness. Erridge travels to China to investigate the political situation there, bringing Mona with him and creating a minor scandal. Widmerpool’s engagement founders, and Jenkins’ is made public. During another party at Lady Molly’s, Mildred’s brother-in-law discreetly reports to Jenkins that she dropped Widmerpool after a fumbling failure in the bedroom, immediately followed by the appearance of the jilted fiancé, who offers Jenkins advice on marriage.


Either the books are getting better or I’m becoming more amenable to Powell’s style (or both), because At Lady Molly’s was probably my favorite in the series so far. Long out of school, the characters seem to be playing for higher stakes, and their gossip is juicier than ever....Read More

(Our store journal keeps you posted on books we're excited about, our literary musings, and other reading-related rambles. Remember, you can sign up to receive our posts by email.)  

The Library of Forgotten Books

April 23rd is the International Day of the Book. It’s official—the UN passed a declaration about it in 1995. Why did they pick that date? Well, it’s Shakespeare’s birthday, for one thing. It’s also La Diada de Sant Jordi, a major holiday in Barcelona and the rest of Catalonia since the fifteenth century. In English, we call it St. George’s Day.

Historically, Catalonian men gave women roses on that day, and women gave men a book to celebrate the occasion—”a rose for love and a book forever.” In modern times, the books go to both genders, and half of all books sold in the region every year are exchanged on April 23rd.

A few years ago, an independent bookstore in Austin, Texas decided to bring this tradition to the US....Read More

Books In Light of Today’s Tragedies

After a week like the last one, I struggle with what to write in this venue. It would be silly of us to overemphasize the importance of books in light of the recent events. I’ve turned away from the half-finished pile of titles on my nightstands and tables to watch the news incessantly, even during a road trip to southern California visiting old friends and family. As I introduce my infants for the first time to important people in my life, I can’t help but feel the shakiness of the world they’re entering and worry about how they will understand the tragedies of our nation.

Before bedtime we hold our babies in our laps and read them a story, just as generations before us all over the world have put their kids to sleep. These enduring books, like Goodnight Moon, Where the Wild Things Are, and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? are a comfort: stories that remain unchanged in a constantly changing world. I see the safety these stories provide and they reassure me that my kids will always have one place to go where they will feel safe.....Read More

Say, That Reminds Me

“Until then I had thought each book spoke of the things, human or divine, that lie outside books. Now I realized that not infrequently books speak of books: it is as if they spoke among themselves.”

—Umberto Eco, from The Name of the Rose

Books occasionally talk to blogs, too, and vice versa. And blogs about books talk to blogs about books, and so on. This was one of those weeks where almost everything I read reminded me of something else I’d read or written, to the point where I started thinking that no one, including me, had ever thought a thought that had never been thought before. Does that make sense? Probably not. I’ll try to untangle the ball of yarn for you with a few examples.

The first is a new novel by English writer Jane Gardam called Last Friends. It’s the concluding volume in a trilogy that I didn’t know was going to be one. At age 84 she’s still working at the top of her game, and has surprised her fans by adding more nuance and depth to the saga that she began in Old Filth and continued in The Man in the Wooden Hat. When an author works the same territory repeatedly, my interest often wanes with each new release, but in this case I think Gardam has enriched the ground on which her series stands....Read More

The Dinner: Something to Chew On

When someone tells me a book rattled them, I become curious. When my mother-in-law says it over a text as we play Words With Friends, I’m even more intrigued.
“It was awful,” she said.
“But could you put it down?” I asked.
“No. I couldn’t stop reading it.”
Alarm bells went off. I’m okay skipping out on a disturbing book, if it’s bad. But compelling and impossible to put down? I’m not going to miss out on that. And so I had to pick up The Dinner by Herman Koch and see what she was talking about.
The Dinner is structured like a meal, and the setting is a pretentious restaurant, but this isn’t really a book about a dinner. This is a story about the lengths people will go to protect their children and how parents influence their kids. That subject isn’t immediately evident in the first half of the book. I’m guilty of skipping over the server’s description of the appetizer, the uncorking of the wine, and trips to the restroom. It was only when I was ready to give up on the entire book that the story became interesting.....Read more 

(Our store journal keeps you posted on books we're excited about, our literary musings, and other reading-related rambles. Remember, you can sign up to receive our posts by email.) 


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