Laurie Frankel & Ashley Ream

It’s always fun to welcome an author to the store, but what’s really exciting is hosting two at the same time. Writers in conversation with each other seem to be much more revealing than they are when they’re presenting by themselves. It’s just a more natural mode of expression. For us in the audience it’s like eavesdropping instead of listening to a canned speech, and I think we get our fill of those on the news these days, don’t you? Anyway, two authors = double the fun. When those two are the two we have on tap for next week? Well, that’s a real thrill.

One of those is Ashley Ream, who’s written a novel, The 100 Year Miracle, that we’d be fond of even if it weren’t set on a Northwest island. This particular fictional island is off the coast of Washington, surrounded by tiny organisms that glow once every century. Since time immemorial these sea creatures have been merely striking to see, but in the present day, one obsessive researcher believes they hold the answer to curing a debilitating disease. She, and a man who is suffering its effects, have only one week before the bloom will fade and perhaps their hopes with it. Cutting-edge medical science meets riveting personal drama, set on local shores–not to be missed.

The other author on the bill is Laurie Frankel, someone you may remember from a Modern Love column she wrote for the New York Times last fall, a piece that went viral so fast it made Ebola look mild. That column, about her daughter’s first days of school, was a snapshot of the experiences that helped inspire the novel she’ll be sharing with us next Tuesday. This Is How It Always Is is the story of a mom and a dad raising an all-boy clan the size of a basketball team, a family that might be abnormally large but is otherwise as normal as anyone’s, full of chaos, joy, and petty bickering. But then one day the youngest of the bunch announces that he wants to be a girl when he grows up. It starts as a secret that stays in-house, but like all secrets it has to come out eventually. And then what? It’s no spoiler to say that the lesson of this big drama is that it’s a lot like everybody’s little dramas. Kids grow, things change, and it’s never easy, regardless of who you are or who you want to be.

These books are a perfect combination because they’re exactly what most of us look for when we read. Both take inspiration from zeitgeisty current topics that make us think, and both convert those big ideas into approachable human stories that make us feel. They’re about lives like ours, happening to real people like us, just a little smarter, funnier, more tumultuous, and more interesting, and you’ll feel all of the above after you take signed copies of Ashley and Laurie’s books home with you.

In case my little theory about author combos, life, the universe, and why we read doesn’t convince you, I have a pro waiting in the wings. Laurie Frankel herself has been kind enough to provide some thoughts about how and why she writes. Her (our!) exclusive essay is just a taste of the treats in store when we meet on May 30th ... continued

SEABookstore Day Road Trip

I know, I know–Independent Bookstore Day was weeks ago. So why are we still talking about it? Well, it was a pretty big deal. Our schedule for the day at Island Books was as overstuffed as it’s ever been, and the same was true at bookstores all over the region. Over 300 people rose to the #SEABookstoreDay challenge and made it to every one of the participating businesses, going from the islands in the Sound to the Eastside, from South Seattle to Mill Creek in the north, and everywhere in between. The members of this proud group were declared Indie Bookstore Champions and earned themselves a 25% discount at all those stores for the next year.

This was the third year in a row I’ve undertaken the challenge, but this time with a new passenger on board. I’d told James Taylor, a customer at Island Books, about the itinerary my friends and I were attempting, and intrigued, he wondered if we had room in our car. It so happened we did, and we arranged to meet at the downtown ferry terminal to launch our epic journey. Plans quickly went awry, though, and his championship dreams were dashed from the start. I’ll let him pick up the story from here ... continued

Jane Austen 200

Launch the fireworks and strike up the band! We’re celebrating a bicentennial, not of a nation’s birth or a famous battle, but in honor of one of the English language’s greatest writers. It’s been 200 years since Jane Austen walked among us, and if you’re in her native Hampshire in England, you can take part in all manner of commemorations. On this side of the pond, probably the best tribute you can pay is to turn to a book by or about her.

I said “greatest” above, which is true, but I could also have said “most beloved.” There’s a particular charm to Austen’s work that defies the years and makes her work as fresh today as it was in her own age. Yes, we still read Shakespeare, Swift, and Sterne, but they require readers to prep their minds a bit before plunging in. You don’t have to suit up for a time travel trip before entering Austen’s world. Maybe that’s because she continues to be so widely imitated–her brand of witty romance has never gone out of style.

There’s a lot more to her than teacups and bonnets, though ... continued

May 2017 eNewsletter

"What's better than hanging out a bookstore and talking books with people who love books? "

—Lisa Jackson

What an amazing weekend! Big thanks to our local community and the more far-flung Independent Bookstore Day participants who raced through or wandered into our store this past Saturday, April 29th. We had a ton of fun at Island Books, and it was also a spectacular day at our fellow stores all around Puget Sound. Two of our booksellers and more than a few of our frequent customers completed the challenge of visiting 19 bookstores in a single day to become Indie Bookstore Champions. We'll be sharing some of their stories on our blog later in the month, but for now let's just say well done, all!

There's lots more fun coming up in May, starting with our Bookmark Design Contest. You can find a link to all the information about it below, but get cracking--the deadline for submissions is Friday, May 12th. I'm also excited about our author events this month with Curtis Manley, Laurie Frankel, and Ashley Ream. As always, you can click on our monthly calendar to find out everything that's going on, usually more than you'd expect. Like our regular book club meeting, which this month features Jim Lynch himself as a moderator for discussion about his wonderful novel Before the Wind.
As May begins we cannot forget Mother's Day, May 14th. Those who know me are are aware of my love for cards, funny note pads, and paper items. It's been so fun to pick out some really special Mother's day cards and gifts for you to share with the fantastic moms of Mercer Island. I picked out the cards I'm giving early--to my mom, my sisters-in-law, and to great friends. They are all phenomenal women and mothers who inspire me every day and deserve to be celebrated. Last but not least, Miriam, Island Books blogger and our book club host, is about to become a mom again for the fourth time! Motherhood is in the air . . .

Happy May to all,

Daughter, Sister, Wife, and Mother of four

Independent Bookstore Day Is This Saturday!

“Consumers control the marketplace by deciding where to spend their money. If what a bookstore offers matters to you, then shop at a bookstore. If you feel that the experience of reading a book is valuable, then read the book. This is how we change the world: we grab hold of it. We change ourselves.”

―Ann Patchett, bestselling author and co-owner of Parnassus Books

Independent Bookstore Day is a one-day national party that takes place at indie bookstores across the country on the last Saturday in April. Every store is unique and independent, and every party is different. In addition to authors, live music, food, scavenger hunts, kids events, contests, and other fun stuff, there are exclusive books and literary items that you can only get on that day. Not before. Not after. Not online. Check out our Facebook photo album featuring just a few of the remarkably cool items that will be available exclusively on Independent Bookstore Day.

Great, you say, a nationwide celebration any bookworm can get behind. But let’s get local. Why should you make the effort to come by Island Books this Saturday? ... continued

Men at Walk

Readers who remember my interview with natural history writer David B. Williams already know that he’s at the very top of the list when it comes to covering our region’s past. His study of the myriad modifications our ancestors have made to the local landscape, Too High and Too Steep, was one of our Top Ten Non-Fiction Favorites in 2015 (and is newly out in paperback–run, don’t walk to buy it). Turns out he’s no slouch at addressing the present, either. His latest book is Seattle Walks, a guide to the fairest city on Puget Sound and all the wonders it proffers to the attentive pedestrian. As soon as I heard about it I knew I’d have to road-test … er, sidewalk-test it for myself. I further knew that the smartest way to do it was to bring along someone way more knowledgeable than me about the intersection between the urban and natural environment, someone who’s done plenty of his own writing on the subject. So I invited my friend Matt Fleagle to join me. That was an easy decision, but I dithered a bit about which path we should take. When I bumped into someone carrying the book in hand while exploring my own neighborhood–my building happens to lie along one of the suggested routes–I was roused to immediate action. By which I mean I punted to Matt. He made the call, we went for a walk, and our conversation about it is ... continued

The Rules Do Not Apply–To Reading

Have you ever read a book and said to yourself, “This is a great book and I’m enjoying it, but why in the world am I reading this right now in my life?”

That’s what I was asking myself as I zipped through Ariel Levy’s new memoir, The Rules Do Not Apply. I read it all in a six-hour plane ride two weeks ago, sitting with my much-put-upon and hardworking husband, an almost-two-year-old who wouldn’t nap, and my 4-year-old twins–one whining and the other sporadically puking into a barf bag. The barf bag was a huge step up from puking all over herself–an event on nearly every flight since the twins’s birth. I considered the barf bag a win. Oh and did I mention I was also 28 weeks pregnant? So you know it was a page-turner if I managed to read the whole thing under those conditions. Even the utter chaos couldn’t keep me from turning the pages. I’m not sure how I did it, actually, but I was hooked ... continued

April 2017 eNewsletter

"Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life."
—Mark Twain

Okay friends, neighbors, and book lovers, it's April, and that means Independent Bookstore Day is back and better than ever. If you're new to this lollapalooza, the whole month of April culminates in one jam-packed day on Saturday, April 29th, filled with Nancy Stewart sing-a-longs, tasty refreshments, a kids coloring table, author visits, type-a-thons, all-day giveaways, and much, much more. We look forward to this day all year!

There's even more bookstore magic coming in April. It's National Poetry Month, and to celebrate we'll be hosting Peter Ludwin and Megan Snyder-Camp on Tuesday, April 18th. Both remarkable authors have embarked on a unique poetic exploration of the past, contemplating the effects Northwest history has on the region and the self. It should be a remarkable event that has the potential to spark a very interesting conversation about regional history, personal history, and poetics.

We will also welcome author Paula Becker on on Thursday April 20th to discuss her biography of one of our most endearing Northwest storytellers, Looking for Betty MacDonald. If you haven't read MacDonald's memoirs The Egg and IThe Plague and IAnybody Can Do Anything, and Onions in the Stew you're missing out, and who didn't love MacDonald's whimsical Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle as a child? The first ten people to place an order for Looking for Betty MacDonald through our website will get a 10% discount and an invitation to meet with the author over drinks and snacks before the event.

In addition to all the events happening around here, there's a fresh crop of appealing titles and gifts filling our shelves including new releases from Elizabeth StroutAnne LamottMary Gaitskill, and more. We're always happy to help you find the perfect read or gift for someone special, so come on by a see us in person!

Your devoted Island Books staff,

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

... continued

Share Your Story Contest Winners!

Back in the dead of winter, at the very beginning of 2017, we announced a short story contest open to all ages. Now, well after spring has sprung, we are delighted to announce the winners and share their stories with you. Without further ado, let’s turn the floor over to our esteemed judge, author Mark Holtzen.


Congratulations to those who entered the short story contest. Often the most unnerving part of writing is sharing your work with someone else.

I enjoyed reading all the entries. The process was a great reminder of how many perspectives exist in the world. We all chug along in our own lonely narratives and sometimes it takes a strong community center like Island Books to bring us together for a spell.

Thank you.

The winners are ... continued

Join Our Open Book Club in 2017

We like to discuss books with you over the counter, but what’s even better is when we can all get together to rehash a good title. In the spirit of enhancing a great read, we host an open book club that meets the last Thursday of each month at 7:30pm. Our staff facilitator (usually myself) chooses both fiction and nonfiction titles. Everyone is welcome to attend even if you haven’t read the book, and if you purchase your copy here you’ll always get a 10% discount.

At our recent store event with Will Schwalbe, author of our February book club title Books for Living, a customer confessed to me she was intimidated by our book club and worried the participants would be too intellectual. I begged her not to decide that before trying one out. We gather an eclectic mix of men and women every month, from retired school teachers to college students to stay-at-home moms to neighbors who raised their families together to doctors to small business owners. We begin by going around the circle, introducing ourselves, and saying in a sentence or two how we felt about the book. Then for those who haven’t read or finished, we spend some time summarizing the books (so no, you don’t have to have read the book to attend!). I introduce some discussion topics and we go from there. It’s always a casual and cozy evening and a time I look forward to each month.

How do we choose titles for our book club? ... continued


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