October Grab Bag

We’re in the last three months of the year. I’ve noticed the light changing and the leaves falling and all I want to do is read books that make me happy. Here’s a collection of books that have been a pleasure to read! 

Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center

This is a reissue of an earlier Katherine Center title after the success of her last three books, How to Walk AwayThings You Save In a Fire, and What You Wish For. Sometimes in earlier books you can tell that an author hasn’t quite hit their stride yet, but I found Happiness for Beginners a totally satisfying reading experience. And her protagonist, Helen, though recovering from a divorce, wasn’t paralyzed in the hospital or suffering from seizures, so she is already starting ahead. Helen signs up for a wilderness survival course in the backcountry of Wyoming in an attempt to find herself again a year after divorcing her husband. Never mind that the course she’s chosen to do is regularly reviewed as being dangerous and the participants prone to injury. Or that her brother’s friend, Jake, has also enrolled in the same course. Or that when Helen actually gets there she realizes she’s the oldest person on the program. Helen is determined to make the most of her experience and no matter how much she struggles to find her footing, sometimes literally, she keeps going. Even though there’s a delicious thread of romance throughout, what I enjoyed just as much was how Helen is brave enough to keep uncovering and admitting to herself who she is and what she wants. For anyone who wants a truly happy read, the clue is in the title.

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Time for a Mystery?

When the Island Books staff got wind that Louise Penny’s newest Chief Inspector Gamache book would be published early September, we knew our customers would be interested. Sure enough, after brisk pre-order sales, a shelf full of All the Devils Are Here hardbacks waited to be picked up by eager readers on September 1st. More than one person has remarked on the fact that we keep the full Chief Inspector Gamache series on hand in the mystery section, but it has less to do with the enthusiasm of the staff for the series, though we are fans, and more with the reality that person after person on Mercer Island keeps discovering the series and buying them by the handful.

Chief Inspector Gamache is a wonderful mystery series in the best of times, and now, as we keep hearing from over the counter that reading has become an escape, they would be a satisfying reading project. For anyone who has yet to discover Louise Penny, these are contemporary mysteries, set in the fictional town of Three Pines, on the border of Canada and the US in Quebec. The inhabitants of Three Pines are quirky, to say the least. With All the Devils Are Here, the series stretches to sixteen books and I find with each successive book, the psychology of the characters and the mysteries deepen. I’ve rarely, if ever, been able to guess who did it in a Louise Penny mystery, and for the last several I’ve not even tried. Now I just let her take me along for the ride and cross my fingers that everyone comes out okay at the end.

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Celebrating Independent Bookstore Day At Home, In Style!

Seattle Indie Bookstore Day T-shirts, Slate and Orange
Over the past five years, Seattle Independent Bookstore Day (SIBD) has come to mean a great deal to all of us working in the Seattle bookstore community. So it is very sad that this year's area-wide festivities which were rescheduled to take place on August 29th have been cancelled. Our primary concern is the safety and well-being of staff and customers and, with ongoing concerns over Covid-19, we could not in good conscience encourage the gathering of large groups of bookish revelers.

Though we are unable to gather in person, we could not let a year go by without some sort of celebration of the day! Get your limited edition t-shirt via Bonfire, available in a variety of sizes, colors, and styles. Shirts can be ordered through September 6, and will ship starting on September 15. Proceeds will go towards funding next year's SIBD and the Book Industry Charitable Foundation.

We want to remind you that despite current events, Seattle independent bookstores continue to serve our communities, operating in varying degrees. Island Books is opened to customers with masks and practicing safe distancing, as well as continuing to take online, email and phone orders, and offering shipping, delivery on Mercer Island and curbside pickup to those who are unable to come into the store.

And finally we would be remiss in failing to mention the overwhelming outpouring of support Seattle bookstores have received from the community during these challenging times. Not only your financial support but your kind words—through emails, online orders, social media, and during curbside interactions—have truly sustained us. The Seattle area independent bookstore community continues to thrive because of you!

How to Pick a Book for Book Club

Although I don’t want to rush through these last weeks of summer, I know that September is around the corner. And even though everything is different right now because of the pandemic, we’re starting to pick up some of our regular rhythms again, like making plans for book clubs. The other day I inputted one of the first new lists in months from one of the many established Mercer Island books clubs, and it felt really good to do something I haven’t done since COVID started.

I personally lead the Island Books Knitting Book Club, one of the open book clubs that Island Books hosts. When everything was shutting down I had to decide whether we would try to make the book club work on Zoom or just take a break until we were able to meet again in person. I hesitated to do it online, because I didn’t have any experience at that point with Zoom. I’m not tech averse, per se, but I do need to push myself to do new things, and it’s often easier to stay with what I know. Laurie encouraged me to try, and I’m so glad she did. While the group is certainly smaller than when we were meeting in the store, I’ve loved being able to see people, without masks, hear about the projects they are working on, and talk about the book we’ve read for the month. It’s also allowed people for whom driving to Mercer Island for an afternoon book club is a hardship to join us (I’m looking at you Elise Hooper!).

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