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.


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!).


August 2020 eNewsletter

"When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about."

— Haruki Murakami

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
― Lao Tzu

“This is a new year. A new beginning. And things will change.”
― Taylor Swift

Given the world we live in today, it is hard not to think about the topic of change. Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the recent transformations of daily life in our world. With the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis that has followed, all of us have experienced change in some way.

Like everyone else, our family has experienced change. Each member of my family has lost something they love and something of value in this crisis. At the same time, each person in my family has also gained something during this crisis. I think it’s important to focus on the opportunities that this change has created rather than wishing for things to go back to the way they were. For me personally, I’m thankful for the time I’ve been able to spend with all of my children as they’ve moved back home; the current crisis has given us the gift of family time - long family dinners with great food and conversation, family movie nights, family yard work parties and memories that I’ll treasure for the rest of my life.

It's Hard to Say Goodbye...

I’m sitting at the front desk of the bookstore (at the corner computer where you can usually find me) and struggling to write. I have been putting off this particular task for about a week and haven’t found the motivation to put my feelings into words. I am leaving Island Books, and this will be my last journal.

Today is my final day at the bookstore, and I am trying to soak up every second of it. There is so much joy to be had during my closing shifts, sitting with the quiet and taking in the rustle of a patron flipping through pages and the geometrical pleasantness of so many colorful rectangular book covers. Something I have recognized lately is that I can’t smell the smell of the books anymore, and it’s not just because I am wearing a mask. The smell has settled in my brain, and I can’t differentiate it from the smell of general life... continued.

Summer Reading in YA

Readers, we’re well into the second half of July. The sun is finally shining. At Island Books we’re turning on the fans, stocking the fridge in the break room with La Croix, and turning off as many lights as we can get away with while still being able to read titles on book spines. We’re all, of course, wearing our masks.

Customers are in the mood for summer reads, so here are several titles from the Young Adult section of the store that I’m excited about!

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow

This summer a highly anticipated title is the YA debut by the author of the adult title Mem. Morrow sets her story in a contemporary alternative world where portions of the population have various mythical abilities and identities. Inherent in these identities are built in assumptions and prejudices, the most heightened of which are towards “sirens”, always Black females. Tavia is a siren in hiding, trying to pretend she’s a normal teenager, terrified that anyone will discover her secret. Effie is her best friend and a “mermaid” at the annual Renaissance Faire, struggling to understand who and what she is. Morrow’s backdrop is Portland, and the unfolding events are eerily prescient of the current BLM protests and reactions in Portland and other cities. She paints a illuminating picture of the fear Black women live with every day and the bias they fight to overcome. I was captivated. I don’t know what to compare it to because I haven’t read anything like it before. The demand has been high for this book but we have finally gotten more copies!


Historical Fiction as a Mirror to the Present: Elise Hooper’s Fast Girls


You may have noticed that over the past year you have heard the name Elise Hooper on this blog or in the store. There’s a reason for that.

Elise Hooper is a writer living in West Seattle whose book The Other Alcott was championed by our booksellers. As we worked with Elise on events, we realized that we also wanted to champion her as a person. She is funny, kind, and always game to support and promote local bookstores. On a personal note, Elise was one of the first authors I interviewed over 2019 for her previous release Learning to See. Her kindness and openness allowed me to ask to edit part of her newest release Fast Girls for my editing certificate. She also has joined our knitting book club when she is able and has been a great friend of the store... continued.

July 2020 eNewsletter

"Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can't practice any other virtue consistently."
— Maya Angelou

July is usually the month that we jump out of our winter hibernation and go into full summer mode. We prep for vacation reads and ramp up our in-store projects. From pulls to refreshing stock, July is

We start with the Women Writers Panel on the 16th, featuring Susan Rebecca White, Jasmine Guillory, Jennifer Longo, and Justina Chen. Elise Hooper will be moderating and participating as well. We are so excited to bring these fantastic collection of local and far flung authors to chat about women and Black Indigenous People Of Color (BIPOC) authors in the publishing industry. Register to virtually attend this event here. 
The following week we will be hosting a series with Women Business Writers. This virtual event on the 21st of June will feature Mikaela Kiner, Tiffany Dufu, and Rebekah Bastian, each inspiring entrepreneurs and authors in their own right. They will be chatting about how their businesses have been shifting due the pandemic and the need for women of all backgrounds to support and push each other now more than ever. Register to participate and attend this virtual event here.
You will see Elise Hooper again at a date TBD for an outdoor signing. Elise will be by the bookstore to sign books outside. Afterwards, she will join an online call with author Tracy Reeves of Amy Snow to talk about her new book Fast Girls and writing historical fiction. We are excited to host her for this masked and socially distanced event! You can register for the virtual part of this event here.
Last but not least, we will be hosting local author Karlos Dillard on the 28th for a talk on the first installment of his three-part memoir, Ward of the State. Karlos will be discussing his childhood in the foster care system, reflecting on writing the book, and address the Black Lives Matter movement in conjunction with his writing. You can register for his virtual event here.

We will also have our usual slew of book clubs: Open Book Club and Knitting Book Club. But we are also adding the All-Island Book Club on Race and Allyship to our repertoire as a series on July 20th and 27th at 6:00pm. We are reading So You Want to Talk About Race? by Ijeoma Oluo. Register to participate here. There are other organizations on the Island hosting this book club if our dates and times do not work for you.

We are disappointed that we cannot hold our events in the store and physically bear witness to our community, but we encourage you to stay engaged virtually and to come in and browse if you can! We miss you all and hope you keep calling us, emailing us, and interacting with us on social media if you can't come in to say a masked hello!

Be well, stay safe, and wash your hands,
The Island Books Team

The Pandemic, Racial Justice Books, and Independent Bookstores

So our doors are open. We can better serve the public. You can buy what is on our shelves directly, instead of through Instagram or our website. That is fantastic! But, your books are still taking weeks if not months to get here. We aren’t able to give you the same two-day service as before. The insecurity of shipping during the pandemic, which is ongoing, remains. Here’s some insight into why books are still taking forever to get to you... continued.

Hooray for Summer Reading!

One of the many things that were hard while the doors at Island Books were closed to customers was missing the chance to chat about what I’ve been reading and loving lately. I did keep reading, often as an escape from everything else. But it saddened me to see piles of certain titles that I couldn’t put in the hands of customers personally. I’ve been collecting recommendations that I am VERY excited to tell all you readers about and I hope one of them is just what you’ve been looking for this summer.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

I didn’t realize I would be getting on a national bestseller train when I read this second novel from Brit Bennett, author of the well known debut, The Mothers. All I knew was that I couldn’t put it down. I loved the writing; I loved the complexity of the characters and the story. I loved how many ways Bennett found to talk about the hidden parts of each of her characters. This is the story of twin sisters from a town so small it isn’t on any map. Beginning in the 1950s, in the Jim Crow south, Desiree and Stella have just disappeared from their community. They run away to New Orleans to make a bigger life for themselves. When Stella discovers she can “pass” as white, she takes her chance, leaving her twin behind. Years later the narrative passes to their respective daughters, and the paths their lives take. I found it fascinating. This has already been a hit with our customers, and we are working on getting more copies in soon (maybe signed ones!) so it is well worth getting your name on the list for when more come in.



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