COVID-19 Update from Island Books

To our valued customers, supporters and community:

First of all, thank you for your continued support over the past few weeks during this unprecedented health and economic crisis. As you no doubt have heard, this crisis has hit small businesses particularly hard and Island Books is no exception. We appreciate the outpouring of support from our community. Your support of Island Books not only supports a Mercer Island institution but it also supports 6 Island Books employees. Nobody knows what the next few days and months will bring. We are hoping for the best possible outcome given the circumstances.

Yesterday, Washington State Governor Inslee announced the closure of all non-essential businesses by midnight Wednesday, March 25. As a result, Island Books will be closing the doors of its retail store at the end of the business day tomorrow (Wednesday, March 25th). Complying with this order is the right thing to do for our customers and our community at large. We support the governor in his decision. We will, however, continue to fulfill orders online (email: or and phone orders (206-232-6920) as we always have. Our employees have the ability to fill these orders from home as long as there is a need and a demand for it from our customers and community. We will also continue to offer free shipping to anywhere in the US and free delivery on Mercer Island as we always have.

For today (Tues, March 24th) and tomorrow (Wed, March 25) we will be open from 9:00am to 8:00pm. If you’ve received a call from us regarding a pick-up of your order, we ask that you please pick up by end of day tomorrow (we are also happy to deliver on Mercer Island or ship your order – just let us know). During this time will continue the important practice of physical distancing (we will be our usual social selves but from a distance) within the store and we will limit the number of people in the store to 10 at a time. We ask for your understanding in helping us uphold these important health practices.

Please keep in touch and keep up with us on social media through Facebook and Instagram as well as our website. We’ll be making announcements and sharing important information about supporting local businesses and independent bookstores.

Shop local. Spend like it matters.

Stay well.

— The Island Books Team

A Message from Island Books

To the Island Books community —

We are truly grateful and humbled by the outpouring of support our community has always shown to Island Books but especially over the last few weeks. Your support of Island Books not only supports a Mercer Island institution but also supports 6 employees and provides health insurance for some of those employees (which is obviously important in these times).

We live in scary and uncertain times. Nobody knows what the next few weeks and months will bring. Our thoughts are with our most vulnerable family members, customers, supporters, and residents. It appears that the COVID-19 crisis will not only bring a health crisis to our community, but it may also bring an unprecedented economic crisis as well.

Island Books not only needs your support to survive but we also need a strong small business ecosystem around us as well. So, in addition to supporting Island Books, we humbly ask that you support the businesses in our Town Center and on the south end shopping center. Yes, you might pay a little more than you would online or with a national chain but we ask that you view that extra cost as an investment in your community. We guarantee that the national chains and online retailers will still be there once this crisis has passed (and it’s important to keep in mind that it will pass) – we promise. Without your support, small businesses may not be there in the future.

We want to guarantee that our island has a thriving small business community once this has passed because it makes Mercer Island a better place to live. These businesses also employ people who are part of our local economy (and also spend money at other small businesses like Island Books). So we suggest the following:

March 2020 eNewsletter

"March is the month of expectation..."

—Emily Dickinson

island-books-march-newsletter-open-for-business-shop-localWelcome to March... and man does March Madness now have a whole new meaning!

This is usually the time of year I write about basketball because it's my favorite sports season. John Feinstein has a new book out called The Back Roads to March: The Unsung, Unheralded, and Unknown Heroes of College Basketball. It's on my nightstand, but I haven't touched it yet. I've been too busy looking at Facebook, keeping myself updated on the Coronavirus and how it's impacting our community. Events are being cancelled left and right, people are hesitant to go into public spaces, and many companies and schools have people working remotely. We are afraid and unsettled. It is difficult for us to practice social distancing at the bookstore, as it is our job to present and interact with our community.

That being said, our doors are open as a place of refuge if you need a quiet spot to read and regroup. We are wiping down our surfaces and door knobs every day. In fact, we have a few events still happening this month, including a visit and talk with Mary McCann and Bob Sundstrom from NPR's BirdNote next week Cancelled. Poet Rebecca Bridge will be joining us to read from and celebrate the release of her poetry collection Cancelled. We have three local middle grade authors in conversation, Jody Little, Gabrielle Byrne, and Kristin Thorsness, to celebrate Jody Little's newest book Worse Than WeirdCancelled. Jake Finifrock from Tru Adventure Travel will be talking to our community about learning languages quickly Cancelled. Our book clubs will be meeting as scheduled (Daytime Open Book Club on Monday the 16th is cancelled), as will our monthly Wine + Poetry series at Barrels Rescheduled to July 28th. Please check our website for updates if things change.

independent-bookstore-day-2020-island-books-seattleWe are also gearing up for Independent Bookstore Day on April 25th! We are taking orders (due on Monday!) for t-shirts and totes with the new independent bookstore day design. Take a look at it here. Email or call us with your size and we will put you on the list!

If you want books and cannot make it in, please give us a call or visit our website. We will deliver anywhere on Mercer Island at no extra charge (shipping books to anywhere in America is free too). You can call us at 206-232-6920 or send us an email at We will help you out as best we can.

Keep calm, wash your hands, and read a book.

Laurie Raisys

P. S.
Happy birthday to Vaiva and Victor! Vaiva is Sweet Sixteen, and it's just another year for Victor ;).

Lists of Books To Be Read

imageLori and I were recently talking about our struggle to keep track of books and series we are interested in starting. Neither of us keep actual lists of things to read, we just mention things to each other and borrow books from coworkers when they have copies. Most booksellers will say that their To Be Read (TBR) lists are their bookshelves, piled high and deep with advanced copies and passed around paperbacks. Lori and I are no different, but if we don’t have physical or digital copies of the books, it is difficult to keep track of what books we saw and felt like we had to read next – maybe once it comes out in paperback.


Book Journaling into 2020

imageAs we head full-on into 2020, and upon request from our readers, Lori and Kelleen are sharing reflections on their reading journeys in 2019 and intentions for 2020. A few questions posted by Modern Mrs. Darcy got them thinking about how they want to enter the new reading year. Modern Mrs. Darcy is Anne Bogel, author of Reading People, I’d Rather Be Reading and the forthcoming Don’t Overthink It. She is the host of the podcasts What Should I Read Next? and One Great Book and runs a reading challenge every year. In getting ready for 2020 reading, she posed two questions for reflection:

What worked for me this year?

What didn’t work for me this year?


February 2020 eNewsletter

"[Y]ou have such a February face, so full of frost, of storm and cloudiness."

—Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing

After a long holiday season, Laurie is taking a well-deserved break and asked me to write the owner's letter this month.

Last month, two members of the Island Books staff, Nancy Shawn and I, attended the American Booksellers Association's 15th annual Winter Institute in Baltimore. This conference is an annual opportunity for booksellers, independent bookstore owners, authors, publishers, distributors, and vendors to come together to meet and network, discuss best practices in the industry, and of course get a sneak peek at the books coming out over the next year. I won't bore you with the details, however, if you've read this far, you should come into the store and ask for a free ARC (Advanced Reading Copy) of an unpublished book because we shipped a lot of back from the conference.

For me, the highlight of the conference was the opening morning keynote "Reinventing the Store: Achieving Growth in the Face of New Business Risks" by Dr. Ryan L. Raffaelli, Assistant Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. Dr. Raffaelli spent the last eight years studying independent bookstores. He writes in his paper:

My research examines how industries, organizations, and business leaders reinvent themselves in the face of radical technological change. In the context of retail, seismic shifts are affecting the way consumers engage with online, big box, and local retailers. Independent bookstores provide a story of hope for community-led businesses.

Both his keynote and his paper highlight the "3C's" that have led to the resurgence of independent bookstores: community, curation, and convening. His whitepaper on the topic can be found here.

In the spirit of Dr. Raffaelli's 3C's, there's a lot happening at Island Books this February. First, in the spirit of the first C -- community -- we are hosting three local author events this month. Kelli Estes will join us on February 9th, Jennifer Longo on February 16th, and Lisa Fain and Lois Zachary on February 26th to celebrate each of their respective new releases. Next up, there's Valentine's Day on February 14, and in the spirit of the second C -- curation -- we have a fantastic selection of carefully curated cards, gifts, and of course books for your valentine. (Please note: we can't guarantee a fantastic, carefully curated selection of anything if you arrive late in the day on February 14th, so shop early.) Finally, in the spirit of the third C -- convening -- our Cookbook Book Club will meet on February 23rd at 5:30pm. Laurie and I have been cooking out of Half Baked Harvest Super Simple for the past month, and we love it.

Finally as an extra bonus in the spirit of the first C, Laurie and I will be attending the Mercer Island Youth and Family Services (MIYFS) Foundation breakfast on February 12th. In addition, Island Books is joining other businesses in donating 20% of our sales on February 12th to support MIYFS. We will also be hosting Blind Date with a book, asking for a suggested donation of $5 towards MIYFS per Blind Date. MIYFS does important work within our community to provide a broad variety of programs, services, and expertise that support the wellness of families of all Mercer Islanders. We hope you join us in supporting MIYFS in any way that you can.

Have a great February! We'll see you in the store.

Victor Raisys


Strong Women: A Conversation with Kelli Estes

imageI met Kelli Estes in Redmond at a little local coffee shop on a cold and rainy day. I think we both ordered chai tea lattes, our mugs brimming with foam and cinnamon. It was just days before the snowstorm in January set in and kept us all at home.

Her book Today We Go Home came out in late 2019, but I had finished the book the day before. The characters in the book, Larkin and Emily, were vivid in my imagination and haunting me with their struggles and inspiring triumphs. I wanted to understand the inspiration Kelli found to write this unique story ...continued.

Singing, Storytelling, Children, and Nancy Stewart

imageMany of our customers know or have heard of Nancy Stewart. She has championed storytelling at Island Books for the past five years with weekly story times storytelling Saturdays. What you may not know is how involved she is with educating children in our community. Her passion project Sing with Our Kids, has been an almost decade long effort of research, performance, and collaborating with parents and other children’s performers. We are so grateful for her contributions to our book community, and want to share her enthusiasm... continued.

Doors to Inspiration

In her book on creativity and fear, Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert introduces her concept of ideas as a thing looking for a person to bring it to life in the world. Illustrating this point, she describes her inspiration to write a novel set in the 1960′s in the Amazon and centering around a failed highway through the jungle. It featured a middle-aged woman from Minnesota as the main character, who works for a international construction company, and is sent to the Amazon to deal with issues arising after construction has begun. Gilbert had worked at developing it, done extensive research and pitched it to her publisher. Then personal circumstances caused her to lay it aside for a few years, and when she finally returned to it, she says “the living heart of my novel was gone.” 

In the meantime, Gilbert made friends with the writer Ann Patchett, and in the course of their correspondence Patchett told her about a book she was working on, a contemporary story of a middle-aged women from Minnesota who is sent to the Amazon by her pharmaceutical company to investigate drug research being done there with seemingly miraculous results. Although there were some plot differences, many of the main details were oddly the same, from the characteristics of the central character, to the circumstances that lead her to travel to the Amazon. Gilbert concluded that the inspiration that had initially come to her had gotten tired of waiting for her to make it happen and moved on. And so Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder was published.


January 2020 eNewsletter

"In January it's so nice while slipping on the sliding ice to sip hot chicken soup with rice.
Sipping once.
Sipping twice.

—Maurice Sendak

2020 is here! I remember when Liuci, my third child, started school and realized with awe and delight that she would graduate high school in the year 2020. Feels like yesterday, the way the time has passed so quickly. Even the latest holiday season flew by with the joy of wrapping and recommending gifts. We had such a great time helping you find the perfect stories to share with your loved ones.

We have a handful of interesting and engaging events this month, including Mikaela Kiner, Julie Blacklow, and our Open Mic night at Barrels Wine Bar. We will end the month with Bookstore Yoga sponsored by our friends at the Mercer Island Athletic Club and taught by Marni Seneker. All are welcome.

It's also time to return to our regularly scheduled Storybook Corners, PJ Story Times, various book club meetings, and local author events. Come by and see us soon!

As tradition has it, we compiled our Top 40 "hits" of the year -- the books you have purchased the most from us in 2019. Two local authors are featured: Melinda Gates and her book, The Moment of Lift gets the top spot with Garth Stein's movie tie-in cover of The Art of Racing in the Rain a close second. The rest of the list is linked here. Stop by to see our Top 40 display!

We hope 2020 brings you a year of great reading, much happiness, and the opportunity to surprise yourself. As we look towards the new year, we invoke Neil Gaiman's new year blessing:

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art -- write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.

Laurie Raisys


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