A Mighty Fine Aspiration: An Interview with Robert L. Tsai


Robert L. Tsai, a Professor of Law at American University, graciously took the time last week to answer questions regarding his new book Practical Equality. Between his busy schedule of TV appearances and book talks, I am grateful for the kindness he showed in answering my questions. Before we get to those, I want to tell you a bit about how reading his book made me feel.

Since graduating from college, I have been burying my head in fiction like an ostrich, giving my brain a rest from brain-stretching academia. Reading Practical Equality reminded me not only how much I love to learn but also how important understanding your country’s legal system is. I had so many “so that’s why this happens!” or “so that’s what that was all about!” moments while reading his book.


Opposites Attract: Interview with Doug Walsh, Author of Tailwinds Past Florence

Doug Walsh and I met up in Convivial Cafe, right next Island Books, to discuss his recently released novel Tailwinds Past Florence. It was the Friday before the Snowpocalypse, so while the temperatures were dropping, we laughed about the impending forecast of snow. Luckily, in the friendly surroundings of Convivial, we were able to discuss his worldwide bike trip, the historical inspirations for his book, and what he is working on next.

Tailwinds Past Florence follows a couple’s decision to cycle around the world as a last ditch attempt to save their disintegrating marriage. Edward, an venture capitalist, and Kara, a visual artist, attempt to forge tighter bonds on the epic journey, but are constantly foiled by the manifesting truths of their past together. Edward, ever concerned about returning to his professional career agrees to a contest with an CEO of a venture capital firm that would cut their trip into a sixth of their planned time for a job back in Seattle. As he hurries Kara through countries, circumstances are made tenser by the appearances of time-traveling men, all set on wooing Kara. The height of the action occurs in Florence, where they both must make a decisions about their loyalty, their hearts, and their fate.



Winter Wonderland

A few years ago James handed me a slim paperback. “Here,” he said, “You might like this.” While fantasy and historical fiction and strong female protagonists are usually my thing, all of that in a Russian setting generally isn’t. Still, I liked the title and the cover (books have been chosen for less) and was quickly caught up in the story of Vasya, in a land that isn’t yet Russia, and peopled by very human characters, alongside figures from Russian folk and fairy tales. In fact I liked The Bear and the Nightingale so much that we made it one of our best of 2017 


I couldn’t wait to read the second in the series, The Girl in the Tower to find out what happened next to Vasya, which came out in December 2017. I certainly wasn’t disappointed and happily recommended it to everyone who had loved The Bear and the Nightingale.


February 2019 eNewsletter

"When it's over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms."

—Mary Oliver
At Island Books, we focus on community a lot. It’s why Victor and I moved to Mercer Island 15 years ago, and why I wanted to buy the bookstore almost four years ago. Belonging somewhere feels good, and, much like that bar in Cheers, it's great to be some place where everyone knows your name. This bookstore has a great sense of pride in welcoming you through the door, remembering faces and names, and making you feel part of the community.

On Wednesday, February 13th, after the Annual Giving from the Heart Breakfast, we will open our doors and participate in raising money for the Mercer Island Youth & Family Services Foundation (MIYFS). You can shop or dine at 12 locations on the Island; we are all giving 20% of the day's sales to MIYFS.

The bookstore is a place for everyone, and we are always trying to find more ways to make you a part of our family. We hope to see you stop in for a book, a Valentines Day card, some chocolate, a bracelet or a Unicorn key chain.

Happy Valentines Day!❤️

P. S. Don't forget to look for your invitation to Taylor Jenkins Reid's new book signing . . . we are already so excited!

Introducing Caitlin...


I’m Caitlin, the newest member of the Island Books family. I am the adult fiction/nonfiction buyer for the store.

I grew up in Schenectady, NY in a house filled with books and music, and moved to the PNW in 1997 via the train. Prior to Island Books, I worked at University Book Store where I spent the past 12 years in the children’s section, as a buyer of children’s books and most recently a buyer of adult fiction. I’ve served as a judge on both the children’s and adult Indies Introduce panels, The American Booksellers Association award honoring debut authors, and I’ve spent the last two years as a judge for the Best Translated Book Award (BTBA) through Open Letter Publishing.


A Year of Reading Through Book Journaling

It’s that time of year where we are thinking about goals and resolutions: what worked for us last year, what didn’t work so well, and where we’d like to go. I know for many of our book-loving patrons reading more tops that list. I have to be honest that I’ve never put it at the top of mine, for the simple fact that reading more has never been a problem for me. What has been an issue is remembering what I read. You know what I mean: Someone asks you what you’ve been reading lately and you know that you’ve been reading, you have three books in various states of completion on your bedside table, yet when put on the spot you can’t think of a single title. You get to December and asked what the best books are you’ve read that year, can’t come up with a one outside of whatever you’ve read in the last month. You know you read something fabulous in January, but it’s so far away that you cannot remember


What Serves the Story: Discussing Imagination, Research, and Seattleness with Elise Hooper

Elise Hooper is coming to celebrate the release of Learning to See: A Novel of Dorothea Lange, the Woman who Revealed the Real America on January 22nd at noon. She will be signing copies of her two books as well as passing out some Dorothea Lange postcards. Read below to look at my interview with her talking about her writing process and newest release!

- Kelleen


Last Saturday was gorgeous, sunny, and temperate. Elise even commented later that she told the baristas, “I am going to go to the back of the shop because I am sort of blinded by this light.” I felt the same.


I arrived in a flurry, thinking I would be 15 minutes early, but she beat me there. Elise was writing in a vibrant blue notebook that she closed as I approached. I introduced myself in person (we had only talked over email). She commented that she thought she was early enough to get some writing done, which made me eye that notebook again. Learning to See is only a week from release, so it had to be something new. My first question came to me naturally…


January 2019 eNewsletter

"For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning."
—T. S. Eliot


Happy New Year! Community is one of the words we like to use to describe Island Books and this holiday season it has rang true. We had friends wrapping, dropping off bagels and chocolate treats, and assisting with our supply of the ever popular peppermint M&M's for the counter (thanks, Molly!). We love that you make us your community bookstore, and we look forward to seeing all your faces whether it's once a year, once a month, or every day of the week.

That being said, the return of new release Tuesday is welcomed. Already so many new and exciting books have been released, and many of us in store are reading ahead to the ones to come. For example, local author Elise Hooper will be joining us on her release date January 22nd to sign copies of Learning to See from noon to 1pm. Make sure to pre-order your copy online or by phone so you can snag a signed copy.

We are happy to announce our newest team member Caitlin Baker, who joins our already currently amazing staff. You can stop by anytime and say hello, but this Sunday we’ll be hosting a meet and greet with coffee and donuts from 10a.m. to noon. Come chat with Caitlin about what she has on her staff pick shelf!

Before we introduce the Top 40 bestsellers of 2018, we want to share our Top 5 Non-Book Items of 2018:

1) Needoh—Glow in the Dark
2) Rainbow Twirler
3) Speks
4) Star Cube
5) Globby

As always, we tallied the totals and ran down the numbers to look at your favorite books this year. We saw titles repeated from last year like A Gentleman in Moscow and Amy Snow that kept their strong hold as favorites in our community. Educated was our number one bestseller with Becoming as a close second. We love seeing local authors on the list too, like Laurie Frankel, Elise Hooper, and Jane Meyer Brahm.

In the Kids and Teens department we also saw some repeats, such as The Hate U Give and Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. We were delighted as well to see favorites such as The Digger and the Flower and Refugee sell so well through recommendations and word of mouth. It is what keeps this community so special!

Besides all the new releases we are looking forward to in 2019, it's also time to return to our regularly scheduled Storybook Corners, PJ Story Times, Open Book Club meetings, Cookbook Book Club meetings, and local author events. Come by and see us soon.

Laurie Raisys

... continued

And So It Goes

In early 2011, I walked into Island Books and asked Roger Page for a job. “No,” he said. “I haven’t hired anyone in over a decade and I’m not about to start now. You have no retail experience whatsoever. If you’re serious, come back in three months and maybe we’ll talk—and that’s a big maybe.”

My husband and I had just moved from Capitol Hill and bought a major fixer-upper a few blocks from the bookstore. After several years as an assistant editor at a major New York publishing house, a job as part of the Amazon Books Team had brought me to Seattle. Four years, marriage, and months of fruitless IVF treatments later, I’d left the position and couldn’t figure out where it was all heading. I spent the first few months in our new house fighting a half acre of abandoned garden. 

Roger thought I wasn’t coming back, but I was. I watched the store carefully over the next few months. It was true I had no retail experience, but I’d been at the center of the book industry for nearly a decade and examined it from a variety of perspectives, from editing to writing to contract negotiations to data analysis to online marketing and beyond. I knew I could add something that was missing and I was already in love with Island Books ... continued

Holidays and the Uncanny

Hi everyone!

I’m Kelleen. You can recognize me by my very curly and very rainbow-colored hair. I graduated from Lewis & Clark College down in Portland with a degree in English with a concentration in dance. I tend to work in the children’s section, but I read many different things!

Yes, the uncanny is a slightly strange topic for the warmth and joy of the winter holiday season, but stick with me. Unlike the bright openness of summer and spring, fall and winter are seasons of quietude, darkness, and slumber. I most certainly hibernate in my off time. With said hibernation comes lots of reading, and the reading I have chosen of late has been quite unnerving.

Perhaps in a run-off from Halloween season, I have been reading quite a few books that focus on liminal spaces. Even into the winter holidays, this trend continues. Books like Alice Isn’t DeadThe Hole, and Melmoth all focus on the places where our brains become unsure of the solidity of reality. In our everyday lives, Moments like standing still in the dull quiet of snowy nights, walking through the sweet perfume of rotting leaves, and falling asleep next to a hot fire with eyes slightly open all have the liminal anxiety of the unreal ... continued


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