Short and Sweet

There are many, many types of readers that walk through the doors of Island Books, and some of them are like me. If I am reading a new novel, and have been captured by the story, I find it nearly impossible to put down. The drive to find out what happens to the characters overrides almost everything, including sleep. I still remember reading The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye on a summer vacation, realizing it was 1am and I had at least half the book still to go. It was one of the few times I actually put the book down and finished it the next day.

Needless to say, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried to be more sensible when it comes to evening reading. Lately my solution has been collections of personal essays. You can read one or two, and then put the book down for the next night.  Here are two new collections, and one old one that would be a welcome addition to most any bedside table ... continued

December 2018 eNewsletter

"Luckily, I always travel with a book, just in case I have to wait on line for Santa, or some such inconvenience."
—David Levithan

November was an amazing month of celebrations. Thank you to everyone who took part in our 45 Days to 45 Years daily specials and to all our loyal customers for stopping in to share cake, champagne and community. It's been an extra special year of feeling the love and support from all of you.

Where did the year go? Once again, I've been making a list and checking it twice. Here is my list of Top 10 favorite Island Books-related moments this year:

10) Hearing our ads on KUOW, KEXP and now KCTS.
9) Hosting and passing out books at the Mercer Island Farmers Market Harvest Market.
8) As ever, an exuberant Independent Bookstore Day.
7) Chowing down at our weenie roast with the Seattle7Writers.
6) Hosting Kate McDermott for our Cookbook Book club.
5) A special Storybook Corner visit from Sparkle Leigh.
4) Partnering with KCTS to host Novels and Notables for the Great American Read.
3) Garth Stein asked us to be his bookstore for personalized copies this holiday.
2) Celebrating 45 years of community magic.
1) Receiving the Mercer Island Citizen of the Year Award and walking in the parade!

May the new year bring you all peace, love, and lots of joy. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and may it be a Happy New Year in 2019.

Laurie Raisys

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Galvin Family Reading

Growing up, I loved getting lost in books. It didn’t matter to me if the book was adventurous, dramatic, suspenseful or fantastical, as long as it transported me somewhere else I was happy. I’d be so immersed in my book that I’d barely hear my parents calling me for dinner. Another chapter—just one more—often took priority over the chores my father asked me to do with decreasing patience. That love of reading has stayed with me. I love the way books push you out of yourself and into the lives of others, and how, with the best books anyway, you return to your life altered by the experience. 

When Matt and I got married, he was convinced we would end up on Mercer Island raising our family. I was less sure. It was his home, not mine, and I wondered if it would ever feel like a home to both of us. Matt would often sell me on the merits: the small welcoming community, everyone knows each other, excellent schools, the beautiful setting. I saw all great qualities, but still was not entirely convinced. Then one afternoon, Matt took me to Island Books ... continued

One Passage That Will Make You Love Reading

This week the New York Times ran an article by the Times classical music editor Zachary Woolfe called 5 Minutes That Will Make You Love Classical Music. He poses a simple question: “What are the five minutes or so—longer than a moment, shorter than a symphony—that you’d play for a friend to convince them to fall in love with classical music?” 

It’s worth your time to listen to what many big names in music recommend in response (I particularly love Zachary Woolfe’s personal pick, Lou Harrison’s Suite for Violin and American Gamelan: Chaconne, which Woolfe describes as “… an expansive yet deeply intimate meeting of cultural traditions that I find more moving by the day.”). All the musical excerpts are in the article, or the Times provides a briefer overview in a list on Spotify. It’ll slow down the world—and you—much the way reading can. 

The reader comments are just as compelling as the article and excerpts. Browse through and see that people from all over the world shared the piece of music they want to listen to as they die, debated the merits of the recommendations, and told intimate stories of how a particular piece of music changed their lives.

Surprising Sequels

People often comment on how lucky those of us who work in bookstores must be, getting to read for our jobs. It’s true, we are lucky. Our shelves are full of books we can’t wait to read, and then can’t wait to talk about to everyone who walks through the Island Books door. But what do you do when you’ve raved about an initial book, of an author, of a series, finally get your hands on the second, and find yourself unable to feel like it lived up to the potential of the first? It’s heartbreaking. And makes you approach sequels with more and more apprehension.

Two sequels to books I’d loved came out this fall, and I was scared to read them. I kept looking at them on my shelf and picking up something else, because I didn’t want to be disappointed. Thankfully my need to find out what happens next eventually won out ... continued

Cookbook Book Club with Kate McDermott

Halloween is over, and chances are you’re already thinking ahead to Thanksgiving. STOP IT. Put your hands over your ears, shut your eyes, and banish all thoughts of guest lists, meal planning, and how-am-I-ever-going-to-get-it-all-done. We have something to offer first, and it’ll remind you what Thanksgiving is all about. Food, family, friends, and fun.

On Sunday, November 11th from 4-6pm, our Cookbook Book Club will gather for a festive potluck with special guest Kate McDermott. Based in Port Angeles, Washington, Kate is a pie legend (her bestselling Art of the Pie is an essential holiday tool). She’ll be with to us to celebrate the release of her second cookbook, Home Cooking with Kate McDermott and we can’t think of a better way to get Mercer Island ready for the holidays. This book goes beyond dessert to share Kate’s style of cooking at home, where she always keeps an extra place at the table for guests. There’s nothing fancy about her Kitchen Sink Nachos, Make-Ahead Layered Salad, Winter Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie, and Berry Good Coffee Cake. It’s all about comfort and ease. “If you are looking for quick, satisfying recipes, for mainly one-dish meals, to please even the pickiest of eaters, you have come to the right place,” she says.

Now, since we’re talking recipes, here are the step-by-step instructions for participating ... continued

November 2018 eNewsletter

"A book is a dream you hold in your hands."
—Neil Gaiman

Hi. Cindy here. I’ve been working at Island Books since 1994, for more than half of the store’s duration. I am the most senior member of the Island Books staff. I know where the bodies are buried (there are none). I am proud to be a small part of a wholly benevolent institution that has lasted this long. Who would have thought we could survive, profit, and flourish for 45 years? That feels like a success story to me.

You might wonder, is this an anniversary or a birthday? It is certainly an anniversary for the staff past and present--this bookstore our common bond.

For me it started with Roger Page, the owner at that time, who hired me in 1994 and entrusted me with a key to his beautiful store on my very first day. Nancy, his wife, came on board years later to curate our growing gift selection. Meb was the children’s book buyer back then, Terri, also in the kids' section, taught me the value of changing shoes over the course of the day. Lalo, who moderated our open book clubs for years, Wendy, who I can never say enough good things about, Poo Putsch who painted the playhouse and those fantastic signs that still hang back in the kids section, and Elinor MacDonald, who custom cut cardboard so the books wouldn’t have to sit on the rough cedar shelves. Fastidious Sally Kennedy, bookkeeper for many years and  Marilyn Brody (who freed us from the petty oppression  of counting the coins in the till at close). Mark K. and Lori Mitchell, my 18-years-sister-in-bookselling who ditched us for a library in Vermont. Garry Jarman a kind of brother and zen father figure to us all. The writers MJ Beaufrand for a while and Christine Widman for a bit and Tami Szerlip, who dressed our front window way back when, and Julie who moved to Boston at some point and Kay Wilson who was already packing reuseable canvas totes way before it became de rigueur du jour, now saving the world from her house on Lummi Island, and Nancy Shawn way back then and now (yay!) Nancy Shawn again, and Tonya for not long enough and Marni Gittinger, dog whisperer-in-residence who somehow always knew everything in the news, pop culture, and books, and James Crossley, a literary gentleman and Renaissance man who along with former ballerina and New York editor, Miriam, created our  website and a flurry of writing that every week makes us all look good, and of course Lillian, our Children’s Books buyer who knows a great story when she sees one and can tell a great story too. Lori, or LRob as we call her, who transformed from a mild-mannered South End Barista to a kickass North End Bookista. Recently we’ve welcomed to staff Kelleen, who is a total reading and proofreading machine, and Jinny's great part-time help. I don’t know if this is feeling celebratory or maudlin and long-winded, but thankers gotta thank, writers gotta write and readers ... can always stop reading.

One last thing. Throughout all of my time here, there was always, always, always, the Legend of Lola Deane. The mother of it all. She who instigated this operation in 1973 with a host of help and other owners who all predated me—Fam Bayliss, Marge Wilkins, Elinor MacDonald, Julia Olsen, Andrea Lorig, Lissa Wells. Forgive me if I missed a name somewhere along the way.

When Roger passed the torch to Laurie and Victor Raisys, he knew and we knew they would keep the flame alive and thriving. These past three years under their leadership, Island Books has continued in a long tradition of yearly donations to local schools, causes, and organizations, from Alzheimer's to NPR to Seattle Arts and Lectures. We've hosted more and more events with authors, speakers, storytellers, and musicians. And Island Books continues on in the same spirit.

But most importantly, this is also our 45th anniversary with you--a uniquely supportive and always evolving community that keeps appreciating what we do. We hope you know how very incredibly much your ongoing support has drastically mattered to our duration these past 45 years. 

We hope you can come to our official celebration this Saturday, November 3rd at 4pm. We’ll be offering up drinks and delicious cake from our new neighbor Convivial Café. If you’re moved to bring a treat to share, that would be great, and please drop us an RSVP so we know how many revelers we must needs prepare for.

So here’s to us for keepin’ on, and here’s to you for keepin’ on too. It’s our 45th anniversary! Happy anniversary to us all. 

Cindy Corujo

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Guest Blogger John Hamer on News of the World by Paulette Jiles

I’m excited to share this initial contribution as we start welcoming more guest bloggers on Message in a Bottle. John Hamer is a retired editorial writer and columnist for The Seattle Times who founded the Washington News Council. He is also a Mercer Island resident, Brian Doyle fan, and devoted Island Books customer. Respond to John and us via the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter. Welcome, John!


I always expect–and receive–excellent book recommendations at Island Books. I don’t expect the same at airport bookstores. But a recent experience proved me wrong.

My wife and I were at the San Antonio airport waiting for a flight back to Seattle. We decided to browse the small bookstore, even though we already had plenty of stuff to read on the plane.

In the regional section, I saw a book about the Texas Rangers. I recently reread Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry, one of my all-time favorite novels. Someone told me that the two central characters, Gus McRae and Woodrow Call, were based on real-life Texas Rangers.

I asked the store’s proprietor – a man about my age, with a bald head and a white goatee – if that was true. He wasn’t sure, but said many Texas historical novels were indeed based on actual persons. He picked up a small paperback titled News of the World by Paulette Jiles. I’d never heard of it ... continued

Supreme Questions

All this recent political furor over the Kavanaugh appointment raises profoundly important questions. Who deserves to sit on the Supreme Court? What are the necessary qualifications? What disqualifies someone? Who should we believe and how much evidence is enough? How does a person muster the courage to speak truth to power? And why, why do these questions eat away at us?

Anita Hill’s and Clarence Thomas’s memoirs are obvious reads that come to mind this month, but there are two novels that repeatedly rose up from my often fuzzy memory. They just seemed strangely relevant. I tried (and usually failed) to pull my thoughts back from the current headlines. Instead I found myself thinking up books that reflected the news through a different lens ... continued

Lori Robinson Recommends…

Many of you have already grown to love the “other Laurie” –also affectionately known as “LRob”–in the 3+ years she’s been a bookseller at Island Books. She’s blogged for us before to discuss one of her favorite reads, Amy Snow by Tracy Rees, which went on to become one of our bestselling titles of 2017. If you bought a copy of Amy Snow from Island Books, chances are it was because of Lori’s passionate hand selling. 

Some of Lori’s favorite books include The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunned, Winter Solstice by Rosamund Pilcher, Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos, and pretty much anything by Elizabeth Goudge. You can browse more of her recommendations here.

We’re excited that Lori will become a monthly voice on the blog, and I’m sure you’ll grow to love hearing her written words here just as much as you enjoy talking books with her in the store.

Now, without further ado ... continued


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