"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.
At Island Books, we are also thinking about the changes in our world. Last month, we celebrated five years of ownership of Island Books. For those who are curious, I did my annual cartwheel down the aisle of the store; that tradition hasn’t changed (yet). When we bought Island Books five years ago, I don’t think we could have imagined the changes in our world today. However, if I take a step back, the last five months of crisis and even our five years of ownership (stewardship really) are a mere blip in the 46 year history of Island Books. If I think about the world that existed when Lola Deane founded the bookstore in 1974 (Watergate, end of the Vietnam War, inflation, no internet, no cell phones) and compare it to the world today, I realize how much the world that Island Books has existed in has changed in 46 years and how Island Books has had to transform with it. The current COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis, while disruptive and tragic, is one of the many crises that Island Books has faced throughout its history. So, like Lola Dean, Roger Page, and all of the previous owners of Island Books, we will do our best to adapt to the changes in our world in order to leave the legacy of Island Books for another generation of our community.
In the spirit of adapting to change, we have been working to adjust Island Books to the current COVID-19 pandemic. While many people may think of Island Books as being in the business of books, gifts, games and toys, we are actually in the business of community and experience. Cindy Corujo, our longest tenured bookseller did a fantastic job of summarizing and highlighting the secret sauce behind Island Books when she created our tagline – “Real Books, Real People, Real Community”. COVID-19 has obviously changed things. Our challenge is to bring our secret sauce (“Real Books, Real People, Real Community”) to a community that can’t always physically visit Island Books in the way that they used to. We still have real books (as well as cards, gifts, games and toys). However, we are working on finding online ways to highlight the “real people” of Island Books, our booksellers. Whether it’s the latest mystery recommendation from Cindy Corujo, the coolest sci-fi recommendation from Nancy Shawn, an undiscovered historical fiction recommendation from Lori Robinson, the most interesting literary fiction recommendation from Caitlin Baker, or the perfect kids and young adult recommendation from Lillian, we’ve been working to bring the expertise and curation of our booksellers to you online (as well as continuing to be available in our retail store). Because of their great insight, we have been posting video recommendations from our booksellers onto our social media.
We will also be working to continue to find ways to highlight “real community” in an online way. We realize that some of you are unable to come into the store and participate in our events because of the current pandemic. At the same time our community has also expanded beyond Mercer Island, Seattle and the Eastside to places like Anchorage, Alaska; Billings, Montana; Cleveland, Ohio; Gilbert, Arizona; Honolulu, Hawaii; Mill Valley, California; Torrance, California; and Vancouver, Washington. We’ll be working to bring our “real community” to wherever people are through our expanded online events. We’ve had a number of video events over the past month. We had a fantastic online event with Elise Hooper and Tracy Rees last week. You can watch it and other events on our YouTube channel. For those of you that missed our previous online events they can be found on Facebook, YouTube, and each of our events pages on our website.As always, we welcome your thoughts and suggestions as we transition Island Books to this new normal.
Speaking of change and resilience, since the theme of this month’s newsletter was change and resilience, we would be remiss if we didn’t include some book recommendations on the theme of change and resilience:
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak -- a young adult novel from the point of view of death during the Nazi occupation of this small town in Europe.
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys -- a young adult novel about a Lithuanian family torn apart by the Soviets and forced into the USSR labor camps.
On the Come Up by Angie Thomas -- a young adult novel about a teen with dreams to become a rapper amidst the adversity of misogyny and racism that threatens to stop her.
All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung -- a memoir from an adopted Korean woman's point of view about the circumstances of her adoption and the politics around finding belonging.
The Enlightenment of Bees by Rachel Linden -- a novel about a chef from Seattle who decides to take a humanitarian trip around the world and learns how her passion for food can create belonging and acceptance within herself.
Okay Fine Whatever by Courtenay Hameister -- a memoir from a woman with intense anxiety who learned how to slowly let go and embrace the ambivalent, abstract, and unexpected.
The Resisters by Gish Jen -- a novel about a not-so-distant future America where a family attempts to maintain and nurture their humanity in a world that threatens to leave them behind.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt -- a novel that follows a boy in New York whose life is forever changed by an accident at thirteen years old into adulthood and the consequences the accident has for him.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett -- a novel that follows twin sisters, one white passing and one distinctly not, on individual paths through adulthood and the weight each of them carry with their differentiated skin.
This month, Kelleen recommends Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall. Kelleen writes:
"I grew up calling myself a feminist. I would still call myself a feminist, but Mikki Kendall has pointed out to me that the culture of feminism that I grew up in tended to only serve white middle class women. Her impactful language maps the way the feminist movement overlooked basic rights of marginalized women of color historically and continues to do so today. She emphasizes the problems that need to be addressed in order for white women to call themselves feminists that starts with lifting the women up that we are frequently stepping on to get ahead. Kendall is engaging and thought-provoking. I am so thankful that I am reading this book."
See More Staff Picks
"It’s July 1st, which means it’s my 5 year anniversary of owning Island Books My original plan was to have mimosas & donuts and then move on to a cartwheel contest. Obviously, that isn’t happening. I did my ONE cartwheel this morning (not pretty) and will fill my day feeling grateful for the support of this community and all of our Island Books friends. I would not be here without each of you & I do not take that for granted."
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In August, our Open Book Club will be reading American Wolf by Nate Blakeslee.
Register for this event here!
The forces of climate, humanity, and nature's call collide in this riveting multigenerational saga that tells a larger story about the cultural clash in the West between those fighting for a vanishing way of life and those committed to restoring an iconic landscape.
In September, our Knitting Book Club will be reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.
The circus arrives without warning. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Reves, and it is only open at night.