"One benefit of summer was that each day we had more light to read by." —Jeannette Walls
I handle much of the email at Island Books and as I was deleting away merrily the other day, I was amused by the juxtaposition of notices side by side in my mailbox. The first was an announcement of the “Fire" shopping device/phone from Amazon, and the second was a photo of a gothic cathedral that had been transformed into a bookstore. I could prattle on about the amazing new Firefly button on the Fire phone that can just look at something sideways and tell you how to buy it and have it at your doorstep in a few days but it’s the cathedral that made me dreamy.
It was a daydream. A daydream of wandering a European street and stepping into this great hall and discovering a small odd book by Calvino, or a hand-drawn book of bistro recipes, or photo book of sports cars on the Italian Riviera. I could hear the mingle of accents, stand in the light pouring from the high windows, smell the stone and paper. I was transported. I was there.
It is interesting when I look about my basement library to see how many books conjure up three-dimensional bookstore memories. I have a dictionary I bought at the original Shorey’s in Seattle, a huge old barn of a store with 20-foot ceilings and bookshelves that climbed to impossible heights. They had a 30-foot-long counter manned by a half-dozen middle-aged clerks all poised over their pencils looking smart and unapproachable. It took me three trips to get up the courage to buy something and then it was only an old dictionary.
Then there’s a copy of Babar bought at a 300-square-foot bookstore in the Marais quarter of Paris, aptly called the Red Wheelbarrow. Nancy and I bought Margery Fish’s Cottage Garden Flowers (no longer in print, sadly) from the King of Hay-on-Wye in his castle bookstore. I bought a collectible 19th-century treasure for a dollar in a bin outside the Booksmith in Harvard Square, and spent days on end in the Gotham Book Mart in New York City.
There’s a sweet little store in Mendicino, California, another in Manchester, Vermont, and more in Victoria, British Columbia; Stanwood, Washington; Edinburgh, Scotland; and a new gem on Phinney Ridge. There are bookstore Meccas in San Francisco, Portland, Austin, Denver, London, Milan, and Oxford, Mississippi. I remember them all. I can travel there in my chair. I hold experience, a memory, a story...a book.
Island Books is no cathedral but it's sure as heck more wondrous and rich and memory-filled than a button, a beep, and a screen. Join us some lazy day in summer and wander until you find something or something finds you.
Owner and Bookseller
Thurs, July 10, 7pm: Zombies vs. Magical Realism: A Salon
Sun, July 20, 4pm: Charles Neff, author of Fractured Legacy
Thurs, July 24th, 7pm: Special Open Book Club (a week earlier than usual!) with Judith Gille, author of The View from Casa Chepitos
Send your child a care package while they're away and they'll be homesick for their favorite place on the island...Island Books. Or maybe home.
Judith Gille will be in attendance for a special July meeting of our regular in-store Open Book Club (note it's a week earlier this month). If you purchase your book here in the store you'll always get a 10% discount.
We always offer a 20% discount on the top ten bestsellers in non-fiction and fiction for the week, as reported by independent booksellers across the country.
Island Books | 3014 78th Ave. SE | Mercer Island | WA | USA | 98040