Holiday Gift Guide: Self Improvement Books

I’m on a constant journey to improve myself so I can’t ever walk past the Self Help section without taking a peek at all of the latest books! Here are some that caught my eye this year

1. SIDE HUSTLE – Chris Guillebeau

We all dream of making a living while living our dream – whether that’s being a full time artist , opening up your own food truck, or spending more time at home with your family – but for most of us, the cold hard fact is that we just don’t make enough (or have enough saved) to be able to quit our jobs. Enter Chris Guillebeau with his wise and easy-to-follow guide to increasing your revenue stream : SIDE HUSTLE. While the added income is not bad at all, the most important things a Side Hustle can bring you are job security and improved options. I got to work a book event with Chris when he came to my store this year and it was packed – a good indication that he knows what he’s talking about!

What I loved a great deal about this book is the layout – when you’re busy with life, work, AND  side hustling, you really don’t have time to sift through large books of esoteric information. Chris writes in a very accessible, well-formatted way, offering step-by-step guidance on how to launch and make money from your side hustle in a month. A MONTH!! Now, I think, that if this is truly your dream, you can devote one little month to giving it a shot. A great book for just about anyone – we all have dreams AND need more money! – and a wonderful book for those starting to make their new year’s resolutions and plans.

2. IKIGAI – Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles

I love staying busy! On any given day, you’ll probably find me working on at least three different projects, and writing lists and plans for even more in the future. This intentional work and purpose brings me joy and feeds my mind and soul. So, imagine my thrill when I saw this exquisitely lovely little book tucked into the Self Help section at my book store!

The New York Post has said:
“If hygge is the art of doing nothing, ikigai is the art of doing something—and doing it with supreme focus and joy.”

This book is based on research on the residents of a Japanese village with the highest percentage of 100 year olds and how they found the ikigai – the place where passion, mission, vocation, and profession intersect-that brings joys to their lives. When you find what you love, you have a reason to get up every morning and you never want to retire from your job. Now, who wouldn’t want to live that way! Start off the new year by using this book to find your OWN ikigai – and make 2018 the year

3. WAYS OF SEEING by John Berger

This book is technically not coded for Self Help (it’s in Art Criticism) but I’ve included it in my list because it WILL change your perception of the world and hence, change your life. It’s not a really book either but we studied it in my book club a few months ago and I really got to know it well!

John Berger’s classic, based on a BBC series from the 70s, will open your eyes to the subtle nuances and inherent implications of art and other visual imagery, such as ads. Little things like how the figures are posed in the painting or photo to the environment they are placed in all come together to , excuse the pun, create a larger, deeper picture. This book makes you think and question things. And that is always a good thing.

4. A BOOK THAT TAKES ITS TIME from FLOW magazine

I adore Flow and it’s one of the few magazines that I get make sure to get every issue of. It’s beautiful to look at, inspiring, and full of great advice on living a more creative and mindful life. This book of theirs is no different! Full of activities, illustrations, and tips to help you slow down, reclaim your life, and focus on the simple joys. You can learn calligraphy, create a collage, even use the postcards they include to send snail mail. The perfect book for the artists and journal keepers in your life – and pretty much anyone who wants to start a creative habit and live intentionally in the new year.

Notes From My “Holiday Books” Talk

I was part of a group of five booksellers who spoke at our Holiday Book Talk this evening at the bookstore. Since I’m currently doing a series on great literary gift ideas, I thought I would share my picks from tonight!

1. THE SECRET LIVES OF COLOR by Kassia St. Clair

This beautifully-presented book tells the stories and history of over 70 shades of color – from the white that protected against the plague to how shocking pink came to be called “shocking”. This is the perfect book for the artist on your list who is interested in the symbolism of the hues in her palette, the history buff who is intrigued by how color, politics, and sociology influence each other , or even perhaps the science lover who is interested in discovering the origin and chemical composition of the colors we take for granted daily.

2. BIRDMANIA by Bernd Brunner

I had the pleasure of hosting our recent event with the author and after hearing him speak about it, I can say that this is truly a book for the bird lover on your list. The beautiful full color illustrations are a visual feast and while you may be tempted to ask yourself whether the world needs yet another bird book – I am here to tell you YES, it certainly does! Because this book is not only about the birds but is unique in that it tells the fascinating, humorous, and sometimes even slightly disturbing stories of the passionate ornithologists – amateur or not- throughout history. Lovely tales such as that of a loyal friendship between a woman and a lyre bird as well as rather odd ones such as the story of George Archibald, who performed mating dances for an endangered whooping crane to encourage her to lay and Mervyn Shorthouse, who posed as a wheelchair-bound invalid to steal an estimated ten thousand eggs from a Natural History Museum.

3. WHERE THE ANIMALS GO: Tracking Wildlife With Technology In 50 Maps And Graphics

This is also full of wonderful illustrations and packed with maps, charts, and information. Hence it would be the perfect book for pre-teens to grandparents! Where the Animals Go is the first book to offer a comprehensive, data-driven portrait of how creatures from ants to hawks to sharks navigate the world. Based on pioneering research by scientists at the forefront of the animal-tracking revolution these stunning, four-color charts and maps tell fascinating stories of animal behavior, such as how baboons make decisions and what storks like to snack on.
It’s the perfect book for nature lovers, conservationists, and even those tech-obsessed friends and family on your gift list.

4. LEAVE ME ALONE WITH THE RECIPES by Sara Rich And Wendy MacNaughton

It’s hard picking gifts out for foodies sometimes. They usually buy all of the latest cookbooks and gadgets for themselves. However, LEAVE ME ALONE WITH THE RECIPES is more than just a cookbook – it combines graphic design with food in a fun, unique, and gorgeous way!  Sarah Rich and Wendy MacNaughton discovered a painted manuscript of recipes at an antique book fair that they immediately fell in love with. Completed in 1945, this stunning collection by one of the most influential graphic designers of the 20th century, Cipe Pineles, is like a scrapbook of her childhood’s Eastern European food.

Filled with beautiful illustrations, recipes, and letters, this book is perfect for lovers of design, fashion, history (especially mid-century ) , memoir, and , of course, food,

5. IKIGAI: The Japanese Secret To A Long And Happy Life
By Hector Garcia

What would the end of the year be without resolutions and promises to live a better life in the new year. This lovely little book is perfect for those interested in that or looking for an alternative to the Hygge trend of the past couple of years.
As the NY Post puts it : If hygge is the art of doing nothing, ikigai is the art of doing something with supreme focus. It’s the place where passion, mission, and profession intersect and is a wonderful and meaningful gift to pass on to friends and family this season.

6. My final book is SEATTLE WALKS by local author, David Williams.
This book practically sells itself so I don’t need to say much about it but if you’re looking for another great gift to start the new year off right, this would be a good one. In Seattle Walks, David Williams weaves together the history, nature, and architecture of Seattle and recommends walks that take the reader on a wondrous, unexpected tour of a city that you may think you already know everything about. A great gift for the outdoorsy types on your list, architecture and history buffs, and for families looking to find ways to spend time together in the new year.

Holiday Gift Guide: Gorgeous Art Books of 2017

It was very difficult to narrow down my favorite art books of the year to just four picks. Really, really difficult! Books about art are my very real weakness and there have definitely been more than four that I bought and loved this year. However upon deep deliberation, these four stood out in their uniqueness and beauty. Briefly, however, here are my picks for Gorgeous Art Books Of 2017:

1. The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St.Clair.

Colors have so much power and symbolism behind them and when, in this stunning book, you discover their unique, and sometimes strange histories – like the white that protected against the plague – you won’t look at your paint palette the same again. I think it’s very important for people who work with color to understand that particular tool and element of their trade. This book also works as the perfect gift for the history buff who is intrigued by the interplay between color and politics, or even the science lover who is interested in the origin and chemical composition of the colors we take for granted today.

2. 365 Days of Art by Lorna Scobie.

When this book was released, I had just made my recurring- and quite optimistic vow- to stop buying more art inspiration/prompt books. Heaven knows that I have more than enough art I’m working on myself to keep me more than busy. And, while it’s true that, like with coloring books, I never actually work in the books, I do love them for their beautiful Illustrations and consider them art monographs in a way. Lorna’s lovely art is fun and vibrant and happy and with great prompts for every day of the year, even if you just look to it for inspiration, it’s a wonderful way to start the new year off on a good artistic foot.

 

3. This Truck Has Got To Be Special by Anjum Rana, illustrated and designed by Hakeem Nawaz, Amer Khan, and Sameer Kulavoor

My family is from India and my color and design sensibilities definitely draw inspiration from that vibrant subcontinent. Whatever CAN be decorated WILL be decorated! Including something as industrial and utilitarian as a truck! Google Indian (and, in the case of this book, Pakistani) trucks and you will see some gorgeous specimens! Told in a narrative format, this art/picture book tells the story of a Pakistani truck driver who had finally acquired a truck of his own and wants to make it a work of art! As the artist he commissioned begins working on the truck, the driver reminisces about all of the journeys he’s been on. You will just get lost in the stunning and intricate (and colorful!!) illustrations and, although this book is certainly perfect for kids, I think adults will appreciate it perfectly and that’s why I included it in this section.

 

4. In The Garden Of My Dreams: The Art of Nathalie Lete

For me, this book was love at first touch! Yes, TOUCH! The cover is a soft, PADDED, shiny sky blue!!! Once you stop pawing at it and actually open it up, you will enter the dreamy wonderland of Nathalie’s pop/folk art imagination. Lots of inspiration and beauty – a contained burst of joy on your book shelf, art desk, or coffee table.

And there you have it! My art recommendations for 2017. I hope you check these out for yourself. And, if you have any recommendations for me – what art books did you lose yourself on this year – please let me know in the comments.

Next week, I will be rounding up my Self Improvement selections for the year.

 

 

 

Book Review: Eruption

“A natural disaster is not a disaster until it becomes a human disaster; otherwise, in the minds of most people, it is a mere spectacle.”

This is one of my favorite lines from Steve Olson’s 2016 book, ERUPTION: The Untold Story Of Mount St. Helens. It perfectly sets the tone for the entire narrative : an honest and humanistic telling of the events of 1980. No one was prepared for what happened – the eruption was one of the largest in American history, killed 57 people and caused over a billion dollars in damage.

ERUPTION is coded as Science and the strikingly beautiful cover – featuring an erupting Mount St. Helens – only hints at the depths the book goes into while telling the tale of this dramatic natural disaster. You think you’re going to learn about the geology of volcanoes – and you certainly do – but the book is much more than that : a sympathetic tribute to the humans who found their lives intertwined with Nature in a powerful, life-altering way that fateful summer.

Olson is a master at weaving these stories through the narrative in a way that is easy and uncontrived. We learn about the science teams, the logging industry, and the local residents who were all major players in what transpired during those months and trace the final days of those who perished. We discover how decisions made even decades ago influenced the events of that day – of all the economic and political factors that shaped the fates of the victims.

I can’t recommend this book enough! It was a sweeping, cinematic look back at an important time in our nation’s history and Olson helped put everything into a larger context, interweaving personal tales with politics and capitalism in a moving and evocative way. It’s a great book for those interested in Natural History, Conservation, or the Pacific Northwest.

Five Questions With Grace: David Berger

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I didn’t know anything about razor clams, much less razor clamming, before I met David Berger.  I was the event person in charge of one of his book readings and his enthusiasm for the subject, as well as great presentation skills – he came prepared with some awesome visual aids!- soon had us all enthralled with this fascinating bivalve!

David has been a contributor to the food feature, “Northwest Taste,” in the Pacific Magazine, and is a former art critic for the Seattle Times. He is also a recipient of a Metcalf Fellowship for Marine and Environmental Reporting.

His new book, RAZOR CLAMS: BURIED TREASURE OF THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST, is published by University Of Washington Press.

 

 

 

 

 

Now, let’s here what David has to say!

1. If you could have been the author of any book that has ever been published, what would it be, and why?

 

I read Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island every couple of years, so I guess it’s reasonable to wish I’d written it and had the chops for it.

It’s a great yarn and one of the world’s most popular books. I like stories and insights that have to do with the sea, and young Jim crossing the ocean with pirates and comrades, and having a tide-tossed boat ride in a tiny vessel called a coracle, are quite the watery adventures.

Sometimes people like to be read to as they’re failing in health and preparing to shuck this mortal coil. I wouldn’t mind hearing this tome in that circumstance. We’re all crossing something, one way or another.

 

 

 

 

2. What do you need around you when you start working on a book?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I need the stars to line up correctly, some space in my life and head, research and papers at hand, and a good amount in my bank account

 

3. You are forced to condense your book collection down to one small shelf. What six books would you want to always have in your home?

 

Well now, that’s a tough one. A dictionary, say the Random House Dictionary of the English Language. I like words and language.

Treasure Island, I’ve already said.

Arctic Dreams, by Barry Lopez.

Collected Essays by George Orwell.

My portable field guide to Western mushrooms, All that the Rain Promises and More… .

I like art, too, so The Hokusai Sketch-Books: selections from the Manga.

But OMG that’s leaves out Dostoyevsky, Michael Chabon, Margaret Atwood, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Moby Dick, all the poets and so much more!

 

 

4. What one piece of advice would you go back in time to give yourself when you first started your writing career?

 

I dunno, not feeling very advisor-ly at the moment.

Eat more chocolate. Buy more real estate.

 

 

 

 

 

5. During the course of your research for the new book, what was the most surprising thing you discovered about the razor clam or about clamming?

 

One thing that was surprising was how much fun it was to do the research. The number of people who went razor clamming in the 1970s, maybe as much as seven percent of Washington State’s population, was surprising.

And It’s quite astonishing to picture the razor clams on the West Coast all dwelling in their sandy intertidal burrows with hinges facing the surf. Their backs to the pounding waves. “Lined up as orderly as soldiers on parade.” That haunts my imagination every time I think of it.

 

 

 

 

Be sure to pick up a copy of David’s book from your local bookstore and check out the UW Press website to see if he has an event near you! And stay tuned for next week’s Five Questions With Grace with Eric Andrews-Katz!

Ikigai: Finding Happiness In Doing What You Love

Fall weather is here and I love it! I feel most alive and energized when the sky is grey and there is a slight drizzle of cold rain. Not a popular point of view here in the Pacific Northwest, where everyone lives for sunny days – but hey! I grew up in the tropics; I’ve had more than my share of sun!

Weather like this calls for a warm scarf, a cuddly kitty (luckily I have the perfect one), and a feel-good book! I picked up exactly such a book for the weekend. This latest in a long series of globally-themed life improvement manuals is not from Scandinavia but from Japan! I seriously can’t resist all of these cute little books so of course I had to check this one out!

So, you all remember Hygge – the Danish concept of finding contentment in coziness – well, ikigai is all about finding joy in working on your life’s purpose. And your own personal ikigai is the intersection of what you’re good at and what you love doing.

Makes a lot of sense! I am a firm believer that having goals, and dreams, and a raison d’etre can help you find focus and contentment -even if other things in your life aren’t always going according to plan. When you find your passion and you are able to find a way to work on that passion, your whole life changes. The little things in life don’t get to you as much – you have your purpose to keep you focused and on track.

This book is filled with scientific facts, anecdotal evidence, and interviews with some of the world’s oldest people. I look forward to reading it this weekend.

Five Questions With Grace: Steve Olson

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Steve Olson is a Washington-based nonfiction writer who has published articles and books on an array of fascinating topics. Subjects such as genetics, race, human origins, climate change, and even punk rock! His most recent book, ERUPTION: THE UNTOLD STORY OF MOUNT ST. HELENS, was named one of the best books of 2016 by Amazon, was nominated for the Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature, and, most recently, has been named a finalist for the Washington State Book Award.  His next book, to be released in 2020, is about the production of plutonium at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation during World War II and the Cold War.

You can check out more of Steve’s work at www.steveolson.com

 

 

 

 

 

1. If you could have been the author of any book that has ever been published, what would it be, and why?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was a physics major in college, and I’ve always been enamored of the idea of mastering an idea at the forefronts of physics. For a while, my attention was focused on the book Gravitation by Charles Misner, Kip Thorne, and John Wheeler. I can’t say that I ever read the entire book or understood even a portion of it, but the general concept of mastering a particular area of knowledge is still the approach I take toward writing.
Oddly, I’ve been running across Wheeler again in my research on the history of the Hanford nuclear reservation. (I happen to be answering these questions from a hotel room in Richland after a day spent doing research.) He helped design the reactors at Hanford and solved a problem that threatened to shut them down when they first started up.

2. What do you need around you when you start working on a book?

 

I can write almost anywhere. But to work on a book, I need libraries, archives, and knowledgeable people. The problem with the way I write is that every single sentence is based on something I had to learn somewhere. Though I wish I could, I’ve never been able to write sentences that sound nice but don’t have much content.

 

3. You are forced to condense your book collection down to one small shelf. What six books would make the cut?

I’m going to interpret this as a “desert island” type of question, so six books that I’d choose if I could never again have any other books. They’re:

Don Quixote, since I’ve heard that it’s three different books if you read it once as a young person, once in middle age, and once in old age
A History of the World, the longest and most comprehensive volume I could find (though I guess multiple volumes would violate the rules)
The Bible, so I can reflect on the profound history the Bible has had on world history.
Ulysses, since I’ve been wanting to reread that book ever since college (preferably, right before a trip to Dublin)
Gravity’s Rainbow, both for its humor and complexity
The Collected Stories of Chekhov, to dwell on the reasons why people think and act the ways they do

Hmm, I guess all six of those books are kind of like Gravitation, now that I look at them.

4. What one piece of advice would you go back in time to give yourself when you first started your writing career?

I always tell aspiring writers the same thing: If you want to write full time, keep your financial needs as low as possible. Yet I’ve never followed that advice myself. And, sure enough, I spend most of my time on high-paying but routine writing projects that subsidize my lifestyle and occasional books.

 

5. I actually have a second ‘go-back-in-time’ question for you! As a science writer, if you had the chance to cover any scientific discovery or major natural event, and gather firsthand information, what would it be and why?

It would be the event I’m writing about now: the discovery of nuclear fission and the application of fission to produce nuclear weapons. Many journalists and scholars have listed the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as the top news story of the 20th century. It’s a great privilege for me to be writing about those events.

 

Thanks for the great answers, Steve! Next week, I’ll be chatting with David Berger, author of the recently released, RAZOR CLAMS: Buried Treasure of The Pacific Northwest

Ladies Of Literature Portraits

During the month of September, I’ve been working on a series of portraits on my book Instagram page @graceandgutenberg : female writers, past and present! It’s been a fun little project and I’ve been taking suggestions from my followers as well so it’s also been a learning opportunity! Lots of great facts about some great women writers! It’s also been a wonderful chance for me to practice drawing people. Win-win all around!

Here’s a few of the ones I’ve done already and, with almost half of the month still left, I can’t wait to see who I discover next!

Five Questions With Grace: Ben Clanton

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I got the chance to interview Ben Clanton, picture book author and illustrator, and his answers are just as much fun as his book launch parties always are! With only a few well-placed (and genius!) lines and squiggles, Ben is able to capture the heart and soul of a multitude of characters – from the very sweet duo of Narwhal and Jelly to his latest, the endearing ghost, Boo.

 

 

1. Ben, if you could have been the writer of any book that’s ever been published, what would it be and why?

 

Definitely Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. It is the book that turned me into a reader and for good reason. Harry Potter contains so many things that I love such as magic, mail, humor, mischief, and goodness. J.K. Rowling weaves these things together in a way that is spell-binding as well as both fantastical and real. It helps that I have a healthy dose of nostalgia for reading it with my mom and sister.

2. What three things do you need around you when you start working on a new book?

A blank sketchbook (usually a Moleskine), a freshly sharpened pencil, and something unexpected

 

 

 

 

3. You are forced to condense your book collection to just one shelf : What books would make the cut?

That better be a huge shelf and I would definitely be cramming every last book on it I could, but the books that I must have on it include: ZEN SHORTS by Jon J. Muth, I WANT MY HAT BACK by Jon Klassen, HOW DROOFUS THE DRAGON LOST HIS HEAD by Bill Peet, WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE by Maurice Sendak, CALVIN AND HOBBES by Bill Watterson, MATILDA by Roald Dahl, JIMMY ZANGWOW’S OUT-OF-THIS-WORLD MOON PIE ADVENTURE by Tony DiTerlizzi, STUCK by Oliver Jeffers, MUTTS by Patrick McDonnell, THE DOT by Peter H. Reynolds, and all of the HARRY POTTER books by J.K. Rowling.

4. What one piece of advice would you go back in time to give yourself when you were first starting out as a writer?

Make something new every day.

 

 

 

 

 

5. If you could have, as your sidekick, any of the characters you’ve created – which one would it be, and why?

Narwhal!!! Because who wouldn’t want a positively awesome, super kind, waffle-loving, and incredibly imaginative sidekick??

 

 

 

 

Thanks, Ben, for the very wonderful interview! We can’t wait to see your next project!

Stay tuned for next week’s FIVE QUESTIONS – with Steve Olson, author of  ERUPTION: THE UNTOLD STORY OF MT. ST HELENS.

June Book Club: Behind The Beautiful Forevers

Pardon the multiple postings for today but I decided to update my book club news, since I haven’t posted anything on that topic since May’s THE ARCHITECTURE OF HAPPINESS.

For June, I picked a heavier book – based on subject, not weight – BEHIND THE BEAUTIFUL FOREVERS by Pulitzer winning author and journalist, Katherine Boo.

As you all may have figured out, I like to make each book club a mini party – with themed decorations and food. And, since this book is set in India, I had a field day! A quick trip to a local Indian store provided the treats. I also got the exact biscuits that were mentioned in the book. Luckily for me, they also happen to be some of my favorites!

We had a great discussion of this very painful-to-think-about subject. As some of you may know, Behind The Beautful Forevers is the result of three years that journalist Katherine Boo spent talking to some of the inhabitants of a horrific slum in Mumbai. The book is powerful, written as a very readable narrative, and will leave you thinking of the brutal topics for a very long time. I still haven’t decided what my take-away from this book is. I’ve vacillated between feelings of inspiration and hopelessness. On the one hand, despite the horrific conditions (living on open sewage, having to fight for everything they can) the inhabitants still feel a sense of hope and ambition, have dreams of a better life, celebrate birthdays, and even smile from time to time. Now, isn’t that a great testament to the resilience of the human spirit? On the other hand, at every step, they are also torn down by their own jealous neighbors, have to battle corruption and brutal authorities, and for every step forward, are hurled maybe five steps back. And that’s where my hopelessness comes in from this book: it all seems arbitrary, who succeeds and who fails. Hard work and honor are not always rewarded. And the biggest obstacle to these poor people was not the rampant TB, starvation, or floods – it was the brutality of other men.
I look forward to seeing how these ideas simmer and stew in my mind – because as hard as thinking about subjects like this is, I think it’s worse not to think about them at all.