Posts

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.

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

,

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!

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.