Seattle summer in 8 books

Sep 26, 2012 | Posted in books & writing

Seattle in 8 Books

When we planned our summer in Seattle, I vowed not to buy any books because I’d just have to ship them back to Vermont. But I couldn’t help myself. I went to so many great readings — and there’s nothing better than supporting a writer you like (even if there isn’t a reading!).

Here are the books I bought, many of them at Elliott Bay which is now my all-time-favorite bookstore. The fact that it’s next door to Oddfellows and Molly Moon’s doesn’t hurt.

July 6: G. Willow Wilson, The Butterfly Mosque
(Elliott Bay Book Company)
Wilson read from Alif the Unseen, her new novel, but I was fascinated by the fact of an American woman (Wilson) converting to Islam. She is incredibly well-spoken and self-possessed, and she wears a head covering. So I bought her biography — the story of why she became interested in Islam and Egyptian culture.

July 10: Connie Willis, Doomsday Book
(University Bookstore)
Willis read from her work in progress — what a great reader! She was in Seattle for Clarion West and all of her students were in the audience. They clearly adore her. I bought Doomsday Book because she said it was one of her favorites. I went home and promptly read it. It’s now my favorite book of hers.

July 18: Nathan Larson, The Dewey Decimal System
(The Elliott Bay Book Company)
I had been meaning to read this book for some time, mostly because it begins in the New York Public Library of a post-apocalyptic NYC. The tone and storyline are what its publisher, Akashic Books, calls “literary-noir” and I would say it’s an apt label. If you go in with that expectation, you’ll have fun with Larson’s book. He does an excellent job describing a New York that’s totally recognizable but more than a little off the rails.

July 24: William H. Calvin & Derek Bickerton, Lingua Ex Machina
(Ada’s Technical Books)
Another non-author-reading buy. However, I was there for a publishing event: a Make magazine release party. We all got free copies of volume 31 and the makers of the Rocket-Ship Treehouse — Jon Howell and Jeremy Elson — were there to describe their project. Then I happened across this book positing evolutionary “curb-cuts” as the reason for human language development.

July 30th: Jonathan Evison, West of Here
(Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park)
I had tried to read this book in the spring and didn’t get past the first 30 pages. According to Mr. Evison, a lot of people give up before the first 100 pages, which is when it really gets going. He was a wonderful speaker and I’m going to give it another try. The book’s structure — going back and forth in time — was the element that didn’t work for me, but I’m hoping to find it interesting and instructive the second time around.

August 6: Ivan Brunetti, Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice
(Elliott Bay Book Company)
I couldn’t resist this book! I was at Elliott Bay, came across it on a table and it just hopped into my hand. I’m fascinated by visual storytelling and would like to be able to do it myself. I think web design is a form of visual storytelling, but it falls far short of cartooning. I’m hoping to improve my skills.

August 14: Neil Stephenson, Some RemarksNeal Stephenson and me
(Barnes and Noble)
Okay, so the people ahead of me were taking pics with Mr. Stephenson, so I did, too. You can see how excited he was about it. It was a strange event because Mr. Stephenson was stuck at the airport and they weren’t sure he’d have time to do more than sign books. But he made time to answer questions, which was very nice of him. He was probably exhausted.

August 22: Sam Kean, The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Eleme
(Elliott Bay Book Company)
This was my second-to-last visit to Elliott Bay and I wasn’t planning to buy anything, especially not a book about the periodic table. But I was browsing the science section and happened to pick this up to read a little, and got sucked in. Also, it was signed, so I couldn’t help myself. It couldn’t be returned to the publisher, right?

So that’s it. How many books I would buy if I lived in Seattle? My bookcases would get as crammed full as my husband’s. That’s a scary thought.

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