A Blog of Seattle Arts & Lectures

Bookshop Superheroes: BookTree Kirkland

Bookstore workers and owners have been absolute essential workers during this pandemic—heroes on the frontlines of our mental health. After those first months when reading felt really hard, when the doom-scrolling kept us in our lizard brains, books were there waiting for us in all their analog selves. Books, as one 2020 Summer Book Bingo player said, are the only safe way to travel right now. 

In appreciation of our local indies who have reinvented their processes and protocols over and over again in the service of getting the just-right book to the just-right hands, our  Bookshop Superheroes blog series features interviews with our partner bookstores and special Instagram takeovers to get a glimpse into a day in their store. (Not following us yet on Instagram? Check us out!)

Next up is BookTree Kirkland, who is taking over our Instagram on Tuesday, May 25! 

Almost—but not quite—on the shore of Lake Washington, on a lovely side street, in a darling two-story house, sits BookTree Kirkland. It’s impossible to pass it by without stopping in for a minute—and, after being greeted by the world’s friendliest bookstore Labrador, Mae May, it will become clear that a minute is not enough. Owner Chris Jarmick shares his thoughts about BookTree, his partner LeJene, their clientele, and a few book titles that have been exciting him these days.

How do you use the bookstore to build community?

Bookstores can become an important part of the local community. I truly love interacting with customers, playing literary matchmaker, and getting great books into their hands. During the past year, it has been most important to take the time to have conversations with our customers, to share laughs and even tears together.

I’m honored that BookTree is considered a ‘safe place’ for many in the community. “Safe” because we take precautions, and—equally important—”safe” because we (LeJene, my partner, and myself) are non-judgmental listeners. We have opinions on many things, but we never insist that someone agree with us. Having honest discussions is important. BookTree is a place where one purposefully (or accidentally!) meets up with neighbors and friends, or makes new friends. Getting to know customers makes it easier to recommend books, and I love to recommend books! Of course, if some people prefer just being left alone and getting lost in the books, we understand and support them, too.

How has the pandemic affected your business?

Although the pandemic has made running the business more difficult in numerous ways, there have been many blessings and silver linings.  BookTree has been “discovered” by people who have more time to spend within our walls. And, almost everyone enjoys being greeted by the friendliest English Labrador, Mae May, who’s now four years old.  We call her our executive-in-charge-of-greeting. Regulars open the door, and if she isn’t right there greeting them, they will call out, “Mae May!”

LeJene and I feel very fortunate that enough book lovers in the Kirkland, Kenmore, and Bellevue area continued to shop at BookTree. Some made an extra effort to open up house accounts, purchase extra gift certificates, or have gone out of their way to recommend us to their neighbors, friends, and family. Our customers truly define community and they support their independent bookstore, which they see as vital and important to their lives. We hope to continue to help them discover or rediscover books and the art of reading for many years to come.

What books do you recommend for late spring and summer reading?

  • For mystery and thriller lovers, I recommend local author Robert Dugoni’s superb series featuring Tracy Crosswhite, a Seattle-based homicide detective. The first one is My Sister’s Grave, and the eighth one, In Her Tracks, was just published. They are well-written and focus on characters that evolve and mature over the series. We have signed copies in the store.
  • The Maidens by Alex Michaelides, the author of Silent Patient, should be another thrilling cerebral page-turner, and The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny is the next Inspector Armand Gamache mystery to arrive late summer.
  • The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green. The celebrated Y.A. author does something a little different here, creating mini-reviews of all types of things from pineapple on pizza to geese! A witty read. We have signed copies in the store.
  • Facing the Mountain by Daniel James Brown is another nuanced gem from the writer of The Boys in the Boat. 
  • The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris has been compared to The Devil Wears Prada, and has been called a dazzling, darkly humorous story about the publishing industry.
  • Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson is a passionately written, well-researched book that goes beyond some of the best anti-racism books to include classism and other biases that are built into most communities. I continue to encourage everyone to read this book.
  • A recommended picture book is Jump at the Sun written by Alicia D. Williams and illustrated by Jackqueline Alcantara. It’s a clever story about the extraordinary writer Zora Neale Hurston and one of the best bios you could read to a young one.
  • Targeting 7- to 12-year-old readers is the recently published Stamped (for Kids): Racism, Antiracism, and You, adapted by Sonja Cherry-Paul with art by Rachelle Baker from the Y.A. book Stamped by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi.   
  • For poetry, you can’t do better than the recently published anthology Footbridge Above the Falls. Forty-eight Northwest Poets are collected in one volume by editor David D. Horowitz and published by Rose Alley Press.

Thank you, Chris and BookTree!

Posted in Behind the Scenes