A Blog of Seattle Arts & Lectures

Bookshop Superheroes: Island Books

In appreciation of our local indies who have reinvented their processes and protocols during the past year in the service of getting the just-right book into the just-right hands, our Bookshop Superheroes blog series features interviews with our partner bookstores. 

This week, we’re featuring Island Books, who is taking over our Instagram today, Wednesday, August 18!

If it can be said that a bookstore can anchor a community and be its center, Island Books, no doubt, can attest to that sentiment. The bookstore that serves the Mercer Island community will be 48 years old on November 1, 2021. Laurie Raisys, the current owner, celebrated her six-year anniversary in July. This woman-owned and run bookstore has some fun facts to share. (We can say that Tom Hanks, a self-described typewriter nut, would appreciate one of their quirky collections!)

How do you use the bookstore to build community?

For the nearly 49 years we’ve been in business, Island Books has always been a community hub. During Covid, we’ve worked hard to maintain that feeling of community while still keeping that community safe. Two of our monthly book clubs moved to Zoom. Our annual book fairs for each of the Mercer Island schools became gift card fairs. Our customers bought and donated gift cards so we could purchase and drop off books at the quarantined senior communities on Mercer Island. As restrictions eased, we were so happy to see people in person, even distanced and masked! It made such a difference to our spirits to be able to open the doors and let customers browse again. We were able to run our annual Where’s Waldo with other local businesses during the month of July and are looking forward to reinstating other fun traditions like our bookmark contest (stay tuned!).

What do you wish people knew about your store in general over the past year?

Just as much as Island Books works every day to be a valuable part of our community, it is the daily decision of our community that keeps us here. Every person that walks through our doors, or orders books through our website or shoots us an email with a request, is a person that votes with their dollars to keep us a part of Mercer Island. We’ve had so many customers who’ve come in and ask how we’re doing and say how glad they are that we’re still here. When the truth is that it is their actions and generosity and choosing to buy their books and gifts with us instead of somewhere with a cheaper price is why we’re still here. And the fact that they make that decision week after week, month after month, year after year is why we’re still here after 49 years. So a big thank you to all our loyal customers!

Fun fact(s) about our store:

We have a (mostly) decorative collection of 69 antique typewriters throughout the store, which have been donated from customers and island residents over the last 40 years.

All-women staff.

After closing on Christmas Eve, we share a toast and tell our favorite customer stories.

During Covid, we made over 250 deliveries on Mercer Island and mailed 2,752 packages, more than we have done in the last five years total.

Books we are excited about:

  • Of course, the new Louise Penny, The Madness of Crowds (8/24/21), #17 in the Chief Inspector Gamache series, as well as State of Terror (10/12/21), her cowriting debut with Hilary Rodham Clinton.
  • Anthony Doerr, writer of the hit All the Light We Cannot See, has his newest book in seven years, Cloud Cuckoo Land, coming out 9/28/21.
  • Store favorite Liane Moriarty has Apples Never Fall coming out 9/14/21.
  • And Gastro Obscura, from the hugely popular Atlas Obscura, comes out 10/12/21, just in time for those getting a jump on their holiday shopping—for the adventurous food lover in your life!

Some bonus picks for anyone into YA fantasy, three of our staff’s favorite authors have new titles out this fall:

  • Local author Margaret Owen, author of the fabulous Merciful Crow duology, has Little Thieves coming out 10/19/21.
  • Margaret Rogerson, author of An Enchantment of Ravens and Sorcery of Thorns, has Vespertine coming out 10/5/21.
  • And the fantastic Brigid Kemmerer, author of The Cursebreaker series, has Defy the Night coming out 9/14/21.

Thank you, Laurie and Island Books!

Posted in Behind the Scenes