Independent booksellers put a trusted human filter between you and the overwhelming flood of books that are published every week. After just a brief conversation, they can help you find the perfect novel to suit your mood, track down the perfect gift for that hard-to-buy-for relative, and introduce you to a writer who will literally change the way you understand the world.
But 2020 has been an impossibly difficult year for bookstores precisely because that human connection has been difficult to forge. Coronavirus has kept us in our homes and away from the indoor spaces that invite us to spend long stretches of time browsing. This all amounts to one true statement: If you want Seattle’s world-class community of independent bookstores to still be as vital as it is now on the other end of the pandemic, you’d better give them your business this Christmas season.
To help you support your local bookstore while remaining COVID-safe, I asked five bookstores that have been featured in the Neighborhood Reads column over the last year to recommend a favorite book that they’re guaranteed to have in stock this holiday season. When all combined into one impressive stack — nearly 8 pounds of book, all told — they make up a Seattle Independent Bookstore Gift Basket, the perfect gift for every local bibliophile on your holiday shopping lists. These books are guaranteed to provoke and inspire and comfort — and buying them from Seattle-area independent bookstores helps to ensure that you’ll experience many years of inspiration, provocation and comfort to come.
James Crossley, the manager at the small-but-mighty Madison Books, admits that it was hard to focus on books over the fall.
“Honestly, I was having the worst time with reading fiction,” he laughs. But then, following the avid recommendation of Seattle literary maven Nancy Pearl, he picked up Spokane author Jess Walter’s latest novel, “The Cold Millions,” and “that did it,” Crossley says — the book reignited his passion for reading novels.
Walter, Crossley notes, is a writer with broad range — he’s “written black comedy, and crime novels, and historical romance. ‘The Cold Millions’ sort of hits all three. I would put this near the top of Walter’s work.” Set in Washington state in 1909, “Millions” follows two brothers as they ride the rails and eventually become entwined with Spokane’s turbulent labor scene. Told with Walter’s trademark dry wit and expansive heart, Crossley says “Millions” feels as “timely” as today’s paper, but it contains none of the high-stress spectacle that dominates your daily Twitter feed.
Jenny Cole, the co-owner of Burien’s vibrant Page 2 Books, is a big fan of Washington state author Kate McDermott’s new cookbook, “Pie Camp: The Skills You Need to Make Any Pie You Want.” Cole says McDermott’s last book, “The Art of the Pie” was “a huge hit, and we still sell a lot of copies of that.”
McDermott is a beloved baking