Your friendly neighborhood bookstore offers more than just a respite from insane crowds, inane salespeople, and annoying holiday Muzak that sticks in your brain like


Read in Heavenly Peace

Indie bookstores pick the year's best gift

Your friendly neighborhood bookstore offers more than just a respite from insane crowds, inane salespeople, and annoying holiday Muzak that sticks in your brain like peanut butter in a dog's mouth. It also provides a chance to interact with folks who are passionate about what they do and eager to share their knowledge with you. And you won't find these stores anywhere else on earth! It's enough to put the grin back in Grinch. So celebrate Independents' Day in December this year. To get you started, here are some recommendations from six local bookstores:

Longtime Seattle bookseller Michael Coy, owner of (you guessed it) M. Coy Books (117 Pine, 623-5454), calls Adam Gopnik's Paris to the Moon (Random House, $24.95) "magical" and adds, "You'd have to have a heart of stone to resist it." Written while on assignment for The New Yorker, Gopnick's witty essays and journal entries deftly capture Paris' peculiar eccentricities—from the sociology of brasseries to the bureaucracy of French health clubs to the surprising sartorial style of the doctor attending his daughter's birth. The Beast God Forgot to Invent (Atlantic Monthly Press, $24) finds Jim Harrison "at the top of his form," says Coy. Harrison, whose previous work includes the unfortunately filmed Legends of the Fall, returns to familiar masculine territory with three new novellas. Remarking that "this is a fantastic year for illustrated books," Coy recommends two: Time by Andy Goldsworthy (Harry N. Abrams, $55) and Complete Jacob Lawrence by Peter Nesbett and Michelle DuBois (University of Washington Press, $125).

Everyone loves a good whodunit, and who better to suggest one than J.B. Dickey, owner of Seattle Mystery Bookshop (117 Cherry, 587-5737). Dickey notes Caleb Carr's new book, Killing Time (Random House, $25.95), describing it as a departure for the physician-turned-author; set in 2023, Carr's vision of a cyberized world gone to hell in a handbasket is sure to please the Luddite in your life.The store has signed copies. Likewise, John Dunning, in Two O'Clock, Eastern Wartime (Scribner, $26), forsakes the sleuthing book dealer of his earlier books for a foray into old-time radio, a subject on which he just happens to be a world-renowned expert. As a member of the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association, Dickey helped select 100 Favorite Mysteries of the Century (Crum Creek, $12, edited by Jim Huang). "It's not only a good read," he says, "but also a great resource for mystery lovers"; there's even an additional section of favorite mysteries that didn't make the top 100.

The Night Listener (HarperCollins, $26) is on Beyond the Closet Bookstore (518 E Pike, 322-4609) owner Ron Whiteaker's holiday list. This new novel by the wildly popular Tales of the City storyteller Armistead Maupin involves a writer who, reeling from a breakup with his longtime partner, begins an alarmingly intense relationship with a young fan. Whiteaker also recommends local author Madelyn Arnold's A Year of Full Moons (St. Martin's Press, $25.95), which he describes as "the story of young a lesbian woman coming into her own power in the South during the turbulent racial strife of the '60s." Fans of celebrated New York photographer David Morgan will delight in Beach (St. Martin's Press, $29.95): With stunning black-and-white photos of beautiful naked men frolicking on Fire Island and an accompanying story by Ernesto Mestre-Reed, what's not to like?

Although National Poetry Month isn't until April, a good poem—like fine wine and chocolate—is always welcome. Head to Open Books: A Poem Emporium (2414 N 45th, 633-0811), where owners John Marshall and Christine Deavel will help you find a muse you can use. Marshall praises Melinda Mueller as "an amazing writer, one of Seattle's best," and characterizes her latest book—What the Ice Gets: Shackleton's Antarctic Expedition 1914-1916 ($14), the second from local publisher Van West & Co.—as a "seamless read, hard to put down." The Collected Poems of Stanley Kunitz (Norton, $27.95) finds our 10th poet laureate at the top of his game at the age of 95. Spanning an astounding seven decades, the collection "gives you a sense of how intense and personal and odd a poet he's been throughout his career," says Marshall. The two also recommend William Blake: The Complete Illuminated Books (Thames & Hudson, $60), which collects the visionary's work in one volume for the first time ever—as one who found "the universe in a grain of sand," the author would probably be pleased.

The staff at Eagle Harbor Books (157 Winslow Wy E, Bainbridge Island, 206-842-5332) loves Tony Earley's Jim the Boy (Little, Brown, $23.95), a coming-of-age story set in Depression-era rural North Carolina; they call it a "delightful, very sweet, very gentle book with one of the most beautiful Christmas scenes we've ever read." They also recommend How All This Started (Picador, $23), Montana author Pete Fromm's debut novel about the intense relationship between a Texas "fireballer" pitcher and his coach/sister, who suffers from manic depression. The novel's speed and intensity, they say, make it "unlike anything you've ever read." A last pick is Roger Rosenblatt's Rules for Aging (Harcourt Brace, $18) whose subtitle, "Resist Normal Impulses, Live Longer, Attain Perfection," provides a hint of the "smart-alecky but sensible" advice within—it remains to be seen whether Oprah agrees.

This list would not be complete, of course, without hearing from Seattle's quintessential indie bookstore: Holly Myers, longtime book guru of Elliott Bay Book Co. (101 S Main, 624-6600), proclaims Ian Falconer's Olivia (Atheneum, $16) "the most adorable pig in the entire universe" and cheekily adds, "Eloise who?" The National Audubon Society's astounding Sibley Guide to Birds (Random House, $35), more than 10 years in the making, features over 6,000 watercolor illustrations. Myers observes, "The art alone is incredible, whether you're a birder or not." Our more epicurean readers may have noticed this article is missing an ingredient: Pino Luongo's Simply Tuscan: Recipes for a Well-Lived Life (Doubleday, $40) is an earthy stew of food, travel, and personal anecdote sure to inspire. Instead of a predictable plate of sugar cookies, perhaps Santa would like panna cotta this year.

Diane Sepanski is a contributing writer at Seattle Weekly.

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