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New Year's Eve Cocktail Party (Dec. 31 2016):

Shaw Island Library & Historical Society

            50th Anniversary Celebration

                                  July 16, 2016

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(photos:  Gabriel Jacobs)

Remarks of Alex MacLeod

Board Chair


Welcome to the Shaw Library & Historical Society’s 50th anniversary celebration.

Earlier today, on the library and museum grounds, we held the official 50th anniversary annual meeting.

The highlight was a talk by Molly Gloss, the author of novels about the West that celebrate the heroism of ordinary lives.

In a very real sense, that is what we are doing this evening, too: celebrating the otherwise “ordinary” people who had the foresight, the persistence, the wisdom and the sense of community to create such a wonderful institution for our island.

And we also celebrate all the many volunteers who have given their time as librarians, historians, curators, board members and solid friends who have sustained — and grown — the library and historical society over the course of these 50 years.

As most of you know, we are one of the last remaining entirely community financed and run libraries and historical societies left in the state. All the money needed to operate, and virtually all the labor, is donated. The generosity of time and money reflect the continuing importance of community on Shaw — we stick together and work together to make life as good as possible for as many as possible.

One of reasons the Shaw Library & Historical Society has survived and prospered all these years is is precisely because it is a community undertaking, not supported by taxes or overseen by government. That belief was apparent in 1981 when the library & historical society’s board voted unanimously NOT to become part of the county’s library and historical society system.

So here we are — a community funded and operated organization, 50-years young, healthy, happy and serving our community better than ever.

But how did we begin?

Like many stories, this one begins at the Shaw Store, or, more accurately in the Post Office which, in those days, was located in the back of the store.

The Postmaster was Mabel Fowler Crawford, sister of Frank, born on Shaw and a lover of books. When Don and Gwen Yansen owned and operated the store in the late 50s and early 60s, Mabel set up a shelf where people could leave and take books. By all accounts, it was an active shelf and is regarded as the earliest origins of the library & historical society.

Mary Lou clark, who replaced Mabel as Postmaster when Mabel retired and the Yansen’s sold the store to the Leidigs, kept the book shelf. By then, though, the number of books had risen to near 500 and are room was needed, so most of the books moved to the Blind Bay home of Lyman and Edna Purviance.

I need to pause and say a few words about the Purviances.

After serving 30 years in the Marines, fighting on Iwo Jima and elsewhere in the Pacific, Lyman Purveyance and his wife, Edna, made a visit to Shaw in 1956. At the head of Blind Bay, there was a sign advertising an 86-acre farm with an artesian well, a quarter-mile of waterfront and an old house. The price was $14,000. This had been the Griswold homestead. The house was where the big red house is today.

Proving that Shaw has always been home to curious and talented people, Edna was a poet of sorts, as well as mother of four and lover of books She later published a book of her work which she called “The Diary of a Haiku-Happy Housewife.” All haiku, season by season, set on Shaw and around Bellingham. You can’t make up stuff like this.

When Lyman and Edna moved to Bellingham, the books moved to a room in Frank and Elsie Fowler’s house on what we know as The Old Fowler Farm. But as Babs Cameron (much more on her in a moment) wrote to Helen Gray about that arrangement, “It was found that people were loath to intrude in a private home to obtain reading material.”

The Yansens, who had been very supportive of the book shelf in the store, agreed and felt it was time for a real library. So did Fran and Andy Hilen, who had made a summer home on a large parcel between what we know as the Cedar Rock Preserve and the Hoffman Place.

Andy was a distinguished professor of English at the University of Washington and an amateur historian. He took the lead in writing a letter to all islanders — you can still almost smell the mimeograph ink used for copies in those days — proposing the idea of a library and historical society and asking for expressions of interest.

Interest was strong. That led to an organizing meeting that concluded with the adoption of Articles of Incorporation  dated July 16, 1966 — exactly 50 years ago today. Much of the drafting was done by Bill Hennessey, a Seattle lawyer with a place at Neck Point Coves.

Among those also intent on bringing a library and museum to reality were Malcolm — most called him Coonie — Cameron, his wife, Margaret — known to all as Babs —and Zora Gross. As Babs recounted nearly 20 years later:

“Zora Gross felt strongly that we should have a building to house our books and so, characteristically, she did something about it. One day she called Coonie and me to go with her to see the land that was being logged by Jim Buzzard and the acre plots that he had staked out  from the present library site to the beginning of the Don Clark property.

“We all liked the corner lot, so we went slogging through the wet woods to find Mr. Buzzard. After some friendly dickering, Zora bought the corner acre and we bought the one to the east. We each deeded our property to the Library & Historical Society — and the project was underway.”

This was the winter of 1967. There was still a ways to go. Money needed to be raised and something needed to be designed. Coonie Cameron, an architect, donated the design, and the community took care of raising the money. By 1970, a museum and library were built and dedicated.

I’d like to pause again to say some additional words about Fran and Andy Hilen, the Camerons, Zora Gross and Gwen Yansen.

Don and Gwen bought the old Biendl farm in 1953, spent summers here and moved to Shaw in 1959 when they finished building their house. When you go through the records of the library and historical society, year after year you see their hands, Gwen’s especially. Gwen loved the library like few others and organized and worked with many others to turn its grounds into something beautiful. When I see the crocus and daffodils in spring and the hanging baskets in summer, I think of Gwen, a quintessential Shaw islander. We were lucky to have her with us so long.

Frances Gilmore grew up in Los Angeles, the daughter of a family that had struck it rich with oil. Andy Hilen had been raised in Mount Vernon and then Seattle. His father, a lawyer, and Fran’s father were both serious hunters, which is how they met, and Fran’s father later hired Andy’s dad to do legal work. One day the dads decided their kids should meet…and a match was made.

Andy knew the islands from his childhood and in the mid-50s they bought an old homestead and set up living quarters in its former granary. The accommodations were very, very basic.Despite having grown up prosperous in L.A., Fran fell in love with Shaw and the family spent much time on the island.

In addition to getting the library & historical society organized, Andy contributed a couple of interesting and important monographs to the collection of island history: one a history of Capt. John Shaw, an otherwise undistinguished Navy officer who never set foot — or boat — in the San Juans, and the other a history of the island’s only known murder. Both are available at the library, as is a recording of him reading the story of shaw’s one known murder.

Fran for years gave the organization her time and energy and intellect, and her family’s foundation regularly contributed financially. It began with a check for $5,000 in 1968, a time when $5,000 was real money, and the first time the foundation had made a contribution outside the state of California. Their daughter, Tina Hilen Mandy, is on our board. She and her brother, Gil, and their spouses are with us this evening

Zora lived in San Francisco. The best man in her wedding had inherited a place on Orcas, which Zora visited. She loved the island and tried to buy a parcel from her friend. When that fell through, Rich Exton, the Orcas realtor who put together the Neck Point Coves development, brought her by boat to Shaw, where she bought, built a house and became a force in the community.

In addition to buying and donating land for the library, Zora donated the logs from one of Shaw’s early post offices to be reconstructed as the museum building, and she privately paid for the 42-inch, custom-cut cedar shakes that Coonie’s design called for the library, museum and breezeway. Few at the time knew of her generosity, but it is clearly reflected in the early records of the organization. Her daughter, Zora Edwards, a force in her own right, is with us tonight.

Coonie and Babs lived in a house they had designed at Neck Point on what now is Cameron Lane. In addition to his architecture, Coonie was a noted pen-and-ink artist and Babs a noted sculptor. Naturally, Coonie volunteered to design the new library and historical society.

His design always called for the placement of a reef net boat to capture an important piece of the island’s early history in a very visible way. A reef-netter was also the subject of one of his pen-and-ink drawings and became the logo of the organization.

Babs and Coonie talked Lloyd Lillie into donating an old reef-net boat, which Wayne Fowler moved to the library grounds. When it finally rotted another boat was placed on the site in 1998— but it was deemed too large and just not right. Someone painted the name “Feng Sui” on its bow not long before it was hauled off.

It was replaced in 2000 by the boat Peter Christensen built just for the site. It was paid for by Gwen and Fran in order to end what had become known as “The Year of the Boat.” Note cards were printed to remember the year.

But back to the beginnings.

Membership dues were set at $1 per year. One could buy a lifetime membership for $25. In November of 1966, there were 33 lifetime members and 94 annual members, for a total of $919. When that wasn’t enough, a group of 20 “Friends of the Library” was organized, with each contributing $20 a year, to make up the revenue shortfall. It wasn’t until 1994 that dues rose to $5 annually or $50 for lifetime memberships and they haven’t been raised since. We now have almost 400 lifetime members and only about 40 annual members. As a result, we’ve moved to fundraising events — mainly our every-other-year New Year’s dinner and auction — and donations to fund the organization.

The first part of the library and the breezeway were built, and the museum building assembled and roofed, by Henry Hoffman and his uncle, Loyal, with many others pitching in. It was dedicated in the summer of 1970.

Pretty soon there were more books than space. With Coonie having died, Babs, who had studied architecture at Cornell and had been involved in much of Coonie’s architectural career, and their architect son-in-law, stepped in and designed a second room, known initially as The Gallery, which was dedicated in 1978, and the third room, which houses the DVDs, biographies and the non-fiction collection in 1986. That was built by Skip Bold, who later designed and build the back breezeway and library/museum office and storage space, dedicated in 2003.

The first librarian was Beverly Graham. Beverly was a remarkable person, having earned three degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, including a Ph.D. in 1960 with a thesis on supersonic drag characteristics of partial-ring wings. She and her husband, Ernest, also an aeronautical engineer, ran a consulting business out of their modest home on Squaw Bay Road, working for all the major airline manufacturers. Beverly was credited with getting the library off on solid footing. Her system of book cards and card catalogues is still in use. After their deaths, their land was given to the San Juan Preservation Trust, one final gift to the island.

By my count, there have been eight other librarians over the past 50 years, including Helen Gray, Jerene Hansen, Bunny Soderland, Geb Nichols (the longest serving, at 16 years)  Janice Ekstrom, Dorothy Powell (who sent the sweetest, firmest, most beautiful overdue notes), Diane Walker, Jody Schmidt (who has specialized in the children’s collection, organizing kid’s reading programs and wrangling volunteer librarians) and Brian Lynch.

Together, they have built a collection of books and videos that surpasses the quality of much larger libraries.

Likewise, the historical collection has benefitted from the work of Andy Hilen, Doug Moody, John Gilson, Fran Hilen, Marlyn Hoffman, Mary Lou Clark and, most especially, Cherie Christensen. In addition to contributing as curators, Ralph and Ginny Wedgwood left us “Shaw in the Year Y2K”, the single best short history of the island and its people. If you haven’t read it, check it out. It is atop the Northwest Collection with other books by Shaw authors.

Now Annette Smith and Tina Hilen Mandt are undertaking a project to digitalize all the collection’s photographs and later all its documents to better preserve them for future generations and to enable them to be searched electronically by the society’s members.

I’ve recounted a lot of names, but this list just scratches the surface of all the people who have made important contributions to the library and historical society. To give us all an idea of just how many, please show yourselves when I call a category:

Stand up if you have been a library volunteer, either in the library, the museum or taking care of the grounds?

Now stand up — or remain standing — if you have served on the board.

Finally, if you are a lifetime member, stand up.

Now that you’re all standing, let’s clear away the chairs and tables and get ready to hoedown.

Shaw Island Library & Historical Society Annual Meeting July 16, 2016

The Shaw Island Library & Historical Society will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its founding Saturday, July 16. We have special events planned to celebrate the founders, as well as all the island volunteers and supporters these past 50 years.


First up will be our book sale and annual meeting at the library. The Book Sale begins at 11 and the Annual Meeting at 1 p.m. We are delighted to have a distinguished Northwest author, Molly Gloss, as speaker for the annual meeting. More on Molly in a bit; for now, it may be enough to know that she was one of Geb Nichols’ favorite authors.


Saturday evening we will have a potluck dinner, followed by an old-fashioned Shaw square dance at the community building. The festivities will begin at 5:30. The evening will also feature a narrated slide show on the organization’s founders and initial exhibits of some of the history project looking at the last 50 years of life on Shaw.


The history project — open to all to participate — is one of three major initiatives we are taking to both honor the founding and to move the organization into an equally strong future.

The second is a project to convert the historical society’s archive of photos and documents to a digital format, an effort being led by Trustee Annette Smith. The third is creating an online catalog of the library’s collection so members can check from home to see if the library has a book or video. This is being led by Elaine Griffin and fellow librarians Brian Lynch and Jody Schmidt.


But relax: We’ll still have a paper card catalog and checkout cards in the back of books to remind us if we’ve read a book before.


Our speaker this year, Molly Gloss, is a fourth-generation Oregonian who lives in Portland. She is the bestselling author of “The Jump-Off Creek,” “The Dazzle of Day,” “Wild Life,” “The Hearts of Horses” and “Falling From Horses.” (We invited her to speak last year, but it conflicted with a trip to Iceland, to ride horses.)


Molly’s work has earned numerous awards, including an Oregon Book Award, a Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award, the PEN West Fiction Prize, the James Tiptree Jr. Award; and a Whiting Writers Award. All of her books are available for check out at the library. Her visit is made possible by the Sandy Walker Memorial program fund.


As a reminder, this is the time to renew annual memberships. And, as always, gifts in support of the library & historical society are most welcome. Our mailing address is P.O. Box 844, Shaw, 98286.


We look forward to seeing you all at this celebration July 16.


Alex MacLeod


For the Board: Caryn Buck Doug Crosby, Lorrie Harrison, Tina Hilen Mandt, Gary Lange, Jan Sanburg, Annette Smith and Corrine Story.

Featured Speaker,

Molly Gloss


    Molly is a fourth-generation Oregonian and the author of five novels: The Jump-Off

Creek, The Dazzle of Day, Wild Life, The Hearts of Horses, and Falling From


    Several of her novels are set in late 19th and early 20th century Eastern Oregon and are stories that feature strong, bold and determined women making their ways in what was a rough, male world. It is rich in the landscape, literature, mythology and life of the American West.

    Her novels have been selected for Everybody Reads by large cities (Seattle), small cities (Hood River) and rural communities (the Palouse). Her awards include the Oregon Book Award, a Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award and the PEN West Fiction Prize, among others.

    Her visit is made possible by the Sandy Walker Memorial Fund, established by her family in memory of a former board member.

    Molly’s books are on display — and ready for checkout —at the library. I’ve read The Jump-Off Creek and The Hearts of Horses and look forward to reading more.

Alex MacLeod


New Year's Eve December 31, 2015

Dinner and Auction - Community Building

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A great evening!!  Here are some photos, courtesy of Ned Griffin:





And here is a listing of the Auction and Raffle items:

Shaw Island Library

New Year's Eve Auction Items

  1. Dinner for Twenty at the Barn at Blind Bay Farm August 6, prepared by John Sundstrom, owner/chef of Lark restaurant
  2. Basket of Red Wines (Value $350)
  3. Dinner for Four at the Inn at Ship Bay with Keith and Jean
  4. Cocktail Cruise for Four on the Brantigan's SeaJay Too
  5. Seafood Feast for Four at Willie and Alex's
  6. Whale Watching Courtesy of Eclipse Charter ($120 credit)
  7. Twenty Pounds Island Meat from Island Farm Girl Jan Sanburg
  8. Summer Wagon Ride for Six on Jack Rawls' wagon pulled by his Percheron, 
including musical serenade and ending with lemonade and cookies
  9.   Fourth of July Fireworks Viewing (Both Friday Harbor and Lopez!) with 
refreshments for 6-8 from Gil and Delaney Hilen's Place on Southern Tip of Shaw
  10. Gift Certificate to Seattle Opera for Two, including dinner at Saveur (Value $350)
  11. Two Tickets to UW Meany Theater's "So Percussion," Jan 31, 2016, 7:30pm ($64)
  12. Two Tickets to UW Meany Theater's "Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center" 
March 19, 7:30pm ($72)
  13. 2 Tickets to Northwest Horticulture Society Spring Symposium at Bastyr College, 
"Sustainable Design for Beauty, Biodiversity and Habitat" March 19 ($150)
  14. Load of Gravel from Hardy Schmidt
  15. Grisha Krivchenia piano recital with wine and nibbles for 6-12 at Brantigans
  16. 3/4 Ton Truck with Driver for trip as far as Burlington, Ferry Fee included, 
Available after March 30
  17. Inside "Well Read" – sit in on taping of Terry Tazioli's author-interview show, 
followed by lunch with Terry. Two people max.
  18. One-hour in-home concert by the Clifton Sisters
  19. Six hours gardening from Master Gardener, Diana Wisen
  20. Place setting for 10: Noritake Traditions 2000 China
  21. 1  1/2 hour massage with Rosie Sumner at Heal Studios on Lopez, must be a Friday
  22. Meal for Two at The Galley, Fisherman Bay on Lopez, includes docking privileges
  23. Dinner for Two at Octavias and overnight at Orcas Hotel
  24. Two Seattle Arts & Lecture patron tickets (reserved seats and wine reception) for 
April 21 at Seattle's Town Hall, plus two books by the author, Teju Cole, 
a Nigerian-American
  25. Ed Luttrell's Smoked Salmon

Raffle Items:

  1. Basket of Classic Kids' Books

  2. Basket of Favorite Books from the Board

  3. Basket of Wines

  4. Breakfast Basket (waffle iron, batter mix, syrup, cocoa and coffee)
  5. Dessert by Diana Wisen

  6. Dozen Homemade Triple Coconut Donuts by Alex

  7. Basket of Brian Lynch Books
  8. Selection of Chris Larson's marmalades

  9. Round of Golf for Four Friday Harbor Golf & Country Club
  10. Steamer Trunk

  11. Quart of Jan Sanburg's prize-winning dill pickles

  12. Large Collection of Music CDs

  13. Terracotta Flower Pot

  14. Silk Scarf made with Antique Kimono Pieces

November 7 - Planning Meeting

The Shaw Island Library & Historical Society celebrates its 50th year next year. The Board sees this as a great time for us to pause as a community and look back on all the people and events that have contributed to this amazing gift to our island. With that in mind, there will be a meeting to brainstorm ideas and organize efforts to celebrate this milestone. No need to be a board member to attend. This meeting is open to everybody!
Date: Saturday, November 7
Time: 12noon - 1:30 pm
Location: Shaw library

     Sunday, October 25, 4:00 PM, Community Center

           A Reading by Anna Odessa Linzer

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(Photo by Gabriel Jacobs)

Annie's resume:  My home waters are the Salish Sea. My childhood summers were spent along the beaches, and my life since has been lived along this same water. I have made a home in a log cabin; a dirt floor shack; a geodesic dome covered with shakes she handsplit from cedar drift; small structures I designed and built; a green-metal house designed for me by Ibsen Nelsen; and the Treehouse, designed by Tom Bosworth in the 70s. The beaches have washed up bits of stories, and like the people I have known and the old growth cedar saved from the roof of the Treehouse, they became part of HOME WATERS.

A hand bookbinder in the 70s and 80s, I entered into the publication of HOME WATERS with Marquand Books as a collaboration of artists, designers, and craftspeople, much like the way I enters writing with my characters. I dream these stories into life; the making of HOME WATERS was imagined into being.

HOME WATERS contains three novels: Blind Virgil, Dancing on Water, and A River Story. These beautifully crafted Northwest stories have been produced in two sets of special editions. A limited edition of twenty-five is handbound in leather and held in a handcrafted cedar box made from salvaged old-growth shakes, each with a bronze, brass, or copper maritime found object. The other fine edition of the trilogy is handbound in cloth and paper.

My novel GHOST DANCING, published by Picador USA of St. Martin's Press, received an American Book Award. A RIVER STORY has been performed as a play with set design by my sons, artists Eli Hansen and Oscar Tuazon. My stories and poems have appeared in many literary magazines, including The Kenyon Review, Carolina Quarterly, Raven Chronicles, PARIS, LA, and in anthologies in the US and Canada. I have been a writer-in-residence, participated on literary panels, and served as a Chair of the PEN West Literary Awards panel. For two decades I was a hand bookbinder of fine editions. I continue to be a long distance, cold water swimmer.

Saturday, October 3 at 4:00 PM, Community Center

"Cave Temples of Dunhuang, Buddhist Art on China's Silk Road", presentation by Mimi Gates

Mimi Gates inspired us all with her passion and knowledge of this fascinating project.  Thanks, Mimi!

Saturday, September 19, 1:00 PM, Community Center

Community Discussion on the Renaming of Squaw Bay

August 22 - 4pm - Community Building

Poet Marvin Bell
Shaw Island was treated to an inspirational poetry reading by Marvin Bell, who read from his collection of works titled "Nightworks", "Book of the Dead Man, vol. 1", and "Poetry for a Midsummer's Night." In addition he fielded questions from the audience and interleaved his poems with amazing anecdotes from his remarkable life.  Special thanks to Louis Whitford for arranging this gift to the Shaw Island community.
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(photos by Gabriel Jacobs)

Children's Story Corner at the Library





(Photo by Shirley Lange)

July 18 - Annual Meeting:

Minutes of the Meeting:

minutes annual meet july18 2015.docx

Featured Speaker:  Terry Tazioli


This year’s speaker was Terry Tazioli, the host of “Well Read,” a nationally broadcast author-interview program on public television. “Well Read” is wrapping up its third season after more than 125 author interviews. Terry gave a faublous talk about some of his most memorable interviews and their author’s books and offer a list of books and authors he thinks are especially worth reading.

Terry and Alex McLeod worked together at The Seattle Times, where Terry was the lifestyle-section editor and later travel editor. His humanity, energy creativity inspired all who worked with him. With too much energy and curiosity to actually retire, he morphed into a TV interviewer after ending his long career at The Times. Terry is a Seattle native, a past president of the Alumni Board for the Department of Communication at the University of Washington and is the director of the Kai Leamer Fund through Gilda’s Club cancer-education center in Seattle.

Go to our Homepage and follow the links to Terry's "Well Read" program:  YouTube Channel and TVW archives!

Pics from the event (courtesy of Ned Griffin):

Elaine Griffin sets up the registration table


Members investigage the Shaw Library merchandise


Members browse the books, dvds and videocassettes for sale


President MacLeod calls the meeting to order


Head Librarian Lynch takes the members on a visualization tour of the library


Associate Head Librarian Schmidt reads from a "favorite Shaw Library book" ("Stuart Little")


Member Keith Gerrard reads from a "favorite Shaw Library book" (poem from Seamus Heaney, Selected Poems: 1966-1987)


Featured Speaker, Terry Tazioli




President MacLeod calls the meeting to a close.


May 17 - 4pm - Community Building


Thor Hanson, author of Feathers, and The Triumph of Seeds.

Thor Hanson was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, where he now lives on an island with his wife and son. He caught his first salmon at age four, and often collected a wide array of temporary summertime pets, from caterpillars and tadpoles to garter snakes, hermit crabs, and tree frogs. His early interest in the natural world steered him towards a career in conservation biology. Hanson received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Redlands, his master’s from the University of Vermont’s Field Naturalist Program, and his doctorate in a joint program through the University of Idaho and the Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza, Costa Rica.

Hanson’s research and conservation activities have taken him around the globe. He has studied Central American trees and songbirds, nest predation in Tanzania, and the grisly feeding habits of African vultures. He served as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in Uganda, where he helped establish the mountain gorilla tourism program in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, and he has also helped manage a brown bear tourism project for the U.S. Forest Service in Alaska. He often works at the interface between natural and human systems, and is currently involved in a project assessing the ecological impacts of warfare.

Hanson is a Guggenheim Fellow, a Switzer Environmental Fellow, and an independent conservation biologist based in the San Juan Islands. He has received research grants from the Organization for Tropical Studies, the DeVlieg Foundation, and the National Science Foundation’s IGERT Program, among others. He teaches field courses, reviews for academic journals, consults for conservation groups and government agencies, and is a sought-after public speaker. Hanson’s many media appearances have included NPR’s Fresh Air, PRI’s The World, and The Current on CBC.

Hanson’s second book, Feathers, won the John Burroughs Medal and was nominated for The Samuel Johnson Prize. It also won the 2012 A.A.A./Subaru SB&F Prize and a Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award, and was a finalist for the Washington State Book Award. His first book, The Impenetrable Forest, won the 2008 USA Book News Award for nature writing. He is also co-editor of the academic volume Warfare Ecology. Hanson’s articles and essays have appeared in dozens of popular and scientific publications, including Audubon, BBC Wildlife, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Miami Herald, Conservation Biology, Bioscience, Environmental Conservation, Molecular Ecology, The Wilson Journal of Ornithology, Neotropical Ornithology, The Journal of African Ecology, Biotropica, and The Huffington Post.

His most recent publication is The Triumph of Seeds:  how grains, nuts, kernels, pulses and pips conquered the plant kingdom and shaped human history.


Poster by Amber Borner

Nancy Pearl:    Lusting after great books

It's not too far a reach to say that Shaw Islanders lust after books, so pairing "Book Lust" author Nancy Pearl with an attentive audience at the Community Center Dec. 6 was a perfect match. Pearl, perhaps the first librarian to have her own action figure, holds a special place in readers' hearts, at least the ones who follow her recommendations.

Nancy was introduced as the "most dangerous woman in the Northwest" because when readers hear her on the radio, Lola Deane said, they "forget whatever they're doing and head for the bookstore." Just listen to the Library Journal Librarian of the Year (2011) on NPR or in person and you'll understand how her enthusiasm for books is contagious. You can hear the twinkle in her speech even if you can't see the twinkle in her eye when talking about books.

The 2004 winner of the Women's National Book Association Award for contributions to the world of books brought 19 books with her. Here are thumbnail sketches of some of Pearl's recommendations:

2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas (Marie-Helene Bertino): The connections tie the diverse characters (including a dog) together. The main character is a 9-year-old girl but it's "the quality of the writing" that Nancy most appreciated. The Whites (Harry Brandt) doesn't hit the shelves until February. Nancy called it a fast, gritty urban thriller. If you liked the gritty crime drama HBO series "The Wire," created by David Simon, this book's for you. Harry Brandt is a pseudonym for Simon.

Spooner (Pete Dexter). Dexter is a Washington state author who wrote "The Paper Boy, "Deadwood," and the award-winning novel "Paris Trout." She appreciated the book from the first line: "My brother Ward was once a great man." Nancy: "It's a great opening line. My heart just started pounding. I'd fallen in love with this book." Nancy started reading "Spooner" at a bus stop. "I clutched it to by chest and said, 'Oh, wow! This is a book!' The man next to me got up fast." Dexter's books tend to include violence, "But Spooner's not like that. It's the book that Pete Dexter was born to write. It's an autobiographical novel about coming to terms with who you are and what the world is. But it's the writing that really sets this book apart."

The Peripheral (William Gibson). Gibson is credited with beginning the cyberpunk subgenre of speculative fiction with "Neuromancer" and coined the term cyberspace. He predicted the rise of our electronic media, Nancy said. "He is always one step ahead." This book is set in two futures, the second in 2050 when there are few people left. Nancy called the book "amazing. It takes awhile to understand what's going on and I didn't mind. You discover the plot as the author wants you to. About 3 a.m. I got a handle on it … It covers contemporary issues such as climate change and income equality but it's not heavy. It's a great find."

The Distance (Helen Giltrow). Pearl had to keep reminding herself to breathe with this one, a contemporary thriller with a London socialite who leads a double life: one as a law-abiding and contributing member of society; the other who helps people disappear. "The suspense is really, really great." The author of The Blazing World, Siri Hustvedt, is a brilliant writer, thinker and novelist who can write about big ideas and make them entertaining, Nancy said. In this case, gender bias in the art world, where traditionally women have been taken less seriously, reviewed less, and had a harder time to be granted gallery space. "Read it slowly, savor the way she uses words. It's not a light read but it makes you think."

The Unsubstantial Air (Samuel Hynes): A "prodigious amount of research" led to this nonfiction effort published on the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I. It's the story of American aviators, a disproportionate number from Ivy League schools, who went to war before the U.S. entered it. Hynes, a former combat pilot, brought his personal experiences to the letters, journals and memories. The Diamond Lane (Karen Karbo) "is so much fun to read. It's a fabulous satire," Nancy said about the re-issue of the 1991 novel. It's about two sisters, Mouse and Mimi, who reconnect in Hollywood, and it's through them that the materialism of Hollywood is skewered. "I have a sister and believe me, I recognize some of this stuff," Nancy said.

F (Daniel Kehlman) "is a fabulous novel, a brilliant, brilliant book," Nancy said. It's the story of three brothers taken to see a hypnotist perform. The father does not believe he could be hypnotized but goes on the stage when asked. Afterwards, the father drops his sons off at their mother's and disappears for 13 years.  The story is about each brother as they go their separate ways, and what the letter "F" stands for in each son.

Lusting after Great Books (Part 2)

Dozens of islanders enjoyed "Book Lust" author Nancy Pearl last month at the Community Building, sponsored by the Sandy Walker Fund of the Shaw Library. In addition to her book recommendations, Nancy also talked about her background, growing up as a voracious reader because her home wasn't a safe place, and finding shelter and solace in her local library after school and on weekends. "I'd bike to the library at 9 and bike home at 5 on Saturdays. There was a librarian there who took an unhappy kid and gave her the world, different ways of life that I didn't know about. I knew at 10 that I wanted to be a librarian."

For those of us who are determined to finish a book no matter how little it works for us, and feel guilty when we don't: "I stop when the book gets tiresome or I really get annoyed. All it means is that in that moment, this book is not for you. Life's too short to read something that's not for you … unless it's for your book club. If it's a who-done-it and you have to know the answer, turn to the last page. The best thing about (stopping) is that no one needs to ever know. There isn't time to waste on a book you are not enjoying." But how many pages should we wait to decide? "For those 51 and older, subtract you age from age 100 and the result is the number of pages that you should read before guiltlessly give up the book. When you turn 100, you can judge a book by the cover!"

But what if you're reading a critically acclaimed book and you can't stand it? "Here's the thing: it's just not a book for you. I believe that the definition of a good book is a book you like. Are these the greatest books of 2014? Who knows? I didn't finish reading Moby Dick. I read them and I stand behind them." Nancy said she takes guilty pleasure in rereading a book, although she argued that there is no such thing as rereading. "We read with all of our experiences up to that moment. You have had more experiences after reading the book the first time. I'm not the same person I was when I read a book for the first time.

In the previous post on Nancy Pearl, several of her recommendations and comments were shared. Here are other recommendations made during that visit:

The City and the City (China Mieville). Mieville is a "brilliant thinker, a Marxist economist who in her spare time has written a speculative novel," Nancy said. "She's an example of ferociously creative minds who are writing fiction. (City) is a metaphor for today's issues: two cities co-existing in space … where it's a crime to go back and forth between cities." People can vaguely see the other world but tune out whatever doesn't affect their lives.

The Soul of Vikto Tronko (David Quammen). This is not your average Cold War spy novel. "It's dense, like John Le Carre … it's not a Tom Clancy spy novel. It will take your attention," Nancy said, with all of the detail surrounding for KGB agents, the CIA, defectors, murder and disinformation.

Dear Committee Members (Julie Schumacher). "I love academic fiction," Nancy said. It's an epistolary novel that focuses on a year's worth of recommendation letters the professor of creative writing has written for below-average students and peers. "They're hysterical It's the perfect book on a dim and grey day and you're in the dump."

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (David Shafer). "A dastardly cabal is trying to privatize information. It has three great characters and is fully developed. You get invested."

Poets in Their Youth (Eileen Simpson). "If you love poetry, this kind of book will make you want to read the poems she talks about." Nancy said. The republished memoir is written by John Berryman's former wife, and concentrates on the early part of their marriage.

Bad Debts, The Broken Shore, Shooting Star (Peter Temple). The Australian writer "writes for people with a social conscience who love crime novels," Nancy said. She suggested reading the award-winning "The Broken Shore" first. "I read it at least three times and loved it."

Soldier Girls: The Battles of Three Women at Home and at War (Helen Thorpe). Three young women join the Indiana National Guard after 9-11. Thorpe explores their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, and how it affected them. Nancy said. "Those three women remain in my head. I wonder what life is like for them now."

Murder at the Brightwell (Ashley Weaver). "This is a light, fluffy mystery from an author who takes great pleasure in detailing the heroine's clothing," Nancy said. "If you love Jane Austen or have a nascent Jane Austen fan in your life, I recommend this book. It's good for teen-agers but adults will like it, too." The epistolary novel features two cousins and how they are altered by a little magic.

Station Eleven (Emily St. John Mandel). Literary fiction "is really a challenging genre these days," Nancy said. Futurist topics, in the hands of a literary novelist such as Mandel, are crossing over into literary fiction.  The story line is familiar: life after 99% of humanity has been wiped out by a virus. What's unusual is Mandel's ability to use the characters of a nomadic group of actors and musicians decades after the collapse to show a more hopeful world than other post-Apocalypse novels offer.

-----Written by Sharon Wootton

NOTE:  These books are now at our library, on display in the special nook at the end of the front section (with the exception of The Whites, which is on  backorder, and Shooting Star--we do have all four of the Jack Irish books, including Bad Debts, now, on display atop the New Arrivals section for Mystery/Suspense).

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Poster by Amber Borner

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Photo by Gabriel Jacobs


November 8, 2014

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August 23, 2014

3.00 pm, at the Community Building

Guest Speaker:  Bryan Payton, author of "The Wind is Not a River".

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(Photo courtesy of Gabriel Jacobs)

Brian Payton is the author of THE WIND IS NOT A RIVER, which was chosen as an American Booksellers Association IndieNext “Great Reads” Pick, an American Library Association “Library Reads” Pick, an Amazon Book of the Month, and a BookPage Top Fiction Pick (Jan. 2014). Payton is also the author of the novel HAIL MARY CORNER and two acclaimed works of narrative nonfiction: SHADOW OF THE BEAR: Travels in Vanishing Wilderness, a Barnes and Noble Book Club Pick and a U.S. National Outdoor Book Awards Book of the Year; and THE ICE PASSAGE: A True Story of Ambition, Disaster, and Endurance in the Arctic Wilderness, a finalist for the Hubert Evans Nonfiction Prize. Payton lives with his family in Vancouver.

Poetry Hour on Shaw

August 7, 2014

5-6 pm

at the Community Building

(optional pot-luck to follow, 6-7 pm, primarily to feed our guest before her ferry back to FH.

If you'd like to join us for the pot-luck:  email Brian :



Brian Lynch

Jane Baier-Nelson


Our Special Guest Poet:

Laynie Browne


Laynie Browne is the author of ten collections of poetry and two novels. Her most recent collection of poems, Lost Parkour Ps(alms) is just out in two editions, one in English, and another in French, from Presses universitaires de Rouen et du Havré. Two collections are forthcoming: Scorpyn Odes (Kore Press) and P R A C T I C E (SplitLevel).  She is  2014 Pew Fellow and teaches at University of Pennsylvania and at Swarthmore College.

Annual Meeting, July 19, 2014

Featured Speaker:



(photo courtesy of Gabriel Jacobs)

Blaine Harden, an award-winning journalist, is a contributor to The Economist and a former foreign correspondent for the Washington Post. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

 Mr. Harden will be speaking at the Shaw Island Library and Historical Society's Annual Meeting, July 19, 2014.

Books by Blaine Harden:

Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West (2012)

Twenty-six years ago, Shin Dong-hyuk was born inside Camp 14, one of five sprawling political prisons in the mountains of North Korea. This is the gripping, terrifying story of his escape from this no-exit prison-- to freedom in South Korea.

A River Lost: The Life and Death of the Columbia  (2012)

"Superbly reported and written with clarity, insight, and great skill" ("The Washington Post Book World"), this account of Harden's journey down the Columbia River--part history, part memoir, part lament--presents a personal narrative of rediscovery joined with a narrative of exploitation: of Native Americans, of endangered salmon, of nuclear waste, and of a once-wild river now tamed to puddled remains.