Edmonds Booktalk: Memories of an amazing woman who championed authors

Elaine Mattson
Elaine Mattson

An amazing woman, whom I was privileged to call a friend, died at the end of May. Not such an upbeat topic for a book column, I realize, but bear with me. She is a huge reason that I am privileged to write this column. A long and winding road of family and friends and college jobs and different bookshops and different owners, and 40 years… which all lead, oh so happily, right back to The Edmonds Bookshop, where it all started!

Valerie Jean Ryan, my friend, had a theory: Everyone has at least one book in them. So, first novels are always [always!] worth reading. Not only did she fully believe her theory, she did her part to give first-time novelists, that she believed in, an extra boost. Local author, and staff favorite, Jim Lynch, is one who benefited from Valerie’s heartfelt … advice, counsel, critique, guidance, patronage, support …

A few words from Jim:

“She was the patron saint of ‘The Highest Tide.’ She stepped up in her confident irreverent brassy way and told everybody to read that book. Many many authors have had long careers without a champion anything near the likes of Valerie Ryan.”


Skeptical I was. But. She has been proven right, so, so many times. As further evidence, I present a brief list of first novels, all of which are staff favorites at The Edmonds Bookshop, some of which are also award winners, all of which would make great summer reads!the highest tide

  • “The Highest Tide” by Jim Lynch
  • “Broken for You” by Stephanie Kallos
  • “The Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd [award-winning movie in 2008]
  • “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz [winner of the Pulitzer Prize]
  • “Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War” by Karl Marlantes [local author, winner of the PNBA award]
  • “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” by Ben Fountain [Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and a finalist for the National Book Award]
  • “In the Woods” by Tana French [Edgar award.]
  • “The Name of the Wind: The Kingkiller Chronicles Book 1” by Patrick Rothfuss
  • “Discovery of Witches” by Deborah Harkness
  • “The Orchardist: A Novel” by Amanda Coplin
  • “Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel” by Robin Sloan
  • “Red Rising” by Pierce Brown

There are also a few debut novels, very recent, or coming soon that sound intriguing to me. These are definitely worth a look, at least a “read the first 50 or 100 pages” and see if you are drawn in… more often than not, it will be worth your time!

  • “Bird Box: A Novel” by Josh Malerman. Interweaving past and present, Josh Malerman’s breathtaking debut is a horrific and gripping snapshot of a world unraveled that will have you racing to the final page. 5/13/14.
  • “The Quick” by Lauren Owen. The debut author sets her book in an 1892, late-Victorian London with a serious vampire problem. The book’s pleasures include frequent viewpoint shifts that require readers to figure out how each character fits into the story, new riffs on vampire rituals and language, plus several love affairs, most of which are doomed. Chosen for July IndieBound. 6/17/14.
  • “The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing: A Novel” by Mira Jacob. With depth, heart, and agility, this debut novelist takes us on a deftly plotted journey that ranges from 1970s India to suburban 1980s New Mexico to Seattle during the dot.com boom. This is an epic, irreverent testimony to the bonds of love, the pull of hope, and the power of making peace with life’s uncertainties. 7/1/14
  • “California: A Novel” by Edan Lepucki. The story of a couple struggling to find a place for themselves and their unborn child in a futuristic world wracked by natural disasters and overrun with unforeseen dangers. “… There are no zombies in this apocalypse, no viral diseases, no alien invasions—just a quiet confluence of many things that are already on the news every night.” And, if you haven’t heard yet, this is the book that Stephen Colbert and Sherman Alexie are asking people to pre-order at their local independent bookshop. View part of the Colbert Report here. 7/8/14.

July Events at The Edmonds Bookshop.

tale for the time beingJuly 3 & 16, 2014. Our July Book Club title is “A Tale for the Time Being” by Ruth Ozeki. In Tokyo, 16-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying. But before she ends it all, Nao first plans to document the life of her great grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. A diary is Nao’s only solace—and will touch lives in ways she can scarcely imagine. Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox—possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao’s drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future.
Shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Find more details about this title and the list of our book choices for the rest of the year, on our Book Club page.

adderall empireJuly 12, Saturday at noon. Join us to meet young, local author Andrew K. Smith and his first book, new in paperback! “The Adderall Empire: A Life With ADHD and the Millennials’ Drug of Choice.” Andrew K. Smith’s hooligan pranks and social impulsiveness paints a picture of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) before medication, and it would seem that the little orange pills could cure his mischief. But readers will furrow their brows as they enter The Adderall Empire, traveling through the chemically conflicting mind states. Is working-memory training a feasible alternative? Readers will beg for the answer, hoping Andrew stops getting into trouble before his parents disown him or he winds up in jail. Again.

About Andrew: Andrew K. Smith is a Pacific Northwest native. He grew up in Edmonds, but spent his undergrad years at Washington State University studying English and creative writing.

paddle pilgrimJuly 17, Third Thursday Art Walk, 5-8pm. We welcome Edmonds author David Ellingson! “Paddle Pilgrim: An Adventure of Learning and Spirit, Kayaking the Mississippi River.”

His book chronicles his “adventure of a lifetime” and recounts experiences from basking in a sublime sunset in Minnesota to dancing with a snake on an Arkansas sandbar. In addition to painting a kaleidoscope of vivid word pictures of river scenery, Ellingson writes movingly about the “interior landscapes” of solitude, silence, prayer, and communion with creation. Ellingson teaches courses in spirituality, environmental ethics, human development, and youth ministry at Trinity Lutheran College in Everett.

Recent book releases of note:
“The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics” by Daniel James Brown. In paperback!! Our September Book Club book.
“Problems with People: Stories” by David Guterson. Ten sharply observed, funny, and wise new stories from the best-selling author. New [6/29/14] lovely review in The Seattle Times.
“Written in My Own Heart’s Blood: An Outlander Novel” by Diana Gabaldon.
In her classic novel Outlander, Diana Gabaldon told the story of Claire Randall, an English ex-combat nurse who walks through a stone circle in the Scottish Highlands in 1946, and disappears . . . into 1743. The story unfolded from there in seven bestselling novels. Finally the story continues…
“Midnight in Europe: A Novel” by Alan Furst. Paris, 1938. Furst gives us a taut, suspenseful, romantic, and richly rendered novel of spies and secret operatives in Paris and New York, in Warsaw and Odessa, on the eve of World War II.
“Hard Choices” by Hillary Rodham Clinton. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s inside account of the crises, choices, and challenges she faced during her four years as America’s 67th Secretary of State.
“The Silkworm : A Cormoran Strike Novel” by Robert Galbraith. Author’s JK Rowling’s thriller-writing pseudonym. The new novel sees the return of detective Cormoran Strike, the ex-soldier hero introduced in The Cuckoo’s Calling. In the new book, Strike investigates the disappearance of a novelist who has written a book that features scathing descriptions of real people.

And books of note coming soon:

“The Care and Management of Lies: A Novel of the Great War” by Jacqueline Winspear. Chosen for July IndieBound. July 1, 2014.
“War of the Whales: A True Story” by Josh Horwitz. Chosen for July IndieBound. July 1, 2014.
“The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent: A Maggie Hope Mystery #4” by Susan Elia MacNeal. The gripping new mystery featuring intrepid spy and code breaker Maggie Hope. Maggie partners with MI-5 to uncover the truth… July 1, 2014.
“The Book of Life: All Souls Trilogy #3” by Deborah Harkness. The highly anticipated finale to the trilogy that began with “A Discovery of Witches.” July 15, 2014.
“World of Trouble: The Last Policeman Book III” by Ben H. Winters. The critically acclaimed author [and staff favorite!] delivers this explosive final installment in the Edgar Award-winning Last Policeman series. With the doomsday asteroid looming, it’s clear that there’s more than one earth-shattering revelation on the horizon, and it’s up to Hank to solve the puzzle before time runs out…for everyone. July 15, 2014.

As always, check our website for all the latest in book news!

Happy reading!

– By Elaine Mattson

Edmonds native Elaine Mattson has worked at The Edmonds Bookshop off and on since she was 12 years old, and has also worked at a book wholesaler, a book publisher, and for the book publishing division of a large local software company (yes, that one). “I was raised a book lover [thanks, Mom!],” Mattson says. “We got book lights by our beds as soon as we were old enough to read. And then I probably got in trouble for reading too late the very next night. And I still read too late!”

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