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John is a bookseller supreme at Eagle Harbor Books. His other main task is as editor of the store newsletter and he is also in charge of our Poetry section. John started at the bookstore in approximately the Late Paleolithic era of prehistory, when the store was a third of its present size and had only one register. In addition to backpacking and hiking, John enjoys cooking, particularly smoked salmon quesadillas topped with crème fraiche and avocado/papaya salsa. John is an accomplished poet with a chapbook, "The Son We Had," published by Blue Begonia Press in 1999, and was recently published in the poetry anthology, Weathered Pages. He has also received the prestigious Pushcart Prize and awards from the Academy of American Poets, the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference, the Artist Trust of Washington and the King County Arts Commission. John leads a poetry writing workshop through the Bainbridge Island Park District and would like to note that Cormac McCarthy is the greatest living American novelist.


ISBN-13: 9780062244987
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Published: Harper Perennial, 11/2013
Any soul would benefit from the gentle lessons of strength, endurance, friendship and respect contained in this 20th anniversary reissue of an inspiring classic survival tale from the Yukon River Valley. It would make an especially great gift for landmark birthdays in the over-50s crowd. Beautifully and vividly, it brings home abiding truths about aging on the levels of the individual and society.

ISBN-13: 9780393338119
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Published: W. W. Norton & Company, 3/2011
This now-classic novel from 1999 belongs in the top ranks of modern American fiction. The work of a master craftsman in highly charged storytelling, it revolves around two characters locked in a struggle over a modest Bay Area house: an out-of-luck woman who inherited the house from her father, and a once-powerful colonel who has fled Iran with his family. Filled with suspense, the story hurtles through their intersecting lives, grappling with that quintessentially American and profoundly human question: Where is home? ~ John

ISBN-13: 9780812973990
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Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 6/2010
When I finished this terrific novel, I immediately wanted to start reading it again, just so I could stay with the characters, among them a Bronx prostitute and her daughter, a young man from Ireland, and a wealthy woman living on the Upper East Side. Their diversity of experience, within the setting of New York City in 1974, represents a compelling human panorama. Serving as an axis for these artfully linked lives, and touching them in ways great and small, a man walks on a wire between the Twin Towers. This is a brilliant, exhilarating tale. ~ John

Plainsong (Paperback)

ISBN-13: 9780375705854
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Published: Vintage, 8/2000
Why did I wait so long to read this immensely satisfying National Book Award finalist from 1999? Amid the drama of a rural Colorado community, with all its cruelties and kindnesses, Haruf unfolds the intricate connections between main characters: a pregnant teenaged girl, a high school teacher and his young sons, and two aging bachelors who ranch outside town. For its old-fashioned storytelling that possesses elegance and authority, I would recommend this heartwarming, quietly compelling book to anyone. ~ John

A Town Like Alice (Paperback)

ISBN-13: 9780307474001
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Published: Vintage, 2/2010
I relished this classic page-turning novel from 1950, which takes place in the jungles of Malaya during World War II, and in London and the outback of Queensland Australia thereafter. A tale of endurance and triumph over adversity, wrapped around a story of love, it features plucky protagonist Jean Paget, strong and resourceful and possessing true grit, who survives a forced march at the hands of Japanese forces that evolves into an odyssey lasting well into the post-War years. Shute has an engaging storytelling style that vividly brings to life the various landscapes and subtly conveys the motivations of the characters who inhabit them. This novel moves along at a satisfying clip and is a most rewarding experience. ~ John

ISBN-13: 9781936747276
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Published: Sarabande Books, 4/2012
“Revision is the process a poem endures to become its best self.” Skinner’s grab-bag of wisdom for poets with various levels of experience has a conversational tone and helpful, encouraging advice on large-picture issues—including MFA programs, “po-biz”, and how to cultivate discipline and a healthy view toward one’s poetry—as well as the finer points involved in the life of poetry. I appreciate the way he candidly interweaves his life experiences, including his divorce and his past career as a private eye, using them to illuminate the poetry writing process. I marked numerous passages that shed light on my life as a poet and poetry teacher: “Revision is the process poets endure to become their best poems.” ~ John

Mink River (Paperback)

ISBN-13: 9780870715853
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Published: Oregon State University Press, 10/2010
I acquired a genuine feeling of warmth toward the characters in this lyrically enchanting novel of a coastal Oregon town named Neawanaka, whose inhabitants include a talking crow named Moses and a doctor who names his twelve allotted daily cigarettes after the apostles. Just the right dose of magical realism infuses this quintessentially Northwest tale whose themes involve family, love, compassion, a nature-based sense of the sacred, and Native American and Irish ethnic identities. Storytelling at its finest, this book is a joy to read. ~ John

Out Stealing Horses (Paperback)

ISBN-13: 9780312427085
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Published: Picador, 4/2008
Petterson’s celebrated and compelling coming of age story set in rural Norway has everything you want in a novel, including a strong narrator whose calm, articulate voice shifts seamlessly between time frames, weaving his life into a whole. I especially appreciate the brush strokes of detail that render landscape and the rhythms of nature—river, forest, cabin, lake—around a meditative yet propulsive drama involving son, father, and two families. Eloquent and hard-won truths coming from the speaker’s advancing years complete this very satisfying read. ~ John

ISBN-13: 9780520272255
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Published: University of California Press, 3/2012
Calling Twain, “the poet of American life in the 19th century,” a friend emailed me an extended passage from this book, whose primary material is comprised of dictated memoirs Twain forbade to have published until 100 years after his death. In the passage, Twain lyrically recalls his experiences on a farm in his youth, immersing me in the farm environment: the stain of blackberries and walnut hulls, the sound of woodpeckers and pheasants, the autumn patterns of hickories and sumacs, the eating of a prize watermelon. Reading these words, I felt privileged to hear from this great American writer a voice rarely present in his novels and other writings. I take heart in my friend’s comment, that this is “a book to browse through in order to explore the workings of that cantankerous, brilliant mind.” ~ John

ISBN-13: 9780307744425
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Anchor, 6/2012
What gratitude I feel for having concluded 2011 with this moving, intensely lyrical novel! Revolving around the experiences of Japanese “picture brides” who came to America in the early 1900s, Otsuka’s book employs, to masterful effect, devices of poetry including litany and refrain to create a novel that is at once intimate and panoramic. Instead of characters in the traditional sense, Otsuka conjures up what seem like voices in the hundreds, each voice, each sentence, a thread in a hypnotic tapestry. Having as the latter part of its time frame the “relocation” of Japanese-Americans at the outset of War II, this beautifully kaleidoscopic work spans farms, fields, cities and suburbs to capture the complexities of cultural collision, racial discrimination, and myriad other struggles of finding a life in a new land. This slender volume is a masterpiece.   ~ John

Adios, Nirvana (Paperback)

ISBN-13: 9780547577258
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Published: Graphia, 1/2012
Imagine a rip-roaring, page-turning young adult novel whose protagonist is a talented, award-winning—poet?! From the opening pages, in which that protagonist, Jonathan, leans from a Seattle bridge rail, high on frozen vodka grapes and poised to jump, he invokes past masters of the lyric craft including Whitman and Kerouac in a narrative that braids two currents: the tragic death of his twin brother; and Jonathan’s assignment to write the memoir of a dying World War II survivor. Jonathan’s pain finds expression in the epic poem he composes for his brother, and in playing his acoustic guitar. In writing the war veteran’s story, he finds redemption through another’s suffering. Teens need to witness heroes who are poets, who articulate life’s passages in verbal, lyrical form. Wesselhoeft has taken that gift, goosed it up with several cases of Red Bull, and produced a fine, moving and valuable coming of age tale. Ages 14 & up. ~ John

ISBN-13: 9780805091533
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Henry Holt and Co., 10/2011
In this masterful, engaging and thoroughly researched account, Horwitz pulls away the cloak of myth surrounding John Brown and his 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry, bringing forward the human aspects of Brown’s many roles including those of husband, father, charismatic abolitionist leader, patriot of his cause, and martyr. While detailing the background of the raid as well as its far-reaching consequences, Horwitz highlights Brown’s impact on historical figures including Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Robert E. Lee, Emerson, Thoreau and Lincoln. The raid and Brown’s vision are thus placed fully in the context of the Civil War and, more importantly, of a legacy that endures to this day. I found this to be an enlightening, inspiring and highly enjoyable read. ~ John

Nightwoods (Hardcover)

ISBN-13: 9781400067091
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Published: Random House, 10/2011
Cold Mountain author Frazier, one of the great novelists of our time, has created a beautifully gripping novel through old-fashioned storytelling and his genius for bringing to life the people and landscape of the rural and wild Appalachia he intimately knows. He unfolds his tale with masterful nuances of motive, detail and emotion through the eyes of each of his characters, including Luce, his heroine, who cares for her murdered sister’s children while trying to unravel their dangerous ways. Janis, Andrew and Morley love this book, too. Bravo, Charles Frazier! ~ John

West with the Night (Paperback)

ISBN-13: 9780865471184
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: North Point Press, 1/1982
Beryl Markham was a pioneering bush pilot in Africa and an aviatrix who set global distance marks. It wasn’t just her daring that earned this memoir number eight on National Geographic’s list of The 100 Greatest Adventure Books of All Time. What also makes Markham’s book an engrossing read are the grace, lyricism, and vividness of her writing as she recounts her coming of age in Africa, her love of horses and flying, and her feelings of affinity for the land and its people. Highly recommended for fans of the wild or those with an African itinerary. ~ John

ISBN-13: 9781400082773
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Published: Broadway Books, 8/2004
Barack Obama is a marvelous and inspiring writer and his gifts with language are engaging and profound. I really enjoyed the extra reward of “hearing” his voice as I read this memoir. With a fine sense of detail and dialogue, he tells of his youth in Hawaii, his further education on the mainland at institutions of higher learning and as an organizer and social activist on the gritty streets of Chicago, and his difficulties and breakthroughs in searching out his roots in Africa and the mystery of his father. This is a great work in the American vein, yet one that reveals the origins of global consciousness he brought to the White House. ~ John

ISBN-13: 9780060504083
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Published: Harper Perennial, 4/2003
In these beautifully powerful and wide-ranging essays, Kingsolver brings her passion to bear on large issues—globalism, war and genocide, genetically engineered foods, hunger and homelessness—while embracing the virtues of conservation, wild places, buying organic and locally grown foods, biodiversity, sustainable living, poetry, basic human kindness, and, yes, independent bookstores. Yet she writes as though she's speaking to you over coffee, and her words spring from the ground of specific observations in the places where she lives and visits: a bobcat seen outside a window of her home in the Tucson hills, scarlet macaws spotted in a Costa Rican jungle, a clutch of eggs gathered from her daughter Lily's chicken coop. How fortunate we are to have a brilliant novelist whose keyboard clicks every bit as lively for her nonfiction. ~ John

Peace Like a River (Paperback)

ISBN-13: 9780802139252
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Published: Atlantic Monthly Press, 8/2002
Not since Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain have I longed to recommend a novel to almost everyone I know, for the sheer magic of its story-telling. Having as its main characters an asthmatic eleven-year-old boy, his nine-year-old sister who writes heroic verse set in the Old West, and their father, a high school janitor whose faith bears remarkable powers, the story revolves around their search for a lost older brother in the Badlands of North Dakota. Along the way, through beautifully descriptive and figurative language and a narrative voice that possesses both humor and wisdom, the author gives us glimpses into the true nature of miracles, forgiveness, and difficult decisions. This moving page-turner is a true wonder, and gave me goose bumps at its conclusion. ~ John

ISBN-13: 9780143115847
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Published: Penguin Books, 9/2008
Published two years after the author's death, this novel won the Pulitzer Prize in 1957, and remains one of the most beautiful works in the American language. Death and family-Agee renders the collision of these in the most intimate, tender, and eloquent terms. His book is unparalleled for the sheer brilliance of its poetry, for its nuanced evocations of affection, grief, and the ways we think and feel, and for its loving attention to the gestures of everyday life.

ISBN-13: 9780812981117
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Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 5/2010
This toothsome and affectionate memoir, punctuated by some of the author's favorite recipes, opens with "The Queen of Mold"-a mother dangerously inventive in the kitchen-and unfolds, memory by memory, with dishes richly infusing Reichel's life experiences. Thoroughly engaging, funny and wise, this book is a delight. ~John

The Known World (Paperback)

ISBN-13: 9780060557553
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Published: Amistad, 6/2004
The premise of this compelling page-turner-a black man who owns slaves in 19th-century Virginia plantation country-serves as the springboard for a masterful exploration of the pivotal American issue of race. The stately beauty, authority and authenticity of Jones' writing lay the groundwork for an intricate yet accessible tale that involves a mosaic of memorable characters-overseer, slaves, masters black and white, free blacks, and whites of various stations and means. Vivid language that unveils without compromise the nuances, complexities, and profound truths of the peculiar American institution makes this a must-read for anyone interested in great literature. A novel for the ages. ~ John

ISBN-13: 9780743258074
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Published: Simon & Schuster, 6/2004
I have had a life-long fantasy of hosting one of my heroes, Benjamin Franklin, on a tour of the modern world. Given his imaginative curiosity about the processes of nature and the ways knowledge of that realm could be put to practical use, I believe he would by fascinated yet not surprised at where some of his discoveries have led. Isaacson's engaging biography takes us beyond the image of the kite-flying inventor of the lightning rod, bifocals and swim fins, beyond the spinner of adages about fish and house guests and pennies earned, to the whole, complicated Franklin. This unsparing yet appreciative look at "the most accomplished American of his age," in Isaacson's words, shows Franklin in the light of his times and our own. In so doing, it gives us a vivid portrait of a man whose virtues seem to be growing rare in public figures, virtues including pragmatism, tolerance-religious and otherwise-respect for the individual, humility, lack of pretense, and opposition to arbitrary authority. ~ John

A Sudden Country (Paperback)

ISBN-13: 9780812973433
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Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 6/2006
A novel of the Oregon Trail that richly details the westward odyssey, and a moving portrait of the collisions and confluences of European and Indian cultures.

ISBN-13: 9780802142221
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Published: Grove Press, 8/2005
These poems-each a distinct marvel and an invention in the finest sense of the word-are tight bundles of idea, image, and rhyme, bearing initial surprises like sparks, then offering much to ponder on successive readings. Thought-provoking in their brevity, plain-spoken yet often surreal, they derive their imagery and pleasure, their odd truths and their playfulness, from the everyday life that surrounds us.

ISBN-13: 9780142004418
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Published: Penguin Books, 7/2004
Quite likely the most delightful book I've ever read and destined to be an all-time favorite, Durrell's memoir of his youth as a budding naturalist on the Greek isle of Corfu is a joy and a balm to one's cares. As lyrically insightful describing flora and fauna as he is detailing the comedic foibles of his family and the local population, he infuses his tale with warmth and a sense of wonder. Save this enormously satisfying book for your next vacation.

Thirteen Moons (Paperback)

ISBN-13: 9780812967586
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Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 6/2007
This novel possesses the beauty that places Frazier in the top rank of American fiction writers-indelible vividness of imagery in scene after marvelous scene; breathtaking lyricism; sterling humor, irony and wit; and a voice that places us on intimate terms with characters and the landscapes in which they move. Will, the protagonist, makes certain fateful decisions that delineate him sharply in relation not only to Claire, the love of his life, but to the character of early America, the force of westward expansion, and the near-annihilation of American Indian peoples and ways. Through Will and two compelling Indian figures-Bear, a chief who adopts Will at an early age; and Featherstone, a some-time adversary and friend-we gather insights into the Cherokee vision of the world, concepts of land and its ownership, and the complex border regions between Indian, white, and mixed-blood peoples. The sweep of this work held me through two consecutive readings. ~ John

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ISBN-13: 9780380797639
Availability: Out of Print
Published: Harper Perennial, 4/1999
This endearing and highly engaging novel revolves around the written correspondence between a precocious, persistent and ingenious Brooklyn youth named Joey Margolis and Charlie Banks, star hitter and third baseman for the New York Giants. Their relationship begins to unfold in 1940, and as time passes we get glimpses of developments in the nation and the world through news headlines and Joey's periodic letters of advice to Franklin D. Roosevelt. A unique reading experience with a quirky sense of humor and great heart, this book is one-of-a-kind. Take it on your next flight, take it to the beach, take it to the nearest Adirondack chair on a sunny lawn. It's the perfect summer read. ~ John

ISBN-13: 9780812973013
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Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 1/2004
Beautifully written by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Home Town, The Soul of a New Machine, and Among Schoolchildren, this book tells the story of a remarkable and inspiring doctor who has fought tuberculosis and AIDS epidemics in some of the most wretched places on earth, including the central plateau of Haiti, a slum in Lima, Peru, and in Siberian prisons. Mountains Beyond Mountains, like a bracing ray of light in a dark and cynical time, gave me perspectives not only on global health crises, but also on the power of the individual to change the world. -- John

ISBN-13: 9780393341188
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Published: W. W. Norton & Company, 11/2011
Having as their setting Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, a place caught between modernization and the pull of traditional culture, these haunting, quietly moving and elegiac stories evoke themes of loss, exile, dislocation, and the search for identity; and find redemption in family, clan, and the handing down of stories through generations and across the span between old and new worlds. Stunning in its beauty albeit almost heart-breakingly sad, this is the strongest short story collection I have read. ~ John

ISBN-13: 9780393333091
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Published: W. W. Norton & Company, 11/2008
(Norton)Taking as his premise the little-known history of Royalist black settlers to whom the British granted freedom in Nova Scotia after the American Revolution, Hill has crafted a compelling novel around an extraordinary heroine whose life odyssey speaks for the experiences of many. Through vivid, fascinating detail that reflects devoted research in addition to a great gift for writing, we follow Aminata Diallo from her African village to capture, enslavement and the Middle Passage; her work on a South Carolina indigo plantation and as a servant in Charleston; her service for the British Army in Manhattan; her hardships in Canada; a return to Africa and an experimental settlement in Sierra Leone; and finally her life as a darling of London abolitionists. In addition to being a great read, Aminata’s engaging story of survival and triumph, steeped in history as well as abiding patterns of human existence, throws a unique and necessary light on the enduring global issue of race. ~ John

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