A Bookseller Named Mary

 

There is no doubt that Mary Gleysteen is the best bookseller ever to walk the boards of our store, and we will miss her terribly. She retires from bookselling this week.

 

Mary’s passion, compassion, ingenuity and flat-out genius have been vital in defining us as an independent, locally-owned bookstore. Stop by the store soon to wish her well.

 

Starting at EHBC in 1989 and working steadily here since 1991, and involved in the bookselling business longer than any of us, Mary has served as the soul and conscience of the store, and in those respects she leaves an enormous void. Allow us to list just a few examples, in no particular order, that come to mind at this moment in the midst of our Holiday maelstrom:

 

--Mary spearheaded our long-standing practice of selling the two-dollar-a-copy advance reader copies (ARCs) from the rolling carts you see on our boardwalk. Over the years, ARC sales have benefited numerous organizations including Helpline, The Bainbridge Public Library, and West Sound Wildlife Shelter.

 

--Thanks to Mary, EHBC has formed a special relationship with Stephens House, a program of the Bainbridge Island Special Needs Foundation, whereby Stephens House residents help us by stuffing our shopping bags with promotional literature from time to time. (We can also thank Mary for those fabulous Stephens House doughnut holes we featured in our Harry Potter book release events!)

 

--Our author events program came into its own under Mary's inspired leadership. As our long-time Events Coordinator, Mary built an envied reputation for the store by fostering a reading series that has honored nationally known authors as well as those just breaking into print; authors hailing from far-flung outposts as well those in our own back yard. Our community is richer for this legacy.

 

--If you are a local author represented on our shelves, thank Mary. As a champion of your book, be it independently published or brought out by one of the big houses, Mary has always regarded inclusiveness of local talent as an essential part of her devotion to the store. This extends even to those authors no longer with us; see her current, Holiday recommendation of Pitcher’s Kid, a memoir written by the great Bainbridge journalist and author Jack Olsen, whose intolerance of injustice was akin to Mary’s own. Then, too, Island historian Katy Warner will surely be smiling somewhere up there when her History of Bainbridge Island once again hits our shelves in a few days, in updated form and under the store’s imprint, after languishing long out of print. That project was another of Mary’s passions.

 

--In a business where personal bookseller recommendations set the Indies apart from the big boxes and online sellers, Mary’s book recommendations are by far the most numerous in the history of our staff, reflecting a voracious, diverse, and highly articulate enthusiasm for a spectrum of books, spread across the fiction and non-fiction genres. As overseer of “The Nook,” where we keep our staff recommendations, I’ve never had to hound Mary for book picks, come newsletter deadline time. I consider her following recommendation of Robert Michael Pyle’s Sky Time in Gray’s River to be one of the most beautiful sentences I have read: “This is a lovely meditation on rural life by someone with the eyes to see and the words to describe the exquisite nature of what might be mistaken for an ordinary place.”

 

--If you have enjoyed the services of Mary as a personal shopper, count yourself lucky. Mary’s book knowledge is unsurpassed. That, combined with her gift for recommendations, her keenness for matching your past reading likes with books that will match, and her unending courtesy and grace with customers, earn her a Most Valuable designation.

 

--With her background in law, her innate sense of justice, and with the underdog always in mind, Mary has kept us on track with regard to issues of fairness, large and small—be it through her ideas for raising awareness about the Patriot Act, or making sure that Banned Books Week is brought to your attention each year. Regardless of whether one’s political views coincide with hers, such a stance commands respect. This extends even to her book recommendations (see above) including the one she wrote for local author (see also above) Jack Olsen’s book Last Man Standing, about a war hero and community leader who was framed by the FBI.

 

From time to time, Mary’s absences from the store resulted from her arrests while protesting with Ground Zero at the Bangor Nuclear Submarine Base. While these episodes always caused concern, we knew she would land on her feet and be back among us at the store. Now with her departure, we hold to the above examples of her excellence as a bookseller and a person, and we cherish warm memories of her companionship and good cheer.

For the Staff at Eagle Harbor Book Company,

John