“Welcome,” owner Chris Jarmick says as a customer walks into BookTree, an independent bookstore in Kirkland. He walks around the store. “The children’s section is at the back, we sell new books and we have way too many used books right now. “
Take a few steps inside BookTree and you’ll see what it means: All around the store are neat stacks of used books in front of the shelves – a pandemic era addition to BookTree’s disposal. Jarmick explains that many local thrift stores are so overwhelmed right now that they have stopped receiving book donations, and some paper recycling companies won’t accept books because of the glue on the back, “so books go straight to the trash, and that’s very disappointing.
BookTree has become a haven for these orphan books, to help them overcome this scourge in the used book supply chain. Jarmick has donated thousands of pounds to senior centers, boys ‘and girls’ clubs and prisons since the summer. But customers keep bringing books, because they don’t have the heart to throw them away. Hence the stacks of books that now adorn BookTree.
Jarmick thinks that “if I end up having giant piles of books in here, at least I’m doing some good.” And, surprisingly, people have loved batteries so far. There are way too many of them right now, but I think there will always be a few stacks of books from now on. “
BookTree has been in business for almost exactly five years. The store opened as a sort of successor to Kirkland’s Parkplace Books, which for nearly three decades was the Eastside’s flagship independent bookstore. Jarmick, an author who had regularly taken part in readings in the store, partnered with Parkplace co-owner Mary Harris to open BookTree in November 2016. Harris retired less than a year later, leaving Jarmick as the owner and sole employee of BookTree, where he has been since.
BookTree offers an attractive mix of the latest bestsellers everyone is talking about and a solid and surprising collection of used books not found elsewhere. Sailors looking for Jonathan Franzen’s latest novel can find copies at the front desk, but sailors with a little patience for caving in the piles can uncover an armful of delicious pocket-sized Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe mysteries. available for a few dollars a pop.
In the back, BookTree’s spacious children’s section almost looks like a whole different store. Jarmick says it was designed to feel “separate from the rest of the store,” so kids can play with Legos and nestle in bean bags with books while their parents browse their heart’s content in the store. adjoining room.
The children’s section is lively and contains only the highest quality titles – BookTree has everything by beloved “Captain Underpants” author Dav Pilkey, for example, but Jarmick chooses not to wear the dozens of ‘inferior Pilkey scams that have cropped up over the past few years. “They’re not that good, so I’m not going to put them on the shelf,” Jarmick said. “But if you really want them, I’m happy to order them for you. ”
Jarmick thanks a small group of local school teachers and librarians for helping him keep the children’s room stock cool. “I keep track of which books are nominated for the Washington State Book Award, and all that,” Jarmick says, “but these teachers also whisper in my ear, giving me their thoughts on which books stand out with their kids. .. “
This “synchronicity between the community and the bookstore” is what Jarmick sees as the key to BookTree’s success. “It’s a combination of me who impose my original tastes on them and them who impose their interests on me. That’s the only reason I’m always open. And I can almost pay all the bills almost on time and not go into debt, so I feel pretty accomplished so far, ”he jokes.
Jarmick is an enthusiastic reader who is eager to share his experiences and opinions with interested clients. To someone who buys a copy of Richard Powers’ masterful novel “The Overstory” he advises that “you want to sit down somewhere and really try to read the first 80 or 90 pages of it in one sitting” for fully appreciate the scope of the book and not be frustrated by its elaborate network of narrative threads. That’s great reading advice, and exactly the kind of personalized service that online booksellers – including what Jarmick calls uniquely “the evil empire” – could never provide.
Kirkland mystery author Robert Dugoni recently tweeted his endorsement of BookTree, specifically citing Jarmick’s book recommendations as why the store is one of his favorites. Jarmick says Dugoni “has been very good to the store” over the years, even inviting BookTree for readings that take place at places in the Seattle area featured in his books.
In return, Jarmick raves about the mysteries of Dugoni, which he says are “very character-based.” And he doesn’t feel like he has to outdo himself with every pound, so if the house catches fire in the first book, then the block doesn’t have to explode in the second and the city doesn’t have to. be under nuclear attack in the third.
A poet at heart, Jarmick has always loved books. But the past five years have seen him grow in the role of a bookseller serving his community. “I love it,” he said. “I like being surrounded by books and talking too much about books and finding out who is a real book nerd.” As he grew to meet the book clubs and readers of Kirkland, Jarmick learned that “some of them even surpass me in books, which is wonderful.”
What do BookTree customers read?
As Kirkland’s interest in anti-racist books intensified last summer, Jarmick guided a number of readers to Isabel Wilkerson’s brilliant investigation into America’s complex race and class systems, ” Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents ”. “I thought about it a lot myself and thought it would be a really good book for a book club,” says Jarmick. Many local book clubs that buy from BookTree listened to his advice, making “Caste” a Kirkland hit.
One writer Jarmick says he “discovered with everyone, but probably a little earlier than some people,” was novelist Amor Towles, whose second book, “A Gentleman in Moscow,” is “a great and easy kind of main- sell. It’s such a well-written book that I think you’ll have a lot of fun reading it. Jarmick knows that not all books can be successful with all readers, but he assumes that “A Gentleman in Moscow” has somewhere over “90% success rate” with anyone who opens it.
Currently, I highly recommend ‘Cloud Cuckoo Land’ by Anthony Doerr, ‘the bestselling author of’ All the Light We Cannot See ‘. Jarmick says that based on the description, he would assume that the novel “isn’t my kind of book because it’s so weird – is it fantasy? Is this science fiction? But the writing is so good, who cares? Jarmick said. “I’m not done with this yet, but it’s probably going to end up being one of my favorite books.”