In 2021 I returned to Utah and Salt Lake City after 25 plus years in Northern California. My husband and I returned to take over The King’s English Bookshop’s founder Betsy Burton’s share in the store. TKE inspired me to seek a career in bookselling throughout the Bay Area and Sacramento. I worked for Books Inc. throughout the Bay Area and Book Passage. I opened stores for both of them across the years, including Book Passage at the San Francisco Ferry Building. Underground Books in the Oak Park Neighborhood of Sacramento, a black-owned and nonprofit bookstore, was incredibly transformative in my year there. I also worked as the Sales and Marketing Director for McSweeney’s publishing house. I spent the last 7 years before I left as the Executive Director of the California Independent Booksellers Alliance.
I grew up partially in Utah County and Magna. No matter where we lived, books were my everything and reinforced that there was more out there than the small piece of sky out my bedroom window. In my late teens, I discovered TKE (plus Ken Sanders and Weller’s), a store focused on new books and knowledgeable and kind staff. TKE embodies the spirit of Indie Bookstores, a place where like-minded people can gather and support their local community and local economy. As a darker-skinned gay young person, I found my safe place within those eight magical rooms. I am honored, humbled and grateful that the road circled back to the space that instilled my passion for Independent Bookstores and locally owned businesses. Brain Food Books, our new nonprofit member of the TKE family, will put new books into the hands of kids that may not have access to them. On a personal note, I hope it will honor all the teachers, librarians, reading coaches, and educators that encouraged and normalized reading for me.
At TKE we love to call attention to voices that authentically represent the West we know through our Rewriting the West initiative, and Coloradoan Shelley Read is a perfect addition. Her debut novel Go as a River is a story of place, land and survival, beginning in 1940s Colorado. 17-year-old Victoria Nash lives on a peach farm in a family of troubled men, until a chance encounter with Wilson Moon, a mysterious drifter, unlocks both passion and danger. As she seeks her place in the world and learns what family means, she must also confront the imminent flooding of the Gunnison River to create a reservoir that will drown the land she grew up on. A moving story of first romantic love, the ache of loss and erasure, and of changing course.
Set in 1894 London under the shadow of Oscar Wilde’s defiance of convention and incarceration, Tom Crewe’s debut novel, has created a story with an atmospheric sense of time and place reminiscent of and as memorable as Michael Cunningham’s The Hours, Andrew Sean Greer’s The Confessions of Max Tivoli, and Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty. In this novel, two men navigate the powerful and complex mores of their time with equal parts fear and courage. John and Henry are working on a book which argues that “inversion” or homosexuality is simply an expected variation of human sexuality (an argument that some still reject, and it wasn’t until 1973 that the American Psychiatric Association stopped looking at homosexuality as a mental illness). The two men and the women they are married to face the end of the safety and security of their family as the men come to terms with society’s limitations on the book they are writing. The New Life is historical fiction at its best, compelling in tone and plot, and riveting in every way.
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