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Summer Reading in the Time of COVID-19

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We are all navigating new landscapes, at times going about our daily activities and obligations in different ways, engaging with others more thoughtfully, creatively. Many of us are using this “Life in the Time of COVID-19,” as I like to call it, to learn new things, travel vicariously or locally, adjust our priorities and/or as an excuse get back to the things that bring us joy and purpose.

In the midst of the pandemic, we also have vitally important social justice issues at the forefront of our conversations, consciousnesses, and hearts, such as racism and the role of law enforcement.

The books I’ve selected are all written by local authors, offering wisdom, comfort, history lessons and, on some level, opportunities to look at the world through the lens of others.

GRAND: A Grandparent’s Wisdom for a Happy Life by Charles Johnson

Johnson is a National Book Award winner, MacArthur Genius Fellow, and emeritus professor of English at the University of Washington. His latest book is written for parents, grandparents, and grandkids, such as his 8-year-old grandson, Emery, who was the inspiration for GRAND. UW News wrote, “He offers the thoughts ‘tentatively and with great humility’—admitting that ‘grandfatherly advice is as plentiful as blackberries.’” The book is short, though thought-provoking and beautifully crafted. GRAND was written last year, and you will find comfort, humor, and perspective that perhaps have even more meaning today, during the pandemic.

Washington Wine and Food by Julien Perry

I’m a big fan of cookbooks. I don’t drink wine, but my husband does. This cookbook, a fun read, filled with delightful surprises, provides pairings of Washington wines (we are the second largest premium wine-producing state in the U.S.) with recipes from area chefs. Rekindling my love for cooking has been a bright spot in this time of quarantine. Thankfully, these recipes don’t require a culinary arts degree. The ingredients aren’t difficult to curate, though I’m not sure where to find wild boar ribs (pork ribs can be substituted, phew). There’s a recipe for the most incredible salt-and-pepper chocolate cookies with dried cherries (p. 42). And if you love polenta, there are several delicious recipes to enjoy. Warning: On a recent Sunday, I made the White Cheddar and Gruyère Mac and Cheese from Chef Bobby Moore, Barking Frog (p. 33). It could generously serve eight people. After loading up heaping bowls for dinner, we saved half for leftovers and froze the other half. This weekend, since the weather will be warmer, I plan to try the Bitters Greens Salad with Cherries, Walnuts, and Balsamic Vinaigrette (p.99) with Rainier cherries.

Art in Seattle’s Public Spaces: From SoDo to South Lake Union by James Rupp; photographs by Miguel Edwards

When this book was first published (2018), I arranged a self-led art walk through South Lake Union (SLU) with two friends. Until then, SLU was just a neighborhood I drove through on my way to work, and a nuisance at that, given the pre-pandemic congested traffic on Mercer Street. Engaging in a walking tour of this area provided an appreciation for the thoughtful, prolific collection of public art, the rich history of this part of Seattle—Pacific Northwest Native culture, boatmaking, lumber yards, sawmills, workers housing, commercial laundries—and the walkability of SLU. Use this book to enjoy Seattle on foot. Plan a walking staycation. Be delighted. See things you’d not noticed before. On a separate day, I explored new avenues of “Seattle Center and Environs” (Chapter 8). I can’t wait to choose another Seattle neighborhood to tour this summer. Additionally, there are the benefits of walking and being outside—and consider that all these neighborhood public art displays are FREE.

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

Conversations about important topics such as racism, white supremacy, and police brutality, to name a few, are often difficult and uncomfortable. That is where Ijeoma Oluo’s honest, empathetic book So You Want to Talk About Race can serve as a guide for us all. Oluo is a Seattle-based writer who grew up north of the city. Her writing is a welcome teacher. This book has contributed to my understanding and growing acknowledgement of how deeply rooted systemic racism is in our society, the part I play in that, and how I must listen and take action. It has informed, emboldened, and encouraged me to heed the call of the late John Lewis: “If you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation to do something about it.” It’s time to make some “good trouble” and be part of the change.


Contributor Keri Pollock directs marketing and communications for Aging Wisdom, a care management practice based in Seattle. She has worked in the field of aging for over 25 years. Her personal mission is to provide meaningful, actionable information to people. Keri serves on the Frye Art Museum’s Creative Aging Programs advisory committee as well as the Alzheimer’s Association Washington State Chapter conference planning council.

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