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Laurie Raisys

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Books of 2022

Recommendations from the staff at Island Books

Laurie Raisys is the owner, with her husband Victor, of Island Books, a Mercer Island institution for 45 years. We asked Laurie about her and her staff’s favorite new books from the past year. There are too many recommendations to highlight here, so check out Island Books’ website for a full list of 2022 favorites. Here, I highlight the four books that were most interesting to me. Each of these books will entertain you and teach you something about science or history.

Lessons in Chemistry: A Novel

By Bonnie Garmus

Synopsis: Chemist Elizabeth Zott is a single mother and reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show Supper at Six. Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (“combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride”) is revolutionary but also poses a threat by daring women to change the status quo. 

About the author: Bonnie Garmus is a copywriter and creative director who has worked in the fields of technology, medicine, and education. She’s an open-water swimmer, a rower, and mother to two daughters. Born in California and most recently from Seattle, she currently lives in London.

Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators' Revolution

By R. F. Kuang

Synopsis: 1828. Robin Swift, orphaned in China, is brought to London by the mysterious Professor Lovell. There, he trains for years in Latin, Ancient Greek, and Chinese, all in preparation for the day he’ll enroll in Oxford University’s prestigious Royal Institute of Translation, aka Babel, the world's center for translation and magic. For Robin, Oxford is a utopia but he realizes serving Babel means betraying his motherland, and he finds himself caught between Babel and the shadowy Hermes Society, an organization dedicated to stopping imperial expansion.

About the author: Rebecca F. Kuang is a Marshall Scholar, Chinese-English translator, and award-winning author of the Poppy War trilogy. She has an MPhil in Chinese Studies from Cambridge and an MSc in Contemporary Chinese Studies from Oxford. She is now pursuing a PhD in East Asian Languages and Literature at Yale.

Papyrus: The Invention of Books in the Ancient World

By Irene Vallejo

Synopsis: Papyrus is the story of the book’s journey from oral tradition to scrolls to codices, and how that transition laid the very foundation of Western culture. The author evokes a vast array of literature from the ancient world all the while illuminating how ancient ideas about education, censorship, authority, and identity still resonate today. Vallejo also underscores how words have persisted as our most valuable creations.  

About the author: Irene Vallejo earned her doctorate from the Universities of Zaragoza and Florence. Papyrus was awarded the National Essay Prize and the Critical Eye Prize for Narrative in Spain. Vallejo is a regular columnist for El País and Milenio, and she is the author of two novels, four collections of essays, articles, and short fiction, and two children’s books.

An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us

By Ed Yong

Synopsis: The Earth teems with sights and textures, sounds and vibrations, smells and tastes, electric and magnetic fields. But every kind of animal, including humans, is enclosed within its own unique sensory bubble, perceiving a tiny sliver of our immense world. The author explores phenomena beyond our own senses. We encounter beetles drawn to fires, turtles tracking the Earth’s magnetic fields, and more. We learn what bees see in flowers and what dogs smell on the street.

About the author: Ed Yong is a Pulitzer Prize–winning science writer on the staff of The Atlantic, where he also won the George Polk Award for science reporting. His first book, I Contain Multitudes, was a New York Times bestseller. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, National Geographic, WiredThe New York TimesScientific American, and more.

  • Babel
  • Lessons in Chemistry
  • Papyrus
  • Laurie Raisys

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