Bolinas Reads: February 2020

drawing of Taliesin Gilkes-Bower by Vanessa Waring
drawing of Taliesin Gilkes-Bower by Vanessa Waring

A monthly interview with Bolinas Library readers.

Taliesin Gilkes-Bower is an artist and creative director who moved to Bolinas two years ago and is certain it’s one of the single best decisions he has ever made. He lives on the Mesa and dreams about his favorite sci-fi stories getting turned into films. He loves the ocean, walking other people’s dogs, and reading with his fiancee Mckay. You can see his work at, opens a new window

What are you reading now? What’s in your pile of books? Do you read one book at a time or several?

Recently I’ve been really getting into graphic novels/comics and particularly the iconic style of the French illustrator Moebius, opens a new window. I had seen a bunch of his images circulating on the internet, and then I realized I could get a bunch of his actual books from the library. So far my favorite has been the Silver Surfer series he did with Stan Lee, opens a new window. I generally keep a big circulation of books at my studio and by my bed. I feel like they are a little bit like music, I generally feel like different moods call for different books to read. Sometimes if I get bored with a fiction book I’ll start another at the same time, but I try to just do one fiction book at a time. Usually I’ve got a couple non-fiction books going at once- right now I’m reading The Prize (Daniel Yergin), about the history of Oil, and just finished American Gods (Neil Gaiman).

Do you like to read paper or ebooks? Audio books?

I’ve always wanted to get a Kindle or some sort of e-reader, because I am always bringing huge stacks of books with me on trips. But I hate reading on my phone or computer so I mostly stick with paper books. Sometimes I can get into an audio book on a long drive, especially self-help or non-fiction, but if I don’t like the reader's voice it’s totally impossible for me to stick with them.

Are you a browser in the library or do you know in advance what you are looking for? Do you browse the library catalog or pick specific books? If so, how do you find out about them?

I mostly wait to hear about a book and then put it on hold. When something is already in Bolinas, I’ll usually browse around to see if there is anything else in the same section I might want to take home. I really like browsing the DVD section at the library and just finding random things I want to take home. Recently I’ve been psyched by whoever is getting all the classic samurai movies like Throne of Blood. (Kurosawa)

Do you have a favorite genre? Any genres that you never read?

I read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy. My favorite authors in that zone are probably Ursula Le Guin, opens a new window and Samuel Delany, opens a new window. Recently I’ve been reading lots of psychology books about trauma and healing that a friend who went to CIIS, opens a new window recommended. Some of them are very clinical like Affect Regulation Theory, opens a new window (Daniel Hill), so it's slow going.

What was your reading experience as a child? Did you grow up with a lot of books? A favorite book?

I read a lot because I was an only child and it felt really magical. I was obsessed with the Redwall, opens a new window books (Brian Jacques) which are basically fantasy books for young people about animals in a sort of medieval world. Then I started borrowing my step dad's fantasy books like Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time, opens a new window series and Garth Nix’s Sabriel (best cover art by Leo and Diane Dillon).

Were there any books that made a big impression on you in your life?

Two all time favorites would be Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin, and Aye, and Gomorrah: Stories, opens a new window (Samuel Delany). Giovanni’s Room was the first queer romance I fell in love with and felt so interior in brilliant beautiful ways I had never experienced before in high school. Aye, and Gomorrah I think is page for page the best sci-fi short collection I’ve ever read. Getting deeper in Delany’s output, especially some of the more reflective interview books like The Motion of Light in Water and Conversations With Samuel Delany, opens a new window just completely opened my idea of what is possible in a creative life.

What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?

I’m really obsessed with new age book illustrations, so I buy a lot of kind of trash self-help books for the illustrations.

Is there a famous author that you ever wanted to meet? Maybe back in time?

I was really heartbroken to find out that I lived a few miles from Octavia Butler , opens a new windowin Seattle before I had read any of her work.

What’s the last great book that you read and recommended to a friend?

I end up giving away copies of my favorite books to people and sometimes I wonder if I should just order them in bulk. Recently I’ve asked a couple of friends to read The Invisibles, opens a new window which is a very 90’s kind of chaos magick and cyber punk comic. I’m willing to slog through pretty mediocre sci-fi for interesting ideas about alternate models of society/reality- but you need to know a friend really well before recommend they try to slog through something like Startide Rising (David Brin), which despite being about hyper intelligent cetaceans, is pretty pulp.

What do you plan to read next? Do you plan?

I just ordered The World of Edena to the library which is another Moebius comic, and I’m excited to find some new favorite fiction this year. I just ordered Adrienne Marie Brown’s Pleasure Activism- who has been calling herself a pleasure activist for years, and I never exactly when what that meant.

Is there a book that you always meant to read but still haven’t? Any highly rated books that you thought were over rated?

I’ve always been interested in kind of strange elements of the sci-fi cannon, so at some point I would like to go back and read a lot of the earlier “classic” English language sci-fi. I really really wanted to love NK Jemisin’s  The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, but I don’t think I’ll keep reading her work unless a friend raves about it. There’s a super dark Delany book called Hogg, opens a new window that was finished a few days before stonewall that I started reading at the Sci-Fi archive in Telluride, but haven't gotten back to.

What books do you return to? Are there any books you like to re-read?

As I become a better writer and filmmaker I love coming back to short story collections, because they have to do so much work in such a short space of time. Recently I’ve been getting excited about re-reading really influential books from my early 20’s and high school - like The Dispossessed (Le Guin), and China Mieville's Perdido Street Station.

Do you have a collection of books at home. If so, where do you keep them and do you re-read?

I try to support photographers who are putting out amazing photo books and buy exhibition books from art shows that are worth having access to. I have a hard time getting rid of books. When I left Providence to move back to California I gave away a ton of books- and basically regret leaving behind every single one of them. We keep books in pretty much every room of our house and have been trying to find new shelving solutions for more. I do a lot of visual research on the internet- but for hi-res scans and just pleasure it feels much better to just have the book.

What kind of characters draw you in as a reader?

I’m usually much more interested in the larger world building than specific characters in the novels I read. But I do love reading biographies of incredible people, the most memorable one recently was With Billie (Julia Blackburn)- which basically has hundreds of interviews with Billie Holiday- many of which are contradictory- and points to the complexity of any specific narrative. I want to read more masterful biographies.

When and where do you like to read? Describe your ideal reading experience.

I like reading before bed, on the beach, in my studio, and while waiting for things. When I’m super psyched on a book I pretty much carry it everywhere and cancel plans for it. A friend just brought a copy of Trans Girl Suicide Museum, opens a new window by Hannah Baer to our house and I read it in two sittings on the beach and our couch. It’s the most intimate boundary dissolving book I’ve read in years.

Why Read?

I don’t know why I read, I guess it keeps my imagination feeling sharp- my favorite reading experience is finding the boundaries of my own imagination- and realizing how many boundaries there are left to dissolve.