A monthly interview with Bolinas Library readers.
Long time Bolinas resident and psychologist, Mimi Calpestri has always been a seeker. Growing up in Mill Valley, she often came out to Bolinas and Stinson Beach as a child with her parents. Mimi was one of seven students in the first graduating class from the California College of Integral Studies, then did graduate work at UC Berkeley. She began her practice and eventually had offices in Stinson Beach and the San Francisco Castro district. After moving to Stinson in 1974 she moved to Bolinas. Always interested in dream work Mimi incorporated dreams into her practice. Later, she began a sweat lodge in Bolinas with the help of her Native American friends and kept it going for many years. She also became involved in leading vision quests in the desert initially with Rights of Passage, opens a new window and then on her own with some friends. She was a long time programmer on KWMR, opens a new window, hosting the interview program, Questing: Where is the Path , opens a new windowand later co-hosted with Jane Mickelson. Mimi also co-hosted the program, Tea Time Books, opens a new window, reading stories with Howard Dillon.
What are you reading now or listening to?
I am currently reading the new Kate Atkinson book, Big Sky. It’s a return to the detective series with Jackson Brodie. I really enjoy her writing and have read a lot of her other books.
I just finished reading Snow White Learns Witchcraft: Stories and Poems, opens a new window,, opens a new window by Theodora Goss and Jane Yolen: These are fairy tale retellings with a twist. Also, I recently read another good story, The Tricking of Freya (Christina Sunley), an Icelandic saga and mystery.
I’ve been listening to a lot of books on cd these days to give my eyes a rest. Currently I’m listening to some mysteries such as An Event in Autumn, (Henning Mankell), Stalin's Ghost, (Martin Cruz Smith). I’m also listening to A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley.
It seems that you like to listen to audio books in addition to reading. Any other formats?
I mostly listen to books on CD. First, I should say that I have a favorite narrator, George Guidall, opens a new window. He is an acclaimed and prolific narrator with over 900 novels that he has read. It makes such a difference to listening when you like the narrator. I like a narrator who just does the straight reading and doesn’t try to act out the parts which I find distracting.
Are you a browser in the library or do you know in advance what you are looking for? If so, how do you find out about them?
I love to come to the library and browse. People tell me about books and I come in to see if you have that author but I also like to look around. You never know what you are going to find there. Recently I have started to look into Link+, opens a new window too in order to find some old childhood favorites; the Mother West Wind, opens a new window books by Thornton Burgess.
Do you have a favorite genre? Any genres that you never read? Have your preferences changed through the years?
I read and listen widely often without a plan. I like listening to books on cd by Buddhist teachers. In the past I have listened to a lot of travel books but not so much anymore. I like some science fiction but more of the fantasy type, not too much about machines and wars which is often the case with some recent sci-fi. I’ve always liked a good mystery and started reading them early on, beginning with Agatha Christie, opens a new window. I don’t want to read a mystery full of gruesome details but I enjoy a good psychological puzzle.
I like some of the English mystery writers such as like PD James, opens a new window. Elizabeth George, opens a new window is good too and her books are set in the British Isles. Even if you mostly know what is going to happen the books are still entertaining.
I’ve read a lot of the Tony Hillerman, opens a new window books which are really interesting. I started to read his daughter’s books (Anne Hillerman, opens a new window) but didn’t like them as much. I kept hoping she would have it too. Once you find an author you like it’s hard to see the end of it.
What was your reading experience like as a child? Did the library play a role in your life?
I read a lot, as did everyone in my family. I grew up in Mill Valley and the library was near the present day 2am Club, opens a new window on Miller Avenue. We had some books in the house but I also went to the library a lot, where I liked to sit and look at picture books that I would not have at home. At home, my favorite times were sitting in the tree house in the yard and reading for hours. It was a good way to get away from everyone. My favorite series was the Old Mother West Wind stories by Thornton Burgess. These were a series of animal stories such as, How Peter Rabbit Got His Short Tail, How the Eagle Got His White Head, and Why the Moon gets Thin and Fat, to mention just a few. I had a whole set that my grandmother bought for me. They were hardcover with illustrations and I just loved these books. I read them for hours and they were one of the first books I read by myself.
Were there any books that made a big impression on you in your 20s?
I discovered the works of James Hillman, opens a new window when I was a recent graduate, especially his first book, The Soul's Code, which got me interested in his ideas. I was fortunate enough to go to a small workshop that he had in Tomales. Another time, as I was on my way to another of his workshops in northern California, we were both waiting for the same delayed flight so I got to talk with him for quite a long time.
On a different note, when my children were little I discovered Agatha Christie, opens a new window. I did not always have much time to concentrate and these mysteries kept me entertained. I went to the library a lot even then. I guess you could say I’ve been a life-long library user.
Do you have many books at home now?
I don’t keep many books at home because I’ve always lived in small spaces. Right now I’m living in a lovely small cottage behind the main house where my daughter lives. Before this I lived in a caravan in Bolinas for almost 20 years. I keep a few books around that I return to from time to time.
When and where do you like to read?
I usually sit at my chair at the table near a window and good light. I need to sit in an ergonomically correct position with my knees higher than hips so that my back doesn’t get tired. I have a blanket, sweater and stool. Oh yes, and a cup of good tea. Also, my daughter and I are thinking of making a reading room in the house too.
Why I read: to feed my soul; to connect with other like-minded people; to learn “how-to;” to share experiences of people I admire; to learn about things I haven’t a clue about; for the pleasure of poetry’s insight; ditto for fiction; and finally, for a sort of daydreaming at times.