Bolinas Reads: January 2023

A Monthly Interview with Bolinas Library Readers


Bridget came to Bolinas on Halloween 16 years ago vis a vis a wedding in Connecticut. “Growing up, I moved around quite a bit, Houston had me for seven years and I thought that was a very long time. I've always worked with kids. The first tiny tots I rolled with (Anwyn, Johnny) are now seniors in high school! I ran the Bolinas Stinson Youth Group for years with the support of Ian MacLaird, Sav Rippe, and your very own Kerry Livingston. I am a ballet teacher & like to cook for people. This town wrapped their arms around me, supporting me in an obsessive daily surf practice and most recently a wild ride with mortality. Stoked to be on the other side. I'm currently finishing the natural history certificate program at COM, and am honored to be a Duxbury Docent, thanks to Kent Khatikian.

 What are you reading now?

 Metazoa: Animal Life and the Birth of the Mind, by Peter Godfrey Smith. This book explores the evolution of philosophy and consciousness as it relates to the intelligence of marine beings from sponges and tunicates to nudibranchs, shrimp and arthropods taking flight.  

Years ago I became fascinated by cephalopods and read everything I could on them including Smith’s other books, Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness, opens a new window. I then went on to read Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness, opens a new window (Sy Montgomery), Squid Empire: The Rise and Fall of the Cephalopods , opens a new window( Donna Staaf), and of course, My Octopus Teacher, opens a new window, the popular Netflix documentary, came along and now there are throngs of fans.

 What’s in your pile of books?  

 How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, opens a new window by Jenny Odell, Sharks, Death, Surfers: An Illustrated Companion, opens a new window by Melissa McCarthy, The Hidden Life of Trees , opens a new windowby Peter Wohlleben, David Bailey’s Journeywork,, opens a new window and my current textbook, Ecology: The Economy of Nature , opens a new window(Rick Relyea)-final exam next week

Do you read one book at a time or several?

Several: I usually have a few going at once.

What’s the best book you’ve read this year?

Lost & Found: Reflections on Grief, Gratitude, and Happiness, opens a new window, by Kathryn Schulz. I had to send her a letter afterwards; stunningly beautiful. I was a Zen Hospice volunteer in the city; it's important to ask death and dying to come sit on your lap.

 Has the Pandemic period affected what you read?

Going over the hill for treatment during the Pandemic, my Audible account got a great work out.

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

I prefer books in the flesh, but I also cherish the company of the author reading their composition to me.

Are you a browser in the library or do you know in advance what you are looking for?

I’m at home in the library. I worked at a fabulous rare book library, The Clendening, opens a new window in the Department of History and Philosophy at KU. My grandparents, two aunties, and my sis, who is director of Information Discovery and Technical Services at Harvard Library, are all librarians.

At least an hour a week I can be found in the children’s section looking at Animal Life, opens a new window (American Museum of Natural History) while my charge explores felt art and the alphabet, creates a train with magnet tiles, colors a handout on Dia de los Muertos, or snuggles with Paddington. Stinson and Bolinas have outrageously rich resources for educators and top notch inclusive children’s books.

Do you browse the library catalog or pick specific books? If so, how do you find out about them?

I will spend hours at Pt Reyes Books, taking photos of titles like Lo-TEK: Design by Radical Indigenism, opens a new window by Julia Watson and go into the library catalog and find it on the shelf!

Do you have a favorite genre?

I rarely read fiction but I was in this sensationally curated store in Narrowsburg NY, One Grand Books, opens a new window. They had shelf after shelf of what ten books various artists and thinkers would take to their metaphorical desert island. Alan Cummings, Pete Butegieg, Liz Phair, etc.  I asked the person working there what was on the top of her list and she said 1Q84, opens a new window by Haruki Murakami. It was a commitment and an eye roll but I did give fantasy fiction one more shot with Ursula K Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea, opens a new window -thanks Tim Ferris for the recommendation.

Are there any genres that you never read?

 Mom loved murder mysteries, Agatha Christie, opens a new window, but I've never been compelled.

 What was your reading experience as a child? Did you grow up with books around?

I’m thankful to have grown up with only a handful of channels on the boob tube. I am extremely impressionable & impacted by story & therefore grateful to have been spared the scourge of screens.  Phantom Tollbooth, opens a new window, by Norton Juster, and Chronicles of Narnia, opens a new window, (C.S. Lewis) were a few of my favorites. My parents were academicians and so there were many books around the house. One was off limits, but I would sneak a gander at a huge tome on skin diseases...yikes! 

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

When I was a freshman studying in London I read The Songlines, opens a new window by Bruce Chatwin for an International Health Issues course and ended up with a degree in Cultural Anthropology. From Alice to Ocean: Alone Across the Outback, opens a new window (R. Davidson, R. Smolan) gave me serious romantic wanderlust. The Jungle , opens a new windowby Upton Sinclair turned me into a vegetarian for twenty years. Kornfield’s Path with Heart, opens a new window had a role in bringing me to California.

Is there a book that impacted your consciousness, perhaps something read in your 20s?

My dad gave me all of Herman Hesse , opens a new windowand then Carlos Casteneda, opens a new window when I was a teenager. I devoured the whole series and went down the road exploring Plants of the Gods , opens a new window(Hofman and Shultes), and then unto Terence McKenna, opens a new window.

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

I got a basket of Children’s books for my little friends that visit, no surprise. Caps for Sale, opens a new window by Esphyr Slobodkina is Ollie's jam right now.

And confession, I am embarrassed to be reading Bono’s book Surrender, opens a new window. I had a dream in middle school that I bore his child. He was the “Author on Books” in the last New York Times book review I read, so I'm really just doing due diligence for this interview, right?

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

Would've loved to have saddled up to Charles Darwin , opens a new windowand talked to him about a thing or two. Would be cool to be friends with Dr Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, opens a new window.

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

Entangled Life: How Fungi Make our Worlds, Change our Minds &Shape our Futures,, opens a new window by Merlin Sheldrake. “There are moments in moist love when heaven is jealous of what we on earth can do. Fungi are everywhere but easy to miss, they are inside you and all around you, they sustain you and all that you depend on.”

What do you plan to read next?

I recently was invited and joined a book club, filled with groovy OG Bolinas cats. We've discussed Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice , opens a new window(ugh) and Somerset Maugham's short story P & O , opens a new window(a delight). 

I've got my wish list. Smithsonian's Flora, Inside the Secret World of Plants, opens a new window will take up an entire shelf, but it's my next purchase. 

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

Couldn't stand John Irving's Cider House Rules, opens a new window, and, even though I lived in Key West, I’m not a big Hemingway, opens a new window fan.

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

I read Mating , opens a new windowby Norman Rush eons ago. Its ending was so discombobulating that the moment I finished it, I started it again.

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

I keep Hafiz, opens a new window at the ready. Anais Nin’s Erotica, opens a new window and Matt Warshaw's The History of Surfing, opens a new window are talismans of influence.

My main bookshelf is actually in my bathroom, trust me I have an effective compostable toilet but, I'm still not lounging. Perhaps at some point in my life I’ll be surrounded by all my books, I have boxes and boxes in storage, some in an attic in Kansas.

When and where do you like to read?

I associate reading with luxury. When I can read for hours I feel, the luckiest; tea and a piece of chocolate covered ginger, Zoe my dog curled up next to me. At University in Tucson I often studied outside. I still gravitate toward reading in dappled light.

Why read?

 Our neural synapses thrive on firing; let me keep expanding. The more I learn, the less I know. And as Jack (Kornfield, opens a new window) says: “Wisdom says we are nothing. Love says we are everything. Between these two our life flows.”