drawing of Kerry Livingston by Vanessa Waring
A Monthly Interview with Bolinas Library Readers
Kerry Livingston is retiring as the Stinson Beach Librarian after 32 years. She worked at the Bolinas Library for almost 20 years, from 1991-2010. She is deeply connected to the Bolinas community and has a long knowledge of the history here. She lives in Inverness with her husband, Dewey Livingston,, opens a new window a historian and enjoys spending time with her grandchildren. Throughout all the years at the library, Kerry has continued to practice her art. She currently has a show of her extensive work at the Stinson Beach Library, opens a new window through the month of March.
She also reads aloud on KWMR, opens a new window (Turning Pages for Children of All Ages, every Thursday from 10 to 11 am).
Kerry will be retiring at the end of March and will be sorely missed.
What are you reading now? Do you have a pile of books or read one at a time? Best book you have read this year?
I recently read In the Country of Women, opens a new window by Susan Straight. It’s a memoir about her experiences growing up in Riverside and marrying a Black man. It’s the story of all the women in the family going back generations on both sides. I loved all the family on both sides. Memoirs are my favorite.
Do you like to read paper or ebooks? Audio books?
Definitely paper. I would like to listen to audio books but can’t seem to find the time; maybe when I am retired. I always listen to NPR, opens a new window and KWMR, opens a new window in the car.
But the other side of this is that I love reading aloud on the radio show. It’s an amazing experience to read an author’s words out loud. It feels like I am embodying the author. We need to hear each other’s stories.
What are some of the books you pick to read on KWMR?
I usually read lots of Native history books focused on Northern California and the local area.
Braiding Sweetgrass, opens a new window (Robin Wall Kimmerer) was a popular one. I read it years ago on KWMR but I’m reading it again because my book group is reading it. A wonderful book about “Indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge and the teaching of plants.”
Most of the books I read are published by Heyday Press, opens a new window as they have given permission. I recently read a book by David Harris, My Country ‘Tis of Thee, opens a new window. It is a compilation of his writings though the years. He wrote for Rolling Stone, opens a new window and the New York Times. I was so blown away to be able to host his art show this past year at the Stinson Beach Library and to be able to meet him before he died.
Do you have a favorite genre? Any that you don’t read?
I love memoirs. I like learning about people’s lives and their struggles to overcome the odds. I don’t read much modern fiction but that might change when I have more time to read.
What were some of your most popular book club picks?
The book club focuses on memoirs. We recently read Horse, opens a new window (Geraldine Brooks), which was very popular. It’s fiction but reads like a memoir. Other favorites were The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, opens a new window, (Rebecca Skloot), and Oliver Sacks, opens a new window’s books. One of our least favorites was a memoir by an actress, Alexandra Wentworth, Ali in Wonderland, opens a new window.
How has working in the library affected your reading?
All kinds of interesting books come across the desk. I am always putting books on hold that I might want to read. Often when someone returns a book, I think, “I want to read that.” Or even when they buy a book from the sale cart. But I’m not a fast reader and there just is not enough time to read all the books I would like to.
Do you have books at home? How do you organize them?
I have stacks and stacks of books at home. They are overflowing, and then there are all of Dewey’s history books. It’s actually kind of overwhelming. My stacks are by the bed, by the couch, on the floor beside my desk! I do go through them periodically.
What was your reading experience like as a child? Did you grow up with a lot of books? Any favorites?
Our home was always full of books. My mother was a librarian and my father was an English teacher at Midland,, opens a new window a boy’s boarding school where I grew up from fifth grade until I left for college.
My mother was the best reader aloud. She would bring home stacks of picture books from the library. The public library was a small shelf in the grocery store in Los Olivos although there was larger one in Solvang. We all used the library a lot and I worked helping out in the library at Midland and later in college.
When I was in seventh grade, my mother read J.R.R Tolkien's Lord of the Rings , opens a new window every night while all of us kids sat around the fire.
Are there any books you read at a younger age, say your 20s that made a big impact on you?
Boys and Girls Together, opens a new window by William Goldman. I’d love to find it and read it again. Siddhartha, opens a new window, Herman Hesse, very profound. One side of the coin to the other.
I love to re-read anything by Ivan Doig,, opens a new window Nevil Shute, opens a new window. About people. Older fiction.
Any books you think you should have read?
Pride and Prejudice, opens a new window (Jane Austen) and Wuthering Heights, opens a new window (Emily Bronte). I swear I’ll read them before I die. Ha Ha.
Famous author you wanted to meet?
I did meet Ivan Doig, opens a new window briefly. I was given tickets to an alumni reading in San Francisco that a Bolinas patron gave me. Ivan was so warm and kind: a precious memory. I would love to be able to tell both Terry Tempest Williams, opens a new window and Kathleen Dean Moore, opens a new window how profound it was to read their work aloud.
What draws you in as a reader?
The story of someone’s life like Doig’s book Whistling Season, opens a new window about a family of kids who needed a new mother after theirs died. A strange woman came into their lives with a complicated past. Fantastic story!
When and where do you like to read?
I need to be cozy, have good light and warm feet. I like to read before I go to sleep, too.
How can we live without hearing stories? It’s an age-old human thing. Experiencing other lives, getting away from my own world and gaining perspective. We need to hear each other’s stories.