Dear Bookstore Friends,

Gayle Shanks Hail bounced off my car and covered the sidewalk as I was driving to my pilates class last week, which might be as close to snow as we get in the Valley. Only noisier, of course—it sounded like being inside an MRI machine. The rain started my wildflower seeds sprouting, and it was nice to be able to turn off the watering system for a few days, wear sweaters and boots, and think about the holidays and the charities that always receive our donations this time of year.

Be a LeaderWe’re longtime supporters of the Be A Leader Foundation, and will continue to be this year and beyond. Their mission is to provide mentoring and leadership programs to under-served middle school and high school students, to increase the number of them going to college, and to help them succeed when they get there, which can be an enormous challenge for many students who are often the first in their families to go to college. I woke up on a recent morning to amazing news in my inbox about their program:
“Be A Leader and our partner Access ASU have been awarded a five-year grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation of 8.7 million dollars to increase the number of Arizona students who enroll in a well-matched postsecondary institution!”
Read Better Be BetterI’m so proud of the work they do, and can only imagine what more they’ll be able to accomplish with this generous grant. It’s good to get happy news first thing in the morning. Yesterday morning, for example, I had a sweet moment with my children’s book buyer, Brandi Stewart, who also works with an incredible organization called Read Better Be Better. We chatted about the work they do to ensure that by the time children leave third grade they can read, in the process getting the skills they’ll need to become lifelong learners. Studies have shown that if kids aren’t reading by the fourth grade, they often experience intense feelings of frustration, shame, and defeat—feelings which can cause them to withdraw, making them less likely to graduate high school.

As a child, my family couldn’t afford to buy books, but weekly library visits were part of our lives. My sisters and I became avid readers, and obviously my passion for books and reading translated into co-founding Changing Hands. Recently, a fairly new TV station STN (Social Television Network) asked to interview me for a program they run called Desert Dreamers, funded by Local First focusing on local entrepreneurs, most of whom I know and admire. I had a lovely time talking to their talented host, Kristen Keogh and the station owner, Eric Sperling. The questions Kristen asked were intelligent and perceptive. I have done many interviews over the years and it is great to be interviewed by someone who is open to the conversation in whatever direction it takes, who listens, who follows up with questions based on answers, not on a premade script and who genuinely loves what she is doing. I think you’ll enjoy watching the interview if you have time in your busy lives this month. And I highly recommend watching the programs they broadcast. Their mission is to do stories that help empower our community to come together.

Happy Holidays
Our stores are filled with our Staff Favorites of the Year, as well as those books chosen by reviewers and critics as the best of 2019. The tables are stacked, the trees are decorated (the holiday cactus too!), the displays are gorgeous, and our self-service wrapping stations are at the ready. We hope you make our stores your one-stop holiday-shop this year. Not only will you keep money in your local community, support our hard-working booksellers, baristas and bartenders, help us aid local organizations doing charitable work, reduce your carbon footprint by driving to only one place to find something for everyone on your list, but you will also have FUN. You’ll meet neighbors, hug a friend or make a new one, watch children’s eyes light up when they see a favorite book, or—a personal favorite—see a grandparent looking through stacks of books to choose the perfect title for their beloved little ones, assisted by a professional bookseller who reads and loves the books she recommends. If you’re at our Phoenix store, you can have a latte or a glass of wine at our First Draft Book Bar; in Tempe, the Wildflower next door is filled with delicious muffins and soups.

Happy Holidays Happy Holidays
Make this holiday a joyful one. We’re here to welcome you, help you find the perfect book or gift, and THANK YOU for supporting us for all these decades. We are so grateful to know you, and to have you in our community of readers.


Questions or comments? Email Gayle at