Dear Bookstore Friends,

Gayle Shanks Thanksgiving, in addition to celebrating and eating with family and friends, is a time to reflect on what we’re grateful for—in my case, children, grandchildren, friends, extended family, colleagues, you, our loyal customers, and the many good people in our community who provide support when I need it. It’s a lovely circle of friendship, and one for which I am so thankful. Recently, I watched a talk about the health effects of chronic loneliness—a growing epidemic, it seems—about the millions of people who have few or no friends in their circles. My wish this year is that their circles enlarge, that they find dear and committed people with whom to share their lives.

Bob and I just returned from a three-week trip to the Middle East. We had lovely visits with cousins who have chosen to live their adult lives in Israel, both living on a different kibbutz—one in central Israel, the other in the far north, a mile from the Lebanese border. We walked around Tel Aviv, right on the Mediterranean Sea, and through the old cities of Jaffa and Jerusalem with their ancient buildings, open markets, and foods of every description. We saw caves, tunnels, ruins, and men and women praying at the Western Wall. We ate falafel, hummus, and Turkish kubbeh soup. In Jordan, we walked miles through astounding slot canyons and saw the carvings at Petra and the sand dunes and petroglyphs at Wadi Rum. It was a bucket list trip, one we've been meaning to make for decades.

kindness. empathy. compassion.
It was not, however, a vacation in the classic sense. It was a journey that exposed us to the fragile and incredible beauty of a land where three major religions claim their beginnings, where foods, language, dress, mannerisms, and deference or aggression signal disparate factions, but where hearing stories from these different groups was an unforgettable experience. We were on a dual-narrative tour with sixteen others from around the world, together exploring the many issues confronting Israelis and Palestinians as they attempt to share a land long-contested, rife with frequent misunderstanding of intentions, in the midst of political elections to decide the fate of many, and which, two days after we returned home, erupted in violence with the firing of missiles across borders. We met with amazing people: Arabs, rabbis, women running fair-trade collectives, Christian Arabs involved in Holy Land Trusts, two men who work with an organization called The Parents Circle for Arabs and Jews who have lost children in the conflict, a Syrian refugee, a “defender” of West Bank settlements. We and our tour mates and amazing guides Elad Vazana and Samer Siam listened, thought, questioned, and talked about these difficult, frequently heartbreaking issues as we walked, rode on the bus, sat at dinner, over drinks, and in subsequent emails home.

I have no answers. I have deep-seated angst. I am conflicted. I know that Jews and Palestians and Muslims and all groups of people need a safe place to rest their weary bones, and that with the rise of antisemitism and racism in all parts of the world, there needs to be a place where people can live and raise families that is safe and secure. In a just world, that place would be any country, city, or village in which marginalized groups would not be marginalized, where any group of human beings could settle, build their communities, schools, hospitals, places of worship, and share the benefits of their collective endeavors. In a just world, every country would welcome those running from violence, drought, abuse, poverty, starvation, and lack of education, and build a society that supports all of its members. There would be no "us" and "them." One group would not uproot another, boot them out of their ancestral lands, take their homes away, and treat them as second-class citizens, as the current Israeli government continues to do to the Palestinian people—with our own president's approval and encouragement. But I was deeply moved by the many Israelis I met who actively oppose these measures, and are working to elect officials who reflect humanitarian values and are seeking peaceful reconciliation. My goal, and what I want to support for the rest of my days, is to find ways to work with the amazing organizations and people who never stop working toward new beginnings and new possibilities for ending conflict and violence. Their efforts give me hope.

kindness. empathy. compassion.
We couldn’t have done this trip of a lifetime without the support of our business partner, Cindy Dach, our senior managers Kim and Brandon, our buyers, our store and bar managers, and our hard-working staff. We returned to two bookstores decked out for the holidays, filled to the brim with new displays, tables stacked with great fall books, cases of staff picks for favorite books of the year, beautiful gifts, and even a cactus holiday tree hung with unique ornaments waiting to go home with you.
Happy Holidays
Come visit and tell us what your dreams are for our world, what you’ve read lately that has moved you, what stories you have heard that made you think a bit differently about someone or something. I hope you all have a tasty, happy Thanksgiving this year. I am deeply grateful for your affection, for our personal connections, and for your continued support of independent businesses like ours.


Questions or comments? Email Gayle at