Susan McCloskey has worked at Bookshop Santa Cruz since graduating from UCSC in 2000. She is the former Event Coordinator at Bookshop and continues to consult for the store. In her other life, she is a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. She believes in story, and loves the meld of working with books, narrative, and people.
I first found myself captivated by the pictures of Dee Williams’ tiny 84-square-foot house. It is sweet, cozy, innovative, and beautiful all at once. Then I started reading Dee’s memoir and found myself captivated by the intention, adventure, bravery, and insight that went into her decision to build and live in such a small space. Humbled by a friend’s illness and a trip to Guatemala, Dee was handed a dose of humility. She sold the three-bedroom bungalow that she was constantly remodeling, and downsized—but in a sustainable and humble way. This is a graceful, inspiring memoir about building a home from scratch—and discovering a true sense of self, in just 84 square feet.
Journalist Katy Butler was living on the other side of the country when she got the call that her 79-year-old father had suffered a crippling stroke due to his failing heart. She quickly flew across the country and joined her elderly mother to be at her father’s bedside. She watched as doctors fitted her father with a pacemaker that saved his heart but did nothing to prevent her father from falling into a “slow decline” toward death. Where is the line between saving a life and prolonging death? With her scientific background, her gift for storytelling, and her ability to look at a systemic problem in our medical system, Butler set out to explore this challenge. But her quest had barely begun when her mother was suddenly faced with a harsh diagnosis of her own. Having just watched her husband get trapped in a medical labyrinth, Butler’s mother refused treatment and decided to look at death straight on, without medical intervention other than palliative care. Butler’s experience of watching her parents go through aging and dying in these two very different ways led her to Slow Medicine, a movement toward reclaiming “good deaths.” Part memoir, part medical history, and part spiritual quest, Knocking on Heaven’s Door is riveting and beautifully written, and it also bravely poses questions that can help all of us relook at the scared path of death and dying. Don’t miss our event with Katy Butler on July 10th.
Gretel Ehrlich, poet and award winning nature-writer, was stunned when she heard the news of Japan’s earthquake and Tsunami in 2011. Japan’s Tohoku’s coast, now ravished by the disaster, was where Ehrlich had lived years earlier while studying Japanese art and poetry. After hearing the news, Ehrlich was compelled to visit the devastated region and bear witness to the reality behind the headlines. In a poet’s deft and observing language, Ehrlich balances her own reaction with those of the survivors, blending poetry, scientific observation, and survivor’s testimony into one. Facing the Wave is a mosaic of observation and witnessing that speaks to the harrowing devastation of a region affected, but also to the intimate awe of a people holding hope and gaining ground after the wake of tragedy. This is a beautiful blend of refection and reporting that makes for a stunning read.