René Kirkpatrick got her bookselling start at the University of Oregon Bookstore in 1978. At first she worked part-time while getting her degree in elementary education, and then she went full-time, becoming the children’s book buyer in 1985. In 1992, she and her husband moved to Seattle, where she worked with Chauni Haslet as manager and buyer for the beloved children’s bookshop All for Kids Books and Music. When All for Kids closed in 2007, Kirkpatrick spent the next nine years at Third Place Books, Mockingbird Books and then Eagle Harbor Book Company. She started her job (and sixth inventory system) as children’s book buyer at University Book Store [in Seattle] on July 5, 2016. She loves reading children’s books for all ages, but has a special place in her heart for a well-written science fiction space opera.
On your nightstand now:
Is it okay if that nightstand spills out onto the floor and under the bed? There is an easy sudoku and an easy crossword puzzle book for when I can’t sleep and it’s after midnight. Also: Atlas Obscura by Joshua Foer; Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco; Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky; Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys; Exo by Fonda Lee; Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton; Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter; The Useful Book by Sharon and David Bowers; Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance; Moonglow by Michael Chabon; The Cities That Built the Bible by Robert R. Cargill; Edgar and Lucy by Victor Lodato.
Favorite books when you were a child:
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle; To Dance, To Dream (biographies of famous ballet dancers) by Maxine Drury; and Casper the Friendly Ghost comics
Your top five (adult book) authors:
Madeleine L’Engle, Larry McMurtry, Pete Fromm, Ray Bradbury and John Steinbeck. These are the authors whose books I would actually buy. I’d quote them, too, if I could remember any damn quotes. I never have a Post-it when I need it. These are the authors I read and re-read. I never get tired of the worlds they created and the people they invented. I could move into their books and live happily just watching it all go ’round.
Book you’ve bought for the cover:
Almost any book with the artwork featuring Daniel Dociu–there’s something so exciting and BIG in his cover art. (He did the covers for the Expanse series by James S.A. Corey.) And I had to buy a new hardcover copy of Dune when it was released with the new cover art: all in black with a sliver of desert with travelers offset from the center. Exquisite. (I have tried to find the designer for this one but was unsuccessful.)
Book you hid from your parents:
I never had to hide any book from my mom. She was pretty sure that if I couldn’t handle it, I’d stop reading, and if I could, then I was old enough. I think I was 17 before I read anything racy. It was The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry, and it was so amazing that I read it over and over again, the pages in my little orange copy from the ’70s coming loose from the binding. I had to rubber-band it together. All the boys in the choir were reading it, carrying it in their back pockets, sneaking pages in between classes; I just had to read it, too.
Book that changed your life:
Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Engdahl. The main character is an archaeologist on a trip to another planet. She isn’t from Earth, but I think they land here early in our history. Just enough romance and intrigue to completely entrance me, but what I took away from the book was that girls can be scientists.
Favorite line from a book:
“It was a dark and stormy night.” Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. It’s also the only line from a book I can remember.
Book you’ve faked reading:
I was very lucky that all my high school teachers had pretty darned good books to choose from and that I was naïve enough to read all the books assigned. I was way too nervous a student to try and fake my way through a book.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
If I have to pick one, it would probably be Dune. It’s a big book so it takes time to read, and the world-building is unparalleled. It’s packed with such great stuff–politics, love, space travel–every time I re-read it I discover something else I didn’t see before.
This interview appeared in Shelf Awareness on Wednesday, January 4, 2017.