BookTree brings personal touch to long tradition of independent bookselling in Kirkland

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“Welcome to,” says owner Chris Garmick, as a customer walks into BookTree, an independent bookstore in Kirkland. He points around the shop. “The children’s department is in the back, we sell new books, and we have a lot of used books at the moment.”

Take a few steps inside BookTree and you’ll see what it means: Throughout the store there are tidy piles of used books in front of the shelves – an addition to BookTree’s pandemic-era design. Jarmic explains that many local thrift stores are so overwhelmed right now that they have stopped receiving book donations, and some paper recycling companies don’t accept books because of the glue on the spines, “so the books go straight to the trash, which is very frustrating.” “.

BookTree has become a refuge for those orphaned books, to help them overcome this wrinkle in the used book supply chain. Jarmick has donated thousands of books to senior centers, boys’ and girls’ clubs, and prisons since the summer. But customers keep bringing books, because they don’t have the courage to get rid of them. Hence, stacks of books now decorate BookTree.

Garmic thinks, “If I end up having huge piles of books here, I’m at least doing some good. Surprisingly people have loved piles so far. There are a lot of ways right now, but I think there will always be a few piles of books from Here onwards.”

BookTree has been in business for almost exactly five years. The store opened as a sort of successor to Kirkland’s Parkplace Books, which for nearly three decades was the leading independent bookstore on the East Side. Jarmick, an author who regularly takes part in in-store readings, partnered with Parkplace co-owner Mary Harris at the opening of BookTree in November 2016. Harris retired less than a year later, leaving Jarmick as the sole owner and employee of BookTree, where he has been since.

BookTree offers an engaging mix of the latest bestsellers that everyone is talking about and a powerful and amazing selection of used books not available anywhere else. Browsers looking for Jonathan Franzen’s latest novels can find copies at the front desk, but browsers with a little patience to dig into the heaps can discover a load of Rex Stout’s delightful Nero Wolf puzzles available for just a few bucks. .

In the back, BookTree’s spacious children’s section looks like a completely different store. Jarmick says it’s designed to feel “disconnected from the rest of the store,” so kids can play with Legos and lie on beanbags with some books while their parents browse to their hearts’ content in the next room.

The kids’ section is lively and stocked with only the best-quality titles—BookTree carries it all by beloved “Captain Underpants” author Dav Pilkey, for example, but Jarmick has chosen not to carry the dozens of Pilkey subtitles that have appeared throughout the year. The past few years. “It’s not good, so I wouldn’t put it on the shelf,” Garmic says. “But if you really want them, I’m happy to ask them for you.”

Jarmick credits a small group of local teachers and school librarians for helping him keep nursery stock fresh. “I keep track of books being nominated for a Washington State Book Award, and all of that,” Garmic says, “but then, those teachers also whisper in my ear, giving me their opinions on books that are of interest to their children.”


This “synchronization between community and library” is what Garmic recognizes as key to BookTree’s success. “It was a combination of me imposing my strange tastes on them, and imposing their interests on me. That’s the only reason why I’m still open. I can almost pay all the bills on time and not get into debt, so I feel like I’ve achieved quite a bit thus far,” he jokes.

Jarmick is an avid reader, and is eager to share his experiences and opinions with interested clients. For someone buying a copy of Richard Powers’ wonderful novel “The Overstory,” he advises, “You want to sit somewhere and really try to take the first 80 or 90 pages of this page in one sitting” to fully appreciate the scope of the book and not get discouraged by the web of narrative threads beautifully crafted. It’s a great read tip, and it’s exactly the kind of personalized service that online booksellers can’t provide—including one that Jarmick refers only to as “The Evil Empire.”

Kirkland Mystery author Robert Dugoni recently Tweeted his endorsement of BookTree, specifically citing Jarmick’s book recommendations as the reason why the store is one of his favorites. Jarmick says Dugoni has “been so good in the store” over the years that he even invited BookTree to read the readings that happen at the Seattle-area locations featured in his books.

In turn, Jarmic rants about Dogoni’s murky secrets, which he says are “too character-dependent. He doesn’t feel he has to outdo himself with every book, so if the house is on fire in the first book, there’s no need to blow up the block in the second book and you shouldn’t.” That the city is under nuclear attack in the third.”

Jarmick has always loved books, and is a poet at heart. But the past five years have seen him grow into a bookseller serving his community. He says, “I love him.” “I love being surrounded by books and talking a lot about books and figuring out who a nerd is at reading books.” Growing up to meet Kirkland’s book clubs and readers, Jarmic learned that “some of them don’t care about me with books, which is cool.”

What are BookTree customers reading?

As Kirkland’s interest in anti-racist books grew this past summer, Jarmic directed a number of readers toward Isabel Wilkerson’s fascinating investigation into America’s complex systems of race and class, “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.” Jarmick explains, “I was very appreciative of it myself, and thought it would be a really good book for the book club.” Many of the local book clubs that buy from BookTree listened to his advice, which made “Caste” a hit in Kirkland.

One book that Jarmic says he “discovered with everyone else, but perhaps a little sooner than some,” was novelist Omar Toles, whose second book, A Gentleman in Moscow, is “a big and easy kind of hand-sell. It’s just a well-written book and I think you’ll have a lot of fun reading it.” Jarmick knows that not every book can be a hit with every reader, but he believes that “A Gentleman in Moscow” has somewhere more than a “90% success rate” with anyone who opens it.

“Currently, I highly recommend ‘Cloud Cuckoo Land’ by Anthony Doerr, bestselling author of ‘All the Light We Cannot See.'” Jarmic says that based on the description he would assume that the novel “isn’t my genre because it’s eccentric—is it fiction?” Is it science fiction? But the writing is so good, who cares? Jarmick says. “I haven’t finished it yet, but it will probably end up being one of my favorite books.”

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BookTree

Noon – 5 PM Sunday to Monday, 10AM-7PM Tuesday-Wednesday, Closed Thursday, 11AM-7PM Friday, 11AM-6PM Saturday; 609 Market Street, Kirkland; 425-202-7791, booktreekirkland.com

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