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Kate Lokken is a used book buyer here at Powell's and has been with the company for five years. She shuffles through stacks and stacks of old books every day searching for the beautiful and unusual. She reads mostly nature writing and classic literature, but also enjoys a little Captain Underpants now and again. Her buying and reading are infused with a Minnesotan's practicality, i.e. she knows a snow job when she sees one.

Plants, prairie living, poetry, and prose...

How To Cook Everything How to Cook Everything
by Mark Bittman

You must use the Bittman. Normally, I like lots of glossy photos and little banter in cookbooks, but How to Cook Everything is the exception. I've used it to cook a twenty-pound turkey, make sushi, and prepare all the strange vegetables that tempt me at the farmers' market. His descriptions are intelligent and I like the informative line drawings. This book has earned the honor of standing next to the stove with the salt and pepper.

The Way We Live The Way We Live: An Ultimate Treasury for Global Design Inspiration
by Stafford Cliff

This massive interior design book is amazing with page after page of striking and detailed images. Photos are arranged by subject, with pages dedicated to archways, or fireplaces, or kitchen tables from all over the world. The photographs are indexed and cross-indexed to make this book not only rich and beautiful, but also useful and thorough. Comparing a minimalist, modern kitchen in Paris to a cluttered, colorful one in Luxor inspires a sense of design in me; the similarities in scenes so varied seem to jump off the page.

A Country Year A Country Year: Living the Questions
by Sue Hubbell

Sue Hubbell makes me yearn to be a beekeeper in the Ozarks — to rely on a place for my survival and my happiness. Divorced and alone on her hundred acre farm, Hubbell heals as she writes about her work as a commercial beekeeper and her peninsula of land. Part botanist, she attempts to find order and classification in her life. She follows her bees through the seasons, the changing harvest of pollen, with a placid clarity found only in nature. I read this book every year, and I learn something with each reading. I love that. I also enjoyed her next book, A Book of Bees, written with the same honest and humble voice.

Giants in the Earth Giants in the Earth
by O. E. Rölvaag

Suspecting I was born in the wrong era, I have always been fascinated by pioneer life. As a child, I read Little House on the Prairie and imagined a simpler time. Rölvaag captures that feeling for me with the story of Per Hansa, who travels from Norway with his wife and three children to the prairie of South Dakota to stake a claim. There are golden waves of grain and sweeping landscapes, but there is also a dark side to their new life. Illness, deafening quiet, locusts, madness, and fear threaten their dream of a little house on the prairie. Giants in the Earth is the first of a trilogy which follows the family through the generations.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
by Betty Smith

A book dealer came into Powell's rare book room one day while I was working and bought a beautiful first edition of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. She said it was her favorite book and a birthday present to herself. From the look in her eye and the way she clutched it in her hands, I knew I had to read it. It is a lovely story about Francie Nolan, a young girl growing up in the slums of Brooklyn. She ultimately discovers that people, like trees, can sometimes flourish in the most dismal conditions.

The Way It Is The Way It Is
by William Stafford

I think of William Stafford as part grandfather/part favorite college professor. Although he was neither to me, his poems have a quiet truth that I both admire and adore. I wish I could have heard him teach at Lewis and Clark College or read as Oregon's Poet Laureate, but I am left with poems on paper. And, so, I memorize them and recite them aloud on friends' answering machines, or carry one folded in my back pocket. The poems he wrote in the days leading up to his death in 1993 have an amazing awareness of human life that I try to carry with me every day. Despite violent times, William Stafford lived his life with great peace as a conscientious objector and as a poet. At this giant bookstore where I discover new books every day, I consider William Stafford my best find.

The Secret Life of Plants The Secret Life of Plants
by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird

I can't believe I hadn't heard about this book before I found it on the shelf. Published in the 1970s, it explores the relationship between humans and plant life. Numerous scientific studies with lie detector tests, electrodes, and other '70s high-tech instruments produce astounding results. Plants have feelings: they feel fear, they help each other, they try to communicate, they like music! Plants can read your mind.
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