Meet Elsie

Elsie Gibson is recent addition to the Brilliant Books team, and we're looking forward to having her energy and expertise on our staff!  With her background in art, music, education, and just about anything outdoorsy, she's got lots of stories to tell, and plenty of books to recommend!  You can find her most often in our kids' section, where she's proving to be a pro at finding just the right books for young readers.

I am a musician, teacher, artist and outdoor adventurer born and raised in Kalamazoo, MI.   I recently moved back to Michigan from Nashville, TN where I was playing music, teaching at a music studio and landscaping for the stars.  I love living in big cities, but I’ve found that I feel trapped in a concrete jungle and long for rolling hills, big freshwater and trees whose roots are free of sidewalks. I love camping, backpacking, kayaking and cross-country skiing. The most important person in my life is my cat, Annabelle.


What are the five books you’ll never part with?  

1) Breakfast of Champions, or Goodbye, Blue Monday! by Kurt Vonnegut:  I had no idea how far down the rabbit hole a novelist could take me until I started reading Kurt Vonnegut.

2) A Walk in the Woods:  Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson: I absolutely love Bryson’s humor as he embarks on a journey only us tree hugging nut jobs think is fun, hiking trails for weeks on end.

3) Bel Canto by Ann Patchett: In her breathtaking, tantalizing and musical written word, Patchett speaks of the power that music has in connecting people who may not otherwise be able to see eye to eye.

4) Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne: When I was 9 or 10, this was the first “real” novel given to me by my grandfather, my hero in the world of books and literature.

5) The Earth Speaks by Steve van Matre: This is a collection of poetry and excerpts about our mother Earth that I hold close to heart and always turn to when I need a meditation in a meadow or on a mountainside.


Quirkiest job you’ve ever had?

I worked in a hostel in downtown Boston, MA as a receptionist.  The quirky part about it was that I lived in the basement with a few other hostel employees. The apartments and communal kitchen were accessible to anyone through the fire stairwell. On occasion, hostel guests would wander into my apartment that had but a normal bedroom door with no lock.  Rarely, someone who didn’t speak any English would invite themselves to sit down and hang out, and I had no way to tell them that they were in my living room.


A book that changed your life

Don’t Be Afraid, Gringo by Elvia Alvarado, Medea Benjamin (Translator)

When I read this book at 14, I was smacked in the stomach by culture shock.  People can tell you about different places, races, and classes in the world all they want, but when you hear someone tell of their experience in their own words, it will knock the wind out of you.  I was not only blown away by the details of Alvarado’s life, but also learned how uncomfortable the unfamiliar makes other people who are not ready to hear it or who believe that the viewpoint of the narrator is somehow so inexperienced or unworldly that it is incorrect or inappropriate.  I was humbled by reading the author’s history and by my own experiences, witnessing the responses given by people from my own culture.  


Top five most interesting things about you:   

1) I like to smell the pages of any new magazine or book I obtain.   

2) I’ve saved every little trinket, drawing, or note that any student or child has ever given me.   

3) I used to do a lot of guiding: backpacking, white-water rafting, rock climbing, canoeing/ kayaking, and was a wilderness first responder.

4) When performing the national anthem at my high school’s hockey game, I forgot the words halfway through.  After an excruciatingly long pause for everyone in the stadium, I sang the first stanza a second time and ended with a bang.  I received a standing ovation for finishing. Haha!

5) My dangerous alter ego once took me on an interesting journey:  After my car died in the mountains of PA, I hitched a ride and crashed at a friend’s place for a couple of weeks in NJ and proceeded to “move” to Boston, MA on a whim one morning.  Arriving on a train with $400 dollars and no credit, a backpack, a violin and a viola, I had no plan and no friends.  I wandered the streets until I found both.  In other words, I was WAY over influenced by On the Road (Jack Kerouac) in my early 20s.


What’s the first thing you notice about a book?

I hate to admit that cover art can make or break my interest in reading a book description.


You’re browsing a bookstore.  What’s the first section you gravitate toward?

Young Adult Sci-Fi


If someone asked for a book recommendation, but you can only ask one question to see what they like, what would you ask?

What did you dream about becoming when you were a kid?