Rachel Sang is our Store Manager and director of our children's department. That means that in addition to keeping everything running smoothly for the booksellers, she's the one choosing books for each of our Picture Book, Chapter Book, Middle Grade, and Young Adult Brilliant Books Monthly subscribers. If you can't find her on the bookstore floor chatting about her latest staff favorite or an awesome upcoming kids' book, she's probably in the window, working on our next fantastic display!
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a nature loving, art making, fly fishing mother of two children and two furry canines. When I'm not a work, it's likely I'm outside somewhere maybe working on a garden, walking dogs in the woods, or bike riding with my family. I'm happiest when I'm making things, whether it be art or a really good meal. If I've met you, I've probably told you I used to live in Montana. Everyone should live somewhere else for a while. I miss the mountains, but family brought us back to Michigan and the big lakes.
What's the quirkiest job you've ever had?
Not necessarily quirky, but awesome -- In Montana, we lived outside Yellowstone National Park where I worked at a fly shop and had the opportunity to guide fly fishing trips. In the winter, I worked for a snowmobile tour company that guided over snow tours of Yellowstone. Bison, geysers, wolves and so much snow!
What are the top five most interesting things about you?
I don't know about interesting, but here are five things:
- I fly fish.
- I make art and have had the chance to make posters for some great bands. Art and music were once a huge part of my life. I lived in Kalamazoo for many years and was part of an arts/music/coffee shop collective called the Space. Here at Brilliant Books, I get to use some of those skills making window displays, so much fun!
- I cook really good food but rarely use recipes.
- I've dabbled in homesteading, but we gave it up to live in town, because spending so much time in the car commuting was for the birds.
- On birds, I can identify many of them.
Tell us about meeting a favorite author, or avoiding one!
I once ate continental breakfast in the same room as Jim Harrison. I didn't say anything -- who wants to talk to some stranger while eating rubbery scrambled eggs?
If you weren't a bookseller, what would you be doing instead?
In an ideal world, I'd be at home, making art in my art studio to support my family as a successful artist. I'd also like being a park ranger.
If you could invite five people, real or fictional, living or dead, for dinner, whom would you invite?
Sir David Attenborough
That's today's list, I'm sure it would be different tomorrow.
Rachel is also one of our Brilliant Books Monthly book selectors. Learn more about how she chooses books for young readers!
This was just the kind of escape I needed: an epic adventure in a wild place and conservation story wrapped up in a skillfully crafted narrative. Jonathon Slaght engagingly tells the story of his PhD research project, tracking the Blakiston's Fish Owl in the wild reaches of eastern Russia. The world's largest owl, fish owls are super elusive, feeding on salmon in remote Russia, sharing its habitat with Amur tigers and humans trying to get by in extremely harsh circumstances. The owls haunt the pages, mostly unseen as Slaght and his team track them on snowmobile trips over treacherous ice and terrain. Encounters with the locals along the way add another layer to this conservation story. This is a go-to for birders, conservationists, and nature writing fans.
I love Sophie Blackall's illustrations, her most recent book told as a child describing Earth to an alien being. Both epic in scale and focused on minor details, there is a lot to consider here for young ones about what it is to exist on and as part of a planet. —Rachel
One of my favorite early readers of the year, Tiger is not afraid of anything, except worms! Cute and silly, this one will get a giggle out of everyone and inspire some early literacy skills. —Rachel
Apparently I have a theme going with extinction and loss. Migrations appealed to the bird lover in me chronicling the migration of the last pair of arctic terns and a woman trying to reconcile her past as she tracks their final journey. Heartbreaking, gorgeous and also hopeful. —Rachel
Hilary McKay's books are lovely to read, magical while navigating issues of trust and friendship. A mysterious house, a family tale and magical creatures make this book engaging for many kinds of readers. —Rachel
Ottolenghi's books never disappoint. Vegetable-centric, these recipes follow a similar trend in cookbooks as of late, focusing on how we build flavor. Delicious! —Rachel
This is such a beauty of a book. Told through 12 different stories, Schalansky recounts lost places, animals, and things that only live on through memory and word. I thought this was a really thoughtful read at this time when we are feeling so much loss in our day to day -- it was nice to think about how we remember things and the role of storytelling in creating memory. —Rachel
Skunk and Badger best compares to Frog and Toad, a curmudgeonly rock collecting badger and sweetly pleasant skunk brought together by a shared housing arrangement that Badger is not so sure about. I read this aloud with my family, and we all loved it, humorous, but also thoughtful. Bonus illustrations from Jon Klassen really put this book over the top! —Rachel
Helen Mcdonald, author of H is for Hawk, introduces her latest essay collection by describing the idea of Cabinets of Curiosities or Wunderkammer -- curated and eclectic collections of objects, often from the natural world that would represent their creators interests and fascinations. This does aptly describe her essays collected here, reflections on a lifetime of obsession with nature, animals and the human relationship to the world around us. At once sad and lovely, Mcdonald's essays are reflective but also encourage humans to look outside ourselves in our engagement with nature. —Rachel
A thoughtful meander through an early spring meal, this one made me excited for spring and the changing of the seasons. Thom Eagle, British chef and food writer, walks you through the making of a spring menu reading partially like a cookbook without recipes and mainly as a meditation on the process of planning and preparing food -- thinking deeply on the ingredients we use and the things we often put little thought into, like salting, the water we cook with and how we source our food. Fans of Alice Water and Samin Nosrat will enjoy this one, and may find some inspiration to spend time cooking a lovely meal. —Rachel
Set in the same world as his earlier works, Borne and Strange Bird, Jeff Vandermeer has continued to impress with his strange universe of conscious creatures existing in perilous post-apocalyptic circumstances. Taking place in a wild and dangerous landscape called the City which has been destroyed by the Company and overseen by a mysterious blue fox, three companions embark on an exploration of this destroyed world. Told from varied points of view, some human, some not, we as readers get to explore too. This novel can can be read independently, although those that have read Borne will enjoy the development of familiar elements. —Rachel