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Originally published December 2, 2013 at 8:09 PM | Page modified December 2, 2013 at 8:47 PM

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Peddling books, documenting volleyball, smooching to music

Sherman Alexie stumps for independent bookstores; an inspirational documentary focuses on a star UW volleyballer; and Pete Nordstrom hosts the second annual SMooCH benefit for Seattle Children’s.


Seattle Times staff columnist

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“Independent bookstores are where weirdness happens,” Sherman Alexie was telling me. “I wouldn’t have a career without them.”

So, to give thanks over the Thanksgiving weekend, the 2007 National Book Award winner (for “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian”) organized “Indies First!” an event that put more than 1,000 authors in 400 independent bookstores nationwide to help book lovers find the perfect read.

At the University Book Store on The Ave on Saturday, Alexie stood behind a table covered with his recommendations: His own books, of course. But also “Inside Moves,” by Todd Walton; “Middle Men,” by Jim Gavin (“They’re white-guy dude stories,” Alexie said, adding that the book was recommended to him by Spokane author and hoops rival Jess Walter ); and “Going Clear” by Lawrence Wright .

“It’s a book about Scientology,” Alexie said of Wright’s book. “But really, it’s about religion and our basic need to be fooled. All of us. Because when you think about it, Catholicism is only slightly more goofy than yoga.”

Yes, but with Catholicism comes Christmas, and with Christmas, book sales. How goofy is that?

Nearby was “Nobody But Us” author Kristin Halbrook with her daughter, Aidyn, 11, who was recommending Jon Klassen picture books, namely the Caldecott Medal Award winner, “This is Not My Hat.”

Jennie Shortridge, whose latest, “Love Water Memory” was out of stock (ahem), was pushing one copy of her “Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe,” (set in Fremont. Obviously) and “Bonk,” by Mary Roach, about the science of sex.

“I like to read about sex,” Shortridge said with a shrug. “And look at that cover (I did; a microscope with a teeny coupling on its stage). No one will know what you’re reading.”

Digging this doc

Former CNN and KING 5 correspondent Jack Hamann and his wife, Leslie, have devoted the past several years to making things right, and shining light in places most folks never see.

Their 2005 book “On American Soil” cleared the names of 43 African-American soldiers accused in the 1944 lynching of an Italian POW at Seattle’s Fort Lawton.

Now, they’ve turned their attentions to championing former University of Washington volleyball star, Olympian and now pro Courtney Thompson with their one-hour documentary, “Court & Spark.”

The documentary will premiere during the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Final Four in Seattle later this month — and hopefully inspire a new legion of players. (Go to http://psrvb.org/documentary for more information).

“She’s an undersized kid with personality to burn who goes on to win national titles and into this world that none of us know about,” Jack Hamann said of Thompson as he and Leslie (their company is called no LITTLE things Productions) put the finishing touches on the doc, which took over a year and stretched from Seattle to Kentucky to Poland to California and back.

The documentary includes interviews with Karch Kiraly, Hugh McCutcheon, Doug Beal, John Dunning, Mick Haley , Kathy DeBoer, John Cook, and Bill Neville.

“It’s not a sports story, in the classic sense,” Jack Hamann said. “It’s opening the door to this world of women who have carved out this amazing life. It’s for a lot of people, but it’s for girls, kids who are at an age where they think, ‘Nobody gets me, nobody understands me,’ and they’ll see Courtney and say, ‘Whoa, she gets me.’ ”

The sounds of hope

Pete Nordstrom didn’t know what to expect when he dreamed up a fundraiser he called SMooCH — the cool acronym for Seattle Musicians for Children’s Hospital.

He just wanted to do something for the place that had been so good to his family — especially his son, Chet. The boy was just 5 weeks old in February 2012 when he underwent open-heart surgery for a condition called DiGeorge Syndrome. The chromosomal defect can cause a host of developmental issues.

The first SMooCH raised $175,000 for uncompensated care at Seattle Children’s, and left Nordstrom grateful, humbled and inspired.

“The generosity of the people who attended was beyond our expectations,” Nordstrom told me the other day. “That gave us the confidence to go for it again this year.”

The second annual SMooCH will be at 6 p.m. Dec. 14 at the Showbox at the Market and bring together local talents Allen Stone, Helio Sequence, The Lonely Forest and Shelby Earl. Not only that, but Sub Pop and KEXP have signed on as sponsors.

“We have a killer bill,” Nordstrom said. “But the main reason to do it is because the need still persists. Hopefully, in our way we can help support Children’s with their mission to help all who need the care.”

For tickets: http://bit.ly/IHvZRB.

Nicole Brodeur’s column appears Tuesday and Sunday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or nbrodeur@seattletimes.com.



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About Nicole Brodeur's Names in Bold

On Tuesdays, I tell you about my travels through some of the week's social and philanthropic events — not just the ones for the swells, but those for work-a-day folks who care about making this region move and improve. 206-464-2334

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