The Whatcom County Library System’s Read & Share program is once again bringing the county community together through turned pages—this year with Erica Bauermeister’s memoir House Lessons: Renovating a Life, which explores the importance of home spaces and human connectivity.

As it has for the past two years, WCLS’s Read & Share program encourages readers across the county to collaborate as one giant book club, discussing inspirational and deeply personal stories while expanding knowledge and communal connections. Bauermeister’s House Lessons serves as this year’s literary foundation to a program full of opportunity and hope toward building a stronger community.

Erica Bauermeister, author of House Lessons: Renovating a Life. Photo credit: Susan Doupe

What began in 2019 as a commemoration of the 75th anniversary of WCLS’s formation quickly became an annual program for the county’s libraries. Every year since, WCLS chooses a book and author with an interconnectedness to our area and its diverse characteristics. House Lessons was chosen in recognition of the realties of the past two years and how our environment continues to shape our lives.

A New York Times bestselling author of four novels (including one chosen for Reese’s Book Club), Bauermeister takes readers through her family’s restoration of a dilapidated, 100-year-old Port Townsend home.

“Part of what we can do while reading this book together is to explore the meaning of home,” says WCLS Community Relations Manager Mary Vermillion.

While a pandemic bore down on the world, the places we call home came sharply into focus, forcing us to examine the nuances of our everyday lives. House Lessons alsoexamines the intricacies of the worlds we create, and the influence architecture has on us all.

A beautiful blend of three rooms in the Bauermeister home, framed by large windows and bountiful light. Photo credit: Ben Bauermeister

What bonds a community together is a sense of home and connection, often found through subtle details and local distinctions. Erica Bauermeister brings attention to the subliminal undercurrents of everyday life with lyrical, vivid prose.

“I find it fascinating that there are things in this world that are affecting our behavior without us even knowing,” Bauermeister says. “I love the idea that if we pay attention, we can use our insights to do good for ourselves and others.”

A major part of House Lessons is its commentary on how architectural characteristics play a pivotal role when selecting a home, much like when choosing a community in which to grow roots.

The sun sets on Erica and Ben Bauermeister’s beautiful Port Townsend home, the focal point of ‘House Lessons: Renovating a Life.’ Photo credit: Ben Bauermeister

“I think when we are choosing a home, we automatically gravitate toward things that have made us feel safe or happy or loved in the past,” says Bauermeister, “We may not even make the connection consciously—our imaginations are capable of making beautiful leaps.”

Bauermeister’s House Lessons is an exploration of three main themes. “One is the story of the renovation itself—the ins and outs of cleaning out a hoarder house, sledgehammering walls, working with an architect,” she says. “The second is the story of our family and the lessons we learned about ourselves during that time. The third is more philosophical, taking on topics like the psychology of space, or why rituals are important.”

Erica Bauermeister in her home studio. Photo credit: Ben Bauermeister

All serve as part of a beautiful, riveting memoir that encourages readers to reflect on the interconnectedness of their own spaces, communities, and lives.

As a part of October’s Read & Share program, several virtual events will complement the book’s themes. WCLS Collection Services Manager Lisa Gresham will interview Bauermeister on October 12 at 7 p.m. The community is then invited on October 14 at 7 p.m. to participate in Bauermeister’s book talk and hear her read excerpts.

A two-day memoir-writing workshop geared toward anyone seeking to improve their writing takes place October 16 and 17 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.—open to all ages and spearheaded by Bauermeister herself.

These events are free, and all are encouraged to virtually attend.

Along with these author and book events, WCLS offers several community programs inspired by House Lessons, including a diverse array of opportunities to hear from and speak with valued members of our community. Tribal Elder George Adams will discuss the history of the Nooksack people and their land on October 2; Elizabeth Vignali reads from her latest book of poetry, House of the Silverfish, on October 21; and Lummi Nation tribal member Matt Warbus will share a slide presentation of traditional places of the Lummi Nation and perform traditional songs on flute on November 3—just to name a few. Pre-registration is required for all events. Visit wcls.org/readandshare.

With Erica Bauermeister’s House Lessons: Renovating a Life, WCLS’s Read & Share program continues to create space for our community to listen, learn, and be inspired.

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