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3.72  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,577 Ratings  ·  648 Reviews
Isabel is a single, twentysomething thrift-store shopper and collector of remnants, things cast off or left behind by others. Glaciers follows Isabel through a day in her life in which work with damaged books in the basement of a library, unrequited love for the former soldier who fixes her computer, and dreams of the perfect vintage dress move over a backdrop of deteriora ...more
Paperback, 174 pages
Published January 17th 2012 by Tin House Books
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Community Reviews

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Feb 15, 2012 Jamie rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of libraries, of Portland, and/or of bearded men
This book has six of my favorite elements of fiction going for it:
1. It is a love story centered on library employees.
2. It is set in a place where I've lived (Portland, OR).
3. It has a bearded man (a decent one).
4. It contains the mention of postcards and love letters.
5. It contains a good party dress. And,
6. It is short.

Ignore the jacket's bad intro and stick it out for at least 30 pages or so, and you'll be rewarded with a well written, understated, and aching little story. You'll also be re
May 27, 2013 Jenna rated it did not like it
Would that I could give this negative stars!

I made the mistake of reading the author's bio before starting the book. Had I not, I might have been able to give her the benefit of the doubt and overlooked (but only momentarily, because they're really hard to miss) the gratuitous stereotypes strewn throughout the first few pages--the protagonist waking up in a small attic apartment in Portland and loving on her cat as she thinks about what vintage options her closet will spew onto her before going
May 21, 2014 Eve rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, read-2014
Have you ever been at a loss for words, and find yourself mindlessly humming a tune that seems to encapsulate every ounce of your sentiments? After finishing this book in one sitting, the only tune that comes to mind is Billy Joel's "She's Got a Way."

She's got a light around her
And ev'rywhere she goes
A million dreams of love surround her ev'rywhere

In a stream of consciousness narrative style, Smith takes us through a day in the life of Isabel, a singleton living in Portland, who repairs damage
Years ago, when I was living in another apartment complex, somebody left a small box of books in the laundry room. Most were Harlequin Romance type things--not my cup of whiskey--but there was a yearbook from Fort McClellan, Alabama. It was from the mid-1950's, and it traced a group of young women through Army basic training. While my clothes washed, I paged through the official portraits, those serious, dress uniform studio shots you see when someone gets killed. I saw more candid photos as wel ...more
Megan Henrich
Jun 04, 2012 Megan Henrich rated it it was amazing
174 pages of breathtaking wow. This is a book about discarded photos, maps, and postcards, and how the people in the photos and postcards remind us that old people were once young, and we will one day be old. Its beautiful clarity suggests that relationships have changed, but in important ways, they have stayed the same.

Everyone should read this book, I am ever so glad I did.
I had fun reading this quirky little book. Short but sweet. A slim volume, a series of vignettes with a thrift shop collector and antique connoisseur. In her twenties, Isabel works in the library's preservation department. She is single, but is sorta kinda seeing one of her co-workers, Spoke. Her best friend is a boy she calls Loon. She lives in Portland now, but talks about Seattle and especially Alaska, with a tangible longing and nostalgia.

Alexis Smith chooses her words carefully. Sentences
Aug 27, 2013 Vishy rated it really liked it
I discovered ‘Glaciers’ by Alexis Smith through a friend's review of it. Something about the book and the description of the Tin House edition made me want to read the book. I finished reading it yesterday. Here is what I think.

‘Glaciers’ follows one day in the life of Isabel. Isabel lives in Portland, Oregon. She works in a library and repairs old books. She lives a quiet, contented life. She takes pleasure in the small, simple things – shopping for a nice secondhand dress which is atleast a fe
Jul 27, 2012 Jeannine rated it liked it
This book has a very dreamy quality about it and as it covers one day (with flashbacked memories interwoven) of Isabel's life, it's pace is like a stroll rather than a race. And it's quiet.

As someone who is reading a lot on kindle of late, I actually bought this in book-form because of its satisfying size (smaller than most novels). The print is elegant, the paper is high quality and deckle-edged, and I adore how the margins on each page are pretty wide. It's just a visually and texturally satis
Jan 24, 2013 Traci rated it liked it
There's really not much I can say about the plot of this book, as it's pretty much exactly what the dust jacket states: a day in the life of Isabel. So I'll talk more about my overall impressions of this very slim work, if that's OK with you, dear reader.

The author has a nice way with words. For example, when describing Isabel's parents' impending divorce, the author writes: "When her parents were together, they had little to say to each other. The fissures in their family grew until the most im
Jun 24, 2012 James rated it really liked it
This is a short novel of a twenty-something hipster librarian in Portland who likes a coworker, eats vegetarian, shops at secondhand stores, has artsy gay friends, day dreams about Amsterdam (a city where she's never been) and reminisces about Alaska where she lived as a young girl.

If you were to judge this book by its cover, you would see a dress on the front and assume that this was a girly book. If you did, you would be absolutely correct. I picked this book up from the library upon seeing i
Chris Blocker
Apr 18, 2012 Chris Blocker rated it really liked it
Delightful. Charming. Delicate. These are the words that first come to mind as I reflect on Glaciers. There's not much substance in these 174 pages, but I was nonetheless happy to have spent the time with them. In many of the novel's short chapters, Alexis M. Smith discusses the small things, the photos and relics Isabelle cherishes; with superb skill, Smith has crafted each chapter with the same vivid detail and want for nostalgia that these photos conjure.

There are some really wonderful senten
Es la nostalgia viva de una ciudad que se va quedando sin verano. La historia de una chica sin prisas porque es consciente del paso del tiempo y de sus consecuencias. Y justo por eso, aunque sea contradictorio, no está dispuesta a correr.

Y es que Isabel ha creado un microuniverso propio con vestidos antiguos, libros viejos, postales del pasado y un gato que camina sobre sus pertenencias. Una realidad propia carente de gravedad en la que pedirle a alguien que te importa que te cuente la versión l
Aug 13, 2015 Sara rated it liked it
Glaciers is a very short and very quiet novel that meanders from past to present to dreams of the future - all in one day. Isabel, a librarian and repairer of torn and damaged books is trying to catch the eye of a co-worker while she reminisces about her childhood and the past lives of others.

Isabel is drawn to thrift stores and antique stores. She finds beauty in the cast off treasures of others - ephemera, post cards, pictures, dresses, jewelry. She is a likable main character - one that I fou
Jul 20, 2013 Jane rated it really liked it
This is such a small, simple story, barely a story at all, and yet it leaves behind such an impression. Beautifully and quietly.

Isabel was in her early twenties. She had grown up in Alaska, but life had brought her to Portland, Oregon. She lived alone and she worked in a room in the library basement, repairing old and damaged books.

When she wasn’t working, she sought out dresses in vintage clothing stores, and vintage postcards in junk shops. She wondered about the places they showed, the people
Jan 29, 2012 Sue rated it really liked it
The plot and pacing are well-reviewed here by others, so I will focus on other aspects. My 18 & 20-year old daughters and I chose it as our first mother-daughter book club selection, and it was the perfect choice. We selected it because 1) it's only 174 pages, and we wanted our first book to be one we could all finish easily in 1-2 sittings, 2) it is in paperback so buying 3 copies wasn't too costly, 3) it's about a young woman who frequents thrift stores looking for treasures, like my girls ...more
Feb 21, 2013 Courtney rated it it was ok
On a sentence level, Alexis Smith is a decent writer. Unfortunately, those sentences are strung together in a completely irritating, self-indulgent, and anger-inducing manner. The biggest problem, for me, is Smith's aversion to any sort of tension or ambiguity. She literally mentions something quasi-mysterious about Isabel (the protagonist) and explains the backstory of that quirk or attribute in the very next section or passage! I found myself wanting to yell, "It's okay to let the reader specu ...more
Apr 01, 2013 Caren rated it liked it
Shelves: adult-fiction
This was recommended to me by my colleague, Rob, who reads lots of adult fiction. It's an unassuming, introspective gem of a book. At just 174 pages and a small format, you can read it in an hour or two. In its pages, you will spend a few days with Isabel, a young woman who works in the basement of a library, repairing damaged books. Having grown up in Alaska, she now lives in Portland, Oregon. She loves vintage clothing and collects old postcards, imagining stories about the sender and recipien ...more
Shonna Froebel
Mar 05, 2014 Shonna Froebel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, fiction
This novel captured me right away. Did it help that the main character is a librarian? Maybe.
Isabel was born in Seattle, but her parents moved back to Alaska shortly after she was born to live in the homestead of her father's grandmother, in the country near Soldotna. This is where she spent her early years and learned about being alone, about making do with what you have, and about the meaning of treasure.
Following her parents divorce, her father moved to Portland with her and her older sister,
Mind the Book
Camilla said she would buy the book herself... och det sade jag till mig själv efter att ha läst följande på Twitter tidigare i veckan. Älskar också omslaget!

Drömlik, stream-of-consciousness:ig prosa i denna debut, där vi under en dag följer Isabels liv i Portland, Oregon, med tanketrådar tillbaka till uppväxten i Alaska. Gillar verkligen glaciärmotivet; glest återkommande passager med bitterljuva metaforer. Vidare kommer det där vintagevykortet från Amst
Jun 10, 2012 Meghan rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, northwest
Lovely, delicate, Audrey Tautou of a novel, slim and graceful. A description of Portland:

"A slick fog of a city in the winter, drenched in itself. In the spring and summer: leafy, undulating green, humming with bicycles, breeze-borne seeds whirling by like tiny white galaxies."

Feb 26, 2012 Anne rated it did not like it
This book is so full of hipster clichés I can't handle it. (Vintage! Librarians! Portland! Hip parties! Sadness!) Reads like a hipster high school creative writing student's dream.
Sep 25, 2013 Susan rated it liked it
Isabel is a young girl who works in the basement of a library, repairing damaged books. This short novel/novella sees her musing on her childhood, her sister, friend Leo and Spoke, the young man who works alongside her and who was damaged in the war in Iraq. Isabel has a tendency to live in the past - she collects old postcards and weaves stories around the city landscapes and people pictured and the messages written there. She also loves vintage clothes and, of course, the damaged books that sh ...more
David Abrams
Oct 04, 2012 David Abrams rated it it was amazing
Sometimes you find the book, and sometimes the book finds you. This was the case for me when, earlier this year, I walked into the Barnes and Noble in Bozeman, Montana "just to get a latte" (i.e., I wasn't on a typical book-buying mission). I was walking toward the cafe when it happened: Glaciers found me. It was like one of those "meet cute" scenes in movies when the pretty brunette dogwalker and the distracted guy with the briefcase, walking in opposite directions, round a corner at the same ...more
Jodi Paloni
Nov 16, 2012 Jodi Paloni rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
I've read this brief novel three times and I think about it often in between readings. Few books hold onto me in this way. There are simply too many new books to read to take the time to re-read. What intrigues me is how many worlds we visit within the span of 178 pages without feeling like we've jumped tracks, or even wandered away, from Isabel's story. The novel takes place in a day and in a lifetime, in the past and in the present, and sometimes in her imagined future. The story is both perso ...more
Jul 01, 2012 Edan rated it really liked it
This novel's prose is measured and careful and clear and smooth, and there's a passage at the end that just about took my breath away it was so lovely. I liked the repetition and evolution of metaphor, though the very-very ending, the last page, felt too neat and cute. I read the entire book on a single day, in two shifts, during Bean's naps, and I haven't done that in so goodness, it felt good.

At the same time, this novel is a bit twee for my taste. It's like the Zooey Deschanel of no
Heather Fineisen
Jun 10, 2012 Heather Fineisen rated it really liked it
“Dear L--
Fell asleep in a park. Started to rain. Woke up with my hat full of leaves. You are all I see when I open or close a book.


This is one of the messages written on the back of a postcard from Amsterdam that twenty something Isabel finds in a thrift shop. This is just a sample of Alexis M. Smith's lyrical and inspired writing in this short but sweet novel. Isabel's past, present and future are exposed with thoughtful prose and longing. This is not for the reader looking for straigh
Girl Oddity
3.5 stars. This is the kind of book I love reading in order to relax.

It follows Isabella's stream of consciousness. Her day to day tasks, her memories of child hood among other things. I generally enjoy this kind of thing but particularly so in this case because, well, I love Isabella's life I suppose.

She has what I consider a romantically bookish career, she collects "treasures" from decades past and she adores vintage clothing. She's basically my girl crush.

There is an emphasis on stories. Ho
Feb 25, 2015 Isobel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Taking place over the course of one day in the life of Isabel, a librarian, Glaciers is a story of loss and one woman's attempt to prevent it. Isabel collects relics from the past -- vintage dresses, black and white photographs of strangers, outdated and mismatched crockery. And as she hangs on to all these old things, the story of her own past emerges. Isabel grew up in Alaska, far further north than she lives now. Her close guarded childhood memories feature her parents' divorce, the selling o ...more
Feb 04, 2012 Leslie rated it really liked it
I think of myself as mostly steering clear of hipster-dom, but this book was really lovely. I sat with a cup of tea and read it in about 3 hours. I identified with Isabel -- her preoccupation with old postcards, her Northern life, her love of books, her attraction to the "woodsman." A quiet, very special book -- I appreciated the book design, the little chapters (loved the chapter headers!), the deckled edges, the French flaps. It felt like something the character would enjoy reading. Spoke to m ...more
Jan 24, 2014 Claire rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, group-reads
Although called a novel and appearing to be 174 pages, the pages are small and the margins large, which makes it more like a long short story. It also reads more like a short story in its compactness.

I am sure there is more to glacier imagery than I have gotten so far, but I have seen history, mystery, and the slow disappearing. The imagery of glaciers calving appeared twice: on the imagined trip from Seattle back to Alaska and later to describe the parents' relationship: everything important ca
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Alexis M. Smith grew up in Soldotna, Alaska and Seattle, Washington. She attended Mount Holyoke College, Portland State University, and Goddard College, where she earned an MFA in Creative Writing. Her writing has appeared in Tarpaulin Sky and on She currently lives in Portland, Oregon with her son, two cats, and their beloved view of the St. John’s Bridge.
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“Monotonous and thankless as her job can be sometimes, she cheers at the thought of her coworkers - a dozen of them crammed into their little offices in the basement - all cleverly disguised as harmless geeks, all capable of saving the world if called upon.” 16 likes
“It's a strange product of infatuation, she thinks. To want to tell someone about mundane things. The awareness of another person suddenly sharpens your senses, so that the little things come into focus and the world seems more beautiful and complicated.” 16 likes
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