Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Glaciers” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.70  ·  Rating details ·  3,621 ratings  ·  831 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
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Glaciers, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Glaciers

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.70  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,621 ratings  ·  831 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Glaciers
Jan 18, 2012 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
Oct 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
A quiet little book full of reflections with such pretty passages, it felt so comforting and perfectly narrated by Rebecca Lowman, a perfect accompaniment.
Aug 03, 2012 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 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 dama
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 Rowe
Apr 16, 2012 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.
Jul 31, 2013 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
Feb 12, 2013 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
Jul 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Looooved this small book. Packs a punch despite its brevity. A fun book to hold in your hands, I recommend the print version over an ebook for this one.

Enchanting. Lovely. Heart-sigh.
Jul 24, 2012 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
Jul 09, 2013 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
Chris Blocker
Apr 13, 2012 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
Jun 24, 2012 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
Mar 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I used to keep a shoe box under my bed, filled with mementos from special people and occasions. A note. A trinket. A strip of photos from an 80’s photo-booth. A movie ticket stub. When my mother was stricken with terminal cancer a few years later, I collected letters and tributes from her friends and pressed them inside a photo album. It wasn’t the items I was collecting, but the stories they contained.

Years later, I discovered thrift stores. I fell in love with vintage odds and ends. A hand-pai
Nov 19, 2011 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
David Abrams
Aug 15, 2012 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 sa ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 29, 2012 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 and ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Jul 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, read2012
This is a new author to pay attention to. Glaciers is brief (my only complaint is I wanted more) but I realized I was feeling every emotion along with Isabel, whose story jumps around between present day and her childhood in Alaska and beyond. The reason I brought it home from the library at all was that the main character worked in libraries, but it exceeded my expectations, even just in the character alone. You will want to experience it for yourself. I think I'll read it again before I return ...more
Jan 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: chiclit
Loved this quick little read about a twenty something woman librarian and an office flirtation. My favorite part of this story is when Isabel goes to the party and the guest play the story game. Do people do these kind of things anymore? It made me think of a time before tweeter and cellphones when we actually talked to each other about ourselves while looking at each other in the face. If you are interested in Alaska, traveling, love, vintage clothing, photographs and books, you will love this ...more
Aug 03, 2015 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
Apr 01, 2013 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
Jun 01, 2012 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 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.
Nov 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This novel is not about the story. It's the writing. So simple yet so profound. Feelings, thoughts, events are all captured with such exquisite beauty that all you can do is sigh!
Unfortunately, this one just didn't do anything to me. I little splash of melancholy and longing - that's it. It wasn't what I've expected it to be and I definitely wanted more.
Still planning to read Smith's newest book and hope to like it more.

Although, this may be the case of "it's me, not the book" too. Well, moving on.
May 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A quiet read - almost soothing in its pace - that leaves you much to digest and consider well after you've completed reading it.
Caiti S
Dec 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned-books
A quiet and delicate slice-of-life novel touching on themes of memories, stories, history and place. It read like an accessible, novella-length poem. There were a lot of similarities to my own life--the quiet, thoughtful protagonist is a thrifter and book lover living in Portland, Oregon, and has moved around a lot since her parents' divorce in childhood. I liked the way the story wove the past and present together--not in an over-explaining way that some other reviews suggest--but in a way that ...more
Shonna Froebel
Mar 05, 2014 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,
Sep 25, 2013 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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Undoing Yourself: With Energized Meditation and Other Devices
  • Bringing the Sacred to Life: The Daily Practice of Zen Ritual
  • The Way of Chuang Tzu (Shambhala Library)
  • Days of Distraction
  • Insight Meditation: A Psychology of Freedom
  • High Weirdness: Drugs, Esoterica, and Visionary Experiences in the Seventies
  • Cosmic Trigger 2: Down to Earth
  • As She Climbed Across the Table
  • The Magestic Trilogy - Book 3: Time travel series, suspense, politics and history, warfare
  • The Other Shore: A New Translation of the Heart Sutra with Commentaries
  • Zen Buddhism: Selected Writings of D. T. Suzuki
  • The Compassion Book: Teachings for Awakening the Heart
  • What Is Zen?
  • Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings
  • Player One: What Is to Become of Us (CBC Massey Lectures)
  • The Way of Life According to Lao Tzu
  • How Bluegrass Music Destroyed My Life
  • The Gospel According to Jesus
See similar books…
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.

Related Articles

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our lis...
37 likes · 12 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“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.” 20 likes
“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.” 17 likes
More quotes…