Kim Ricketts parlayed her passion for books into a career as a literary "matchmaker." After working in bookstores, she helped pioneer a new breed of event that brought authors together with readers in unconventional settings. She died Monday at the age of 53.
No one is sure where Kim Ricketts got her love of books.
It was always there.
“I swear she was born with it,” said her sister, Deb Crawford. “She would be off in the corner reading, and our mom would say: “Why don’t you go out and play?”
Mrs. Ricketts, who died Monday at the age of 53, parlayed her passion for books into a career as a literary matchmaker. After working in bookstores, she helped pioneer a new breed of event that brought authors together with readers in unconventional settings.
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Instead of traditional bookshop readings, Mrs. Ricketts staged cocktail parties and events on corporate campuses, from Starbucks to Microsoft, where authors could connect with a wider audience. Her popular “Cooks and Books” series brought celebrity chefs and authors to local restaurants, where they shared dishes and insights with fans.
The roster of writers who participated in her events is a “who’s who” of the culinary and literary worlds, from Salman Rushdie and Anthony Bourdain to Sandra Tsing Loh and Mario Batali. Michael Pollan, author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” sent a sympathy note on learning of Mrs. Ricketts’ death from a rare blood disorder.
Her business, “Kim Ricketts Book Events,” earned mentions in The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and Publisher’s Weekly.
The inspiration dated from Mrs. Ricketts’ tenure at Seattle’s University Book Store, where she first began helping businesses host authors. “Cooks and Books” grew out of her own frustration with conventional events where cookbook authors would talk, sign books and leave.
“I just think it’s so much more fun if you can eat their food, talk to them over dinner,” she said in an interview last year with the magazine Edible Seattle. “People do want other ways to interact with the books in their lives.”
Born July 16, 1957, in Fresno, Calif., Mrs. Ricketts moved with her family to Seattle in the early 1960s. Though her obsession with books worried her own mother, she made a point of passing the bug on to her three children.
“She read to us pretty much every night when we were growing up,” said daughter Whitney Ricketts, an editor at Seattle publisher Sasquatch Books. On a visit to her son, who was sharing a house in Virginia with six roommates, Mrs. Ricketts cooked a big meal and ordered all the televisions off in favor of conversation. She later sent books to several of the young men, who weren’t regular readers.
“She saw it as a challenge to try to find books for people that they would love,” Whitney Ricketts said.
Mrs. Ricketts’ own interests were expansive. “She could ask intelligent questions about pretty much any topic,” said Susie Hino, a friend and business partner. “We would be at Microsoft Research, and it would all be over my head, but Kim knew what they were talking about.”
When Mrs. Ricketts wasn’t reading, she was either cooking, working in the garden or volunteering for local civic organizations. She told Edible Seattle she owned more than 130 cookbooks.
“I have vivid memories of coming home from a rainy soccer practice and she would always have hot minestrone on the stove,” Whitney Ricketts said.
Working with celebrities was sometimes challenging. One well-known author-chef pitched a snit during his dinner event, then — after several cocktails — began scrawling on the tables with a marker. “Sometimes you’d get the divas who need the room-temperature water, but generally speaking, Kim had such a great reputation that people were grateful to be at her events,” Hino said.
The business will continue to operate, she added. “It’s a legacy she created that we’re not going to let die.”
Mrs. Ricketts was diagnosed last fall with the blood cancer multiple myeloma and primary amyloidosis, a disorder related to abnormal antibody production.
In addition to her sister and daughter Whitney, she is survived by her husband, Mike; son, Sam, of Washington, D.C.; daughter Hannah, of Waterville, Maine; and brother, Bob Bachman, of Sammamish.
Services are being finalized. Details will be posted at the website for Mrs. Ricketts’ business: www.kimricketts.com.
Donations in her memory can be made to the Seattle Public Library and to 826 Seattle, a nonprofit that encourages children to write.
Sandi Doughton: 206-464-2491 or firstname.lastname@example.org