Book Buzz Episode 48 – The Monk of Mokha & Light from Uncommon Stars

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Air date: May 5, 2024 

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The Monk of Mokha

Light From Uncommon Stars

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Hi, this is Jessica Russell. I’m the assistant director of collection services at Sno-Isle Libraries. And welcome to Book Buzz.

Today's two reading recommendations are from the genres of biography and science fiction.

First, we’re going to hear from Kat, librarian at the Edmonds Library, for a true story of an unlikely entrepreneur. Take it away, Kat.


I didn’t think much about my coffee’s journey to my morning cup, until I read “The Monk of Mokha” by Dave Eggers.

The Monk of Mokha is the story of a young man’s mission to introduce the world to the coffee beans of Yemen. Mokhtar Alkhanshali is the oldest of six kids raised in a tiny apartment in the poorest neighborhood of San Francisco.

He lives without clear direction when at age 24 his friend points out that coffee in fact originated from Yemen. Or was it Ethiopia? There is still some debate about that, but the point is, some of the best coffee in the world is grown in the hills of Yemen, the country of his parents’ birth. This notion lights a fire inside of Mokhtar who then makes a bold decision to travel to Yemen and learn everything he can about coffee, how it is grown, harvested, dried, roasted and shipped. Borrowing money from friends and others who believe in him, Mokhtar finds himself in the remote hills of Yemen meeting hard working farmers and sampling some remarkable coffee. He knows he has a winner with cherries from the most reticent farmer he meets. And then, civil war breaks out.

This is a story of a Yemeni American Muslim who takes tremendous risks to reach for that American success story. Read the “Monk of Mokha” and never see coffee the same again.


Thanks, Kat! This sounds like an interesting blend of food, travel, and culture.

Next, let’s hear about an intergalactic love story, from Madeline, librarian at the Marysville Library. Go ahead, Madeline.


Ryka Aoki's novel “Light From Uncommon Stars” is unlike anything I've ever read.

A runaway transgender musical prodigy, her violin teacher known as the Queen of Hell, and a space alien refugee all make an unusual cast of characters.

I thought this book would be a wacky adventure, but as I read, I was surprised to find it was also a tender and hopeful story about family and belonging. To make good on her deal with the devil, Shizuka Sitomi must deliver him the soul of her seventh and final violin student. Just as she’s ready to turn over her new prodigy, Katrina Nguyen, she notices in Katrina an otherworldly talent and decides to give her a shot. Encouraged by love interest Lan, the matriarch of an intergalactic family living incognito on Earth as donut makers, Shizuka and Katrina take on Southern California’s classical music community to blow the world’s mind with a Bartok performance for the ages.

Aoki’s sensuous writing will have you craving donuts and Hainan chicken, and desperate to listen to some violin. And these loveable characters will leave you with a little more hope for the world. If you’re a Douglas Adams fan or loved the playful maximalism and sense of wonder in the movie “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” you will have a great time with “Light from Uncommon Stars.”


Thanks, Madeline! Aliens, music, and donuts. What’s not to like?

Our recommendations this week are: “The Monk of Mokha” by Dave Eggers and “Light from Uncommon Stars” by Ryka Aoki.

Join us next time, when we’ll explore more great reading recommendations — interesting books you can find at your favorite local bookstore or at your local library.

Until then, I’m Jessica Russell from Sno-Isle Libraries.

Thanks for joining us for Book Buzz on KSER.

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