The Burn Zone

Every week, for this section, I edit the bestseller lists supplied to me by two of our valley’s three bookstores, and every week, sprinkled in amongst the bigger national titles, there are a bunch of books by local authors. So I know how important Aspen’s Explore Booksellers, Glenwood Springs’ Book Train and Bookbinders Basalt are for our writing community.

In addition to giving valley authors a place to sell their books (and enjoy a nutritious meal), one of the things I like best about Explore is the way it also gives authors myriad chances to talk about their books and meet potential readers over a cup of coffee and a snack. It’s a small-town touch that seems to be disappearing from Aspen and – with book stores on the endangered list – virtually impossible to find elsewhere.

Next up at Explore will be a free children’s story time on Saturday, Sept. 29, at 2 p.m., with local author Walker Jean Mills reading from her book “The Good Dog.” Beautifully illustrated, with a simple yet powerful message about doing good things in this world, the book arose from Mills’ work as an occupational therapist but was still a bit of a surprise.

“To be honest, I was not planning on writing a children's book,” said Mills. “One day last summer, I was talking to my dog, Charlie, and the book just flowed out of me. However, I do think much of the book was a culmination of many of my own life experiences, so in some respects, I feel I was writing the book my entire life. I just did not know it at the time.”

After the reading and talk, Mills and Charlie will help kids put together goodie bags for their own four-legged friends at home.

More adult subject matter will be the order of the day on Oct. 9 at 5:30 p.m. when Snowmass author Renee Linnell comes to Explore for a reading and book-signing of her memoir “The Burn Zone.” Chronicling Linnell’s seven years brainwashed in a Buddhist cult and her journey back to self, the book is part inspirational story and part cautionary tale about how even the strongest among us can be affected by mind control and a need to feel like we belong somewhere.

“I think we have a fundamental desire to be loved and accepted for who we are,” said Linnell. “This world can feel so lonely when we are living the facade of who we think we are supposed to be, and when we encounter someone who seems to really see us and really understand us, it is like a balm to a deep open wound.”

In a time when scandals like the one involving “Smallville” actress and alleged sex cult ringleader Allison Mack are splashed across the headlines, “The Burn Zone” makes for a riveting read about one woman’s harrowing experience. And you can talk to her all about it, thanks to your local bookstore.

Todd Hartley is the special sections editor for Aspen Daily News. He can be reached at

Special Sections Editor