Archive for September, 2010

Reading is Fundamental: Bookstores, Franzen, and the Politics of Reading

Posted in Uncategorized on September 4, 2010 by thebibliophile

Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe in Washington, DC


 Much is changing in the world of books: the introduction of Amazon’s e-reader, the Kindle has fundamentally changed the way people read, then this month comes the announcement that Barnes & Noble, the mega-bookseller that in the ’90s put thousands of small independent bookstores out of business is facing financial struggles and is looking for a buyer,  meanwhile the media reports that there has been a decline in reading. 

 It’s heady dangerous times for readers, book lovers, and the like. Though Barnes & Noble looks to be near its demise, one benefit may be the resurgence of local bookstores. Flavorwire helps us get reacquainted with some of the best brick-and-mortar stores in the country, with its list of “The 10 Best Bookstores in the U.S.”  Featured on the list are some of my favorites, including Politics & Prose in Washington, DC and of course, the illustrious, wonderful Strand Bookstore in New York city. 

 If I were adding to Flavorwire’s list, I would also include: 

 1. Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe in Washington, DC is a DC landmark, opened in 1976 featuring not only a great book selection worthy of the “best and brightest” minds of DC but an equally tasty menu. Kramerbooks’ tagline is “open early to late,” and can have quite a clubby atmosphere. It opens at 7 a.m. and is open to 1 a.m., every day. On weekends it becomes a 24 hour hub of bookworms, foodies, and Washingtonians. 

Malaprops Books in Asheville, NC


 2. Malaprops in Asheville, NC is tucked in what is quickly becoming known as the “Berkley of the South,” of Asheville, NC, Malaprops offers a comfortable bookstore, with a fantastic selection, knowledgeable and friendly staff. It also boasts an enviable author calendar. 

Sisterspace Books in Washington, DC

3. Sisterspace Books in Washington, DC orginally located on historic U Street in Washington, DC Sisterspace has had a rough decade – dislocated, shut down, and then recently re-opened. Sisterspace specializes in books written by womyn of color. 

Cellar Stories Bookstore in Providence, RI

4. Cellar Stories in Providence, RI is known to regulars as the “Cellar,” and is tucked in a narrow Providence street. The store is filled with reasonably priced books, that are often also valuable.  It has a great collection of Octavia Butler books – the old school ones where the characters on the front cover are all white, even though the protagonist is a 6 foot tall Black womyn:



In other news from the world of books, Racialicious, ran a great piece about the hoop-la over Jonathan Franzen’s new book Freedom, and how critiques of the book often reflect a desire to return to a “great American novel,” that centers the experiences of white, heterosexual men. The post entitled, “And ‘We’ Are?; The Quest for the ‘Great American Novel’,” includes some great quotes from writers like Jodi Picoult, calling out how problematic the praise of Franzen’s work is. An important point: at issues isn’t whether or not Franzen’s work is good; it is. The issue is how critics frame the work, and seem to long for a time when there was far less “ethnic” literature.    

All of which makes me grateful for author Carleen Brice and her dedication to promoting the work of Black authors. It’s through Carleen’s blog that I stumbled onto the blog ringShout,  a place for Black literature. While I appreciate Racialicious’ analysis of Franzen, I think that it doesn’t push the envelope far enough to talk about Seg-Book-Gation or the impact of the praise of Franzen on Black authors, authors of color, and womyn writers.All this talk of books, has me looking forward to my fall reading list, which includes: 1. The Big Machine by Victor Lavalle    


2. Song Yet Sung by James McBride    

Song Yet Sung    

3. Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill    

Someone Knows My Name    

4. Glorious by Bernice L. McFadden    

Glorious   5. Dance, Dance, Dance by Haruki Murakami  

Dance Dance Dance


Gratuitous Coveting of Cool Design

Posted in Uncategorized on September 1, 2010 by thebibliophile

A lovely lunch box from Oots. It’s a Dutch company that has really borrowed the design of the Japanese bento box and Indian (South Asian) style tiffin food containers and combined the best aspects of each into a funky and colorful product.

Oots combines the stacked design of the bento and the latched aspect of the tiffin. Not product placement…I just, hmmm, really like this lunch box.