Spike in repose. Photo by Gina Lewis Lee, from her blog, “Pets in Bookstores”
We’re super excited, as always, to announce our partner bookseller for the coming month: Left Bank Books in St. Louis!
Left Bank was founded as a collective in the sixties by a group of Wash U graduate students to provide otherwise unavailable counter-cultural literature (such as then-controversial Rolling Stone magazine, gasp) to local readers. As that generation drifted off after about ten years, current co-owner, Kris Kleindienst, who had hung around with and eventually been hired as a clerk by the founding generation, joined up with a fellow bookseller to scrape together a few pennies and take over, and the rest is history. Left Bank as grown and thrived and continued as a community hub as well as an important resource. In 1998, Left Bank partnered with the American Booksellers Association as a plaintiff in an antitrust lawsuit to defend independent booksellers from unfair market practices by the national chains; the suit was settled in 2001 in their favor. In recent years Left Bank has launched a number of projects in support of bookselling and reading in St. Louis, including the St. Louis Bookstore Alliance, the St. Louis Book Festival, the imprint, Mixed Messages Press, and a Ferguson Reads book group, to promote understanding in the wake of the protests in Ferguson. That’s in addition to lots of book clubs, author appearances, and staff recommendations that we look forward to featuring for you in Book Post!
Left Bank has also created a nonprofit foundation, the Friends of the Left Bank Books Literary Society, to promote literacy in St. Louis by providing books and literary programs to public school children, disadvantaged populations, and all of St. Louis. The foundation receives most of its funding from individual donors and patrons; members are thanked with their own annual books sales and parties with visiting authors.
Finally, we cannot leave out Left Bank’s legacy of famous bookstore cats. Fluffy Spike (who has his own recommendations page) was named bookstore cat of the year by BookExpo America and has appeared in a Mental Floss list of top bookstore cats, as well as two books (Where We Belong, by Emily Giffen, and The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, by Wendy Welch). Spike succeeded Jamaica, named after our own author Jamaica Kincaid, who by the way should be sending the second in her series of Book Post gardening diaries shortly, Jamaica having followed founding cat Captain Nemo. Staff reports that they have visitors who come just for the cats.
We love this chance to take a look inside the lives of different reading communities with our bookstore partnerships. We hope you’ll support Left Bank’s work by ordering from them with us for the month of November!