All posts by trav

At the heart of it all, I’m a fan. A fan of books and bookstores. A fan of fiction and non-fiction. A fan of authors and publishers. And most of all I’m a fan of great conversations sparked by books. All that to say - I really need more bookshelves.

The Address Book – a book review

The Address Book: What Street Addresses Reveal About Identity, Race, Wealth, and Power by Deidra Mask (published by Macmillan) is a story-filled and thought provoking book in the vein of Bill Bryson, Mary Roach, and Henry Petroski. Mask puts the very familiar road signs, house numbers, street names, city planning, etc., not just under the magnifying glass, but under the microscope. I was constantly surprised at ‘why things are the way they are and how they got that way’. (I was also surprise just how vulgar some street names are, once you hear their backstory and origins.) Wow.

There are many highlights in the book. But one of the most impressive is how Mask’s ability to connect dots and reveal how relevant history and decisions made generations ago affect our neighborhoods and political decisions today.

The cover of The Address Book was designed by Jonathan Bush.

The Address Book addresses far flung topics, political issues, race relations, and biology, illustrating how our sense of place ties into our brain’s memories of places and the development of the hippocampus or relating tales of how streets got their names, it all seems relevant to us today.

There’s a balance to be struck in addressing, which seems kind of weird to say. But if one has an address then they can vote, participate in local events, have medicines delivered. It is an identity. It is empowering. And being given an address is invaluable to many people struggling in slums and the poorest areas of the planet.

At the same time, once you have an address, some feel dehumanized and that they’re “just a number”. Plus, now the government can track you. They can show up on your doorstep if they don’t like what you’re saying or doing. It’s also a good way for them to reinforce their rule. Some of the stories of dictators changing street names every time power changes hands to “literally put words in your mouth”, so you have to say Hitler Avenue or something like that. Lots of mind games at the street level have been played over the centuries.

Throughout the book there are fascinating tid-bits and stories showing the impact of addressing systems, such as how Mozart got his mail, the millions of dollars some in New York City will pay to have a specific address, the story behind the founding of Philadelphia, and how Washington D.C. got it’s street names. So many interesting talk about stories in this book.

Deidra Mask

Mask does a great job relating her story as she explores and digs deeper. The Address Book isn’t some stale history book. There are people doing things now and these things matter as they can bake in systemic problems or promote growth and unity.

I was very surprised and pleased to learn just how many ‘new ways to address locations’ are under development. Lots of new tech and ways of thinking about our societies and Mask touches on some of the movements briefly, like what3words, and helps highlight the pros and cons.

Which brings me to the highest praise I can give a book. While The Address Book did not feel designed to ‘plant a flag’ or ‘rally the troops’ (it’s a much more fair and balanced book than that), it was a tipping point for me to get involved.

During the first third of the book you’ll read about the Missing Maps group. Think Wikipedia, but for giving addresses to those who need them most and providing accurate maps to health care workers and humanitarian organizations. It’s amazing what a bunch of random folks sitting around with laptops can do. So I signed up! I haven’t attended a mapping party (they’re all over Europe/Britain), but I’ve done a few stints of tracing in Open Street Maps. Pretty cool.

I found The Address Book to be a fast read and while there were a few areas I would’ve enjoyed diving deeper on, the book doesn’t blow anything out of proportion. Which I very much appreciate. It’s full of cultural geographers, historians, epidemiologists, and first hand interviews plus the author’s own experience and thoughts.

This book was sent to me as an advanced galley (with no expectation of review). But I really enjoyed it and I give The Address Book 5 out 5 stars and have been recommending this book to just about everyone. It’s a well done and informative read about something so many of us are privileged enough to take for granted.

Thank You Books – Birmingham, AL

Thank You Books is one of Birmingham’s newest bookstores and an all around indie hot spot. This shop is a lot of fun and has so much energy for having just popped up in December 2019. I think this just shows how much care and consideration the owners are putting into their bookstore and the books they select. They’re selling new books and the care and consideration carries over into the way they deal with the shop’s visitors as well (both online and offline).

The seem to be most active on Instagram and I’ve enjoyed lurking during some of their “live” events online. Just good book people sharing the books they enjoy and doing what they can to foster a healthy book culture here in Birmingham.

I sure do miss visiting bookstores… but these photos will have to do, until the self-isolation period is over. Once it is, be sure to give them a visit, here’s some details (and I really do recommend following them on the social channels):

Thank You Books
5502 Crestwood Blvd, Unit B
Birmingham, AL 35212
205-202-3021
https://www.thankyoubookshop.com/
twitter: https://twitter.com/thankyou_bham
instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thankyou_bham/

And here are the photos taken back, in 2019, soon after the opened. It seems like years ago. Notice how the stars on the front sign are carried on throughout the store across the floor? So fun!

Science Fiction as Philosophy – Avondale Library

Avondale Library

The Avondale Library is hosting a very interesting online video discussion group this week. Friday, April 3rd at 3pm, they will host and discuss Science Fiction as Philosophy, via the web and a Zoom video conference.

The video series discusses, “…how popular science fiction shows have tackled profound issues such as autonomy, sentience, pacifism, colonialism, racism, grief, morality, and much more.”

Which sounds pretty dang cool and everything that good speculative fiction works with. It has all the makings of a fun and informative online conversation. This new Sci-Phi Fridays series by the Avondale Library branch is based on The Great Courses materials.

The Great Courses has lots of videos and classes diving deep into topics like publishing, writing, genres, etc. It’s worth scanning their catalog to see if there is anything you’d enjoy. The post a lot of content on their YouTube channel. Most of it is medical and viral-related these days and some 5-minute teasers. But they have longer 30-minute videos (like this science vs. science fiction one on Doctor Who and Time Travel Paradoxes) as well as sharing the first video in a series they sell.

Doctor Who Avondale Sci Phi

You can get more information in the BPL Online post and do know that registration is required. It’s free, but I’m sure they have to be able to send out all of the zoom invites, etc. to facilitate the online video feeds and discussions.

With all that is going on in the world, I hope you are well and reading this post some place safe and able to stay isolated.

Best Bookstore in the South 2020

E. Shaver, Bookseller has been named the South’s Best Bookstore for 2020 by Southern Living magazine. It’s always good when an indie bookshop gets some recognition outside of its hometown.

E. Shaver, Bookseller is located in Savannah, GA and sits on one of the most idyllic and walkable squares I’ve ever visited. Savannah has a few great bookstores and E. Shaver, Bookseller is definitely on the “must visit” list.

When things aren’t so crazy in the world you can visit the bookstore during their normal hours:

E. Shaver, Bookseller
Monday-Tuesday 9:30am-5:30pm
Wednesday-Saturday 9:30am-7:00pm
Sunday 11:00am-4:00pm
Phone (912) 234-7257

The shop is fun to walk around as it has lots of little very well lit rooms and a solid collection of local and regional books.

I have to admit I felt a little bummed while pulling up these photos from my last visit and getting them ready to post. It dawned on me–it’s been weeks since I’ve browsed in a bookstore. I haven’t been to my usual haunts in what seems like forever. So I think I am going to start posting photos from all my past shop visits. When I travel (work or family) we always make a point to visit local bookshops and I’m always taking photos. So there’s plenty to work with and I’m a little excited to start going back through the past couple of years of photos. None of the photos were taken with “these will go online one day” and for all I know some of the shops may have closed up.

But my hope is that by browsing virtual shelves and bookstores the senses will calm and help me look ahead to when we all can get back out there and visit our local bookstores. So more to come and I’m happy to be kicking things off with the E. Shaver, Bookseller photos.

I hope each of you have a good book nearby, are tucked in, safe and as well as can be.