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.
Here are two documentary films that I’m excited about and I am guessing, if you’re reading this blog, you’ll probably be interested too.
The first film is called The Bookmakersand runs about an hour. It features all kinds of folks that are working to keep books viable in this day and age. There are interviews with type setters and old world book artists as well as digital librarians and font folks. The trailer hooks me early! I hear that The Bookmakers documentary has been delayed due to all of the “stay home” stuff going on these days. I’m excited for this one to be out – eventually. Here’s the trailer:
A co-worker mentionedThe Booksellers documentary to me the other day and I just love the visuals in the trailer. It was released back on April 17th via special streaming screenings online. Which is all very cool and handy these days. You can scroll through the film’s twitter feed and find a place to watch it. It looks like it’s running about $10 to stream it. This film has to be good. There are some pretty big names from both the bookstore and book trade worlds in The Booksellers. I’m hoping to find some time this weekend to watch.
It doesn’t hurt to mix in a little screen time with reading, does it? I hope you all are tucked away, feeling well and have plenty of books surrounding you. And I hope you get a chance to see these two films too!
Scout & Morgan has an elegant, welcoming atmosphere, with the latest books stocked alongside used and fine antiquarian books, a fireplace, and comfortable chairs for reading.
. . . how can you not want to go? It kind of checks all of the boxes, doesn’t it?
Located about an hour north of Minneapolis, Scout & Morgan has carved out a wonderful place that’s worth stopping for, if you ever find yourself up there.
Whenever I’ve visited they’ve always been super nice and friendly and certainly know their stock. They have a well curated selection of new books as well as shelves full of used books. The used books aren’t your “bent corner” variety either. They look great and are fun to peruse. And the used book prices are better than fair.
They have plenty of local books and being in Minnesota they are tied into the state’s rich literary culture. The Books About Books section at Scout & Morgan is a must. It’s a full bookcase and is mostly used books so you never know what you’ll find. Looking straight through, from the front door. and you’ll see a back wall FULL of fiction. It’s shelves and shelves of new, used, cheap, not-as-cheap, and a blast to shop.
Anyway, I hope you are doing well this week and that we all get to go out and visit our favorite bookstores again soon. Looking through bookstore photos helps some, but I’m ready to get back out there!
The Address Book: What Street Addresses Reveal About Identity, Race, Wealth, and Powerby 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 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.
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 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):