I would like to take a momentary break from my posts about my trip to New York City to indulge in my bibliophile travel interests. There has been some great literary news lately, including Philip Levine being named the 2011-12 U.S. Poet Laureate. But recently as I was reading Huffington Post Books (my favorite source for book nerd news), I saw a link to the "5 Best Cities for Book Lovers."
It was not a surprising list:
1. Pasadena, CA (Vroman's Bookstore)
2. Washington D.C. (Politics & Prose Bookstore)
3. San Francisco, CA (City Lights)
4. Portland, OR (Powell's Books)
5. New York City, NY (Strand Bookstore)
I agree that these are all great cities for book lovers. I love the Strand and I love City Lights. I have to go to the Strand every time I go to New York City (as I've mentioned here before) and as a devout follower of Kerouac I am happy to say that I have made the "counter-culture pilgrimage" to City Lights.
But here's my problem with the list: Where are the Midwest cities? Every place on the list is East Coast or West Coast without anything in the middle. I know we tend to be thought of as fly-over country, but even with all the plans buzzing overhead we have still found time to enjoy a book or two. That is why I want to add a few places to this list. Specifically, three Midwest cities and towns for book lovers:
1. Kansas City (Rainy Day Books)
Regardless of whether you are on the Kansas or Missouri side of the state line in Kansas City, Rainy Day Books is your source for all great literary events. I have mentioned this bookstore here before, but feel the need to mention it again. Because if you want to make a list of cities for book lovers, it just has to include Rainy Day Books. To read more about it, visit my previous blog post here.
2. Chicago, IL (Women and Children First Bookstore)
This Andersonville bookstore, as the name would suggest, specializes in feminist and children literature. But the best reason to keep coming back is the author events. Powerful women, such as Hilary Clinton, have given readings there. I was lucky enough to attend a reading by Nora Vincent after the release of her book "Self-Made Man: My Year Disguised as a Man", describing her 18-month experiment to pass as a man in traditionally male-only venues (including everything from bowling teams to strip clubs to a monastery). It has an incredibly loyal group of patrons as well as local prestige as it was named one of the ten best bookstore in Chicago by the Chicago Tribune.
3. Lawrence, KS (The Dusty Bookshelf)
Okay, so I'm a little biased and put my current hometown on here. But it really is a great place for book lovers. On Massachusetts Street, the main street through downtown Lawrence, you will find my favorite used bookstore, The Dusty Bookshelf. This little shop is piled high with books - literally. Even with full shelves at the Dusty Bookshelf, you can still find stacks and stacks of books just waiting to be sorted through by a dedicated reader who enjoys the thrill of discovery just as much as she loves a good read.