Recently, St. Louis accomplished something its detractors never thought it could. It placed near the top of a positive list--Most Literate Cities.
While #11 overall is not too shabby, St. Louis scored particularly high in the "Libraries" (#2) categories as well as the "Booksellers" (#8) category.
Wait...booksellers? This certainly had to be a regional measure, which would include the many chain bookstores that litter the metropolitan region.
This list gave me the idea to look at St. Louis's offerings in this category. But I wanted to focus on the city of St. Louis and in particular its local, independent booksellers of the non-adult variety. Below is a list of places in the city where you can flaunt your literacy, among the Top 11 in the country.
213-15 Cherokee Street
Saint Louis, MO 63118
This is St. Louis's newest independent book store, located on an evolving stretch of Cherokee Street on the Benton Park West side. I wanted to highlight this one first because it needs its presence known the most as the new kid on the block. Plus, my heart bleeds endlessly for Cherokee Street. I just love that you can now stroll the stroll and peruse rare used books, buy an STL-Style t-shirt, gawk at antique medical equipment, watch printmakers at work, thumb through metal records, lug home some used furniture and other trinkets, etc. I digress, badly. When I was last in town, the shop was not quite open yet, but that didn't stop the owner (didn't get his name...) from letting me in for a little tour and browsing. It looked well stocked then. Please visit and support your Cherokee Street bookstore...or else suffer a slide in the rankings on next year's Most Literate Cities study! You wouldn't want to be responsible for that, would you?
1939 Cherokee Street
St. Louis, MO 63118
Okay...so the Archive isn't Cherokee Street's only bookstore. Hammond's has been around for a while and specializes in rare and out of print books. It fits in well with its antique surroundings, as many of their books are antiques themselves. Hammond's has limited hours, so make sure to call ahead.
Neighborhood: Tower Grove South/Heights
3111 South Grand
St. Louis, MO 63118
Phone: (314) 771 - 7150
South Grand, to me, lacks the needed retail element to truly make the district pop. Dunaway Books, though, is one of the most authentic and cool businesses on the strip. This has to be St. Louis largest independent bookstore, with a jam-packed main floor and a basement to boot. Please support Dunaway to keep South Grand viable. Hopefully the street's more pedestrian-friendly layout will give Dunaway some extra foot traffic.
LEFT BANK BOOKS
Neighborhoods: Central West End, Downtown
399 N. Euclid
St. Louis, MO 63108
321 N. 10th
St. Louis, MO 63101
Left Bank Books probably needs no introduction. Most city residents know of it. But that doesn't mean, come Black Friday, most residents shop there. Left Bank has had something of a shaky history, having nearly shuttered several times. Originally a counter-culture bookstore located in the Loop, Left Bank was rescued from the brink of closure and moved to the Central West End, where it remains today. Due to Craig Heller's brilliance and generosity, a subsidized store now exists downtown. Left Bank's plight is a case in point: local booksellers need your support whenever possible. Remember that their products are the same as Barnes and Noble and Borders, yet their level of customer service and neighborhood-oriented settings simply make the shopping experience more pleasant than any corporate one. During the real estate and investment bubble of the mid 2000s, I recall Mayor Slay trumpeting news of a Borders scouting a downtown location. I can safely say I'm glad they didn't move in now that Left Bank anchors downtown. Left Bank's profits stay in St. Louis.
LEGACY BOOKS AND CAFE
5249 Delmar Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63108
So I admit: I've never been to this store. Reviews of it sound great, though. It seems to be a combination book store and coffee shop--a concept that's popular here in Baltimore but not so much in St. Louis. It seems rather social justice-oriented, too, which is excellent in my book. It's already on my list of places to try when I return to St. Louis.
NOT JUST A BOOKSTORE
5892 Delmar Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63112
Here's yet another "Far East Loop" bookstore I've never been to. As the name suggests, it's not merely about books, but empowerment through literacy--very fitting for the study that inspired this post. Does anyone have the scoop on this business, located in the Delmar Design District?
A personal favorite of mine is the American Institute of Architects (AIA) bookstore downtown on Washington Avenue. There are a handful of comic book stores left in the city as well. Does anyone else know of any specialty book stores in the city? We can't forget Subterranean Books, located just outside the city in the Loop.
One more thing...a fond farewell to one of the region's coolest book stores ever: Library Limited in downtown Clayton, swallowed by the corporate campus of Centene.
Final reflection here: support your local, independent book store because 1) our city will be less cool if you do not and 2) we will not rank as highly on "lists" with dubious criteria. That's all.
UPDATE (2/22/10): An adroit reader caught that I missed a specialty book store--Big Sleep Books on Euclid in the Central West End, which specializes in mystery novels. Thanks!
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