Tag Archives: Reading

Celebrating a Beloved Bookstore’s 25 Years

“We don’t want bookstores to die. Authors need them, and so do neighborhoods.” — Roy Blount, Jr.

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From Kurt Cobain to Flaubert… and lots more.

Like newspapers and the music business, bookstores everywhere have taken an evolutionary hit in the digital age. Many have folded up, including all the Borders chain and Atlanta’s Outwrite.

But A Cappella Books continues to give bibliophiles reason to hope — and to spend money. On Friday, the independent shop celebrated 25 years in business with a reception at The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and a party afterward at Manuel’s Tavern.

It was also a launch of a new book about the shop, featuring some of the city’s top writers, called “A Cozy Infinity.”

‘I Like Seeing the Good Guys Win’

A Capella Books, Atlanta, bookstore, independent, Jimmy Carter, Manuel's Tavern, Inman Park, Little Five Points

Owner Frank Reiss

Throughout the years and changing marketplace, owner Frank Reiss has moved the store to a few locations in the Little Five Points/Inman Park area. He’s adapted nimbly from his original focus on hard-to-find and out-of-print books. Now he has added more online sales, more events with authors, and selling more signed copies.

The first two locations were in the heart of Little Five Points, with heavy foot traffic and lots of stores and restaurants around. Now, he’s in a more isolated spot nearby that’s right up against busy DeKalb Avenue.

“This isn’t the story that everybody thinks of, this romantic haven for reading,” he says. “It is in a way. But it’s been a hustle, a lot of strategic business decisions to survive and do OK. So that’s what the story really is.”

Reiss has built the kind of goodwill that local merchants dream of.

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A clean, well-lighted place for books…

“It was a great pleasure to pay tribute to one of the world’s nicest people who, as a bookseller, also happens to be raising the knowledge/intelligence/enlightenment quotient of the greater Atlanta region,” said Hank Klibanoff, a former Atlanta Journal-Constitution managing editor and contributor to the book. “From some great authors, you could feel the enormous rush of love for Frank and his support for their work. It was one of those start-to-finish feel good evenings.”

And from a fan on Facebook, Noel Mayeske: “I like seeing the good guys win.  Great job Frank on building a book store Atlanta loves, and enduring through some very changing times over 25 years. Here’s to many more!”

And it’s not just anybody who can score a presidential library and Manuel’s on the same night.

Let Him Tell His Own Story

I could write a recap of the store’s history. But this is really good, from the store’s website:

When A Cappella Books first opened its doors in Little Five Points in 1989, there was no Amazon. For all intents and purposes there was no internet. Barnes & Noble had not even arrived in Atlanta. Oxford Books dominated the local retail book landscape, with another newcomer, Chapter 11, nipping at its heels. Only a few years later, Oxford had succumbed to its newfangled competition. In several more years, Chapter 11 was bankrupt.

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25 Years, 25 Writers

A quarter century–and three re-locations–later, A Cappella is still going strong, and, while still hardly bigger physically than its original incarnation, the little store plays a big role in the local literary scene, presenting important authors and selling books at venues all over town.

To celebrate its longevity, A Cappella is publishing a book: A Cozy Infinity: 25 (Mostly) Atlanta Writers on the Never-Ending Allure of Books and Bookstores. Contributors to the volume include Pulitzer Prize-winner Hank Klibanoff, former Atlanta Magazine editor Rebecca Burns, James Beard award-winning food writer John T. Edge, popular columnist Hollis Gillespie and celebrated local novelists Thomas MullenSusan Rebecca WhiteAnthony Grooms, and Joseph Skibell. The book’s title comes from one of the 25 essays contained in it, penned by Esquire staff writer and Atlanta resident Tom Junod

Reiss ended up writing more of “A Cozy Infinity” than he had planned.

“It’s where I tell the story of how I got into the book business and started the bookstore here in Atlanta and figured out a way to keep doing it for 25 years,” he said.

Smaller Stores Are Doing Better

The American Booksellers Association, which represents independent bookstores, says its membership grew 6.4 percent in 2013, to 2,022. Sales were up 8 percent in 2012, and those gains held last year, The Washington Post reported in an article citing a resurgence of independents.

“There’s a lot of room for improvement, but not everything is doom and gloom for America’s bookstores,” reported The Open Education Database.

In 2013, Publisher’s Weekly ranked Georgia as 18th among states for book sales. The state had 252 independent bookstores.

Others that have made the most of their niche include Charis Books & More in Little Five Points, with a focus on women, and Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, which sells children’s books.

Let me know about others, and share your stories and support for A Cappella and other independent bookstores. At this time of year, when we’re all out there shopping, it’s good to keep local independent merchants of all kinds in mind.

(Click on a photo to see it bigger. Mouse over for captions.)

A Cappella Books, 208 Haralson Ave. N.E., 404-681-5128, Sunday noon to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. acapellabooks.com

 

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Friends Weigh In: How to Choose Which Book to Read Next — PLUS: 3 Quick Recommendations

How do you decide what to read next, books, reading, novels, Believe Me, Michael Margolis, a storytelling manifesto, Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch, ask Facebook friends

So many books, so little time… Sometimes I just go to one of my shelves and find something I haven’t picked up yet.

Tony blames it all on “The Goldfinch.”

For me, Donna Tartt’s divisive novel deserves only half the fault.

But we’re both in the same place, stalled in trying to figure out what to read next.

My friend and I are good, steady readers with broad interests, usually going from one book to the next. But lately we can’t find our groove. We both realized this when we tried to read “The Goldfinch” at the same time, after some positive early buzz but before the Pulitzer. We are fans of literary fiction, and I had enjoyed Tartt’s debut, “The Secret History.”

But each of us sheepishly admitted we weren’t enjoying this one, and we eventually gave up before page 200, or about a quarter of the way through. It was just such a slog, almost unreadable – and then we heard from more friends who had the same response.

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Micro-reviews of some of what I have been reading lately….
From Gutenberg to Zuckerberg: Disruptive Innovation in the Age of the Internet, by John Naughton. Sort of like a Malcolm Gladwell book, this traces the history of innovation, starting with that famous Bible all the way up to the most famous social network. Naughton draws fascinating parallels and shows how changes in communications lead to profound changes in everything.

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Tweet Naked: a bare-all social media strategy for boosting your brand and your business. Levy’s an engaging writer and this is a highly readable primer on getting started. The faux provocative title just means: Be transparent.

 

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Believe Me: a storytelling manifesto for change-makers and innovators. By Michael Margolis. Short, smart, thought-provoking. And free online. Get it, read it over a cup of coffee, talk about it with a friend or colleague over a couple more.

The experience left Tony and me both oddly unable to get back on track with something new. Tony says he’s baffled by reviews now, and I admit my attention span seems shot – challenged, at least – by my focus on digital communications and social media.

(I have been reading books about those topics, though, as they relate to content, storytelling, branded journalism and such – just for different reasons and with different rewards.)

So I asked Facebook friends, How do you decide what to read next? Is it reviews? Cover art? Oprah?

The result has been a lively discussion, an edited version of which I want to share. Please join in, through the link at the top of this post. Let me know what works for you and what you’ve been reading lately, especially if it’s good. Or even “The Goldfinch.”

Stephen Bell Miller: I troll bookstores, take suggestions from reviews or interviews I hear on NPR; I look to biographies and mystery series; and the classics are always on my list.

Priscille Dando: Recommendation from someone I trust is the biggest influencer–friend, librarian, independent bookseller, reviewers at Booklist, publishing reps that know my taste. I do pay attention to Buzz books and awards but a book jumps the line if someone I know loves it.

Scott Pierce: My latest was The Circle by Eggers. I got it at Church Street Coffee & Books (in Birmingham, Ala.) for two reasons: I’d read Eggers before and loved him, and I trust Carrie to stock great reads.

Peter Rubin: I read a lot. They are cotton candy for the brain type books. If there is a CIA black ops, political intrigue, super spy thriller then I read it. If I like the author — then I binge read all his/her books. I know people who like the same types of books and ask them if I have run out of new ones to read. So, in essence, word of mouth from a trusted source.

Kelly Pierce: I mostly pick books up and flip to a random page. If I like that passage, I buy the book. Not very scientific. Sometimes I get heads up from friends or hear or see an author interviewed that sounds interesting.

Connie Ogle: Sometimes it’s something so simple as the cover or the description. … I read Fourth of July Creek recently and ended up reviewing it bc a colleague had suggested it. I do read reviews, too, of course, though I never trust Amazon reviews (what if it’s the author’s sister???) I get ideas from Twitter #fridayreads, too, and just looking at hashtags for books to see what people are talking about.

Michael Van Ausdeln: For me, it’s reviews. NYT Book Review plus Amazon Best of the Month.

Question: What was the problem with Goldfinch? I liked it thru the lens of grief. It was the reaction of seeing your mother die. It worked for me.

Connie again: It wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever read, The Goldfinch, but I only got about 200 or so pages through and was annoyed throughout. I swear, a book is set in NYC, and all the NYC literati lose their minds. Good grief. When I heard how it ended I was even more glad I bailed out.

Nunzio Michael Lupo: Nyt book review. Sometimes being interested in a subject and hunting around for it. Like right now I’d like to find a good one on the politics of the Second Vatican Council and one on the 1968 Democratic convention

Phil Kloer: Goldfinch seems divisive. I thought it was amazing, Dickensian. Franzen is also divisive but I have loved his last two, I go by reviews (NYT, NPR, even sometimes Amazon), FB word of mouth, but in most cases the author’s track record.

Cara Neth: My neighbors put up a little library across the street so I tend to wander over and grab whatever looks good when I want something new. I just read “Great Expectations” for the first time because it was there. Otherwise, I focus on working my way through the stacks of books that I’ve bought over the years and never got around to reading…I want to get through those before I read the latest hot novel. I thought “Secret History” was overrated, so I haven’t had any interest in “The Goldfinch”…but if it shows up in the little library, I’ll probably pick it up.


RELATED: The Little Free Library Movement

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Little Free Library: Love of Books, Sense of Community

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Josh and Rebecca recently put this Little Free Library in front of their house.

Friends joined the Little Free Library movement recently and they love the interaction they’re getting with neighbors and fellow book-lovers. Just this morning, they pointed me in the direction of a handful more within a few miles of their Decatur home (including one in front of Decatur City Hall). And another friend told me about one closer to home, near Piedmont Park.

The little libraries aren’t just adorable. They’re also a great way to encourage reading (of actual books!) and build community. After all, what could be friendlier than sharing books among neighbors? It’s like social media before the Internet, and way more homey.

What is a Little Free Library?

It’s a ‘take a book, return a book’ gathering place where neighbors share their favorite literature and stories. In its most basic form,  a Little Free Library is a box full of books where anyone may stop by and pick up a book (or two) and bring back another book to share. You can, too!

That’s from littlefreelibrary.org, the excellent website of the excellent organization that started in Wisconsin a few years ago and has led to the creation of some 15,000 LFLs around the world — including a few dozen in metro Atlanta. Check out the site for more information, how to start your own LFL, a photo gallery and a searchable map of LFL locations.

Happy reading!