During recent coronaviral downtime, somehow or other, not everyone has glued himself or herself to the TV, monitor or handheld, with select (and selective) individuals happily passing their time not with pixels but with old-fashioned ink-on-paper print – as noted by Kris Kleindienst, co-owner of Left Bank Books.
Now entering its second half-century of serving bibliophiles near and far, that cherished independent bookseller in St. Louis’ Central West End neighborhood has remained quite busy since COVID-19 hit the U.S. It has done so with a classic pivot: effectively transforming its cozy retail milieu into a concierge curbside pickup/delivery/shipping operation.
“I am indeed over my head in all the work that somehow COVID has necessitated … ,” Kleindienst confesses, subsequently adding, amusedly, “The only thing missing from 2020’s list of catastrophic events is the proliferation of the dreaded ‘murder hornets.’”
Many area residents, she notes, have chosen to forgo the wisdom of websites or talking heads for something a bit more substantive. “A lot of folks are reaching out to us for books to give a deeper understanding of the times in which we live,” Kleindienst says.
Moreover, of late, requests to Left Bank themselves have pivoted topically from COVID-19 to volumes involving a continuing societal plague that long predated the novel coronavirus’ arrival in the U.S. “All we have been selling in June is books on antiracism and by African American writers,” Kleindienst says, referencing the Black Lives Matter movement sweeping the nation. “It’s like COVID took a back seat.”
That said, she cites the following titles as recent Left Bank “go-to books”: The Broken Heart of America: St. Louis and the Violent History of the United States by Missouri native and Harvard professor Walter Johnson; Hiding in Plain Sight: The Invention of Donald Trump and the Erosion of America by St. Louis resident Sarah Kendzior; We Can’t Breathe: On Black Lives, White Lies and the Art of Survival by native St. Louisan Jabari Asim; How to Be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi, the founding director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research; and The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John Barry.
“The collective grief of all of this that I am also feeling right now can sometimes be unbearable,” Kleindienst confesses. With an affective pivot, though, she adds: “We also know that we all could use some self-care to include escapist reading. We’re prepared!”
In that light, the Left Bank team recommends several titles a bit less weighty than the preceding: Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory, Circe by Madeleine Miller, Paris Hours by Alex George, Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld, The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett and The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton.
In short, for those not pixilated by pixels, Kleindienst and her team have something for everyone – at least till the local appearance of Vespa mandarinia, the Asian giant hornet or “murder hornet.”
Left Bank Books, 399 N. Euclid Ave., St. Louis, 314-367-6731, left-bank.com
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