Left Bank Books Celebrates 45th Birthday

By Christopher Reilly
In Culture

Founded on July 11, 1969 by a group of graduate students at Washington University, Left Bank Books quickly became a cultural center for the literary arts in St. Louis, a position it still holds to this day. The founders were social activists, and the name is a nod to the cultural and political climate of Paris in the 1960s. Today the iconic book shop is celebrating its 45th birthday beginning at 5pm at 399 N Euclid in the Central West End.

Looking out from Left Bank Book's window in the 1970s Courtesy of Left Bank Books

Looking out from Left Bank Book’s window in the 1970s
Courtesy of Left Bank Books

The book store has a well-deserved reputation for offering a culturally diverse section of titles with a focus on contemporary arts and literature, politics, high-quality children’s books, African-American interest, and LGBT interests, with many titles reflecting their staff’s involvement in social issues like racial justice, peace, urban sustainability, civil rights, animal rights, education, and support for the arts.

Attendees spilled out onto the streets for David Sedaris' visit in 2013. Courtesy of Left Bank Books

Attendees spilled out onto the streets for David Sedaris’ visit in 2013.
Courtesy of Left Bank Books

Also well-known for their frequent author events, the store brings more than 300 authors to St. Louis each year, including the likes of politicians President Jimmy Carter and Hillary Clinton, longtime Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa, and literary giants such as Toni Morrison, William Burroughs, Mary Engelbreit, Salman Rushdie, David Sedaris, and Sapphire. Coming up in the fall, Left Bank Books will host Piper Kerman, Roxane Gay, Reza Aslan, and Susan Vreeland.

Ever the activists, Left Bank Books also gives back to the community with their non-profit organization, the Left Bank Books Foundation—which funds programs like the Joyce Trebilcot Memorial Fund for women’s education—and the Friends of Left Bank Books Literary Society. Their River City Readers program aims to increase literacy and promote a love for reading by sponsoring classrooms in the St. Louis Public School system, which not only brings student author programming, but donates new books for their personal libraries every other month.

The shop's window touting Toni Morrison's visit. Courtesy of Left Bank Books

The shop’s window touting Toni Morrison’s visit.
Courtesy of Left Bank Books

In honor of their birthday, Left Bank Books’ Euclid Avenue window features a display of memorabilia collected over the past 45 years, including photos of authors who have visited, posters and fliers, artwork created for the store, Mary Engelbreit merchandise, as well as pictures of the store’s three famous cats—Captain Nemo, Jamaica, and current feline resident CATaloger, Spike.

The shop is also hosting two special events. The first is a sale for the Friends of Left Bank Books Literary Society, in which Publisher and Editor level friends members will receive 25 percent off their purchase July 11-13. Also, in a creative twist on the live painting event, Left Bank will host a Writers Under Glass event on July 11 beginning at 5pm, in which local authors Ann Lecie, Mark Teidemann, Kevin Killeen, and Scott Phillips will write live in the store window for the public to watch while enjoying birthday cake and beverages.
For more information about Left Bank Books and their birthday events, please visit the Left Bank Books website.

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