Left Bank Books Shortlisted for 'Publishers Weekly' Bookstore of the Year

By Krystin Arneson
In Culture

It was a hard choice for the CWE’s Left Bank Books to shutter its Downtown outpost last year, but the bet paid off: This morning, they announced that “Publishers Weekly” nominated the independent bookstore for its “Bookstore of the Year” award. The award highlights bookstores that have accomplished “singular achievements” in the bookselling industry—a designation that goes beyond just sales numbers to celebrate innovation in the retail landscape.

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Shelves at Left Bank Books

“This past year had been transformative,” Left Bank Books co-owner Jarek Steele said in a statement. “Our bookstore has gone from making an indescribably painful decision to leave downtown, to physically transforming our store into what we dreamed it could be, to bearing witness to the epicenter of a new civil rights movement, to having a good year in spite of it all because of the outstanding work of our staff and breathtakingly touching loyalty of our customers.”

Left Bank Books, in business since 1969, was selected in part for its “extracurriculars,” the activities that define the bookstore beyond trade alone. In the wake of the events in Ferguson, it’s launched its #FergusonReads reading group, which aims to add intelligent conversation and context to the protests, and it gained national attention for its Black Lives Matter reading list.

Other nominees include Books & Books in Miami, Florida; McLean & Eakin Booksellers in Petoskey, Michigan; Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon; and Village Books in Bellingham, Washington.

In recent years, independent bookstores across the US have experienced somewhat of a surge—despite the rise of Amazon. Since 2009, the depth of the recession, the number of indie booksellers has increased by 27 percent, according to an American Booksellers Association study cited in a New York Times article last week. Some attribute the boom to the closure of mega-chains such as Borders, whose absence has essentially created more room for independent booksellers to flourish.

There’s also the burgeoning shop local movement that citizens are getting behind, driving traffic to indie and local-maker businesses rather than national chains, and simply the experience of being in a bookstore, where you can pass a Sunday afternoon browsing and discovering new titles and authors—something which, despite Amazon’s low prices and fast shipping, the internet retailer inherently can’t deliver.

Back in STL, Left Bank Books was also recently nominated for the Pannell Award, presented by the Women’s National Book Association, which puts a spotlight on bookstores that encourage kids’ love of reading in innovative ways.

Winners of the “Publishers Weekly” award will be announced at the beginning of April. If you’re looking for a reason to check out the bookstore’s programs before then, swing on by Nigel Barker’s appearance at the Boo Cat Club on March 11 (and check out our cover story about him in the March issue, on newsstands now).

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