The man behind the best Twitter account in Columbus (that would be @TheBookLoftGV) offers some reading recommendations available from local booksellers that can help ease the burden of social distancing
A lot has changed since I started writing this list — school closures, bar and restaurant shutdowns, concert cancellations and either we did or didn't vote in an election. Honestly, I'm not even sure at this point. Nevertheless, most of our city is stuck at some makeshift home workstation or trying to figure out the best way to make ends meet while the coronavirus makes its way through the heartland.
In the past week, The Book Loft, Prologue Book Shop, Cover to Cover Children's Books, Gramercy Books and Two Dollar Radio HQ have all closed their doors to the public (while remaining open for phone and online orders, so click and order away!) in order to help flatten the curve and to ensure the safety of staff and customers. Since bookshops naturally run on thin margins, adjustments have been made to keep the books flowing and ensure our city has something to do while stuck at home. Booksellers will spend the next few weeks facilitating curbside pickup, delivering books and even offering free shipping (suck it, Bezos).
Since there’s no way to physically walk around the bookshops right now, I’ve put together a short reading list that might help.
1. Whiteout Conditions by Tariq Shah (Two Dollar Radio, 2020)
"In this slim but memorable debut novel, Ant, who lives on the East Coast, flies home to Illinois to attend the funeral of one of his oldest friends, Ray. Picking him up from the airport is Ray’s cousin, Vince. Together they set out to drive to the funeral while untangling old hurts, popping Oxy, and grappling with adulthood’s disillusionments."
-Tomi Obaro, Buzzfeed's “Most Highly Anticipated Books Of 2020”
2. Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick: Stories from The Harlem Renaissance by Zora Neale Hurston (Harper Collins, 2020)
Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick is from one of the greatest writers of our time, and this collection includes eight lost Harlem Renaissance stories that are only now available to the public.
3. Health Justice Now by Timothy Faust (Melville House, 2019)
Health Justice Now is nothing if not timely. Timothy Faust thoroughly explains single-payer healthcare, otherwise known as Medicare for All, and argues why the United States is in desperate need of change.
4. Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann (Galley Beggar Press, 2019)
A near 1,000 page, one sentence (holy shit) stream of consciousness novel that takes place in, you guessed it, Newcomerstown, Ohio. Ducks, Newburyport won the 2019 Booker Prize. A perfect reading challenge for those looking for humor in dark times.
5. We Inherit What the Fires Left by William Evans (Simon & Schuster, 2020)
William Evans, Columbus poet and founder of Black Nerd Problems, delivers a beautiful book laden with themes of dreams and inheritance, in which he also speaks on what it’s like to be a black man raising a daughter in suburban America. This is my current staff pick and I can’t say enough good things about it.
6. The Art of Loading Brush by Wendell Berry (Counterpoint, 2017)
This wouldn’t be a “Gary’s Reading List” without at least one Wendell Berry title, and I’ve put this book into more hands than probably any other in our shop. In The Art of Loading Brush, Berry lays out the comparison between cultural and agricultural problems, and takes us on a deep dive into agrarian philosophy. A perfect read for those thinking about community in times of uncertainty.
With everything that’s happening, the uncertainty of how to move forward is always the worst feeling. Over the past few days, Columbus has shown an incredible amount of love to each of our bookstores and for that we are forever grateful. It will take time, but I’m confident we can get through this together. Reach out to your neighbor, try to support your local shops and restaurants if you can, and please, for the love of God, remember to wash your hands.
Follow Gary Lovely on Twitter both at @TheBookLoftGV and at @colonellovely