When you shop this holiday, and all year round, help support independent bookstores in your community by ordering your books early or safely planning an in-store visit. When you shop indie you support your community.
We’re featuring some of the best indie bookshops around the country to celebrate and support the work they do. This week is Raven Book Store in Lawrence, Kansas. We spoke with owner Danny Caine, to get a sense of why it’s so beloved.
What’s the best part about being a bookseller/owning a bookstore?
I love so much about bookselling. I love how supportive the bookselling community is, I love being able to work with the Raven’s incredible team every day, and I love how bookstores can be an agent for advocating for a better world. It’s a community-driven enterprise, and even in these hard times, community really keeps me going.
How can readers support indie bookstores most effectively?
The absolute best way to support an indie bookstore is to order books directly from their website, or in-store if they allow it. Speaking of allowing it, your bookstore has made a careful and calculated set of decisions about how best to safely operate, and it’s also a big help to work with them, and listen to them about the best ways to support them. If buying books isn’t financially possible for you, retweets and likes are free! So is attending a virtual event!
Please describe a career highlight or a favorite event you’ve ever had at the store
For our second-to-last event before the pandemic shutdown, we hosted Louise Erdrich by teaming up with Haskell Indian Nations University. The event was in the Haskell Auditorium, a stunning historic landmark. Louise was warm and enthusiastic and inspiring, and our community was so excited to turn out for a literary hero. Carrie, Haskell’s librarian, had asked Louise what the stage should look like and Louise replied, perhaps jokingly, “like a living room.” So Carrie and the Haskell maintenance staff dragged couches and rugs and lamps and bookshelves onto the auditorium stage and Lousie really did speak from a living room to hundreds of people in the crowd. It was one of those events that makes you realize exactly why you do this. Being our last big event for who knows how long, it certainly gave us great memories to coast on until things start up again.
For folks who are shopping for the holidays, what 3-5 books are you recommending the most?
Every holiday season has its big hit, and this season’s big hit is sure to be Barack Obama’s A Promised Land. This kind of book helps your indie bookstores pay a lot of important bills, so buying it from them is a huge way to help.
We’re also selling a lot of Kansas books this Winter, because our community is nothing if not proud of where we are. Noted Kansan Sarah Smarsh has a new book about Dolly Parton, She Come By It Natural, that we’re enjoying reading and selling. But I think the most inspiring book story we have this year is Ladybird Collected, an essay collection by Meg Heriford, owner of the Ladybird Diner across the street from us. Meg has been feeding those in need for free since the pandemic began, and all proceeds from her wonderful, humane, engaging book go to funding the Ladybird community lunch program.
What are you personally reading right now?
I’m really loving Gold Diggers, the hilarious and sweeping debut novel from Sanjena Sathian. Look for it in April 2021!
Be sure to visit Raven Book Store if you’re in the area, or shop online on their website. Do good, shop small! Find your local bookstore here and support your community.