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 Solid State Books in Washington, DC. We spoke with co-owners Jake Cumsky-Whitlock and Scott Abel to get a sense of why it’s so beloved.
What’s the best part about being a bookseller/owning a bookstore?
The best part of bookselling is still just talking to a wide range of passionate, intelligent people about books; friends, soon-to-be-friends, regulars, soon-to-be-regulars, and out-of-town visitors. It’s an incredibly comforting way to connect with people – like a religious experience in that way. Even owning the shop doesn’t ruin that. It’s still the best quality.
How can readers support indie bookstores most effectively?
Very simple really – buy all of your books from your local independent bookstore
. Build your community with your dollars and maintain it with your friendship.
Please describe a career highlight or a favorite event you’ve ever had at the store
Several of our most cherished events happened right at the drop when we opened, Rebecca Makkai in a shop with mostly empty shelves, and three book clubs in the first week. Also Jenn Baker & Jason Reynolds for Everyday People. And we’ve had some great nights with publishers, like Michael Reynolds and Dennis Johnson, just riffing with customers and enjoying the wine at our bar.
For folks who are shopping for the holidays, what 3-5 books are you recommending the most?
Scott: I’m recommending the new Bryan Washington book Memorial, and this may be a little bit of a zag but Amistad just republished Dick Gregory’s Political Primer. It’s amazing. I’ve also loved Gods at Play, by Tom Callahan. And for the science dads, The Sirens of Mars by Sarah Stewart Johnson. It’s made me think about the astronomy angle in all things, it’s incredible.
Jake: I’m recommending The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X by Les Payne and Tamara Payne; also Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake (they’ve developed cigarette butt-eating mushrooms!); and I’m still pushing a couple of books from the Forgotten Spring of 2020 – Eat a Peach by Dave Chang and Braised Pork by An Yu.
What are you personally reading right now?
Scott: Right now I am reading Gone Girl. Yes, for the first time, please leave me alone. I also just knocked out Angle of Repose and Seveneves too. Some big ones.
Jake: I am reading The Witch Elm by Tana French. My father’s a big fan of hers (I’ve been slipping him galleys for years), and obviously she has a dedicated and growing following, but this is the first time I’ve read her and I’m not disappointed.
Be sure to visit Solid State Books 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.