the enjoyment of bookstores

I went on a bit of a book-buying binge today. I had a few hours this morning, in part because we’ve been without internet access at home since the storm that roared through the mid-Atlantic on Friday. (We’re lucky. We have power, which is greatly appreciated given the temps in Baltimore these days.) I hit two bookstores on my must-see list, Daedalus Books in Columbia, and Red Emma’s on St. Paul Street in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon neighborhood. Both were excellent, in their own way. Red Emma’s was a glorious moment of time travel to the latter years of my college career and frantic days as a high school teacher. I was on my way out as a Christian, a path I found largely through books, but also through a series of friendships. The books that took my out of my religious faith, through my years as a high school teacher and into grad school were left theory books.

Red Emma’s, as one might expect, has these books in spades. I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to walk into a bookstore and find Laclau and Mouffe on the shelves, or a whole section of Althusser and Kropotkin and Marcuse and Etienne Balibar. I had discovered those authors and many more local bookstores in Raleigh, NC in the 1990s, but also on the shelves of the majors back then. I have fond memories of lounging throught the stacks at Borders in Raleigh and finding books worth reading.

Daedalus is a whole other wonder– overstock copies of smart books sold at used-book prices. Again, I can’t remember the last time I went to a bookstore in the other cities I’ve been living in recently (Albuquerque, Knoxville, frequent trips to Quito) where I wasn’t bored almost instantly. Retail bookstores have been so devasted by the Amazon phenomenon that they’ve become completely predictable, and little better than the mall bookstores of my childhood.

So, what I bought today:
MacPherson, Myra. All Governments Lie! The Life and Times of Rebel Journalist I.F. Stone
Laclau, Ernesto. Politics and Ideology in Marxist Theory: Capitalism – Fascism – Populism
Hess, Charlotte and Elinor Ostrom, eds. Understanding Knowledge as a Commons
Bohning, Don. The Castro Obsession: U.S. Covert Operations against Cuba, 1959-1965
Burnett, D. Graham. Trying Leviathan: The Nineteenth-Century New York Court Case That Put the Whale on Trial and Challenged the Order of Nature.
Hardt, Michael and Antonio Negri. Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire.
Illich, Ivan. Deschooling Society.
Anderson, Jon Lee. Che.

There’s a whole lot of fun reading for me in that list.

I cracked open MacPherson’s biography of I.F. Stone first. The epigraph is just so perfect for the events of the last four years (or, indeed, of the last few weeks at UVa!):

All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out. __ —I.F. Stone


Associate Professor of Early Latin America Department of History University of Tennessee-Knoxville

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Chad Black

I, your humble contributor, am Chad Black. You can also find me on the web here.
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