Left Bank Books

I spent the day Wednesday shooting a project that have been in the concept stage for a while with some limited success. I created a series of images which work really well for me, but I think I’m not quite there yet. In any case, I felt good about the day’s work. When I have a good day shooting I usually end up wanting to go for a drink somewheres, and bask in the feelings of accomplishment and productivity. Since I don’t have many friends yet and it’s too damn hot to go anywhere outside, I headed up the block to Left Bank Books instead. I’d been meaning to go since we moved in and it seemed like the time was right.

Left Bank Books in downtown St. Louis is a small bookstore, the second of two locations in the area. The flagship store opened in the Central West End in 1969 and they have been the go-to independent bookstore in St. Louis since. They are big on community, much like many of the arts folks that I’ve come across in Saint Louis, which is one of the things that I’m starting to love about this city. From their website:

We work hard and sacrifice much to keep this place going because we love it as much as you do. Many of us are writers, performers, and artists and personally appreciate the importance of a store like Left Bank, not only to the cultural health of a community, but to the health of its creative people, too! Many of us are involved in other community organizations as volunteers and activists. Issues like peace, racial justice, civil rights, urban sustainability, education, animal rights, and support for the arts are some of the areas in which Left Bankers are involved.

Left Bank Books strives to be a good neighbor and, like many locally-owned businesses, gives back to its community. Besides reinvesting three times more of our revenue locally than non-local chain stores reinvest, we also give a lot of organic support to grass roots and non-profit organizations through donations of gift certificates, percent of sales, bookfairs and even free event programming.

For the store owners and workers alike, working at Left Bank Books has been more like preserving a community trust than running a business. And while we know that being business-like is extremely important, we also know that earning and keeping that community trust is both our most fervent desire and greatest reward.

I found their inventory to be very small, but wisely curated, at least in the sections that I paid close attention to, mainly art, design, and of course photography. I found the limited selection to be liberating, and I was able to pay attention more easily to each title than being overwhelmed by several hundred titles in each section. My only concern is that now I’ve seen and examined everything in their photography section, and unless they regularly rotate content there won’t be much more there for me to check out. That said, there were a number of photography books that I wanted to buy but being on a limited budget I stuck to a history of the Met and a couple of photography magazines. That should keep me busy for a while. And I’ll definitely be going back. I’ll have to check out the West End Location as well …

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