As Inauguration Day approaches, the book world--and booksellers in particular--bids adieu to the president that many are calling the "Reader-in-Chief" with a variety of tributes while preparing for a new administration that's less book-loving.
|President Obama and his daughters shopped at Politics & Prose in 2014 (photo: Pete Souza/White House)
Politics & Prose, Washington, D.C., wrote that it's "grateful to a president who is also known as the 'Reader-in-Chief,' and a steadfast supporter of indies in D.C. We were excited to welcome Barack, Sasha and Malia Obama to our store on two Small Business Saturdays, in 2013 and 2014. In our city alone, the Obamas also visited Kramerbooks in 2011, One More Page Books in 2012, and Upshur Street Books in 2015.
"Even when he's not supporting independent bookstores, the president is an enthusiastic reader. The White House issues a reading list every summer, with recent years featuring various titles that also happen to be perennial P&P favorites, including 2016's The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, and The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert in 2015.
"Happily, we're not saying farewell to the Obamas just yet, as they're staying right here in Washington, D.C. Mr. President, you and your family are always welcome to browse the shelves at Politics & Prose, and thank you."
As noted here already, P&P has organized a series of teach-ins, the first of which, on the subject of civil liberties, drew some 400 people to the store (with hundreds watching via Facebook Live) on Sunday, January 8. At 4 p.m. on Friday, Inauguration Day, the store is holding its second teach-in, which features Fatima Goss Graves, Jennifer Klein and Rebecca Traister discussing women's rights under the new administration.
And at 7 p.m. on Saturday, after the Women's March, Jessica Valenti, author of Sex Object: A Memoir, will appear.
[words], Maplewood, N.J., which opened on Inauguration Day in 2009, when President Obama's first term began, has put up a "Thank You, President & Mrs. Obama" window display of books by and about the Obamas. "Eight years later, our community and bookstore are thriving," owners Jonah and Ellen Zimiles wrote. "We salute you President and Mrs. Obama. Yes we did! #ThanksObama."
In the q&a period after his keynote speech yesterday at Digital Book World yesterday in New York City, Macmillan CEO John Sargent praised President Obama's reading habits but offered a major publisher's perspective, saying, "Although Mr. Obama is culturally on our side, it's not as if all his business practices were beneficial to the publishing world."
He mentioned the Justice Department's 2012 e-book agency model collusion case against five major publishers, which "helped increase the power of the digital side of the business." In addition, the administration, he said, spent "a huge amount of money to produce free materials for higher education that competed with existing educational publishers."
As for the new president, Sargent noted that Trump is not a reader, but that "many presidents are not readers." He emphasized that he would wait "and make no judgments until I see what his policies are."
Busboys and Poets is holding its Peace Ball: Voices of Hope and Resistance from 8 p.m.-1 a.m. on Thursday, January 19, at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. The gathering aims "to celebrate the accomplishments and successes of the past four years and the vow to continue to be the change we want to see in the world." Tickets start at $200 and include food, open bar, live music and dancing. All exhibits to the museum will be open during the ball.
For its part, on Friday, Broadway Books, Portland, Ore., will mark Inauguration Day by distributing free copies--one per customer while supplies last--of We Should All Be Feminists, the book-essay by Chimamande Ngozi Adichie based on her TEDx talk and published by Anchor Books.
The store described the book this way: We Should All Be Feminists "encourages us all to embrace the importance of feminism, which she defines as believing in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. Yes, men and women are biologically different, she says, but socializing them differently only exaggerates those differences and doesn't allow them to develop their true selves."
Co-owner Sally McPherson said: "We wanted to kick off the new year by celebrating the power of women to do great things. As the owners of a bookstore founded by women, and still women-owned after almost 25 years, we appreciate strong women, and we rejoice in the men who respectfully support and stand alongside them."
The store picked Inauguration Day because, McPherson continued, "when we inaugurate a new president and bring in a new administration, it's a time of new beginnings and new challenges, a chance to reflect on where we are as a country, where we want to go, and how we want to get there. We found the words of this international voice to be particularly inspiring and wanted to share them with our customers."
Co-owner Kim Bissell added: "We believe that all our voices matter and hope to inspire our children to reach for their goals based on their desires and abilities and not their gender."
On Saturday, January 21, Laurie Gillman, owner of East City Bookshop, Washington, D.C., and Donna Paz Kaufman of Paz & Associates are organizing a book industry meet-up prior to the Women's March on Washington, to which book industry colleagues, including booksellers, publishers, editors, agents, authors, librarians, and friends and family, are invited. The group will meet by the Neptune Fountain at the front of the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress at 10 a.m. The book industry meet-up has its own Facebook page.
At 5 p.m., after the march, East City Bookshop (at 645 Pennsylvania Avenue SE) invites participants to join a group of poets, readers and book professionals for hot tea and cocoa followed by a poetry performance featuring human rights activist, editor and poet Carolyn Forché, with poets Samantha Thornhill, Lauren Alleyne and Danielle Chapman. A discussion with the audience will follow.
To allow its staff to attend the Women's March Los Angeles, Skylight Books will open late, at 2:30 p.m., on Saturday. In a note, the store wrote, "We're terribly sorry for any inconvenience this causes. We know that you, our wonderful customers, rely on us to be there when you need us, and Saturday mornings are usually a very busy time here at the store. But in this case, it was so important to our booksellers that they be able to participate in this historic, nationwide show of support for women's rights (and human rights) that we've decided, on this occasion, to allow all our staff the morning off."