The overstuffed bookshelves in my home and office attest that bookstores are among my favorite destinations. A great bookstore is a museum of thought, exhibiting a world of knowledge, enjoyment, and inspiration. Proprietors of America's iconic bookstores often possess the professional passion of a fine arts curator and the breadth of learning of a dozen scholars. Many of these bookstores also fulfill an additional cultural role, hosting public lectures and readings by prominent authors.
Two of my all-time favorites are Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi, and Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, DC. Richard and Lisa Howorth launched Square Books almost thirty-five years ago in an upstairs office in the charming university community. Today, the store, which was named "Bookstore of the Year" in 2013 by Publisher’s Weekly, occupies three entire buildings on Oxford's town square.
Politics and Prose, with its nightly talks by current authors, has been an institution in the nation's capital for thirty years. Carla Cohen and Barbara Meade, the original owners, operated the Connecticut Avenue store near Chevy Chase Circle until Carla’s death in 2010. Local residents feared that store would then close, but Bradley Graham and Lissa Muscatine purchased it in 2011 and are continuing its rich tradition. You can watch Cohen and Meade’s 25th anniversary conversation with E. J. Dionne on the Politics and Prose website.
As a special feature of this year's summer reading newsletter, Richard Howorth and other respected booksellers are sharing their recommendations with our readers. As in previous years, we have also invited friends of Humanities Texas to submit their summer reading suggestions. The result is a wide-ranging menu, including fiction and nonfiction both new and old, for you to explore by browsing the list below.
M. L. G.