I love reading. It’s in part, how I ended up as an English major. My dad instilled the virtues of reading within my sister and I from a very young age. From reading bedtime bible stories to Curious George to Miss Spider, I loved the time my dad and I shared at exploring new worlds together. As I got older, my dad and I would spend hours either at the library or at Waldenbooks inside Metro North Mall (if any of you remember that little slice of nostalgia). I consumed books as if my life depended on it and that didn’t really change until I got to college.
During my college career, I noticed there was a bit of a shift in how I looked at reading, I was an English major and I was in love with being an English major. But the problem with taking four English classes a semester is…that you’re taking four English classes in a semester. I was still enjoying what I was reading, but by the time I had graduated, I realized that I had no desire to read at all. I guess you could say I went through an academic burn out.
About a year ago, that itch to read came back. I just woke up one day hungry to read. Perhaps, you could say it was a slow shift in mindset that did it or you could say it was just a feeling. Either way, I was ready to dive into a book, seek inspiration and explore new worlds and realities. But I didn’t just want a book, I wanted a book. One that I could physically hold in my hand, feel the slight roughness of the page brush against my fingertips, and, of course, release that familiar book-y musk that has come to remind me of my childhood.
As Kansas City continues to grow, so too has it’s citizen’s desire to shop local. I hear more and more of my friends grumbling about how much money they give away to Amazon, all the while Amazon was practically built on the backs of millennials who favored the convenience that it provided at little cost. And I admit, I shop at Amazon too, but the amount at which I do has drastically shrunk. I would say I place an order with Amazon about four times a year and it’s generally for supplements I have a hard time finding in stores.
The point is, that people are longing for human connection more and more with each passing day. The convenience of eCommerce begins to lose it’s luster when you find yourself crying alone in an empty house because you haven’t seen another person in three days. Many of us don’t even read books, we pay for some celebrity to read to us. Our lives have become so digital that it almost seems as though our senses have been dulled to a physical item. And yet we are beginning to crave it. We want a book we can touch, smell and even taste (if you’re into that sort of thing). And when get the itch pick up a book from a non-virtual shelf, these local booksellers will be there to help.
Wise Blood Booksellers is one of the newer additions to the Kansas City landscape; located near the borderline between Westport and Main street. Opened by Judy Mills of Mills Record Company with the help of long time employee and confidant Dylan Pyles, Wise Blood simply beckons to the millennial scholar with it’s clean dark stained shelves and bumping top 40 hits like Sia and Lizzo. While there is an abundance of Camus, throughout the store, there are still plenty of approachable and interesting book choices to be found, including a display for local and regional authors. Wise Blood even hosts book readings and signings throughout the year and offers seasonal book clubs. The book they will be reading for Spring is “Trick Mirror” by Jia Tolentino.
The afterword is another new KC installment, and while it does sell books, I would more consider it a bar where you read rather than a bookstore with a bar. But that doesn’t mean that the Afterword isn’t jam packed with amazing reading options. They even have a partnership with libro.fm where you can listen to a selection of audiobooks—it is the future of reading after all—as you slowly sip on a cocktail beneath the dreamy lighting. I had the Galloping Hessian; strong, a little citrus-y, a little acidic, a wee bit spiced, all delicious.
The Afterword also offers a book club, like Wise Blood and is currently working through “Ninth House” by Leigh Bardugo.
Rainy Day Books is nestled in Fairway, KS. Basically Mission Hills, so it should come as no surprise that the store is reminiscent of Barnes & Noble. I should note: this is not shade. I love going into Barnes and Noble about as much as the next bibliophile, but I am saying that this store is a very polished local find. And it’s not surprising. Rainy Day Books has been in business since 1975.
Despite the shop’s size (perhaps about half the size of one floor at B&N, for reference) there are a TON of books, practically up to the ceiling it felt like. This was a book store where I had to ask where I could find a certain genre because there was no signage that I could see. They also offer a fairly large local and regional authors collection, including regional history and true crime.
Rainy Day’s seniority in the community has earned it a place as an American Booksellers Association and indebound.org member and offer more than 300 author events each year.
Prospero’s Books is another Kansas City staple since 1997. Prospero’s offers three floors of new and used books in an old space that is unfussy and riddled with memorabilia and bathroom-style graffiti. The wooden floors creak with little regard to for their surrounding sanctuary and that familiar book musk is palpable from the moment you walk in. And I’ve never felt more at home.
The atmosphere in Prospero’s reminds me of trips to the library with my dad. That old book musk flitted through the air and while some people don’t like the smell, it recalls, for me, a notable memory in my childhood: time spent learning and reading with my dad.
If you visit Prospero’s, the basement is a must see. There are books in the sub-flooring, all the bookshelves are graffitied with patrons’ personal mark, and there are plenty of quiet little nooks to read.
In Memoriam: Our Daily Nada
Yep! You read that right, Our Daily Nada closed just about a week ago in February. It’s kind of bummer because this coffeeshop/bar/bookstore was truly unique and a cozy place to not only read, but also work. While I don’t know the particulars of why they closed, the website is still up and their farewell message does hint at opening a different iteration of the bookstore. So perhaps this is more of a “see you later” rather than “goodbye.” For more updates, you can subscribe to their newsletter.
Where are some of your favorite bookstores? What do you like to read? Tell me everything.