This is the week we celebrate our right to read whatever the heck we want, by remembering the many books that have been banned through the years. To Kill a Mockingbird, 1984, Catcher in the Rye, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and many more have been banned from classrooms and libraries through the years. It is a good thing to remember these things.
Which brings me to consider how bookstores select their stock, in particular books on politics. Here I am thinking of independent, small stores where books are purchased for resale by the store’s owner or buyer, or, in my case, both. Do I select with a bias?
Yes, I do. There are a number of reasons. First is realizing that no bookstore, no matter how large a selection it might maintain, no bookstore has every book. If you walk into Powells, or the Strand, it may seem so. But they don’t. My much humble storefront certainly doesn’t. Secondly, in the mission statement I wrote for Jackson Street Books before we opened for business, I stated that this place would intentionally be a place for fostering progressive politics. No apologies needed for that, I think, which brings me to reason three. It’s my money stocking the store. I don’t receive government stipends from tax monies, and thus more beholden to the taxpayers. The Seattle Public Library may be compelled to stocking Ann Coulter’s latest masterpiece by trying to be “fair and balanced” ; I’m not. But, finally, I am lucky that I have a store in an area where progressive politics predominates. I have no market for books written by Conservatives. I don’t get asked for them. (Incidentally, when you see books by the likes of Limbaugh and Coulter on best-seller lists, it is because Conservative Book Clubs are making quantity buys to ship to their members). If I lived elsewhere, and there was a demand, well, I’d have to re-think my position. I enjoy having a roof over my head, and to see me, you know I haven’t missed too many meals.