Countdown to Netroots Nation, Episode Ten: Bookstores and Libraries

At last, a good bookstore owned by a tall humorist!

[Editor’s note: the latest in Phoenix Woman’s series on making the most of Netroots Nation 2011 — June 16-19, in her homeworktown of Minneapolis, Minnesota.]

So you’ve netrootsed ’til you’re nutty, pigged out ’til you exploded, schmoozed ’til your tongue fell out, partied ’til you puked, and now you’d like to find something a bit more low-key yet also intellectually stimulating. Get thee to a bookstore, or a library.

The bookstore that’s second-closest to you is the downtown Barnes & Noble store at Eighth and Nicollet, and it’s a pretty good one as B&Ns go. But the bookstore that’s closest to you is run by James and Mary Laurie, and if you love old books, fine art, and intriguing curios, this is the place for you. It’s at 921 Nicollet Mall. If smut’s your thing, you’ll have to go north eight blocks on Third Avenue to find Lickety Split, which is that utter rarity, a spotlessly clean and inviting adult-media establishment. (For a more outré yet still fairly physically clean experience, Sex World is about six blocks to the west, at 241 Second Avenue North.) Like comics? Big Brain Comics is at 1027 Washington Avenue, a block northeast of the Metrodome and about three blocks east and south of the Big and Scary Head of Tyrone Guthrie as described in Episode Two. Right next door is the superb Open Book, which is… is… well, whatever the hell it is, it’s pretty damned cool, so check it out.

As for libraries, the brand-new and architecturally stunning Minneapolis Central Library of the Hennepin County Library System is at 300 Nicollet Mall. Among its many virtues, it is a very bike-friendly place as the scads of (three-quarters-full at all times) bike bicycle racks attest. Going about a mile south of the Convention Center will get you to the Walker Library, at 2880 Hennepin Avenue, also a part of the HCLS. (This is not to be confused with the Walker Art Center, which is a bit closer to you at 1750 Hennepin Avenue, and also a fine place to visit.)

Venturing farther afield, I know I’m going to skip over lots of favorites in Minneapolis and environs, but I want to talk up some of the wonders of the city to the east. The Red Balloon at 891 Grand Avenue is the place to go for quality childrens’ books (and some select books intended for adult readers). I happen to have a soft spot in my head for Common Good Books, Garrison Keillor’s shop at 165 Western Avenue North in Saint Paul (and yes, he does work the counter on occasion); all the more so because Nina’s, one of the best coffee shops in the state, is right above it. (It’s also across from Betty McCollum’s office, if you feel like chatting up the congresswoman or — more likely — her staffers.) And if you really like classic old-fashioned Beaux Arts libraries-as-temples, all done up with high marble-and-wood ceilings, then go farther afield yet to downtown Saint Paul and visit the Saint Paul Central Library, which sits next to and is connected to the equally-magnificent James J. Hill Reference Library. Hill, the founder of the Great Northern Railroad (long since absorbed into what is now Burlington Northern Santa Fe), was a hardcharging jerk much of the time, but he did have something of a conscience, and was a hell of a lot more civic-minded than many of the banksters and CEOs stalking the earth today.

Have fun and happy reading!

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