Saturday, March 27, 2010

President Obama Shops at an Indie Bookstore in My Hometown!

You have to see this video. A man walks into a bookstore.

Actually, it's President Obama. He went shopping on Thursday at Prairie Lights Bookstore, an independent bookstore in my hometown, Iowa City, home of the University of Iowa and best known (perhaps) for the Iowa Writers Workshop.

Video: Who Shops at Indie Bookstores? President Barack Obama Does.

He's just a regular guy in his shirt sleeves, surrounded by Secret Service men, customers smiling at him in the background, while the cashier quietly rings up three books. His manner is low-key. He bought two books,  Journey to the River Sea, by Eva Ibbotson and The Secret of Zoom  by Lynne Jonell, for his daughters, and a pop-up Star Wars book for White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs' son.

I was moved to tears when I saw him walking down the street and people cheering as soon as they recognized him. Wow. Am I sentimental or what?

Iowa City is kind of a boutique-y town these days. When I was growing up there were two hip bookstores, Epstein's and The Paper Place, as well as a bookstore nicknamed Iowa Book & Crook and trashed during the anti-Vietnam war riots. It's actually Iowa Book & Supply and is the best of the indies there now, if you want to buy remainders of Sylvia Townsend Warner and other unusual books. Prairie Lights is hipper, does have a very good selection, and sponsors readings by excellent writers like Sherman Alexie. A very nice man there once recommended Riddley Walker, and I'm sorry to say I hated it. It's a post-apocalyptic novel, but not in the same class as my beloved The Day of the Triffids or I Am Legend.

There are countless used bookstores in Iowa City, too: my favorite is The Haunted Bookshop on Linn St., across from the Hamburg Inn.

I'm thrilled President Obama bought books. In this economy, the book is a simple, inexpensive pleasure. And if we bought more books we'd stay home cozily and spend less money.

By the way, he didn't buy anything for Michelle. What books would you recommend for President Obama and his family? I would recommend two books for President Obama and the First Lady: Virgil's Aeneid translated by Robert Fagles and Brenda Peterson's environmental memoir, I Want to Be Left Behind: Finding Rapture Here on Earth (reviewed here); and Suzanne Collins' Y.A. best-seller, Hunger Games; and E. Nesbit's classic, The Enchanted Castle for the girls!


Ellen said...

I admit I'd have been moved to tears even after I have gotten so upset with what Obama hasn't done since he's been president.

I've never seen him live though he did come a couple of times to Alexandria as well as GMU.

We have lost so many of our bookstores. I can't complain as my ability to get just the book I want is precious to me -- how I wrote my book on Trollope. Still I miss these places and felt that a few weeks ago when between snow storms Jim and I went to a new used bookstore towards the "top" of Old Town Alexandria. I found a book of poems in the way I once did -- blogged about it. Lovely quiet place, books shelved according to subject matter (!) or type and within that alphabetically. Quiet music in the background.

WE've been once since but did not buy a book this time. We own too many -- partly because of the Internet.


So glad the snow is done for this year at last.

Frisbee said...

I think very little about politics but am pleased that Obama bought a few books. Bush would have been run out on a rail!

I feel more optimistic than I did. I didn't believe any kind of health care plan would ever pass in this country. It's a step.

And did you know that Hillary just negotiated a disarmament treaty with Russia? I believe the plan is to cut out one-third of nuclear weapons in both countries. It's the first treaty of its kind in 20 years.

We have a long, long way to go but the Democrats are doing so much better than the Repubs.

Of course now the Repubs are trying to start up the nuclear power plant industry again. Does no one remember Chernobyl and Three Mile Island?

I'm not good at writing about politics because I haven't done any research, but this is what I feel.

Frisbee said...

Yes, we have lost so many bookstores. It's a different world. There's nothing like the thrill of finding an unexpected or unknown book.

Iowa City is a great place for book-buying. University towns often have a built-in niche market. But I wonder if B&N has hurt them.