Tuesday, January 15, 2013

12 Days of Book Lists, #12

No, the title to your left is not a comment on our having reached the end of this series of blog posts. Rather, all of this talk about books that go well together has, coincidentally, brought two things to mind: the indelible combination of sweet potato fries with ketchup and the question of why we should or shouldn't buy books in the first place.

It goes without saying that books currently occupy a peculiar place in our culture. They are just as often these days read as written with a screenplay and target audience in mind. At Common Good Books, and independent bookstores around the world, our goal, at least in part, is to promote books that might otherwise not make it to the silver screen, er, a reader's hands, rather. Books with characters and character alike; books with fewer readers in their corner than a wanted ad for janitors at Chuck E. Cheese. Not because their bathroom walls are covered in six kinds of pop and flu virus, but because they're often just as hard to see as that sheen of grease and hand sweat emanating from the ball pit.

As it happens, most independent bookstores are not also owned by giant conglomerates and franchised out from state to state. Some--"Dollar Books Y'all," for instance--but not many. On the contrary, independents, like ours, occupy a feel-good spot in the much heralded land of Local Businesses; a land of wooden toys and caramels, craft beer and red shoelaces, letterpress cards with a maximum of four notoriously insincere words and scarves handmade, ironically, in Guinea. Oh, and pork belly, which at this point is tantamount to ordering a helping of world peace and better public schools. Yes, the general consensus among drinkers of Mexican Coke is that such businesses imbibe their communities with a shared sense of responsibility and respect, in the form of dollars. Shopping local makes "cents," you might say, and no doubt see safety-pinned to the back of every third bicyclist's trailer for dogs. But just how ethical can something like shopping be? 

In Shopping for Good, Dara O'Rourke and eight other experts in the field of Activism for White People on Facebook ponder and posit answers to that question as well as more perfunctory matters, such as appropriate and ethical responses to situations in which one forgets one's reusable bag (i.e., Steal Bag/Food vs. Don't). On a slightly larger scale, How Much is Enough? argues that money and stuff and, yes, even pork belly, are counter-productive to our local economies of well-being, but fantastic for our ability to pick up chicks at bars. Both books aim to focus on the myriad ways that capitalism complicates and/or ruins our lives, and both agree community lies at the heart of happiness like two trains of thought from different coasts chugging toward St. Paul in a soon-to-be burst of magnanimous joy. It's a lovely thought. Sort of. Which is why I'm reluctant, but must, I'm afraid, dispense with the last book on our list. 

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