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Left Bank Books Foundation

Sally Field, Gary Shteyngart, Michael Isikoff at 2018’s Bookfest St. Louis

The last authors to appear at 2017’s BookFest St. Louis in the Central West End had just packed their bags and headed for the airport when organizers, thrilled with the success of the inaugural event, started planning for 2018’s BookFest. The organizing team, including staff from Left Bank Books, the Left Bank Books Foundation and the Central West End Community Improvement District,  the event producer, have been hard at work ever since.

Now, in what seems like the mere turning of a page, 2018’s BookFest St. Louis is less than a month away. This year’s line-up features an exciting mix of 40-plus locally and internationally renowned authors highlighting the best of contemporary literary fiction, poetry, memoir, science fiction, young adult fiction, mystery and history.  A variety of events will be held at venues throughout the neighborhood,   and there will be book-related vendors under tents in the festival zone on McPherson at Euclid. There will be live music throughout the day.

I’ve singled out several author events to bring to your attention, including the appearance of headliner actor Sally Field at The Chase Park-Plaza on Friday evening, September 21.

The entire schedule is here, and while you’re on the website be sure to check out “News & Updates.”

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Books, Dance, Music, Theater Events, Sightings  Sally Field Michael Isikoff Left Bank Books Foundation Left Bank Books Gary Shteyngart CWE North CID BookFest St. Louis

Kick off BookFest St. Louis with three-time Emmy Award winner Sally Field.

LOCATION: The Chase Park Plaza (212 N Kingshighway Blvd.)

DATE/TIME: Friday, September 21, 7 to 9 p.m.

The prolific actor will discuss her new book, In Pieces, a deeply searing memoir about being a woman – a famous woman – in the last half of the 20th century.

A $37 general admission ticket admits one person to the keynote event and includes one hardcover copy of In Pieces. A $50 VIP ticket admits one person to the keynote event and includes one hardcover copy of In Pieces, preferred seating, admission to the post-event cash bar reception and meet & greet with Saturday BookFest authors, and 10% off all featured titles purchased at BookFest St. Louis on Saturday.

To purchase tickets, click here.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Books, Dance, Music, Theater Events, Sightings  Sally Field Michael Isikoff Left Bank Books Foundation Left Bank Books Gary Shteyngart CWE North CID BookFest St. Louis

BookFest St. Louis welcomes bestselling, award-winning author Gary Shteyngart for an afternoon of wit, wine and a discussion of his new novel, Lake Success!

LOCATION: Bar Italia, 13 Maryland Plaza

DATE/TIME: Saturday, September 22 at 3 p.m.

-A $31 ticket admits one person and includes one pre-signed hardcover copy of Lake Success.
-A $36 ticket admits two people and includes one pre-signed hardcover copy of Lake Success, plus a $5 rebate towards the purchase of a second copy of Lake Success at the event.

To purchase tickets, click here.

Please note: Gary Shteyngart WILL personalize your copies of Lake Success and take photos with attendees. Bar Italia will offer a cash bar at this event.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Books, Dance, Music, Theater Events, Sightings  Sally Field Michael Isikoff Left Bank Books Foundation Left Bank Books Gary Shteyngart CWE North CID BookFest St. Louis

Have a question for the panel? Submit it here and we may ask it during the book festival!

LOCATION: McPherson Tent

DATE/TIME: Saturday, September 22, 6 to 7 p.m.

Volunteers are needed, click here to find out what’s involved. You’ll receive a BookFest St. Louis t-shirt and have a great time too.

We’re incredibly fortunate to have BookFest St. Louis in the neighborhood, so be sure to save the dates and take part. There is something for everyone, including kids’ events at Schlafly Library.

BookFest St. Louis, September 21 and 22, in the Central West End. Left Bank Books, located at 399 N. Euclid, is action central.

Left Bank Books adapts to new realities

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  River City Readers Left Bank Books Foundation Left Bank Books Isabelle Wilkerson
It may be a bit of a stretch to allude to the leopard in Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories when discussing Left Bank Books and its ongoing adaptation to the market place. Nevertheless, with big box stores and Amazon grabbing a huge portion of book sale dollars, and with the popularity of e-books, what's an independent bookstore to do but add some "spots" to stay alive? The first change, you may have already noticed, is to the facade of the store at 399 N. Euclid.  Architect Tom Cohen chose a fresh color scheme and designed a new logo, see sign above. The old awning over the door has been removed, revealing a vintage light fixture. Local artist Bill Christman, who's got a storied independent streak of his own, has been comissioned to create a new sign that will hang over the front door.

As for those e-readers? The American Booksellers Association has made an arrangement with Google to sell e-books through independent bookstores, so if you've embraced e-books, shop local and give Left Bank Books your business by purchasing your e-books through their website. On March 24 the newly formed St. Louis Independent Bookstore Alliance (see website for information) is sponsoring "The Technology Petting Zoo" at Left Bank Books. Staff and customers will explain how various e-readers work, discuss their features and limitations, show you how to download Google eBooks, and answer all your questions.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  River City Readers Left Bank Books Foundation Left Bank Books Isabelle Wilkerson

Kris Kleindienst, who owns Left Bank Books with business partner Jarek Steele, has been a part of Left Bank since 1977. That's also when Barry Liebman, who recently sold his interest in the bookstore and moved to the Northwest, joined Left Bank Books. The original store was opened in 1975 in the Loop by a group of WU grad students as a collective. The students sold the store to Bob and Steve Seifert who eventually moved it to its current location on Euclid after WU opened its own bookstore and the late Paul's Books opened on Delmar. No money changed hands when the Seiferts sold the store to Barry and Kris, the pair simply assumed the liabilities.

Several years ago Left Bank Books opened a downtown location at 321 N. 10th. Kris says the stores operate as one book culture sharing staff members and hosting author events. There are times when there are more events than there are days in the month. Most authors appear in the stores but many appear off-site to accommodate larger crowds, such as the recent appearance of Isabelle Wilkerson, author of "The Warmth of Other Suns," at Schlafly Library. The number of people in attendance exceeded everyone's expectations.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  River City Readers Left Bank Books Foundation Left Bank Books Isabelle Wilkerson

Neither location breaks even. There has been a Friends Organization for a long time, but recently Left Bank Books announced the addition of the Left Bank Books Foundation. It's a 501c3 non-profit foundation dedicated to promoting literature and the arts in St. Louis through readings and other events with authors. The author events are free, open to the public, and do not require the purchase of a book. The Foundation will also provide funding for programs and books for public school students such as the River City Readers program that puts at least 6 books a year into the hands of St. Louis Public School students. Left Bank Books is hoping to raise $50,000 through the Foundation. 

Left Bank Books is one of the oldest and most beloved retail establishments in the neighborhood. Whether for books–new, used & e-books– magazines or cards, please continue to give Left Bank Books your support. Yes, Amazon sells books for less, but it doesn't charge sales tax in the state of Missouri. Purchases made through this online giant aren't helping the neighborhood or state economy. Shop local and support the local economy.

Left Bank Books, 399 N. Euclid, (314) 367-6731.