Capitol Book & News Company, Montgomery AL

Capitol Books is my favorite book shop in Montgomery (Old Cloverdale neighborhood) – they have a nice selection of everything, but my favorite sections are those of local writers and books about the South…I always leave with something from there!

This is what I just picked up:

Southern Souvenirs, Selected Stories and Essays of Sara Haardt
* Sara Haardt was probably best known as the wife of H.L. Mencken. She was a fabulous writer on her own, writing screenplays, novels, and short stories, although now her work is hardly remembered. She was born and raised in Alabama (at sixteen, she attended the Margaret Booth School in Montgomery – Zelda Sayre (later Fitzgerald) went there too), became active in politics – especially in regards to Alabama ratifying the 19th amendment. She spent much of her adult life in Baltimore…she loved the South, but knew its faults, and really couldn’t bear to live in Alabama again.

Let Us Now Praise Famous Women, A Memoir, by Frank Sikora
* First, I’m not wild about this title; I can’t imagine anyone writing their own account of poverty in Alabama and have the gumption to make the work’s title so similar to the amazing work of James Agee and Walker Evans. This book is about Sikora – an Ohio native – moving to Alabama with his wife, a native Alabamian, and their experiences during 1960’s juxtaposed with the conditions and mores of her economically distressed family.

William Christenberry, The Early Years, 1954-1968, by J. Richard Gruber
* I haven’t even really had a chance to look through this work yet, but it is of course the amazing works of William Christenberry, a native of Tuscaloosa AL (b. 1936) and Bama grad, who was heavily influenced by Agee and Evans’ ‘Let us Now Praise Famous Men’. He’s done a lot of work with his Kodak Brownie (there’s a very nice exhibit of that work at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts that I’ve been to) and locations in the South, particularly well known for shots in Hale County, Alabama.

Count Those Buzzards! Stamp Those Grey Mules!, by (and illustrated by) Kathryn Tucker Windham
* Lovely little work of Southern folklore, particularly purposed by children.

Blues Poems, edited by Kevin Young
* Compilation of blues song lyrics and works inspired by the blues.

The Autobiography of A Magdalen by Louise Wooster * Well, Louise Wooster (1842-1913) is best known as “Birmingham’s Madam” and former love of John Wilkes Booth (she couldn’t believe that JWB could do what he did, unless perhaps he was drinking), but wow…..I don’t think anyone after reading her autobiography could possibly have a poor attitude toward her. She was orphaned at ten, instructed to take care of her younger sisters, abandoned by the family that should have taken her (and her family) in, lied to, abused, etc. When she came to Birmingham, there was the terrible cholera scourge which she stayed through and nursed the sick, which endeared her to the community. She didn’t wish the path she had gone on to anyone, but she was nonetheless a truly strong, vibrant woman who, had circumstances been different, would surely have achieved greatness on some other level. I’ll write more about Louise Wooster in an upcoming post.

Shopping: Bookstores, Large and Small

When Av and I travel around, we almost always visit at least one bookstore, whether it be an independent or big-box since we both really like regional books, and I like design and home magazines.

Small independent bookstores are the best, even though they’re more expensive. The best small bookstores we’ve found are:

Alabama Booksmith
Over the Transom
Bienville Books
Capitol Book (update: now closed)

Dancing Rabbit Books (update: now closed)
Lemuria Bookstore
Square Books