Indeed, the store has hosted readings by Ellen Litman, Mary Karr, Michael Burkard and other local writers. It’s inaugurated a Saturday brunch featuring acoustic jazz and bossa nova. And, from time to time, Second Story has opened the space to people who wanted to put on an event. There have been showings of films like The Ground Truth, a documentary about the Iraq War. Over a year ago, a well-attended presentation focused on life in post-Katrina New Orleans.
At the same time, Second Story has continued to shelve and sell paperback books. It’s not a general-purpose bookstore but a small shop with specific interest in novels and poetry and in genres like Latin American literature. Just a quick scan of the shelves turns up the work of Paul Bowles and Julio Cortazar, Junot Diaz and Barbara Kingsolver, Sarah Gruen and Nicole Krauss. Charles Bukowski’s poetry mingles with classic novels, with recent non-fiction books like Nomi Prins’ Other People’s Money.
“It’s definitely a small selection, a filtered selection,” says owner Alexis Harwood. “I’m able to recommend books, and I like hearing from people enthusiastic about a specific writer.”
In addition to books, Second Story carries periodicals ranging from The New York Times to Mother Jones, National Geographic and Vegetarian Journal. Not surprisingly, there’s an emphasis on art-and-culture publications such as Lenswork, which deals with photography, or Oxford American, a journal devoted to Southern writing.
With the bookstore now concluding its first 18 months, Harwood is able to reflect on the transition from the very beginning, a time of first reworking the space and then reaching out to an audience, to the current situation. She speaks of starting a small business in a neighborhood with which she had little familiarity, of establishing connections to local writers, of fulfilling goals for the bookstore. Certainly one prime objective was to maintain a space where people could peruse books, drink coffee, talk and hang out.
“It’s been a solid project, ” Harwood says. “The bookstore has grown, and I’ve grown along with it.”
Second Story Bookstore is open Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, noon to 9 p.m.; Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sundays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. For more information, call 299-6021.