Lansing Progressives Honor Only Local Independent Bookstore: Everybody Reads

Last night I participated in a grand celebration to recognize the unique gift that Everybody Reads Books and Stuff is to the Lansing, Michigan, community. In addition to being the city’s only independent bookstore, it is a valuable source of progressive books and magazines and an important progressive gathering place. In these tough economic times, friends and supporters gathered to let owner Scott Harris know his work is appreciated.

I was honored to be the featured author. After my talk, about volume 4 of my Voices from the Underground Series (Joe Grant’s Stop the Presses! I Want to Get Off: A Brief History of the Prisoners’ Digest International), I had the further honor of introducing Scott.

The venue was Avenue Café, next door to the bookstore. Café owner Colleen graciously donated refreshments for the reception that preceded my talk. The event was sponsored by the Peace Education Center, an amazing activist group that has been on the forefront of progressive political issues for over forty years.

Following are my introductory words after my author talk:

Now I want to talk about the bookstore next door. Everybody Reads is becoming unique. This isn’t a good thing. Independent bookstores are facing competition unlike any they’ve ever faced, from electronic bookstores, and they’re fighting for their lives. They’ve always competed against the chains, but now the chains are facing the same competition, and they’re losing. Remember B. Dalton? Ever hear of that little bookstore down the road in Ann Arbor: Borders?

So we’re here tonight to call attention to the most important—is it the only?—independent bookstore in Lansing: Everybody Reads.

It’s a library where you can browse through books, read a few chapters, and find the ones that fit your style and interest level.

  • It’s a treasure map where you can discover authors you never heard of because their books happen to be shelved next to the ones you came looking for.
  • It’s a community gathering place where you can meet with friends and group members to talk politics and literature in a stimulating environment, with food brought in from next door—from Avenue Café.

You can’t bring food to an electronic bookstore.

To me as an author, Everybody Reads is unique in the way they treat their visiting authors. I mean absolutely unique, not almost unique. Did you know that when authors speak here, and then they sell books, all of the proceeds from sales of their books go straight to them? The bookstore keeps nothing—just because Scott Harris wants to support authors.

This is unheard of. I’ve spoken at bookstores all over the country in the past quarter of a century. None had such an author-friendly policy.

So I’m here tonight to show my gratitude to Everybody Reads and to Scott Harris, because of his vision and his hard work and dedication to the store and this community.

And I’m here to tell you to buy lots of my books tonight because all of the proceeds are going to Everybody Reads. Buy them for yourselves or for holiday gifts. As the end of the year approaches, it’s time to get your taxes in order. Buy a complete set of the series and donate it to your favorite library. If we run out, place your order and we’ll deliver it to you.

I want Everybody Reads to make it because I love books, I love community gathering places, and, although I’m no longer a resident, I love Lansing. Those are some of my reasons for being here tonight. What are yours?

Several attendees followed me with words of their own and then I introduced Scott.

Scott expressed his appreciation for our show of appreciation and then told the story—which he said he has told many times before but which many of us in attendance had never heard—about his own past experiences that solidified his value system and led him to open Everybody Reads. Most touching was his explanation of how he came to understand the difference between “charity” and “community,” a distinction that was learned as he and his two young children coped with the early death of his beloved wife, their mother. I’ll post the video when it becomes available. I gave a good talk about volume 4, but Scott’s talk was the highpoint.

Join Me in Celebrating Lansing’s Independent Bookstore

Hello, Lansing-area Friends,

The good folks at Everybody Reads Books and Stuff have invited me back to talk about volume 4 of my Voices from the Underground Series, the final in my four-volume series. I hope you’ll join me in celebrating the completion of a 25-year journey!—or rejoin me if you attended any of my other three shows.

  • Date: Thursday December 6, 2012
  • Time: 6:30-8:30 p.m., with reception beginning at 6 p.m.
  • Location: The Avenue Café, 2021 East Michigan Avenue, Lansing (restaurant next to the bookstore)

But this event isn’t just about me. Yes, I’ll talk about my book. But I also will talk about a precious community resource that we all know and love, and don’t want to lose: Everybody Reads. I’ll call on you to share your thoughts and memories at the open mic. What better way to embarrass owner Scott Harris with compliments and appreciation?

I’m honored that Peace Education Center has chosen to sponsor the event and that The Avenue Café has offered their premises.

We know that Everybody Reads is facing challenging times. Every independent bookstore in America is. In fact, most have gone under. Everybody Reads remains, not just to sell books but to provide important space for community events like these.

But they need your help.

So please come. Come in full force. Come with your friends.  Come ready to buy books—for yourself, for your holiday gifts, to donate to your favorite library.

And come hungry because the good folks at Peace Education Center are bringing hors d’oeuvres for the 6 p.m. reception. If the spirit strikes you, feel free to bring your favorite dish to pass as well.

For my part, I’m donating all proceeds from sales of my books to Everybody Reads. I’m no hero. Everybody Reads has been real good to me in my three previous appearances. It’s my small way of giving back. So buy lots of my books. There’s no better time to get all four while helping the Lansing community’s only independent bookstore at the same time.

Please share this blog entry with everyone you know who might be interested.

Include everyone you know who values top-quality, community-minded, independent bookstores. Lansing has one of the best: Everybody Reads Books and Stuff. It needs our help.

I look forward to celebrating with you and your friends at The Avenue Café Thursday December 6.


Ken Wachsberger