If it’s not yet a familiar saying, let’s hope it is after the retail debacle that continues to be 2020 and promises to stretch into 2021: Shop local, give local, read local. Supporting homegrown businesses and artists won't just warm the hearts of the folks for whom you buy your holidays gifts; it’ll do your heart good, too. But how do you know what’s out there? With all the normal chaos of the season, plus the 2020 chaos of the pandemic and safer-at-home orders and stores closing left and right, how is a shopper to know how to avoid the Amazon addiction?
We asked local bookstores in Denver and statewide to make a single strong recommendation of a homegrown book. Here are the results, and remember: You should buy these books from the store recommending them. Please stop feeding the Bezos. And happy literary holidays.
The Only Good Indians, Stephen Graham Jones
Boulder Book Store
1107 Pearl Street, Boulder
Boulder Book Store marketing manager Stephanie Schindhelm recommends the latest from CU Boulder professor and novelist Stephen Graham Jones: The Only Good Indians. “I would not consider myself a horror fan,” she says, “but I like creepy, and Stephen Graham Jones's writing hits the sweet spot. His writing is amazing; he hits on real and serious issues. [Graham Jones] is Blackfeet, as are the characters in this book, and much of the story revolves around the idea of what it means to be Native American in the 21st century. The basic setup is four Blackfeet, ten years ago, went to a sacred place they weren't supposed to be and shot an entire herd of elk. And the elk have not forgotten. The rest of the story is for you to discover.” A great gift for elk lovers and tarandruphobics alike.
The Denver School Book, 1859-1967
Denver School Busing Wars, 1967-1995, Phil Goodstein
Capitol Hill Books
300 East Colfax Avenue
Holly Brooks, owner of Capitol Hill Books, is always happy to recommend Denver historian and author Phil Goodstein’s latest books, and his two tomes on the history of Denver schools are no exception. “Phil’s whole career is Denver. He’s been covering it his whole life. He lives in Congress Park, and when he has a new book, he gets on his bike and brings them down.” You don’t get much more local than that — and there’s much more in the Phil Goodstein inventory at Capitol Hill Books. Goodstein has covered Denver neighborhoods all over town and more. Know someone who just moved to a new place in town? Give them a little bit of their local history.
The Belcher, Luke Schmaltz
Mutiny Information Cafe
2 South Broadway
Looking for something both local and unique in the literary world? Look no further, says Mutiny’s own Jim Norris, than this “drunken bar crawl through a Denver that is gone forever,” in which “all your favorite Denver drunks-gone-by-now have superpowers!” It’s a rollicking mash-up of superheroes, the Denver dive bar scene, and the Mile High City in general, written by King Rat frontman Luke Schmaltz. To celebrate, Mutiny is also offering a coffee blend called "The Soothsayer" to pair with the reading of The Belcher. Ah, a good cuppa joe and a graphic novel about local gas-related heroics. The classics never die.
Once Again, Catherine Wallace Hope
Kathy Baum, one of the buyers at Tattered Cover, suggests the Boulder-based sci-fi thriller Once Again, by Colorado-born novelist Catherine Wallace Hope, whom we interviewed earlier this year when the book hit shelves. “I loved Once Again,” Baum says, “and not just for the comfort of the familiar landmarks of Boulder and the Flatirons, where the book is set. The engrossing novel follows a couple as they cope with the tragedy of losing their daughter. As Erin, the mother, struggles with grief, her astrophysicist husband, Zac, is working on a major project that could change the way humans perceive time. Erin gets a mysterious phone call one morning from her daughter’s school that she received exactly 500 days ago. As time begins to shift, Zac’s experiment and their daughter’s disappearance begin to intertwine. The novel is an intelligent and compelling blend of drama, mystery and a hint of the supernatural — the perfect escape-reality read needed in 2020.”
Saltwater Sillies: 300+ Jokes for Buoys and Gulls, Natasha Wing
Old Firehouse Books
232 Walnut Street, Fort Collins
Saltwater Sillies is sort of a local two-fer, as it's written by local author Natasha Wing (known for The Night Before… books) and illustrated by local cartoonist Stan Yan. Revati Kilaparti of Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins says this new book is “full of ocean-themed tongue-twisters, puns and one-liners. Kids will be surely entertained over the holiday season, but the fun illustrations help make it the perfect book to put a smile on anyone’s face.” Also: a great source of dad jokes, if you’re running low.
Ms. Marvel, G. Willow Wilson
Time Warp Comics and Games
3105 28th Street, Boulder
Wayne Winsett at Boulder’s Time Warp Comics and Games is a superfan of local writer G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel collections, featuring new Marvel sensation Kamala Khan. Winsett says he appreciates that Wilson “grew up right here in Boulder, is herself a Muslim, and created a new superhero from scratch that really resonated not only with other Muslims, but young girls and women alike. And surprise — guys like her stories, too!” Winsett adds that there are already eight volumes of her stories, including team-ups with the new Spider-Man Miles Morales. Multiculturalism and Marvel mania? A perfect coupling.
Sabrina & Corina, Kali Fajardo-Anstine
4280 Tennyson Street
Conner Horak from BookBar wants to remind any book lovers out there who haven’t yet read the award-winning Sabrina & Corina that they should. “It's rare for a collection of short stories to be a finalist for the National Book Award, and it's almost unheard of for a debut short-story collection to be a finalist for the National Book Award,” says Horak. “But this is exactly what Kali Fajardo-Anstine did in 2019. It’s an unequivocally Colorado book about family, home, friendship, violence, adversity, and love in its truest sense, revolving around a cast of indigenous Latina women. These stories address important issues that can get lost in the 2020 chaos of COVID-19. There are vaccines for the virus on the horizon, so things are looking up on that front. Unfortunately, the more deep-rooted issues — societal viruses we have always carried with us in this country — cannot be erased with a vaccine. No. Art is the answer. And books like Sabrina & Corina are as close to a cure as we are going to get.”
What Colorado books would you recommend as gifts? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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