A sideways glance at Mark Twain’s quote, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated” could easily be applied to the death of the book we’ve heard about for so long. This premature pronouncement applies not to one book in particular, but to all real, bound, carry-it-around-in-your-hand books. Books are alive and well and continue to be published at record pace. Salt Lake City’s thriving literary scene proves that books are procured, read, cherished, discussed and dissected daily. For confirmation of the health of the book, check out the literary offerings found in Salt Lake City. The variety of venues and events might surprise you, but it shouldn’t; nor should you be surprised if your favorite haunt isn’t listed here—there’s that much going on!
Ain’t Down Yet
Let’s start with stores. The forecasted demise of all independent bookstores has not come to pass. Our independents offer much more than a one-stop shopping experience, though. All bring in authors who read from their works and share their literary passions. Ken Sanders Rare Books (268 S. 200 East, 801-521-3819, KenSandersBooks.com) not only stocks used and rare book gems, he also hosts authors on a regular basis, including Allison Hoover Bartlett (above photo) who wrote about Sanders in her book The Man Who Loved Books Too Much. He also opens his doors during each Gallery Stroll as he and his staff mash up the literary and the artistic for a fun-filled night. The King’s English (1511 S. 1500 East, 801-484-9100, KingsEnglish.com) is an east-side delight, stocking Utah authors’ publications as well as a wide variety of new books. The shop brings in authors who discuss their works, often to audiences straining the walls to get in. Sam Weller’s Zion Bookstore (254 S. Main, 801-328-2586, SamWellers.com) is a large, rambling store filled with books large and small, old and new. Yes, the store is leaving its Main Street venue. As of this writing, their new location is unknown. But, if the health of our independent bookstores can be measured by potential partnerships and community passion, then Salt Lake City is golden: At least eight local businesses have expressed interest in relocating along with Sam Weller’s to create a new synergy beneficial to all.
The Best Lending Institutions
Obtaining a book to read extends beyond our stores. Think local public library. The Main Library (210 E. 400 South, 801-524-8200, Slcpl.org) is one of the best in the country and, in fact, was voted Library of the Year by Library Journal in 2006. With one main library and five neighborhood branches, the library checks out millions of items each year.
Public libraries offer more than books to check out—they also have reframed themselves as the community’s living room, providing meeting space and programs. At any given time, all of the meeting rooms at the Main Library are reserved, often by book groups or literary organizations.
The library presents many book programs during the year including nationally known authors for its Dewey Lecture Series. Each location hosts at least one monthly book group (if not more), and not just for adults. Children have their groups too, as do teens.
This fall was a busy time for programs favored by the literati: October is National Book Month as well as National Arts & Humanities Month, thus the perfect time for the Utah Humanities Council (202 W. 300 North, 801-359-9670, UtahHumanities.org) to present, in 2009, the 12th annual Utah Humanities Book Festival, bringing local and national authors for all to feast in the riches of books and reading.
As part of the festival, the Utah Literary Awards Ceremony presented five categories of award winners, including those offered by the Utah Center for the Book (slcpl.org), which celebrated 10 years of honoring books by Utah writers or with Utah themes, and, for the 51st year, the award winners of the Utah Original Writing Competition of the Utah Arts Council (617 E. South Temple; 801-236-7555, Arts.Utah.gov).
The library hosts many more organizations that promote authors and reading and books: City Art (SLCityArt.org) presents weekly programs featuring invited readers, poets, novelists, and writers of the short story. Readings are presented on the first three Wednesday evenings of the month at 7 p.m. (except for summer months).
Our colleges and universities provide us with excellent writers, and they, in turn, cast their nets to host nationally and internationally recognized writers for our listening and reading pleasure. Westminster College’s Anne Newman Sutton Weeks Poetry Series (1840 S. 1300 East, WestminsterCollege.edu) brings in excellent poets during the academic year. The University of Utah also has several book and reading series during the year, including the Wallace Stegner Center (332 S. 1400 East, 801-585-9695, WallaceStegner.org) and the Guest Writer Series (a partnership between Department of English, the Creative Writing Program, and The Salt Lake City Arts Council, SlcGov.com/Arts).
Maybe making a book is more your thing. Not only is the Book Arts Program at the J. Willard Marriott Library (295 S. 1500 East, 801-581-8558, Lib.Utah.edu) one of the premier book-making facilities in the country, it offers classes and lectures on the fine art of the book.
Coffee shops have been synonymous with books since Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast—if not longer. Some of Salt Lake City’s shops that cater to books, authors and readings include: Nobrow (315 E. 300 South, 801-364-3448, NobrowCoffee.com), Mestizo Coffeehouse (631 N. West Temple, 801-596-0500, MestizoCoffeehouse.com) and Café Marmalade (361 N. 300 West,801-746-2884).
Maybe museums are more your cup of tea. Did you know that the Utah Museum of Natural History (1390 Presidents Circle, 801-581-6927, UMNH.Utah.edu) has a book group centered on natural history and environmental topics, called UMNH Community Book Conversations (umnh.utah.edu/bookclub)? Or that the Salt Lake Art Center (20 S. West Temple, 801-328-4201, SLArtCenter.org) has a library of books and magazines related to contemporary art to peruse (slartcenter.org)?
Writers in the Mist
For those who are writers themselves and have at least one book in them waiting to be realized, The League of Utah Writers (LUWrite.com) has hundreds of members and a commitment to educating and encouraging Utah’s writers. The Utah State Poetry Society (UtahPoets.com) is there to support poets. The Writers @ Work (WritersAtWork.org) conference has been going for 25 years strong, one of the longest-lived gatherings of writers in the country.
Radio is a powerful medium and can transport us to the infinite. Where would we be without Doug Fabrizio’s program RadioWest (KUER.org)? This gem of a program brings authors into our space through Fabrizio’s superior skills. The variety of topics discussed and the breadth of the questions posed provide a perfect mirror to this brief tour of literary offerings in Salt Lake City.
There is so much to read, it boggles the mind. Thank goodness we live in a town where there is relief around so many corners to satisfy our insatiable need to read, own, listen to, make, discuss, or write—just one more book.
Hikmet Sidney Loe is literature program director at the Utah Humanities Council and an art historian. She is currently writing a book.