Common Good Books is a wonderful little bookstore in St. Paul, Minnesota. In the mid-2000s, I was in Minnesota for graduate school and I worked on the Macalester College campus as a part-time job during my grad studies (more info on my studies in A.N. Whitehead and post-humanism here). In late 2006, just around the corner from Macalester College, I happily discovered a little gem of a bookstore.
At that time, Common Good Books was located below Nina’s Coffee Cafe at the corner of Selby and Western. The tiny little bookstore had a wonderfully welcoming staff though and didn’t mind me browsing for uninterrupted bookish hours there.
As I browsed, I discovered that Garrison Keillor himself had opened Common Good Books , and owned the entire business.* This explained why I’d caught a glimpse of a very tall man with extremely bushy eyebrows peering at me critically over the stacks one day, before he hunched himself down again over his own book. He didn’t look exactly happy to see me, but neither did he look unhappy. On that day, he definitely wasn’t on site to check the books and take time to run the Common Good Books business: he was just a reader. Keillor on that day was a tad distracted, in fact he looked distinctively bookish, in a manner peculiar to Minnesota bookworms: a Keillor-esque manner. I was happy to see Keillor, but I didn’t interrupt him, because clearly we were both there just as literary patrons and customers, just browsing for the next good read. It was a little lift in my day to know someone cared so much about books. Despite running a national radio show and writing numerous books, Keillor had taken time out of his busy day just to browse in a bookstore.
*(I know that now Keillor’s reputation has been besmirched by his own actions, but back in 2006, Keillor was an undisputed lion of the literary scene, whose reputation had no fault. Sad to say, his own actions demonstrate that we can’t look to him for literary leadership. I’m disappointed in him, to say the least)
Less than a year after I discovered the little gem of a place, we left Minnesota to return to our home state of Washington. In the years to come, I commenced being an author myself. But I remembered my late afternoons in Common Good Books with great fondness. In fact, as I wrote, I often pictured my books finding a welcome home on the cozy bookshelves of Common Good Books . And I’m now excited to note that, in fact, you can find my books on the shelves today!
Other readers also found a welcome home at Common Good Books. Keillor’s little bookstore had become a success! So in 2012, the bookstore moved locations to a grander, sunnier (and more discoverable home on the corner of Grand and Snelling. This was a much more discoverable location, and in fact many hundreds of more readers discovered Common Good Books in this new location. The bookstore was rapidly named as one of the Top Seven Bookstores in the Twin Cities.
Today, Common Good Books has a wonderful open space and an excellent inventory of new books, with a profoundly welcoming children’s section. The bookstore also has a very nice space to host visiting authors. Over the past few years, Common Good Books has added many author events, and now the store is on the regular itinerary for national author tours!
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to return to the Twin Cities, and I was happy to drop in and check on the shelves at Common Good Books . I was happy to see that the wonderful manager Martin S. and the assistant manager David E. were still present and accounted for, and were just as welcoming as I remembered.
Common Good Books is one of my literary touchstones, and I hope you enjoy the read!
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