We are excited to announce October’s Bookshop of the Month: Raven Book Store in Lawrence, Kansas. Founded in 1987 as a specialty store for mystery titles, it has since added expertise in fiction, poetry, current events, and environmental writing. The Raven has become known as an advocate for small business and has forged partnerships with a number of arts organizations in its hometown. For more on that (and some wonderful cat photos), check out the Raven’s website.
For this month’s feature, we spoke with the Raven’s owner, Danny Caine.
What do you think is special about Raven Book Store?
This is a funny question for me because so much of what we do, or what we’ve gotten attention for, are things we’ve learned from other bookstores. Sure, the Raven has a strong point of view. We’re dedicated to doing whatever a bookstore can do to make the world a better place. We speak loudly about the importance of small businesses. We’re strongly committed to building relationships and enriching our community. But all our bookstore heroes do that stuff too. I’ve learned the ropes from the people who’ve come before me at the Raven, and other stores I watch, patronize, and admire. In that way, what we do is not super special in the strictest sense. But the fact that there are so many stores and people doing this important work is nonetheless very cool.
If money was no object, what changes would you make to your bookshop?
Great question, especially since we just finished a very expensive renovation and a move to a new location. Thanks to the support of our community, we were able to build our dream home. It’s a space that’s comfortable, functional, and accessible for workers and browsers alike, which was long an unfulfilled dream for the Raven. That’s the most important part. But the most fun part was being able to team up with local artists for special details like commissioned sculptures, vintage gold signage, and a very large custom neon book.
How / why did you get into bookselling?
I moved to Lawrence, Kansas for grad school and the first weekend I was here I fell in love with the Raven. I became a customer and event attendee then slowly began an informal campaign to join the small staff. After months of hanging around and making friends with the folks who work here, I got the chance to interview for a part-time position and the rest was history.
What’s the funniest thing you ever heard anyone say in the shop?
One time Dashiell, one of our store cats, mis-timed a jump and fell into the trash can. He acted like nothing happened, but we remember. We’ll always remember.
What’s your favourite And Other Stories book?
I loved Lina Wolff’s The Polyglot Lovers (translated by Saskia Vogel). Very funny, very provocative.
What book published in the last year do our readers need to get their hands on?
A book that rearranged my thinking is Matthew Salesses’s Craft in the Real World: Rethinking Fiction Writing and Workshopping. Though ostensibly a book about writing instruction, it’s useful for anyone interested in reading as a way to broaden the study of fiction and the question of craft. For anyone interested in decolonizing their bookshelf, this is essential reading.
What would be your desert island book?
Gotta be a poetry collection because it would reward re-reading and reading aloud, two important time-passing strategies when one is trapped on a desert island. I’d go with The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara.