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January 2011
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Book bonanza: Take a ride on the reading
BY MARY ESSELMAN [email protected]

Something about the Central Library downtown transports me back to my childhood, or to some weird fictional version of my childhood. I see that big columned entrance, walk up those grand steps, and suddenly I’m Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird; Jem and Dill are right around the corner at Lee Park, dreaming up some Boo Radley dare, while Atticus is up the street at the court house, fighting for justice. I loved that book as a kid and always wanted to be a sassy little firecracker like Scout (“Pass the damn ham, please”), growing up in a small town full of neighbors and eccentrics (uh, but minus the ingrained, sentimentalized racism). 
           I don’t think it’s just the library, I think it’s Charlottesville itself that evokes this feeling of bookish nostalgia. If ever there was an Atticus kind of town, Charlottesville is it: teeming with highly educated, well-meaning, left-leaning folks, yet still oddly segregated in some ways, and crackling with small-town Southern idiosyncrasies. Charlottesville just feels literary, like a fictional setting. Happily for romantic English majors like me, it’s a town of readers, thinkers, writers, and activists who seem to agree with Jefferson’s Scout-like declaration, “I cannot live without books.”
             Books and bookish events abound. The public libraries are charming (I’m partial to the Central and Gordon Avenue branches, but they’re all inviting) and offer wonderful reading/discussion programs for adults and children (Jefferson-Madison Regional Library, jmrl.org). The University’s libraries have any and all of the books you could possibly want, and the staff are exceptionally helpful. Bookstores range from the atmospheric and cozy (Daedalus and New Dominion downtown, Heartwood Books on the Corner), to the bright and shiny (Barnes & Noble at Barracks Road) to the artsy (Blue Whale Books downtown) and new agey (Quest Bookshop on West Main Street). 
                 Then there’s “the” literary event of the year for Charlottesville, the Virginia Festival of the Book, a multi-day celebration featuring readings and discussions with big-time writers, illustrators, and publishers (next year’s festival happens March 21-25).
             If you wanted to, you could attend a free reading/discussion nearly every evening during the school year, thanks largely to the University. The Miller Center of Public Affairs offers a free Forum program, which has hosted guest speakers like Jimmy Carter and Jim Lehrer. UVA’s Creative Writing Program (home to legends like Ann Beattie and Rita Dove) regularly holds readings featuring well-known writers and poets. The University’s Center for Humanism in Medicine presents “The Medical Center Hour: Medicine & Society in Conversation,” a weekly lunch-time speaker series.  Many other departments sponsor readings and talks throughout the year; check  UVA’s “Things to Do” page online (virginia.edu/news.html) for updated offerings.
            For those itching to write, the Charlottesville Writing Center offers classes and programs for children and adults; or try something like screenwriting or writing for children through UVA’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies. And of course there's always the Hook’s very own annual fiction contest-- many try, but only the special few get the thrill of having their work published in these pages! Or simply head to the Free Speech Monument downtown-- a huge chalkboard designed for public dialogue-- and express yourself. 
          Speaking of the Hook-- even with the disclaimer that this is coming from someone writing for the paper-- I have to say I couldn’t get by without my weekly local news fix courtesy of the Hook. I love reading the Washington Post and Daily Progress every morning. (Some locals call it the "Daily Regress" and don’t bother with it, but I still find it endearing and often even informative.) And I can’t miss the New York Times online. But oh, how I look forward to Thursday, when I can get the real scoop on what’s happening in this town. You can’t miss a week of the Hook or you’re out of the local loop.
            Phew. That about covers it, though I’m sure I’ve missed a lot. Settle in and enjoy the largess: welcome to the word-fest that is Charlottesville.


Jefferson-Madison Regional Library- The local public library system comprises the main library downtown as well as seven additional outposts to push back ignorance. Central branch is located at 201 E. Market St. by Lee Park; Gordon Avenue just where you'd expect; Northside at Albemarle Square Shopping Center. Other branches are in outlying communities (Crozet, Scottsville, Louisa, Greene, Nelson). Descendant of the Albemarle Library Society founded in 1823 by Thomas Jefferson and others, today the JMRL maintains an impressive inventory not only of books, but also of videos and books on tape as well as a thorough roster of reading programs for kids and adults. Central Library Mon-Th 9am-9pm, Fri-Sat 9am-5pm, Sun 1-5pm, but closed Sundays from Memorial Day to Labor Day. 979-7151

Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society- The small spot (in a swanky building) for local history and geneology. You're asked to sign in. 200 Second St. NE (downtown by Lee Park). Library and exhibit hall open Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, library only open Sat 10am-1pm. 296-1492

PVCC Library- The Jessup Library serves the local community college located on Route 20 South near the I-64 interchange. During the school year: Mon-Th 8am-9:30pm, Fri 8am-5pm, Sat 9am-noon. Summer session: Mon-Th 8am-8:30pm. When school is not in session: Mon-Fri 8am-5pm. 961-5308

University of Virginia Libraries- Any Virginia resident and other folks at least 16 years of age can borrow books and other materials from UVA's libraries for up to 30 days. UVA's online catalogue is called Virgo, and it's pretty sweet. 

  • Alderman- The stately brick library at the corner of University  Avenue and McCormick Road houses most of the humanities collection. School year hours: Mon-Th 8am-10pm, Fri 8am-6pm, Sat 9am-8pm, Sun 10am-midnight. Summer hours (after Aug 6): Mon-Th 8am-10pm, Fri 8am-6pm, Sat 1-5pm, closed Sun. 924-3021
  • Business- The Camp Library at the Darden School is home to the business collections of the university and is located in the Darden complex off Massie Road. School year hours: Mon-Th 7:30am-11pm, Fri 7:30am-6pm, Sat 9am-6pm, Sun 11am-11pm. Summer hours: 8am-5pm on weekdays, closed on weekends and holidays. 924-7321
  • Clemons- Named for the man who served as university librarian from 1927 to 1950, this multi-story brick building cattycorner to Alderman features ample study space and large multimedia collections. School year hours: Open 24 hours/day Mon-Th, closes at midnight Fri, open 9am-midnight Sat, and opens 10am Sun. Summer hours (after Aug 6): Mon-Fri 8am-10pm, Sat 1-5pm, closed Sun. 924-3684
  • Education- Located across the Emmet Street pedestrian bridge from Brown College and accessible by car through McCormick Road, the Education library serves all the learning information needs of the Curry School.  School year hours: Mon-Th 8am-11pm, Fri 8am-6pm, Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 1-11pm. Summer hours: Mon-Fri 8am-5pm. 924-7040
  • Fine Arts- The Fiske Kimball Fine Arts Library is named for the architect who rescued Thomas Jefferson from architectural obscurity in the early 20th century. It's located in the art/architecture complex on Carr's Hill. School year hours: Mon-Th 8am-midnight, Fri 8am-6pm, Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 1pm-midnight. Summer Hours (after Aug 6): Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, closed weekends. 924-6938
  • Law Library- The Arthur J. Morris Law Library boasts 890,000+ volumes on North Grounds. During the school year: 8am-midnight daily. Summer hours: Mon-Th 8am-9pm, Fri-Sat 8am-5pm. closed Sun. 924-3384
  • Medical Library- The Claude Moore Health Sciences Library houses UVA's medical collections. Mon-Th 7:30am-midnight, Fri 7:30am-7pm, Sat 9am-7pm, Sun noon-midnight. Located at 1300 Jefferson Park Ave. next to the university hospital. 924-5444
  • Music Library- All the melodius records (in all senses of the word) at UVA live in the Music Library on the bottom two levels of Old Cabell Hall. School year hours: Mon-Th 8am-11pm, Fri 8am-6pm, Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 1-11pm. Summer hours (after Aug 6): open 9am-5pm weekdays, closed weekends and holidays. 924-7041
  • Science and Engineering- The Brown Science and Engineering Library (in Clark Hall) has it all: astronomy, biology, chemistry, engineering, environmental science, mathematics, physics, psychology, and statistics. Mon-Th 8am-2am, Fri 8am-9pm, Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 10am-2am. Summer hours (after Aug 6): Mon-Fri 9am-6pm, Sat 1-5pm, closed Sun. 924-3628
  • Special Collections- Researchers go giddy at the thought of the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library both below and above McCormick Road. School year hours: Mon-Th 9am-9pm, Fri-Sat 9am-5pm. Summer hours: Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, Sat 1-5pm. closed Sun. 243-1776


The Avocado Pit Largest geneaology collection in the state and largest ship model building book collection in the state. Other emphasis general nonfiction. 310 E. Market St., terrace level. Mon-Sat, 9:30am-3:30pm. 817-0010

Barnes & Noble, Barracks Road Shopping Center- Standard B&N fare, service, and inventory complete with Starbucks. Mon-Th 9am-10pm, Fri-Sat 9am-11pm, Sun 9am-9pm. 984-0461

Blue Whale Books, Downtown Mall- Classy glass display cases and subdued lighting entice Downtown Mall browsers. Used and rare books with a wide variety of prints and antiquarian maps. Mon-Th 10am-6pm, Fri-Sat 10am-9pm, Sun Noon-5pm. 296-4646

Daedalus Bookshop, Fourth St. NE, off the Downtown Mall- Charlottesville's own "Strand"- Biggest and oldest used bookstore in town with up to 120,000 titles in all genres. Three floors of warrens and crannies offer kitsch, treasures, and preoccupations to fill hours. Sun-Mon 10am-6pm, Tue-Fri 10am-5pm. 293-7595

Green Valley Book Fair, I-81 just south of Harrisonburg at exit 240- No longer an occasional event, this sprawling indoor/outdoor outlet was named "Best Bookstore on the East Coast" by Attaché magazine, and features over 500,000 new books with 60-90 percent off retail prices. Open for two-week intervals throughout the year, 9am-7pm daily. 800-385-0099

Heartwood Books, 5 Elliewood Ave., near The Corner- One of the few Antiquarian Bookstores Association of America rare book dealers. Next door to the collectors shop is a general used bookstore, which, while not strictly scholarly, leans towards the tastes of the University. Mon-Fri 10am-7:30pm, Sat 10am-6pm and Sun Noon-5pm. Collectors shop hours vary. 295-7083

New Dominion Bookshop, Downtown Mall- Oldest independent seller in Virginia--been here since 1924. Small but elegant, making great use of limited shelf space and attractive mezzanine complete with a small art gallery for special events. Excellent selection of local authors. Mon-Wed and Sat 9:30am-5:30pm, Th-Fri 9:30am-8pm, Sun 1-5pm. 295-2552

Oakley's Gently Used Books, York Place on the Downtown Mall- Over 9,000 hand-selected used books and a few new books of local interest. Specializing in science fiction and children's books. Mon-Sat 10am-6pm, Sun Noon-5pm, with additional hours by appointment. 977-3313

Quest Bookshop, 619 W. Main St.- Charlottesville's premiere bookshop for new-age, spiritual texts, and guidebooks. Crystals, candles, and incense, too. Mon-Sat 10am-5:30pm, Sun 1-5pm. 295-3377

Read it Again, Sam, Downtown Mall- General used books with a wall exclusively for mysteries and a huge art section make this a valuable addition to Downtown Mall used book emporia. Mon-Th 10am-8pm, Fri-Sat 10am-9pm, Sun 11am-8pm. 977-9844

Shenanigans, North Wing, Barracks Road Shopping Center- Toy store with nice selection of children's books. Not bargains, but great for mix-n-match gifts. Mon-Sat 10am-6pm, Sun Noon-5pm. 295-4797

Splintered Light Bookstore- 128 Chancellor Street, The Corner- Sharing a building with the Center for Christian Study, this little place specializes in theology, philosophy, and the arts. Mon-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 11am-4pm. 296-3977

Student Book Store, 1515 University Ave. on the Corner- All things Wahoo. Cards, caps, even chairs emblazoned with Cavalier logo. But some real books are mixed in with the textbooks and UVA merchandise. Mon-Fri 9am-7pm, Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 11am-4pm. 293-5900

UVA Bookstore, Central Grounds Parking Garage top floor- Also heavily skewed toward good ol' UVA, but with a respectable inventory of other subjects. Good for picking up textbooks and anthologies. School year hours: Mon-Fri 8:30am-7pm, Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 11am-6pm. Summer hours: Mon-Fri 8:30am-6pm, Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 11am-6pm. 924-3721 

The Book Broker, 114 Bollingwood Road- Buys and sells books, maps, and ephemera of Virginia. Also conducts appraisals. Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America member. Call for appointment. 296-2194

Clover Hill Books, P.O. Box 8372- Mail order firm specializing in 20th-century British and American literature, poetry, literary criticism, and biography about 20th-century writers. 973-1506

Franklin Gilliam Rare Books, 218 South St.- ABAA member for serious collectors. Mon-Sat Noon-6pm; calling ahead is strongly suggested. 979-2512

Buteo Books, Shipman- Family-owned bookstore with one of the largest selections of ornithology titles in the world. Friendly owners cater to beginning and expert birders, as well as serious students of ornithology both in-person and on-line. 800-722-2460 or 263-8671

Seanchai Books, 115 W. Main St.- Old, new, rare, and mainstream Irish fiction, history, poetry, travel-- you get the idea. 295-8478

Atlas Comics, 1750 Rio Hill Center- Everything comic books from Marvel and D.C. to Japanese manga and lesser known graphic novels-- more than 75,000 new and back-issue comics in stock. Tu-Sat Noon-8pm, Sun Noon-6pm, closed Mondays. 974-7512

Virginia Festival of the Book, 145 Ednam Drive- This annual week-long festival of seminars, readings, and panels for authors, publishers, and illustrators attracted a turnout of over 20,690 visitors in 2009. Next year's festival-- March 16-20, 2011. 924-3296

Book Buddies- One-on-one volunteer program in Charlottesville and Albemarle schools to ensure all first- and second-graders learn to read. 245-2415

Literacy Volunteers of Charlottesville/Albemarle- Provides free confidential tutoring sessions for adults in basic literacy and English as a second language. Funded by state and local government as well as individual donors and area organizations. 977-3838

Bookwrights Press, White Hall- Bookwrights studio design produces book jackets for presses nationwide and provides consulting for individuals who wish to self-publish. 263-4818

University of Virginia Press, 210 Sprigg Lane- Previously the University Press of Virginia, the publishing house has opted for the new moniker to better reflect its "close relationship to its host institution." Easy to see where there might have been some confusion. 924-3361

The Hypocrite Press, Specializing in books about "the underground subculture of Downtown Charlottesville," these folks mostly publish fiction, but their anthology of film reviews from the Advocate: High Cheekbones, Pouty Lips, Tight Jeans, earned a nomination for a Library of Virginia Award for nonfiction. Info: [email protected]

Charlottesville Writing Center, PO Box 5608, 22905- Nonprofit writing instruction at evening and weekend workshops, enrolling 250 people yearly. Summer camp for kids, tutoring, editing, manuscript review. 293-3702

Rare Book School, 114 Alderman Library, UVA- Independent nonprofit school at UVA. Offers courses in cataloging, bookbinding, illustration, etc. Publishing arm is called Book Arts Press. 924-8851

WriterHouse: Launched in the spring of 2008, WriterHouse offers aspiring writers a space to collaborate, bounce ideas, and pen the novel, short story, article or poem of your dream. The organization also offers writing workshops, hosts speakers and readings, and provides a gathering space for the local writing community to come together. 296-1922

Four times a year, literature buffs devour the Virginia Quarterly Review, published right here in Charlottesville. Since 1925, it's been chock full of the nation's best in poetry, short stories, and non-fiction. Recent contributors have included Margaret Atwood, Michael Cunningham, Tony Kushner, Joyce Carol Oates, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Salman Rushdie. That's not to mention the two National Magazine Awards it won in 2006 for General Excellence and Fiction, beating out the likes of The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, and Esquire.


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