There are things that are just facts of life: the grass is green, the earth is round (it is not flat, people), and … book people love literary tote bags.
CJ Hauser, the author of The From-Aways and Family of Origin, loves literary totes a lot. In fact, she has an entire wall of them in her office. I know—serious life goals.
She was kind enough to share her adventures in gathering these tote bags with us at Read It Forward and we have to say, they’re pretty wonderful.
Read on for an adorable dog who you will most definitely want to pet, fascinating stories behind the great wall of totes, dream destinations, and inspiration for your own walls, in your home or elsewhere.
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1. Hello! This is me and my very literary dog Moriarty in my office at Colgate University where I teach creative writing and contemporary literature. Behold, my wall of totes. I figured if I put them on the wall they’d be a collection not an addiction?
2. I pinned up this tote when I became part of the Doubleday family.
3. I went to Portland for the first time on a romantic misadventure and spent hours roaming Powell’s. I bought Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, which is still a favorite.
4. The day I turned in the first draft of Family of Origin as my dissertation I got in the car and drove straight to New Orleans. Maple Street Books was a gift of a shop—the man behind the counter lit up when I bought Oe’s Nip the Bud, Shoot the Kids. They’ve sadly since closed and we’ll all just have to “Fight the Stupids” without them.
5. I went on a road trip from New York to Jackson Mississippi with two friends when I was 22 and was never the same after stopping in Oxford, drinking cocktails under slow fans and visiting the mecca that is Square Books (where I picked up Flannery O’Connor’s Mystery and Manners). This tote was one of my first and is particularly well-loved.
6. I visited my sister in Palo Alto where I panicked after seeing tiny drones zooming down the street—ducking into Bell’s was like returning to an older, safer, a world I knew.
7. Key West is a literary hub—Ernest Hemingway’s cats! Judy Blume IRL!—and it’s the sort of place where all books are beach reads.
8. Brattle book shop in Boston has these glorious murals of famous authors outside and I browsed the carts of sidewalk books under the watchful eyes of Toni Morrison and Isaac Asimov.
9. I almost threw out my back I bought so many books at City Lights while visiting San Francisco because they curate their selection so magically that you always discover something new. My mother read me Ferlinghetti poems as a child and the shop felt like going home. Drinks at Vesuvio Cafe afterward.
10. McNally Jackson was my bookstore for close to ten years. It was where I shopped and went to readings. Where I first discovered Europa editions, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Love & Rockets. Where I brought dates to judge them and killed time between parties. Where I once insisted on telling a bookseller that the Irish and English books should be separated and he, saintly man, smiled and nodded and did not kick me out.
11. My Parnassus tote is aspirational because I have not yet been. My dear friend moved away to Nashville and sent this to me in the mail. She said: they have a second one but you’ll have to come visit me to get it. And I will, so soon, so soon.
12. A friend of mine sent me to this bookshop in Venice in a rare, quiet square perfect for drinking cocktails and reading in the sun. You can’t do better than this motto.
13. Let me sing a love song for The Bookshelf in Thomasville, Georgia. Annie who runs it is basically Kathleen Kelly from You’ve Got Mail. Annie uses the shop to build community and bring neighbors together. It was my bookstore home for three years while I was drafting Family of Origin and I miss that store like I miss an old friend.
14. While I was an undergrad in DC I worked all kinds of odd jobs … and then promptly spent every cent I made at Politics & Prose and Kramer Books. P&P was the first shop that made me fall in love with nonfiction.
15. I grew up in Redding, CT and Books on the Common was my hometown bookshop as a kid. Now I go in there with my mother who is constantly chatting with the booksellers about whether they think Patricia Lockwood is just as funny in real life and if Haruki Murakami’s written anything new lately. God bless booksellers, for talking to my mother, for talking to me, for thrusting the right book into the right person’s hands, just at the moment they need it most.
Featured image: CJ Hauser