“Thinking outside the box” has taken on a whole new meaning during the Covid-19 response. Musicians offer virtual concerts from their living rooms, commencement addresses are streamed, happy hours are zoomed, businesses have to rethink how they do … well, business. I’ve been tracking a couple of Baltimore indie bookstores to see how they are weathering the stay-at home landscape, and how they are giving back.

The “new” Ivy

The Ivy Bookshop on Falls Road popped across the border from Baltimore County to Baltimore City on Saturday to set up shop in their newly bought and renovated home. They continue to be closed for browsing, and they have stopped curbside pick-up and door-to-door deliveries. Instead, they are shipping books directly. The Ivy is also hosting virtual book clubs and events on Zoom (I was in conversation with Shifra Malka for the virtual launch of her memoir, Dare to Matter, two weeks ago), and they are partnering with #signitover to support distance learning for Baltimore City students who are under quarantine.

Photo of Charm City Books
by Philip Clinard

Charm City Books in historic Pigtown is working with The University of Maryland Medical Center Volunteer Services to provide care packages—nonfiction, fiction, and kids—for staff working at the hospital. They cover a percentage of of the retail cost, pack the gifts up, and deliver them to the volunteer department, who then gifts the packages out to employees who request them.

There are some great ways to support an indie bookstore, wherever yours may be. One is to shop online for print books at Bookshop, where you can just click on Find a Bookstore in the top right hand corner to support the store of your choice. If you enjoy audiobooks—and it’s how I do most of my reading as I continue to commute to the radio station every day as a telecommunications essential worker!—a wonderful alternative is Libro.fm. Again, you can choose the local bookstore you would like to support.

This evening, I was scheduled to take part in an author event at Charm City Books with novelist, short story writer, and biographer, Tony Peake. He’s another ex-pat South African, now based in Britain, whose latest book is called North Facing. In lieu of an on the ground event, I am offering another virtual reading from Old New Worlds, as I did when the Multiverse Reading Series at Buunni Coffee on Broadway in New York had to be put off last month.

This chapter is the first one in Part Six towards the end of the book. Please enjoy!


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