Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Susie J. Horgan

As Einstein imagined how a beam of light would appear if he could travel alongside it...I too imagine these rays every time Mitchell takes me through his latest dream...which hopefully then transcends onto my images. I have been making pictures of how this literary solar sphere fractally reaches and connects sun-soaked Miami with the outside world and beyond.

It is a magical cauldron mixed humanity.

I thank all of those who have ever allowed me take their picture...
because you are that very moment which keeps the Books & Books organism moving.

Thank you, Mitchell, because from you comes the electro magnectic charge which ignites us all.

Here's to you my friend,
xSusie J. Horgan

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Tone Blevins

a short haiku

pages turning ceaselessly:
work & words at Books & Books
twenty-five autumns,

thanks! tone

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Russell Banks

Was it 1982? It must have been, or maybe sometime the following year, and I was hanging out in Little Haiti and down in Islamorada doing research for what became CONTINENTAL DRIFT and like most people not in the know didn't realize that there was an incredibly tasteful bookstore operating over in the Gables. I wish I had known. Because it wasn't until 1985 when CONTINENTAL DRIFT was published and I was invited to read at Books & Books that I got to visit the store for the first time and meet Mitch and in a single evening go straight to the center of the literary world in Miami. For it was already that, -- the store and the readers and writers and artists who hung out together, drawn together by the books and the readings, of course, but most of all drawn together by the warmth and intelligence of Mitchell Kaplan himself.

There are only a few bookstores that we think of as both classic and historically significant. One wants to call them "bookshops" instead, suggesting a place where books are made and not merely sold, because they function as the center of an entire community of readers and writers and artists. Think of Shakespeare & Co., Gotham Book Mart, City Lights, and maybe two or three others. Books & Books is in that league. They all sold books you couldn't find anywhere else in the city then, but they all also had a proprietor who not only loved books and writers and had great taste in both, but had made a personal mission of bringing those books and writers to the wider community -- whether it was the Left Bank in the 1920s or Manhattan in the 1950s or San Francisco in the 1960s. Those bookshops actually shaped their communities' literary imaginations. Which is to say, they shaped how those cities viewed themselves and how they came to be viewed by outsiders. Books & Books has done that for Miami. It's impossible to think of a Barnes & Noble or a Borders even attempting it.

Sure, all bookstores, whether chains or independents, provide a service; they sell books (and associated products, including espresso and whole grain muffins and scones). But the rare ones, like Books & Books and those other classics I mentioned, can make a city into a place where you want to live. That's certainly the effect Books & Books has had on me and my wife. And it's not about the books or the associated products -- we can find those most anywhere in America nowadays. It's about the specific community of writers and readers that has been nourished and sustained by Books & Books over the last twenty-five years, the folks who gather there to talk shop and exchange gossip and real estate tips and recommend titles new and old that may never appear on the Best Seller lists. One likes to think that a city has at least one place where its collective wisdom resides, where its imagination and self-knowledge are protected and shared with anyone who comes through the gate looking for them. For twenty-five years now, for those of us who love Miami, that place has been Books & Books, and the keeper of the gate has been Mitchell Kaplan.

Russell Banks

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Evelyn McDonnell

I spend a lot of time these days trying to spelunk ideas in the wall-less ether of cyberspace – which makes me appreciate a bricks-and-mortar location all the more. There’s nothing like the physical sensation of being surrounded by shelves upon shelves of books – some overhead, some hip-high and on rollers. A good bookstore is the intellectual soul of a city, and in a city often derided for not having an intellectual soul, Books & Books is a good – a great – bookstore. Mitchell Kaplan has made Miami a book town. He’s a true miracle maker. And he also serves the best cupcakes I’ve ever had.

Though I do think they should get Wi-Fi.

Evelyn McDonnell, author of Mamarama: A Memoir of Sex, Kids, & Rock’n’Roll and editorial director of

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Paul George

Books & Books is that rare creature: a bookstore so special, so important that it has changed the way a lot of greater Miamians look at knowledge and culture. From its beginnings in Coral Gables, Books & Books has put the customer first, has made him or her feel at home, has given him or her the opportunity to become part of a community based on knowledge and the sharing of knowledge. Books & Books is appealing to the eye, it is a center of a learning community that understands the uniqueness of reading, of listening to authors, or discussing ideas, events, and personalities. Books & Books has made our community a much better place by providing us with a wonderful experience everytime we visit one of the stores, and, by extension, wherever we go from there with a book or a new learning experience.

Paul George

Mike McGonigal

The shop had already been around a year or so when I discovered it. Being fifteen at the time, two years seemed an eternity. So to me, the store held institution-like status right from its start.

Miami in the 1980s had quite a few expertly-curated shops run by these gentle iconoclasts—Mike Dean with Yardbird Records in the Grove and M.
Leslie Wimmer with Open Books & Records in Miami Beach spring to mind alongside Mitchell. I won't say I took Books & Books for granted at the time, as my trek there by bicycle was thirteen miles round trip; I just looked it up on Google maps so you know it's true. And then of course we must all remember how culturally harsh and divisive the Reagan/ Bush era was; Books & Books always felt like an island of sanity to me. The poetry section alone was so strong that I labored to find anything comparable, even after moving to Brooklyn or Seattle.

The location was so gorgeous and the staff smart and helpful—even to a full-of-himself suburban teen who wrote really bad poetry (that would be me). I received my first real encouragement as a writer at the open mic readings Mitchell himself used to run. And at least once a month, I spent my allowance on these amazing things, books from Grove Press, New Directions and Black Sparrow. These weren't in any library I had access to as a high school student. I had no other way of discovering these books than to find them in Books & Books. In college, I adopted the store's own slogan, that Borges quote, as my own whenever anyone commented on the perilous stacks around my bed: "Dude, I cannot sleep unless I'm surrounded by books!"

I'm so glad that Books & Books has been around for twenty-five years, and hope it continues to thrive for at least another twenty-five! I know that sounds trite, but it's true.

Mike McGonigal
Writer/ Editor, YETI Publications
Portland, Oregon

Monday, October 1, 2007

Edwidge Danticat

The first time I visited Books & Books, I was twenty three years old and a student at the Caribbean Writers Institute summer program at the University of Miami. I had just graduated from college and had some stubborn notion that I wanted to be a writer so I had enrolled in the Masters in Fine Arts program at Brown University. Still needing extra fuel, commiseration and understanding from like-minded writers, I came to spend my summer in Miami, in part, to study with the great George Lamming, a giant of Caribbean letters. As part of the program, we had student readings at the older Books & Books, the one which preceded the glorious courtyard and looked like a fortunate man or woman's extensive home library.

I had never read my work in front of people before and I barely whispered my piece, never looking up once during my very first Books & Books reading. The place was packed with interested readers and in spite of my dismal presentation I still gained some admirers that night. I credit this not to myself, but to the warmth and intimacy of Books & Books. When you read there, you feel like folks are cheering for you. Everyone wants you to succeed. Whenever I am reading or listening to others read, or am just having some of the good food in the courtyard, I always feel like I am with friends. Not just the writers that the books represent, but the people they've drawn to the store.

I often hear writers say that they love Books & Books. And they don't just say it. They mean it, because Books & Books is not just a fortunate man's extensive library (Mitchell's?) but all of ours.

Edwidge Danticat

David Plumb

Books & Books is the best independent bookstore in Florida and beyond. Mitch Kaplan and company invite you to the intimate pages, to the awesome silence between words. Room to room, tier upon tier; it is one sweet literary ballet. Here real books live and breathe. Titles you have been looking for but can’t find? There. There it is. Titles you won’t in other bookstores. Yes. And what a staff. They know their stuff. As an author it is the best place I have read in the U.S or Europe. Beat Poet, Bob Kaufman said, “Everything I planned came as a complete surprise.” I’ll buy that. Thank you Books & Books.

David Plumb