A reading list for our times

Looking for great books that embody the American Spring? The King's English has some ideas

Published December 1, 2011 10:15PM (EST)

Selected titles from the American Spring booklist submitted by the King's English bookstore
Selected titles from the American Spring booklist submitted by the King's English bookstore

We asked our favorite local bookstores to give us lists of books that fit the American Spring theme. See our previous list, from Changing Hands bookstore in Tempe, AZ here.

Featured bookstore: The King's English Bookshop
Location: 1151 South 1500 East, Salt Lake City, Utah
Website: www.kingsenglish.com

American Spring Book List:
Buy the books here.


  • "All the King’s Men," Robert Penn Warren, Mariner, $15 (Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that could as easily be set in today’s world as in that of the Depression, this layered and compelling book is the indisputable king of American political novels.)
  • "Pastoralia," George Saunders, Riverhead, $15 (Darkly dystopian — but funny — tales of the haves and [naive] have-nots in a world in which capitalism has fulfilled the darkest prophesies of its naysayers.)
  • "Last Night at the Lobster," Steward O’Nan, Penguin, $13 (A lovely, quiet gem of a novel that juxtaposes the decency of blue-collar men and women with the callous indecency of corporate America.)
  • "A Week in December," Sebastian Faulks, Vintage, $15 (A compelling and blistering satire of contemporary London that brings to vivid life malfeasance in the banking industry, the subprime mortgage crisis, and fundamentalism — among other things)
  • "Salvage the Bones," Jesmyn Ward, Bloomsbury $24 (The 2011 National Book Award was won by this searing, understated, and big-hearted novel that has at its heart a motherless family in the grip of Katrina, the mother of all hurricanes.)
  • "Jayber Crow," Wendell Berry, Counterpoint, $15 (This gentle tale of a man in the context of his community — Port William, fictional home for most of Berry’s characters — has as its theme not just the importance of community but the way it shapes us. Berry, a poet, novelist, essayist and activist, has our vote for the conscience of our nation.)


  • "This Land Is Their Land: Reports From a Divided Nation," Holt, $15 (or "Nickel and Dimed," Barbara Ehrenreich, Holt, $15)
  • "The Return of Depression Economics and the Depression of 2008," Paul Krugman, W. W. Norton, $16.95 (or "The Conscience of a Liberal," W.W. Norton $15.95)
  • "Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans," Wendell Potter, Bloomsbury, $18
  • "Big-Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America's Independent Businesses," Stacy Mitchell, Beacon, $15
  • "Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism," Naomi Klein, Picador, $16
  • "Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World," Michael Lewis, W.W. Norton, $25.95

About The King's English bookshop:

The King’s English has always been predicated on both an outsize passion for books and the notion that the ideal bookstore should be a comfortable, welcoming place to browse. Our books are housed in a warren of small rooms each possessed of a table, chairs or a bench, and rugs to add color. Our booksellers are not only as friendly as they are knowledgeable but also are skilled at the fine art of bookselling  — i.e., matching books to people.

But who knew that, in addition to welcoming customers and then sending them away happy, we’d need to learn the subtle arts of politics and community organizing, of entertainment and education, of cross-marketing around Salt Lake and involving everyone from government officials to the public in our struggle to sustain our business? Once national chains came to town, necessity taught us a host of survival skills that involved seeing the world through others' eyes and helping others see the world as we saw it. One such skill was community organizing around the idea of “local,” convincing governments and the public that we share the same viewfinder — that love of community is a common ideal. We helped to start and have long been at the heart of an organization designed to foster this goal, Local First Utah, which now has over 3,000 business partners. We also gradually learned the fine art of fabulous events so that publishers would send ever-bigger authors our way. People now flock to TKE for events and classes and book clubs, flock to our neighboring businesses where we hold joint events, so that in yet another way we are at the very heart of our community. And we began to learn the political ropes when the so-called Patriot Act threatened reader privacy and then again when Obama’s healthcare initiative proposed tax credits for small businesses that insure their employees (we do); now, as Internet retailers’ failure to collect tax on sales creates an un-level playing field on which we can’t hope to compete, we are once more effectively involved in the political process — again, for our survival.

Thus we find ourselves not mere booksellers but community organizers as well, not mere retailers but politicians and impresarios, our ability to adjust based on one important skill: the ability to climb into others’ shoes to walk a mile or two, to see the path from their point of view, and perhaps to help them to see the path from our perspective as well. We must all learn to share a common point of view — a community point of view — something the world seems to be rapidly losing. Political activists out of necessity, we remain booksellers at heart. Books are and have always been our passion; they give our lives — and our work  — meaning.

Buy the books here.

By The King's English bookshop

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

American Spring