SubText in St. Paul

Books in boxes, books on shelves, and book people everywhere — that was the scene at the inaugural poetry reading at SubText, St. Paul’s newest indie bookstore. David Unowsky brought his cow, and many friends, to the first of a weekly Wednesday reading series he has organized for this summer. Poets Carol Connolly, Shannon Gibney, Ed Bok Lee, Jim Moore, and Juliet Patterson read in alphabetical order. Forty or fifty of us occupied an eclectic selection of comfortable chairs, and we enjoyed the wine-and-cheese welcome and relaxed atmosphere.

SubText Books, 165 Western Avenue, St. Paul, MN (651) 493-3871 • 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday •  This week’s reading features Todd Boss on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

SubText occupies the space right downstairs from Nina’s Coffee Café, another haven for writers. Nina’s has a sign-up sheet for people who have written parts of books there, collecting more than 500 signatures in the past six years. “Bring your coffee down!” urges SubText’s Sue Zumberge. Quite apart from the details of their business relationship, there’s an obvious respect and friendship between Zumberge and June Berkowitz, who owns Nina’s, as well as a shared enthusiasm for coffee and books.

When I stopped in on the morning after the poetry reading, Sue welcomed me and steered me toward the back room, where librarian Marcus Mayer was unpacking the extensive young adult section.

Marcus owns the YA section, according to Zumberge, who is enthusiastic about YA books. “When I talk to book reps that come around,” she said, “and I tell them there is an area dedicated to YA literature, they say that is not happening anywhere else.”

Mayer has worked for several other indies, and plans to host YA events with “a ton of authors.”

When I asked Zumberge what the rest of the store would stock, she said it would be “respectful of the reading public,” including literary fiction, but not “books on how to fix your computer.” I’m a little intimidated by literary fiction, but I spotted John Sandford’s latest novel on the shelf, so I’m sure that even low-brows can find a fiction fix here. And I’m sure I’ll be back, for books, coffee and conversation.

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