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Atlanta Literary Guide

Ask a handful of Atlantans what they think about MARTA (our train system) and you’ll probably get a lot of eye rolling, a few exasperated sighs and a couple indifferent shrugs, these from folks – making up a great number of Atlantans – who’ve never ridden the train before. The fact is that while MARTA is useful some of the time for some people getting to a select few places, regular users would love to see  improvements made to the system. But perhaps any urban dweller would say the same about their transit system.

That said, the reason I take MARTA – the reason I leave the house a whole thirty minutes earlier than I do when I drive to work – is for the reading time it affords me. Forty-five minutes of (mostly) uninterrupted reading. There’s no better way to start my morning than with a brisk walk to the train station followed by nearly an hour of reading.

Speaking of subways and reading, how cool is this blog? Photographer Ouri Ben-Haim takes pictures of the “Reading-Riders of the NYC subways.” Here are some of my favorite images, though it’s worth checking out the others.Photos of me were taken by Anne Cunningham. Photos from Underground New York Public Library are by Ourit Ben-Haim, via A Cup of Jo and sho&tell.

Last week I shared one of my favorite places to read in Atlanta for a my Atlanta Literary Guide series. This week, I’d like to share another: Piedmont Park. If you’re not familiar with Atlanta, Piedmont Park is our Central Park. Located in the heart of Midtown and connecting several trendy neighborhoods, Piedmont is the gathering place for Atlantans and tourists alike. On any given day, you’ll share the green space with drum circle groups, runners, dog walkers, couples taking engagement photos, kickball teams, and families barbecuing on the lawn. You’ll probably also see folks like me curled up under a tree or swinging on one of the benches overlooking the lake… reading. It ticks off many boxes on my list when I’m looking to recharge after a busy week: outdoors, fresh air, natural beauty, proximity to my apartment/work, solitude while still being near civilisation (plenty of opportunities for people watching!).
When Luke and I moved to the states from the UK we had two requirements: we wanted to live somewhere that was pedestrian friendly, and, if we lived in a city, there had to be plenty of green space. Atlanta proper still has some ways to go in the walkability department, but Decatur at least (where we live) gets a B+. As far as green space goes, though, I’d give Atlanta an A. Did you know most of Atlanta’s nicknames have to do with its greenery: The City of Trees, the City in the Woods, The Dogwood City?

Do you have a favorite park where you like to read? I’d love to hear.

All photos were taken by the wonderful Anne Cunningham, my former college roommate :) I can’t wait to show you the other places we visited in the coming days.

 

Book love abounds.

Getting my copy signed after Julie Otsuka’s reading. 
Cafe Alsace always looks so quaint sitting on Ponce. I’d never really stopped to appreciate the lovely painted brick of the Ponce shops until I took this picture.

The Little Free Libraries were on display. I’m a big fan of Pete the Cat if you couldn’t tell.

Speaking of, I was glad to see this fella quietly signing books in the library. He and Eric Little made such a splash last year at the festival that I can’t now imagine it without them. The Capoeira Atlanta folks were as entertaining as ever.

That’s all. Just a few snaps from the festival.

Yesterday I enlisted the help of my former college roommate, Anne, for a very special project. I wanted to show you through her (she’s got the photography skilz) a few of my favorite places in the city to curl up with a book. Our first stop was Historic Oakland Cemetery. It didn’t occur to me until we were actually taking pictures that some people might find my cemetery reading a bit odd. But hear me out on this one: A) Historic cemeteries like Oakland, and the many scattered across Savannah and New Orleans, are truly places of beauty: ornamental, ostentatious, creepy beauty. B) They are peaceful… they are, after all, full of dead people. C) They excite your curiosity, which is exactly what literature tries to do, so why not combine the two?Naturally, I recommend having a book in hand when you go to Oakland, but it’s also worth wandering its many meandering brick paths. It was great having Anne along since she majored in American history and could point out all the most interesting sites: a section for Confederate soldiers, a Jewish section, the mausoleums built by wealthy white families. We found Margaret Mitchell in this last section.

Am I crazy? Do you read in graveyards, too? Would you dare? Where do you like to read in public?

Anne took all the photos for this post. I can’t wait to show you the other places we visited in the coming days. Stay tuned!

(On another note, do you recognize this book?)

There are many things I love about living in Decatur, Georgia, but one of my favorites (if not the favorite) is the Decatur Book Festival. Last year, in preparation for the festival I did a series of indie bookstore features of some of Atlanta’s independent bookstores. This year I thought I’d do a Literary Guide to Atlanta. From site-seeing, to literary bites, to the best places to read in public, here are some of my favorite literary things to do and see in and around the city. First up, I’d love to share some of my favorite ‘main-stream’ literary sites in Atlanta (they are incidentally all author homes). Later this week, I’ll share my favorite little-known attractions. I hope you enjoy. The Margaret Mitchell House – Just a short drive down Peachtree Street in the heart of the city (literally, spitting distance from the Fox Theatre), the Margaret Mitchell House paints a fascinating picture of life for a trendy, high society,female author in 1920s Atlanta. Before she was famous for authoring Gone with the Wind, Mitchell was infamous in Atlanta for performing a provocative dance at a debutante ball and marrying a boot-legger. The house is set up exactly as it was in Mitchell’s life, and includes an exhibition of the movie version of Gone with the Wind and her life. The latter is the more fascinating. As a member of the Lost Generation, Mitchell lived through both world wars, lost a fiance in the first, was made to settle in her burgeoning southern home town because of family tragedy, was intimately connected with her past through stories of the Civil War told to her by family members, broke gender norms by writing for newspapers and winning a Pulitzer Prize, and benefited from unprecedented success as an author, spurned on by no greater power than Hollywood. Not to be missed. To be followed by a show at the Fox, naturally.  The Wren’s Nest. The home of Joel Chandler Harris, better known to many of us as Uncle Remus, The Wren’s Nest is much more than an author’s museum. Many visitors go for the first time out of a sense of nostalgia for the tales of Brer Rabbit that we grew up hearing. It’s a revelation, then, to learn the true historical and literary significance of Harris’ work. Today the center exists, and has existed since 1913, in order to continue Harris’ work of perpetuating African American folklore heritage through storytelling. They offer professional storytelling every Saturday at 1pm and, simply, is not to be missed.  Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. There are many reasons why pilgrims go The King Center for Nonviolent Social Change. All are excellent reasons, and if, for whatever reason, you’re wavering, go. Just go. I’ll suggest another, and it is that King was a prolific writer and orator, and the center gives you the opportunity to hear his words preached aloud from the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church. If for no other reason than that, it is worth a visit. The center consists of several sites, including the home where King was born, Ebenezer Baptist Church where he was minister, and the serene grounds of the King Center.  Andalusia Farm, Milledgeville, Ga. We’ve gone slightly outside the Atlanta city limits, but I think you’ll forgive me just this one time. You can’t come all the way to Decatur for the largest independent book festival in the country, a mere 2 hours from the home of the greatest southern gothic writer who so perfectly depicted the grotesque beauty and awfulness of faith and southerness and human nature, and not take a trip to Flannery O’Connor’s home on Adalusia Farm. Y’all know how I feel about O’Connor, so I won’t try to persuade you now. I’ll just let Ann Napolitano do the talking. Last September, I’d just finished reading A Good Hard Look and announced on Twitter that the book inspired me to make a trip down to Andalusia. Napolitano surprised me by tweeting back:

@Ernielow It’s wonderful, enjoy. In case it’s of interest, here’s an article about my visit to Andalusia this summer: bit.ly/q6wUJf

Have you been to any of these site? What are some of your favorite literary sites in Atlanta or in your city? I’d love to hear.

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