Sunday, April 7, 2013

Books and Bubbly - Literary Asheville

Battery Park Book Exchange
photo credit: David H. Messner

If you haven't already been, fellow bibliophiles, add a day or two in Asheville, North Carolina to your list of travel destinations. This groovy town nestled in the beautiful Smoky Mountain range may be small, but with its local artists and art galleries, eco-attitude, incredible food, coffeeshops, bookstores and literary history, Asheville is bursting with culture.

One of Asheville's most famous residents was author Thomas Wolfe, who grew up in the boarding house his mother ran there. Wolfe's first novel Look Homeward Angel was based on his life there. The characters in the novel were drawn from his family and friends, and Wolfe received a rather frosty reception in Asheville following its publication. The home still stands today and has been turned into a memorial to Wolfe; tours of the house are available, and the visitor center offers an interesting film and exhibit about his life, including this desk and typewriter from Wolfe's time writing in New York City's famous Chelsea Hotel.

With so many fascinating storefronts, it's easy to forget to watch the pavement in Asheville, but if you happen to look down, you might catch a series of little angels inset in the sidewalks, leading the way to the Wolfe memorial....

...or this little plaque to O. Henry, who was inspired to write a short story after a visit to a local doctor, and who is buried in Asheville. (It is not clear from the plaque whether there is any relationship between the first and second of these facts .... ;D)

We also loved book browsing at Malaprops wonderful bookstore and cafe -  they offer a terrific selection in addition to hosting frequent author readings (we happened to stumble upon one while we were there) - and if you like your books paired with a good glass of wine or champagne (or even an Italian cream soda), the Battery Park Book Exchange is a fabulous place to linger over a drink and get lost in a labyrinth of beautiful used/vintage books. What could be better?

Happy trails!


  1. Lovely post, Jennifer! I've read a little about Asheville on blogs before, but never about all the culture. I'd assumed it was perhaps even smaller than you've said, without space for everything you've mentioned. I'll have to Google map it :)

    1. Thanks so much, Charlie. It is small, but they manage to get a surprising amount of great stuff in there, and we were especially (and very happily) surprised by some outstanding restaurants. We really enjoyed our brief visit - hope to make it back there again sometime!

  2. Another place in America to add to my must visit list!

    Getting lost in a labyrinth of beautiful used and vintage books sounds like bliss!

    1. Especially with sparkling beverage in hand :D - hope you get to check it out sometime!


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