Intrepid former Algonquin intern David Bradley and his trusty sidekick, Lucky the Leprechaun, hit the road for a tour of (almost all) the coolest, hippest, greatest indie bookstores in the United States. Join us for the journey…
NEW ORLEANS — Beauty is not in the eye of the beholder. It’s in Octavia Books. Smooth wooden surfaces and creative organization are hallmarks of Octavia’s peerless presentations. Soft lighting fixtures hand-designed by store owner Tom Lowenburg, skylights letting the sun shine in, and a small patio in the back — all of it gorgeous.
Then you get to talking with Tom, Judith Lafitte and the addictingly sweet store puppy, Pippin, and it becomes really hard to leave. In the brief time that I spent in the store, I saw its undeniable force work on nearly every person walking through the door. They came in, asked for, and found the book they wanted. They could have left right then…but the dog…and the lighting…and the pleasant conversation…and the comfort…and maybe they’ll just browse a little longer. I was sad when I left New Orleans, but even sadder when I had to say goodbye to Octavia Books.
Owners Tom Lowenburg and Judith Lafitte answered our Algonquin Questionnaire, and didn’t even mind when I kept talking to them for an hour and a half.
What was in this location before Octavia Books?
Well, there have been a lot of businesses in this building, but when we were clearing out the area for the patio we found remnants of stables that used to house the horses that pulled the Laurel Streetcar Line.
What is the rarest book on your shelves?
We have a book of photography by Dalt Wonk titled French Quarter Fables. It’s really high quality, put out by Luna Press, and there are only 300 copies of the series being made.
What is your favorite summer recommendation? What is your favorite Algonquin title?
We really enjoyed Khaled Hosseini’s new novel And The Mountains Echoed as far as summer reads. From Algonquin, we thought The Drunken Botanist was great, and we’re looking forward to meeting Amy Stewart later this year at Tales of the Cocktail. (Editor’s note: TOTC has come and gone since David’s visit to Octavia Books, and Amy raved about Octavia’s fabulous bookstore for the event.)
Are there any hidden talents on the Octavia staff?
Well our bookseller Melanie has a photographic memory—don’t ever play trivia against her. And another of our booksellers, James, does a form of Filipino martial art called Escrima.
What is the staff’s cocktail of choice?
I’d say the Sazerac. It’s a traditional New Orleans drink that we like quite a bit. (Editor’ note: Sazerac recipe can be found on page 325 of The Drunken Botanist e-book.)
What is the strangest question you’ve been asked in Octavia books?
Well, this is more of an event than a question, but about a year ago Octavia Books was used as a site in a made-for-TV movie that starred Rob Lowe. Word got out that Rob Lowe had been at our store and used our restroom. The next day somebody stole our soap dispenser.
Next stop: Maple Street Books in New Orleans.
*Note: The Lucky Tour posts are not in real time. David and Lucky have returned from their travels with great tales and many, many books. Stay tuned for more road stories…