On Wednesday, December 2, Indies First spokesperson Dan Rather held a national event in honor of his bestselling collection of essays, What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism (Algonquin Books), in support of independent bookstores. A recording of the event is available to watch here.
Rather appeared with co-author Elliot Kirschner for a timely conversation about What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism and independent bookstores. They discussed challenges independent bookstores are facing now, the current political climate, and how books can unite the U.S.
During the event, Rather noted that it’s an extremely difficult time for the country as a whole. His most recent book aims to lay out how we can reach across deep ideological and political divides, and books, he said, are one of the more important tools for that.
Rather added that the phrase “what unites us,” in the context of his book, is a statement and not a question. The book aims to spark a conversation, not provide answers.
“What we’re trying to do is help the conversation move along,” he said. “I tried to list reminders in the book. The overwhelming majority of Americans believe in the rule of law. The overwhelming majority of Americans believe one person, one vote. But there are other things we think about less often…[such as] the importance of the arts and the importance of science.”
When discussing the value of knowledge, Kirschner said, independent bookstores play a huge role. “When you’re online and you start searching for something, it’s hard to wander. An algorithm makes suggestions for you based on what you’ve read already,” he said. “But knowledge is often stepping outside of your comfort zone. It’s wandering into the section of the bookstore you don’t normally go to.”
Kirschner added that knowledge can only go so far if it’s kept to oneself, saying, “The active sharing of knowledge, of suggesting and listening and learning from others, is what we hoped for this book.”
Additionally, Rather is hosting the #IndieBookstoreChallenge on Twitter, an event that encourages readers to help clear the shelves of What Unites Us at certain stores. So far, he has promoted Brazos Bookstore, Gramercy Books, McIntyre's Books, and more.
While supplies last, booksellers can also sign up to receive bookplates signed by Rather. Stores may request the number of bookplates corresponding to the number of books ordered, up to 12 bookplates per store. Book orders can be placed with Workman Publishing or a wholesaler.