Road Trip to Lexington: Black Swan Books

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My old University of Kentucky dorm, Haggin Hall, was demolished this spring. Now it’s just a hole in the ground. K-Lair, the nearby grill where I bought chicken sandwiches as a freshman, is gone, too. Twenty years on, the old alma mater is a lot different than it used to be. Such was the realization last month when I found myself in Lexington, Kentucky, one of the best places in the world.

Some things are better in Lexington, though, and one of those is my favorite bookstore, Black Swan Books. Recently featured on a New York Times blog, the Lexington landmark is not only going strong, but it’s far bigger than it was when I went to college.

Black Swan front

Black Swan is on my short list of must-visits on any trip to Lexington. I can talk politics with Michael (not for the faint of heart), and invariably find more books than I can reasonably leave with. On this visit, after a welcoming hug from Michael’s wife Kim, Michael asked, “Do you owe me money?” (The answer was–and usually is–“yes,” but we shan’t dwell on that.)

I first strolled into Black Swan Books as an undergraduate, and I’ve been going back ever since. I worked there for awhile back in the ’90s, running the shop when Michael was out of town and sometimes going with Michael on big book hauls. I also put a lot of dust jacket covers on books. A lot.Michael

As usual, Michael had just bought hundreds of “new” books, which crowded the walkways in tomato boxes. (I learned from Michael years ago that tomato boxes are perfect for storing and moving books. The cardboard is sturdy, they have handles and a lid, and are just the right size for heavy books. You can usually get them free. Alas, the books that go in them are not.)

Book boxes

Black Swan is stuffed with a high quality selection of first and limited fine press editions, reading copies, and leather bound books. Don’t miss the rare book room, where the envy inducing books are locked behind glass. Not to worry, Michael would be glad to sell some to you.

Berry LarkspurAnd if you like Wendell Berry, Michael stocks one of the best selections of his books in the country, particularly of signed and limited editions. Since Wendell Berry writes faster than I can read, there’s often a volume available that had slipped through the cracks. This trip was no different as I found a Larkspur Press edition I somehow missed. As usual, I didn’t leave Black Swan empty handed.

If you find yourself in Lexington don’t miss a visit to Black Swan Books. It’s pretty much guaranteed to have something you’ll want.

Bookshelf 1



Leather Books

Berry photo 

Berry signing

Rare Book Room

3 thoughts on “Road Trip to Lexington: Black Swan Books

  1. I couldn’t agree more. Black Swan Books, Michael and Kim have been friends for years and I too have left many dollars behind but what fun, looking and deciding how many books can I afford to carry and send home to where I live now…Arizona. I too, invariably find a Wendall Berry that slipped through the cracks. Lexington would be far less a draw without Black Swan Books.

  2. Pingback: Lexington: Farewell to the Original Ramsey’s Diner | Eat Kentucky

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