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Staff Pick

Best BookStore 

Left Bank Books

There are myriad fantastic reasons St. Louis’ literate love to support Left Bank Books. Their wide selection and friendly staff are two of the most obvious, or maybe to pay homage to the best bookstore cat there ever was, Spike (RIP). But one of the best may be its championing of trans rights. The owners of the shop recently changed the game in the book-buying business by helping to create an e-commerce system that doesn’t dead-name its customers, an endeavor near and dear to co-owner Jarek Steele’s heart. Steele, who transitioned sixteen years ago, says he was mortified when a friend who was transitioning ordered a book from the shop’s website and its e-commerce system failed to refer to that friend by her preferred name. Steele took his case to the American Booksellers Association, whose checkout system is used by many independent bookstores, but was told that remedying the matter would require too much coding. That led to a practice wherein, for years, the shop’s employees manually entered customers’ preferred names. But with the massive surge in online book sales that came with the COVID-19 crisis, that system became unsustainable. Steele petitioned the ABA again, and this time he was successful. As of September, the system now requires the entry of a preferred name during the ordering process, meaning all communications from Left Bank — and those bookstores across the nation who use the same system — will no longer inadvertently dead-name their customers. It’s a huge win for trans rights, and it only happened because the owners of the best bookstore in St. Louis cared enough to make it so. — Daniel Hill

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