Groundwork Books

By McElroy, Tyler | World Literature Today, November/December 2018 | Go to article overview

Groundwork Books


McElroy, Tyler, World Literature Today


WHEN THINKING OF San Diego, most people imagine palm trees, sand, and ocean breeze. Over thirty-five million tourists visit the city each year, and most come for the beachside relaxation and natural beauty that have made it world-famous. Lying just under the surface of this picturesque vacation destination, however, is a lively community of social and political activism. One prominent example of this culture is present in Groundwork Books.

Located far from San Diego's touristcentric areas, Groundwork Books makes its home in a student area on the University of California's San Diego campus. It is a workers' cooperative run entirely by volunteers, consisting of both students and citizens from the nearby areas. With its commitment to community outreach and affordable material, Groundwork Books aims to take emphasis away from the business side of bookstores and place it back on books and the people who read them.

According to its website, the store "serves as meeting space, social space, and infoshop for San Diego's progressive, radical, and socialist community" and "provide[s] books at community events, political rallies, and punk rock shows." At Groundwork Books, this dedication to public activism and involvement is observable even from outside the store. The front windows feature taped flyers and painted announcements offering public activities, including a movie night as well as insightful essays and articles on topics such as the military-industrial complex.

Once inside, the unique philosophies of Groundwork Books are evident in the distinct style of the store. Unlike most bookstores, which standardize their layout and keep their image as neat as possible, Groundwork Books has a lived-in aesthetic. Many books sit on the shelves at odd angles, and there are boxes filled with flyers and magazines in several corners. At first glance, it looks more like a public library than a bookstore. While this lack of polish may seem like a negative aspect to some, it shows that Groundwork Books is a resource that exists to be used, not simply looked at. …

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