Jason Reynolds Bought All His Books At D.C. Shops So Readers Can Get Them For Free The prominent local author bought the entire inventory of his own books from local shops across D.C. so readers could get them for free.
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NPR logo Jason Reynolds Bought All His Books At D.C. Shops So Readers Can Get Them For Free

Jason Reynolds Bought All His Books At D.C. Shops So Readers Can Get Them For Free

Reynolds is the best-selling author of books for young adults. Greg Allen/AP Photo hide caption

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Greg Allen/AP Photo

In past years, in the days following Thanksgiving, local author Jason Reynolds attended book signings and events at area bookstores for Small Business Saturday and Giving Tuesday as a way to "drum up business and really support our local institutions," he says.

This year, though, with both businesses and their customers struggling financially as a result of of the COVID-19 pandemic, the two-time National Book Award finalist decided to go a step further: Reynolds bought the entire inventory of his own books from local shops across the District on Tuesday, so readers could get them for free.

"It kind of works for everybody, where people can go get anything they want for free, since I bought them all," Reynolds says, "and then while they're in the store shopping or picking up their books, maybe they'll grab something extra."

The 36-year-old tweeted the news out Tuesday, announcing that he had purchased his books at all Politics and Prose locations, H Street NE's Solid State Books, Kramerbooks in Dupont Circle and others. By Wednesday, shoppers at East City Bookshop in Capitol Hill had already cleared out the store's copies of Reynolds' books.

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The poet and New York Times best-selling author is known for his books for young adults and middle-grade readers, which have tackled subjects like violence and family troubles. His recent book, "Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You," adapts author and scholar Dr. Ibram X. Kendi's "Stamped from the Beginning" into an accessible primer.

Reynolds tells DCist he began reaching out to stores on Tuesday morning, and that he bought around 20 to 25 books at each shop. He declined to say how much he spent in total.

MahoganyBooks, on Good Hope Road SE, was among the shops Reynolds contacted. Co-owner Ramunda Young says the shop has great rapport with Reynolds and previously had him in for a Small Business Saturday event, but called the purchase "humbling."

"There's thousands of bookstores across the United States, so for an author to select an independent bookstore or a Black-owned bookstore, I think that speaks volumes," she says.

Reynolds' books are big sellers for the shop, and MahoganyBooks usually keeps about 25 to 30 of them in stock. Young calls him a "rock star for young adult books," and says his writing, which often features young male protagonists, "really speaks to young boys, I think, in a very real way, which is exciting."

Young didn't immediately have exact numbers available on how many of Reynolds' books had been picked up since yesterday, but says it was meaningful to see an author ensure the community has access to books.

"[It's a] challenging time for people... and so for them to have the opportunity to walk in and grab one of his books for free, I think it's just so dope," she says.

Reynolds says community was top of mind for him.

"These bookstores are glue for a lot of our communities," he says, "and if there's a way for us to drive people there, then there's a way for us to lift the community in certain ways, at least momentarily, which we all could use."

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