Spotlight On “Octavia Books,” New Orleans, LA

by Tee Tate

Visit Octavia Books, where history, culture and the artistic spirit feel alive as the city.

Octavia Books storefront

Cultivating Community at Octavia Books

New Orleans is a city like no other, where its people and their resilience birth an atmosphere of culture–from the music filling air and the delicious foods perfuming the Quarter. It is a place that takes pride in its history, future, and the promise that culture is constantly evolving in the artisans and curators providing it.

The beacons of that culture are a necessary part of what makes New Orleans so unique because they reflect what is represented in their community, and each story that comes from it. 

Such is the case with independent bookseller, Octavia Books. Tom Lowenburg and Judith Lafitte opened the store in 2000 when independent bookstores were anomalies and large chain retailers overtook the industry. Appointed in a lovely century-old building, newly renovated, in Uptown and just ten blocks from Audubon Park, like many small businesses in the city, community is as intrinsic to Octavia’s makeup as the rows of books and the classic architecture in the building on Octavia Street.

Octavia Books – Still Standing, Despite the Storms 

Seen as much more than a place to grab what’s topping the bestseller’s list, Octavia Books is considered by locals and its owners as a place of community, where friends gather and recuperate from the stresses of their lives outside of the welcoming bookstore walls and beyond the pages of the titles they purchase.

Octavia Books

During hurricane Katrina, Octavia Books, like many New Orleans businesses, was forced to close. The city had taken on an onslaught of water and over three thousand of her citizens lost their lives. It looked bleak for the city, and many small businesses, but being located in an older, higher elevated part of the city meant Octavia Books wouldn’t remain closed for long.

After only a week off repairs and regrouping, Octavia Books was the first bookstore to reopen after the storm, the first to host a major book signing post-Katrina, Michener Award-winner Tom Piazza’s “Why New Orleans Matters,” and since that time, it has become a mainstay for locals and tourists alike. 

Everyone’s Welcome at Octavia Books

Octavia Books

Like most business standbys in New Orleans, Octavia Books has become known as a trust source for the community. It’s the place readers and book lovers lean on for book recommendations and author readings. Often, writers from the world over, in various genres, grace the old building and read from their past and present selections, entertaining locals who love to read about their beloved city shining between the pages of a new thriller, and tourists interested in stopping by for a great tour book, local selection, or just a favorite restaurant recommendation. 

In the twenty-three years since it opened, Octavia Books’ patrons have come from all walks of life and every street along the way. Generations have begun to introduce their children and children’s children to this welcoming spot and tourists from all over the world can be found on any given day during their Uptown walks. 

Octavia Books serves locals, and readers interested in New Orleans culture as well as readers from all over the world wanting to support independent booksellers. From their website, they offer search features on local interests like Louisiana culture including Cajun cooking and Mardi Gras, children’s books, history and architecture with a local flair, as well as events and features spotlighting local authors and their releases and signed books.

Register Your Book Club and Join Their Newsletter

Readers interested in shopping small for their book clubs can register their group with Octavia’s and earn a ten percent discount on their selection or, join Octavia’s Book Club or the Octavia Books Science Fiction Book Club on the third and second Saturday morning, respectively at the bookstore. 

Octavia Books

For those only interested in discovering what books Octavias offers on their shelves and new releases they’ll soon feature, patrons are encouraged to sign up for their bi-monthly newsletter, The Octavian. 

You won’t forget how you felt the first time you stepped inside Octavia Books and, like New Orleans, you’ll be counting down the days until your life allows you to come back for a visit. 

Other LitStack Resources

Be sure and check out other LitStack Spotlights to find what you should read. It’s also always a good idea to look at New Releases, for books already released or upcoming.

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