Who We Are
Founded in 1969, Left Bank Books is the oldest and largest independently-owned bookstore in St. Louis, and offers a full-line of new and used books and services.
We’re located at Euclid and McPherson in the historic Central West End neighborhood, situated among magnificent turn-of-the-century residences and some of the best restaurants and finest art galleries in the area. We’re steps away from public transportation and enjoy greeting customers from all parts of the city and its surrounding area.
Our mission is to spark public conversation by curating an intelligent, relevant, culturally diverse selection of books and hosting a world class author event series. Our focus on politics, contemporary arts and literature, high-quality children’s books, African American studies, LGBTQA and Gender Studies titles is a source of great pride.
Co-Owners, Kris Kleindienst and Jarek Steele, have made this store their life’s work. Together they have expanded the business to include a robust events schedule, corporate sales program, not for profit literacy foundation (Left Bank Books Foundation) and online resource.
Kris came to the store in 1974 as the first paid employee. An alumn of Washington University, she has advocated for social justice, literacy and local businesses for her entire career. Her book This Is What Lesbian Looks Like, was published in 1999. She is the principal book buyer and manages event coordination and many other aspects of the store operations.
Jarek was hired in 2002 as the website manager and bookseller. He developed and expanded his job into other areas of store operations including bookkeeping, graphic design and program development. He is active in transgender advocacy and other social justice causes. He manages the finances, web design and supervises the management of store operations.
Left Bank Books workers are a fiercely committed group. Many of us are writers, performers, and artists and personally appreciate the importance of a store like Left Bank, not only to the cultural health of a community, but to the health of its creative people, too! Many of us are involved in other community organizations as volunteers and activists. Issues like peace, racial justice, civil rights, urban sustainability, education, animal rights, and support for the arts are some of the areas in which Left Bankers are involved.
Left Bank Books strives to be a good neighbor and, like many locally-owned businesses, gives back to its community. Besides reinvesting three times more of our revenue locally than non-local chain stores reinvest, we also give a lot of organic support to grass roots and non-profit organizations through donations of gift certificates, percent of sales, book fairs and even free event programming.
Because we believe in community conversation and understand the importance of making space available for authors and their readers to interact, we produce well over 200 author events a year. Often, we partner with other organizations whose interests are addressed by a particular author’s work. These collaborations have added to a growing literary scene in the St. Louis area, with multiple author events taking place somewhere in the area many nights of the week.
We are proud to play a part in keeping literature in its rightful place in the local arts scene.
For the store owners and workers alike, working at Left Bank Books has been more like preserving a community trust than running a business. And while we know that being business-like is extremely important, we also know that earning and keeping that community trust is both our most fervent desire and greatest reward.
Famous Bookstore Cat(s)
No independent bookstore would be complete without a cat. Left Bank's first feline staff member was the legendary Captain Nemo, who was rescued from drowning (hence the name) and nursed back to health by the store owners. Nemo lived with us for fifteen years. He was grouchy, particular, and loved by all. After Nemo's passing, we were joined by a new and equally literary cat. Our customers named her Jamaica after noted author Jamaica Kincaid. Author and cat have met. Jamaica (the cat) passed away April 2005.
We were adopted by a very vocal and insistent kitty a few months after Jamaica's death. Spike enjoys long naps on the Special Orders desk, dancing for cat treats and shoplifting mouse-sized, furry covered children's books for his own pleasure.