Exploring the heart of Baltimore’s self-published authors
Tucked into a little corner on Falls Road in Hampden, Atomic Books can be easy to miss. However, this is one bookstore that all book-lovers, specifically comic book lovers, should visit. There is a section on fiction and nonfiction books, but the majority of the books in the store are actually comics and graphic novels.
When asked what Atomic Books’ mission was, the owner, Benn Ray, answered, “to exist.” Benn further explained, “We focus on underground, indie, self-published books and people. We’re kind of like a DIY (do it yourself) community. That’s why we carry a lot of ‘zines and comics – a lot of them are self-published.”
Atomic Books works in collaboration with Red Emma’s, as well as independent bookstores across the country. Their mission is to cultivate an environment that appreciates independent writers and authors who may not be featured at bigger chain bookstores, such as Barnes and Noble and online sites like Amazon.
The store has bookshelves wrapped around the interior walls of the store, with three large tables in the center that showcase the work of the store’s self-published authors. The tables mostly house graphic novels and comics. The front of the store also has funny postcards, toys for kids, games for adults (Cards Against Humanity is by far the best), and a cart that holds books priced $3 or less.
Interesting tidbit: the store also collects mail sent to John Waters and carry his books. More information about this can be found on the store website under the John Waters Fan Mail tab.
They even have a bar, Eightbar, in the back of the bookstore, which is used for weekly book, drawing, comic, etc. club meetings. Additionally, the space is also used for readings, the next of which is on April 28th as part of the store’s fiction series. On April 30th the store will be celebrating both independent bookstore day, as well as their 15th anniversary, with a cake made by Charm City Cakes.
“The bar’s nice for just sitting down with a craft beer and a good book. Tonight we’re watching the election results for the Maryland Primaries in the bar,” stated Benn.
Atomic Books aims, like Red Emma’s, to create a safe space for people to come together and appreciate the art of writing and creating. In this way, it offers more than chain bookstores, and is definitely worth the visit.
Nehal Aggarwal is a voracious coffee drinker from NYC always on the lookout for the next adventure. She can frequently be found in any coffee shop or leafing through books at any bookstore.