Arguably, no one has done more to promote the love of reading in Columbia, Missouri than Alex George, winner of the 2022 Midwest Independent Booksellers Association’s Bookseller of the Year award.
The author of A Good American (2012), Setting Free the Kites (2017), and The Paris Hours (2020), George founded the Unbound Book Festival here in Columbia in 2016. The festival’s mission, to bring together readers and writers to create diverse communities, expose participants to new ideas, and inspire a life-long love of books, has been wildly successful, in large part because of the nationally and internationally recognized authors that have been key note speakers – including Michael Ondaatje, Salman Rushdie, Zadie Smith, George Saunders, and Viet Thanh Nguyen – but also because of the rich array of local, national, and international authors that have connected with the Columbia audience. A number of University of Missouri Press authors have enjoyed participating, including Gary Scharnhorst, Steve Paul, Henry Schvey, Bill Horner, James Endersby, William Least Heat-Moon, Gregory Fontenot, Lisa Knopp, Jo Ann Trogdon, and Steven Watts.
In 2018, along with business partner Carrie Koepke, George opened Skylark Bookshop in the heart of downtown. As Carrie Obry, Executive Director of the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association, writes in her announcement of the MIBA award:
“While factions of society are limiting or outright banning freedom of expression, Skylark is proudly celebrating it. They’ve launched a Banned Books subscription service, circulating these important books to their customers with 10 percent of proceeds going to the Banned Books program run by EyeSeeMe African American Children’s Bookstore in St. Louis. Skylark also brought their popular Drag Story Hour roaring back to life after the pandemic to celebrate gender inclusivity.”
We don’t know how Alex manages to do all that he does, but we at the University of Missouri Press are very grateful that his devotion to books has nurtured Columbia’s reading community.