Books & Bars was started by a now defunct indie bookstore in St. Paul circa February 2004. After its first few months, host Jeff Kamin began co-moderating and helping to pick the books. "I always wanted a book club that appealed to men and women and was different than your stereotypical suburban moms drinking wine and not really talking about the book club," Kamin says. "I took over in 2005 when the indie bookseller closed, and was happy to secure Magers & Quinn as our new sponsor." The seven-and-a-half-year-old group enjoyed many years at the Bryant-Lake Bowl, and now has begun hosting events at the Aster Café. "We're 104 books strong on this literary ride," Kamin says. "We're not stopping anytime soon; in fact, we may go twice a month again in the fall and winter."
Kamin had stopped watching the movies because they seemed like Cliff Notes for the books and he felt he was missing something. But in the last few months he's read and watched them all, and has begun reading the first book to his sons. The Harry Potter event is meant as a celebration of the past decade of this saga in book and film, and will include trivia, an attempt at butterbeer, and music. Participants are encouraged to arrive in costume, but it is not required. "It's all getting a bit nerdy, I realize," Kamin says.
So what's the big deal about Harry Potter? Why has it become such a craze? "Harry Potter appeals to adults because we all crave a good story," Kamin says. "The books are fine examples of classic storytelling. You want to know what happens next. And you care enough about the characters to keep reading and discover." For some, like Kamin, readers also see echoes of their past which they are happy to recapture. Or for some families it's convenient to have one story you can all follow. "There are elements of Lord of Rings mixed with the aforementioned Star Wars and also a classic English boarding school coming-of-age tale. We want to believe in something like magic. And isn't that magical enough that millions of us have for over the past decade?"
Books & Bars presents Harry Potter Day at Aster Cafe (125 SE Main St.) Tuesday, July 12 from 6 to 9 p.m. Reservations are encouraged; call 612.379.3138.