- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 15, 2014

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) - Oxfords reputation as a literary community dates back to Stark Young and William Faulkner, but its status as a town that welcomes writers was enhanced in the late-20th century by such scribes as Willie Morris, Larry Brown and Barry Hannah.

While these literary giants have passed on, several other notable authors, such as John Grisham, Tom Franklin, Beth Ann Fennelly and Ace Atkins, have continued to build on this tradition.

Yet Oxford has another literary character that is just as important, if not more so, than any of these other famous wordsmiths. This is, of course, Square Books.

The key difference between Square Books and these other literary legends is that it’s made of concrete and steel, not flesh and blood. Another difference is that this giant in the literary world has been earning rave reviews by book lovers for 35 years.

Since it was founded by Richard and Lisa Howorth in 1979, Square Books has become known as an inviting place to gather, a frequently photographed corner of a picturesque town, and a good ol’ Southern place to read a book and drink a cup of coffee on the balcony while watching the people and traffic move around the Square.

Stepping through the front door, patrons are greeted with the irresistible smell of books that are stacked to the rafters. The smell of fresh-brewed coffee welcomes visitors climbing the stairs to the second floor. Each step of the stairs creaks, serving as a reminder of all the writers and bibliophiles who have made the same short journey.

The store’s staff makes sure customers feel as if they can take their time getting lost in search of familiar or new titles. The original Square Books was located upstairs on the east side of the Square.

As its popularity and success grew, it moved to its current location on the corner of Van Buren and South Lamar.

It has also expanded to Off Square Books and Square Books Jr. Square Books contains the latest releases as well as hundreds of titles by Southern writers.

Off Square Books features discounted books and unusual gifts, many with a literary theme, and hosts book signings by visiting authors and most of the weekly Thacker Mountain Radio shows.

Square Books Jr. is dedicated to the younger generation with nearly every children’s and young adult book imaginable along with puzzles, games and more to entertain the kiddos.

The community and region has come to appreciate Square Book’s many contributions, but others have noticed it as well. Publishers Weekly honored it as the Bookstore of the Year in 2013.

One of the founders and owners of the local literary landmark said he and the staff of Square Books appreciate being able to continue doing what they do where they do it.

“The combination of getting new books every day and being in the information stream of all books published in the country each year is awesome,” owner Richard Howorth said. “When you also combine that with seeing our customers and the community interaction, it makes what I do an incredibly rewarding experience.”

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Information from: Oxford Eagle, https://www.oxfordeagle.com

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