Six years ago this August, my husband and I packed up a truck and moved from Michigan to Richmond, Virginia on little more than a whim. Two Junes later, we were moving into our lovely home, which celebrates its 100th birthday this year. Between that timing and all the great porch drinks, summer gets me thinking about and appreciating all the great things my (not so) new city has to offer. Since my brain is permanently tuned to “BOOK”, I started to wonder what titles could do the job of summing up all of Richmond’s wonderful quirks without getting too literal.
Fair warning: if you visit me in Richmond, 85% of the things we do will involve food. Not just because I love eating, but because it’s one of the amazing things this city has to offer. For a city its size, Richmond has an incredible number of fabulous restaurants and something new seems to be popping up every week. Though I haven’t ventured into some of the extreme foodie territory Dana Goodyear discusses in her book, I feel like living here has totally opened me up to new food experiences and encouraged me to try things I never would have thought to order before.
The first time I walked down Monument Avenue and through The Fan, I thought I had died and gone to historical architecture nerd heaven. And then I realized that people actually live in the houses on Monument. Wilton Barnhardt’s Lookaway, Lookaway might take place in Charlotte, but Richmond is brimming with the same old money passed through generations of families. I’d imagine some of Barnhardt’s portrayals aren’t too far off either, bless their hearts. Thankfully, there’s a little more to the city so we can balance that craziness out.
What balances out old money better than college kids? Richmond is home to several colleges, including its centerpiece Virginia Commonwealth University (yes, basketball). Even though Waldman’s characters are a little older, the book has that fun, questioning, creative vibe that makes living in a college town a great experience (except for late August when we need to dodge wee ones attempting to cross the street).
Richmond’s amazing restaurants, fantastic art scene and general fabulosity can’t brush over the bits of dark history left over from its time as the capital of the Confederacy. Though I’m all for preserving and studying the past, there’s still a small (very small) group of residents that continue to fight the “unfinished Civil War” Horowitz explores in his book.
The people are what really makes Richmond the great place that it is. Like the characters in Jonathan Miles’ book, the city is a mash-up of people from all over the country mixed in with the well-rooted families that have been here forever. And just like in Want Not, the longer you live here, the more your life begins to overlap with those around you until you feel like you’re somehow connected to everyone.
What books best represent your city?