Like other big book fairs (especially AWP), the Brooklyn Book Festival — the ever-growing indie-oriented New York gathering that wrapped yesterday — is a golden opportunity for bookworms to show off the full depth and nuance of their personalities to a swarm of their peers. They display this totality not by actually engaging with each other, but via tote.
Now, having made note of every tote at BKBF, we tackle that eternal question: Which tote is the GOAT?
(For more legitimate tote bag analysis, see the Strategist.)
ACLU, Adult Swim, Bookforum, Books Are Magic, Catapult, Catbird, Drawn & Quarterly, EFA (Editorial Freelancers Assn.—please send money), Either/Or, Foundry, Fresh Direct, Greedy Reads, Greenlight Bookstore, Harry Potter, Harvard Review, London Review, Paris Review, Penguin Classic, Riverhead Books, She Wolf Bakery, SLICE, Swoon Reads, Totes Books (by Underlined), Trader Joe’s.
Brooklyn Book Festival
This is like wearing a band’s shirt to their concert. Personally I’m a fan, but society has deemed this an unacceptable level of earnestness.
This one made me irrationally angry because I’d never even heard of C-SPAN2, let alone C-SPAN2’s “BookTV,” but the totes were everywhere. I’m sure this is a lovely program staffed by lovely people, but these totes were clearly freebies. They didn’t look structurally sound or locally sourced.
The Times Literary Supplement (TLS)
See above. The designs were almost identical: white print on cheap-looking black bags. This is a fine tote for a nervous Chihuahua to pee in while riding the subway.
The Top 5
5. Electric Lit
These bags say READ MORE WOMEN, which is a thing people (men) should do.
4. The Strand
The Strand is a classic bookstore and a classic tote, but its logo is starting to look kind of dated — especially compared to, say, the hot young upstarts at Books Are Magic (a dark-horse contender for 2019).
I’m biased because I listen to WNYC every day and am a Monthly Sustaining Member/smug jerk. But these totes seem sturdy, they’re recognizable from far away, and what they lack in originality they make up for in sheer force of repetition.
2. Shakespeare & Co.
We get it — you’ve been to Paris, or maybe Manhattan, which might as well be Paris as far as most Brooklynites are concerned. You don’t have to rub it in our faces with an artfully designed tote that we actually really like. (I saw several variations of these and they all looked great.)
1. The New Yorker
Look, New Yorker totes are the Golden State Warriors of the tote game. Once every four years, if everything breaks wrong for them, they might finish second. But this is their competition to lose. Everyone knows these polarizing bags. My mom has seven of them. You can spot them from a mile away, and no other tote tells you more about a person than this one.
Until that changes, this is your champion.