The Washington Post

For a Borders book group, the story goes on


Five months after filing for bankruptcy, Borders Books & Music will reportedly tell a judge today that it plans to liquidate its stores, a sad end to a storied chain that began in 1971 in Ann Arbor, Mich.

In January, I wrote a long piece looking at how Borders wound up destitute — a victim of Amazon’s rise, a change in how we read (print vs. digital) and some remarkably poor management decisions, such as spending millions of dollars to buy back shares from shareholders instead of investing that money on its digital future.

I centered the story around a history book club that had been meeting for nearly a decade at the Borders in White Flint. I sat in one night as the club discussed a 496-page book about the year 1848. It was an utterly charming evening, a throwback to the salon days of yore. Coffee: sipped slowly. Ideas: Exchanged gently. Not long after, Borders closed the store.

Where is the group now?

It’s alive. Members tried to move to the Borders in Silver Spring, but employees there were unable to order books. So they found a home at the Barnes & Noble on Rockville Pike, meeting once a month in the poetry section. Stewart Oneglia, the group’s leader and a former Borders bookseller, told me this morning that the group is thriving.

“We even have had several new members come out in all this chaos,” she said. “We just did a book on the French revolution.” The next meeting is Aug. 10 at 7:30 p.m. Book: “1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft and Debs: The Election that Changed the Country.”

“I think people still want to have conversations about books,” Oneglia told me. “We’re still having a great time.”

Michael Rosenwald is a reporter on the Post's local enterprise team. He writes about the intersection of technology, business and culture.

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