To the shock and delight of St. Louis booksellers and librarians, a recent poll by Central Connecticut State University named us the sixth-most-literate city in America. "I was like, 'Hallelujah!'" says Kelly Mumm, the area marketing manager for Borders.
But as anyone who has ever been chastised for reading "trash" like the Sweet Valley High series knows, the definition of "literate" depends just as much on what you read as the fact that you are actually, you know, reading. So what are St. Louisans reading? Unreal canvassed local bookstores and the St. Louis Public Library to find out. And while we were at it, we inquired as to which books STL readers love so much that they have to resort to stealing.
Left Bank Books: Best sellers: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling, The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn and Hal Iggulden, A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini and The Secret by Rhonda Byrne ("unfortunately," says co-owner Kris Kleindienst). Most stolen: poetry and philosophy.
Borders: Same as above, plus Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, You: Staying Young by Michael F. Roizen and Mehmet C. Oz and Sportsman's Park: The Players, the Fans & the Game by Dan O'Neill. Mumm does not have theft statistics.
St. Louis Public Library: "It's popular in the media, it's popular with us," says Kathy Leitle, associate deputy director. "The Da Vinci Code was on the waiting list forever." The library doesn't keep statistics on the most-stolen books, but generally, Litle says, the Bible, The Guinness Book of World Records, exam prep and astrology books tend to disappear the most.
Subterranean Books: Best sellers: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks and A Lifetime of Secrets by Frank Warren. Subterranean no longer stocks Steal This Book by Abbie Hoffman because people took the title literally. Now the most stolen is Bed, Bed, Bed by They Might Be Giants. "I have no idea why," says owner Kelly von Plonski. "I wouldn't think They Might Be Giants fans would normally be thieves."
Star Clipper Comics: Best seller: Gangsta Rap Coloring Book. "Most people buy it as a joke," says manager Dan McNamara, who adds, "It's cheap, too." Others: Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan, Watchmen by Alan Moore, and The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn.
Big Sleep Books: Best sellers: Person of Interest by Theresa Schwegel, T is for Trespass by Sue Grafton, Blonde Faith by Walter Mosley and The Overlook by Michael Connelly. Although it's a mystery bookstore, owner Helen Simpson says crime is low.
Family Christian Bookstore: Best sellers: Quiet Strength by Tony Dungy, Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper and Summer by Karen Kingsbury. Most stolen: the Go Bible iPod, small Bibles. "Hopefully they'll get read along the way, and once people read them, they'll stop taking things," says manager Dan Darrow.
Pathways New Age, Magickal, Metaphysical Resource Center: Best sellers: Your Life: Why It Is the Way It Is and What You Can Do About It by Bruce McArthur, Spiritual Growth by Sanaya Roman, Prescriptions for Nutritional Healing by Phyllis Balch and Healing Mantras by Thomas Ashley-Farrand. "Our top-selling books are used as tools for spiritual growth," says staff member Bill Duvendack.
Adult Book Store: Only stocks periodicals. Best sellers: Leg Show, Hustler, Voluptuous, Voluptuous XL, Tight, Bootylicious and Black Video Illustrated. Most stolen: Big Butt and Big Black Butt.
Put Your Balls in His Hands
Mark Littell lasted nine years in major league baseball as a reliever for the Royals and Cardinals. Now he's pitching a new kind of relief. Littell, a Cape Girardeau native, is the creator of the NuttyBuddy, an invention he claims is the Cadillac of athletic cups. The NuttyBuddy, Littell explains, conforms to actual human anatomy, allowing it to better "protect the boys" and "absorb hard blistering blows." Thanks in part to an enormously popular YouTube video in which Littell goes ball-to-balls with a pitching machine to prove his product's worth, he and his cup have become something of a cult sensation, appearing on CNN, FOX, MSNBC and dozens of radio broadcasts nationwide. Unreal checked in to find out what's cracking with Littell's cups.
Unreal: What inspired you to develop this thing?
Mark Littell: I was coaching with the Royals in A ball as a pitching coordinator. I said to my pitchers, "How many of you guys don't wear a cup?" Half of them raised their hands. I went off on a mild tirade. One of them said, "Hey Litt, why don't you just invent one?" I said, "Aw heck, I think I will." I went to the training room — to the hydrocollator machine, the place where you get your hot baths — and I put a material in there that molds up real quick, the stuff they use for thumb guards and whatnot. I had two golf balls I molded it around. I said, "Here's testicle A and here's testicle B." I took it out to the guys and said, "How 'bout that?" They said, "It's a start." Thirty-eight changes later I won a design award [from the Industrial Designers Society of America].
What's different about the NuttyBuddy?
My [cup] is anatomically correct. You might say it molds up to the body down there. If you take a hit, the pubic bone takes the whole weight. Most cups are V-shaped and you can only get one and half testicles in there. Mine is like the Man Upstairs intended it to be. This is the first change in a long, long time. Since the Greek-Peloponnesian wars.
What'd they wear back then?
They wore walnut shells or something. Or hardened avocado shells, who knows. The thing hasn't really changed since then. Somebody made it a little better, but nobody did anything big.
The sizes of the cups, from largest to smallest, are called Mongo, the Hog, the Boss and the Hammer. How did you come up with those?
Mongo is from Blazing Saddles, that's a no-brainer. The Hammer is because you see kids beating on their hammers all the time. The Boss, I give them a little more respect. The Hog speaks for itself, you might say. The name NuttyBuddy — I was coaching in Australia for four winters. A guy came up to me and he said, "G'day mate, you wearing your nutty?" I said, "What?" He says, "Your box." I said, "A cup?!"
That was way before I even thought of doing it. All this stuff is in segments, you might say. The testing was unreal, you should've seen it. You test it on players, but then you test 'em on kids...
You mean to say you didn't do all the testing on yourself?
No, no, no. We did running, sliding and jumping with all these kids and players. And this is not just for baseball. It's for martial arts, lacrosse, hockey, cricket, pro bull riding....
Which of those sports do you think is most dangerous for the fellas downstairs?
Without a doubt, the most dangerous, a one-time shot, would be from the bull.
Which size sells the best?
Probably the Boss. I'm hoping to hear the Hammer eventually [sells the best]. Then it tells me the young kids are getting into it and wearing 'em. The smaller units are the Hammer and the Boss. That [age group] ranges from six to fourteen. That's big.
Well, actually it's not big.
In this Internet video, you let someone shoot a ball at your groin at 90 mph from a pitching machine five feet away. Were you nervous?
I wasn't, actually. I'll tell you why: I was a closer. Starters, their IQ is about 120. A closer, their IQ is about 3 to 5. You go between the lines and you don't care.
Have you introduced the NuttyBuddy to any Cardinals or Royals players?
The Royals I have. [Royals catcher] Michael Barrett is wearing 'em. He got hurt really bad two years ago. It was funny. Well, it wasn't funny; he was in the hospital.
Do you have a NuttyBuddy for the ladies?
We've got some things coming down the pipe. It's probably going to be called the Iron Maiden. You like that?