During the time David Baron spent traveling the country this summer promoting his book American Eclipse: A Nation's Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World (Liveright), attendance at his events increased into the hundreds as public awareness grew about the solar eclipse visible across the U.S. next Monday, August 21. "As the weeks went by, the crowds kept growing and the enthusiasm building," said Baron.
Those in the path of totality, which extends from Oregon to South Carolina, will see a total eclipse of the sun by the moon, while observers outside that path will see a partial eclipse. A "serious eclipse chaser" and Colorado resident, Baron has traveled to the Faroe Islands and other far-flung locales to experience total solar eclipses. This year he'll witness the celestial wonder in Jackson, Wyo., atop a 10,000-foot-high mountain.
Across the state, the town of Casper is also in the path of totality and bracing for massive crowds, with a Saudi prince even rumored to be among the visitors. "If the predictions are correct, Casper is going to nearly double in size," said Vicki Law Burger, co-owner of Wind City Books. "It's going to be really interesting and exciting. We're not sure what to expect. Predicting Christmas is easier, and that's hard enough."
The store has stocked up on eclipse-related books as well as regional-interest titles. "It's a great opportunity to share the talented authors we have here in Wyoming with a much wider audience," said Law Burger. Signings with five authors are taking place this coming weekend, including Nina McConigley, author of the award-winning story collection Cowboys and East Indians, and Audrey M. Cotherman, author of A Pinch of Salt: Savoring Life in Wyoming.
Wind City Books is extending its opening hours August 18-20 and will close on August 21, so that employees can enjoy the eclipse. Law Burger plans to watch the eclipse on the deck at her home. She'll be joined by store staffers and out-of-town guests like Norton sales rep Meg Sherman, who was invited to attend back when Sherman was first selling in Baron's American Eclipse.
|The Paperback Exchange has a telescope set up for the event.
Typically closed on Mondays, The Paperback Exchange Bookstore in Port Richey, Fla., is opening for several hours on August 21 to host an eclipse viewing--the first event at the store since it recently changed ownership. To pique customer interest in the eclipse and the viewing, new co-owner Joan Hepsworth has placed a telescope on display.
This past spring, Hepsworth saw an infomercial for a merchandise package that included Neil deGrasse Tyson's Astrophysics for People in a Hurry (Norton). Enticed by the prospect of having the book a week before it officially went on sale, she purchased the package, which also included a Galileoscope telescope kit. It was a "happy coincidence" that several months later she would buy a bookstore and use the telescope at the initial event she hosted.
Bookstores elsewhere are celebrating the eclipse in creative ways, too. At an eclipse watch party at Ellen Plumb's City Bookstore in Emporia, Kan., local university professors will provide a play-by-play of what is taking place overhead. Bob's Beach Books in Lincoln City, Ore., is selling souvenir flashlights imprinted with the store name and "Lincoln City Eclipse 2017--In case it doesn't come back!" while the in-store coffee shop at Pomegranate Books in Wilmington, N.C., has concocted a special brew to be served on August 19. Eclipse Iced Tea is made with freshly ground star anise representing the heavens, coconut milk representing the brightness of the sun, and black tea representing the moon's shadow.
|from The Big Eclipse
A top-selling title in themed displays at both The Bookstore in Glen Ellyn, Ill., and the Book Bin in Salem, Ore., is Pam Hine's Total Eclipse of the Sun: Coast to Coast USA (Mascot Books). Each copy comes with eclipse viewers and a fold-out map displaying the path of totality. A popular children's storytime pick is author and illustrator Nancy Coffelt's The Big Eclipse (Orbit Oregon), about a cast of animal characters that follow the 2017 eclipse across the country. Coffelt witnessed the total solar eclipse in 1979, the last to be seen in the contiguous U.S. Eclipse chasers won't have to wait nearly as long for the next one, though, which will be visible in 2024 from Texas to Maine.
Witnessing a total solar eclipse "is life-changing. You see the universe in a whole other way," said Baron. American Eclipse is the story of three pioneering scientists--planet hunter James Craig Watson, astronomer Maria Mitchell, and inventor Thomas Edison--each of whom had their own motivations for chasing a total solar eclipse in 1878.
"One of the things I love about eclipses is that they make me feel connected to all of humanity. It's the common experience," said Baron. "Imagine people in the 19th century, or 2,000 years ago, having the same experience of looking at that astonishing sky." --Shannon McKenna Schmidt