New Books by the Banks leader expanding footprint to increase literacy

David Rippe, president of Books By The Banks

By Hillary Copsey

If you ask David Rippe what he’s reading, he rattles off a list of titles and authors. He’s never reading just one book – a fitting characteristic for the newly elected president of Cincinnati’s regional book festival, Books By The Banks.

“I’m always reading about five books at once,” Rippe said. “I like to do a combination of spiritual or personal empowerment, fiction and nonfiction. I like to mix it up.”

Rippe, founder and CEO of Celestia International, joined the Books By The Banks board of trustees seven years ago when he was vice president of marketing for Joseph-Beth Booksellers. He talked recently with Movers & Makers about why Books By The Banks and its mission to encourage literacy remain a passion for him, and he gave a preview of what to expect this year.

The 12th Books By The Banks will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20, at the Duke Energy Center.

Why did you get first get involved with Books By The Banks?

A: I’ve always been involved with literacy in Cincinnati and the region. With a 22 percent illiteracy rate in this country, it’s important for everyone to learn to read and for all of us to encourage a culture of reading and literacy. It’s so important. Just think, if you couldn’t read and you went into a restaurant, everything would seem like you were in a foreign land.

Years ago … a gentleman I worked with introduced me to the Cincinnati Literacy Council. I went to a banquet, and there were people sharing stories about how they learned to read and what it meant to them, the difference it made. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house, and it just gets into your heart. Then it’s not hard to think about the people who don’t learn to read … how do they ever lift themselves up?

You’ve said you see Books By The Banks growing a year-round presence beyond the festival. How will that work?

A: I see it more as doing events with more libraries in the region, in Northern Kentucky and on the Ohio side of the river. Doing more reading and literacy events, more authors, book giveaways – just partnering even more closely with Joseph-Beth for those author events, so they bring them in for events and then the authors go to the schools. If we can do four to six events beyond the festival, then we’re enhancing the love of reading and encouraging lifelong reading and providing a service to the community.

Do you have events planned this year?

A: We’re working on it right now. We have one coming up with the University of Cincinnati. It’s called Edible Books on April 3 (at 1 p.m. in Langsam Library). People will make edible creations that represent a book in some way.

What can people expect at this year’s Books By The Banks?  

A: We continue to try to bring in top-name authors, and we’ll have about 140 authors this year, including Jason Reynolds. We’re working on adding a romance novel section. Romance novels are very popular, and we’re looking to enhance that. We always have the kids corner, teen scene, lots of local authors. Cincinnati has a rich culture and writing history. There are many, many authors that are right here in our own backyard, and we will continue to offer that local flavor. Mainly, we’re just looking to do more of what we do really well.

I surveyed people last year about the event, and what we found is that there’s really no other place to meet these authors in person. In one place, you have all these authors, all these creative people. You can walk right up to the table and have a conversation with them, most of them. You can speak to 95 percent of the authors without any problem. I think we have a winning formula. I don’t think we’re looking to change anything so much as just add more events in the community.

Why do you think Cincinnati is a such a literary city?

A: We have a great cultural foundation. There are a number of groups around town that promote arts in all forms, and writing happens to be one of them. We’re also a city that’s been around since the 18th century, and so we’re a mature city that at one point was one of the largest in the country. A lot of people have called Cincinnati home for a long time, and some of them have been and are authors. And we really owe to the city itself, to the library system and these organizations that promote art and culture and have encouraged that.

Books By The Banks is a nonprofit organization whose board includes representatives from a lot of organizations – the library systems, the university, Joseph-Beth and others. Why are all these organizations willing to collaborate on this project?

We all love books. We all love reading. And we want to support that. It’s a passion for everyone involved, including our volunteers.

What book were you most excited to share at Books By The Banks?

A: My all-time favorite book, of the last 20 years, is “All The Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr. I just loved that book. I don’t know why that is, but the way he writes, the way he pieced that story together, is just beautiful to me.

What are you reading right now?

A: “Care of the Soul” by Thomas Moore, “Peace Is Every Step” by Thich Nhat Hanh, and “The Serpent of Venice” by Christopher Moore. There’s an author I’d like to meet: Christopher Moore. He’s a funny guy.

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