Thursday, July 30, 2015

Book Passage - Corte Madera, CA

Book Passage - Corte Madera, CA
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"It is with great reluctance that I leave The Book Passage."  -Cheryl M., graphic artist and logistics coordinator, The Indie Bob Spot.  

Wow.  Where to start?  The better question to ask of this indie is what DON'T they have.  Great staff who are uber friendly.  Selection and variety abound.  Community involvement and supportive of social causes.  Active events schedule and probably a myriad of things I've overlooked or don't even know.  This place is a model independent bookstore and it's easy to see why.

There are actually two stores, the Corte Madera store I visited and another in The Ferry Building in San Francisco.  However, the Corte Madera store has two buildings.  A primary building that housed a wonderful café, all new books and sidelines, and a roomy event space.  The other building houses a children's department, lots of upscale sidelines, conference rooms and event spaces, offices, and used books.  This "secondary" building is larger than many bookstores just by itself.  All of this situated in a very nice open air mall area.

What else?  Let's go down the list.  Events?  Check.  As many as 4/day and 500/year.  This store doesn't have an events coordinator, it has an events department.  Classes?  Check.  Learn to speak Hebrew, German, Japanese and many more.  Or maybe you'd like to take a writing workshop and become an aspiring author.  Café with food and beverages?  Duh.  Wi-fi?  Double duh.  A vast variety of sidelines? Check.  See the pictures below.  Very nice and upscale to accommodate an upscale customer base in Marin County and the bay area.  You can also enjoy seating inside or outside reading a book.  They also have a large used book room with great prices.  All of these books are donated and the sales support the local hospice program.  I can't recall seeing anything like this at any indie I've visited.  What a wonderful cause and certainly something that other indies should consider.  There is no doubt that after 30+ years, the roots of this store run deep in Marin County and it is a hub for many things and for many reasons.

The line-up of people coming here for events is staggering.  Over the next few months you can see Johathan Franzen, Louise Penny, Mary Doria Russell, John Lescroat, Erica Jong, Peter Coyote, Isabel Allende (she's a regular and in the store often) and this is just the tip of the iceberg.  It would be great to see some of these authors, but on the day of my visit, I saw the real stars.  People like Kathryn P., Bill and Elaine's daughter who are the owners, Pam, Susan, Barb, Leslie, Zach, Judy, and there were others whose names I missed.  I got a good start on meeting the 70+ employees and everyone of them was terrific to talk to and shared many things with me about the store.

So yes, readers, this indie is 5-star in every way and very deserving of its recognition in "My Bookstore," by Ron Rice.  However, I must share two things that are lacking and need to be addressed. There are no bedrooms and no indoor pool.  When they make these upgrades I may establish myself at a new mailing address in a Corte Madera bookstore.  Move this place to the top of your list, you won't want your visit to end.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Between The World And Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates.  A book that will be discussed for some time to come.  Very relevant observations by an author of color and our current climate of racism.  Every white person should be required to read this.

CURRENTLY READING:  Bobby's Book, Emily Haas Davidson as told to her by Bob Powers.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  The Paris Apartment, Michelle Gable.

A great outside patio area.  

The day's events.  

View looking to the left from the entrance.  Lots of selections at the café.

View looking to the right from the front entrance.  The store continues way around to the upper left of this picture.  Very spacious and bright.  

Large selection of magazines and these are just a few, located in the front of the store.  

Looking through the store.  I would describe the space as horse-shoe shaped.  

Isabel Allende is a regular here and also wrote the essay about Book Passage for "My Bookstore."  

A few of the greeting cards.  

Lots of unique sidelines.  

Book Passage is fortunate to have a great event space in the store.  They can also use other areas in their secondary building next door.  

A few of the pictures of the many authors who've been here.  

There's my reading chair.  

Just a few of the staff picks.  

This is the outside of the secondary Book Passage building, a large store just on its own.  

Looking into the secondary building and the large children's department.  Your kids will love this space.  

Looking to the left in the secondary building, travel guides to anywhere.  

You're going to need an upscale hat to go with your book.  

Lots of trendy sidelines in this secondary building.  

Used books for a good cause can be found in this room.  If nothing else, get something here.  

Boxed greeting cards and individual greeting cards.  

One of the conference rooms.  Classes, workshops, and events.  

Another event area and they also feature local artists here.  

With Kathryn P. on the left and Leslie B. on the right.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Monday, July 27, 2015

Moe's Books - Berkeley, CA

Moe's Books - Berkeley, CA
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Readers, if you enjoy visiting college towns like Boulder, CO, Madison, WI, or Iowa City, IA, you will love your visit to Berkeley, CA.  The town and area where Moe's Books is located very much reminds me of these aforementioned towns with their unique shops, cafes, restaurants, and energetic atmosphere.  Many college towns have great independent bookstores and Berkeley is no different.  Moe's Books has been an iconic presence since 1959 on Telegraph Ave. and now that I've been there I can see why.  

Some bookstores that I visit I can look in the front door, snap a few pictures, and I'm done (Well, I'm not really that fast.  I can spend a lot of time even in the smallest stores).  Not so at Moe's.  In this place you'll need a plan and I'm going to give it to you.  There are 4 floors of books here.  The lower level from the mezzanine entrance are mostly new books.  Levels 2-4 are all used books.  I took the elevator to 4 and started to work my way down and that was my plan of attack.  The 4th floor includes non-fiction and a very nice antiquarian and rare book room.  Collectors will want to check this room out and books in the fine arts are especially strong here.  The 3rd floor was a large floor with more non-fiction and many "how-to" books.  The 2nd floor had the used fiction books as well as others, including many cookbooks and food books.  A comment about the used books.  These aren't your typical used book store books.  In fact, in some cases it is difficult to tell them from the new books.  Stan S., the store manager, told me they are selective about what they take so that explains their great shape.  That said, they're very active pursuing used books and it is an incredibly huge part of the inventory.  In addition to what they have in the store, they also have a warehouse.  The lower level 1st floor is where you'll find all the new books and recent releases.  

The store hosts frequent events on the lower level and is able to clear a good space thanks to shelves on wheels.  There are few sidelines but they have a great assortment of Moe merchandise which is always fun to see.  I especially liked all the sheet music available here as well as many music instruction books for instruments.  If you need a lesson book for clarinet, they have some here.  

I didn't get to meet Moe's daughter Doris, the current owner, but I had a great talk with Stan S. and enjoyed meeting him as well as visiting with several of the booksellers.  Everyone was nice, welcoming, and informative.  Just the way you always want it at an independent bookstore.  Make sure you check out this legendary indie.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  When Books Went To War, Molly Guptill Manning.  Non-fiction.  While the Nazis had book burnings the Americans conducted book drives to send to the troops.  The publishers worked together to support the war effort and the publishing industry undergoes drastic changes.  Great book, highly recommended.  

CURRENTLY READING:  Between The World And Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  The Party After You Left, Roz Chast.  Selected Sonatinas For The Piano, G. Schirmer.  You can get all kinds of music at this indie.  

A great front window display.  

I'm there.

Lots of bargains here and these are the ones you'll see when you enter.  

Looking into the store from the front entrance.  This is like a mezzanine level.  Looking above is the 2nd floor and looking below is the 1st floor or basement level.  

Notice the incredible amount of used books on the front counter waiting to find a home.  

Looking into the lower level of new books.  Hey, I wonder if the guy in the yellow shirt is Moe?  

This is my kind of chair in a bookstore.  

A few of the greeting cards available here.  

Collectors will enjoy coming to this store.  

You'll find music here for almost any instrument, on the lower level.  

One of the long book aisles up on the 4th floor.  

This room on the 4th floor is a must see for all collectors looking for vintage or rare books.  

One of the long book aisles on the 3rd floor.  

It doesn't matter what floor you're on, you're going to find books everywhere.  

Up on the 2nd floor looking from the front of the store toward the back.  

If you have used books, Moe's is interested.  

Looking toward the front of the store and the mezzanine level entrance.  View from the 2nd floor.  

Great view of the 2nd floor.  

Moe Moskowitz, the founder of Moe's Books.  Thanks Moe.  

With Stan S., store manager, on the right.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Pegasus Books - Berkeley, CA

Pegasus Books - Berkely, CA
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When you get ready to start your lawn mower, you might have to prime it to get it going.  Prime, choke, pull, sputter, repeat.  Occasionally it will sputter and almost catch, but then dies.  Prime again, but not too much.  Get the choke off at the right time, and it takes off, finally.  That was my experience with the fine booksellers at Pegasus on Solano in Berkeley.  Once we started chatting and I was sharing my story (and they figured out I wasn't some kind of an oddball) (stop rolling your eyes, readers!), they were very helpful in telling me about the store, its history, and the state of their business.

The Pegasus Books I visited on Solano is one of three Pegasus book stores.  The other two are in downtown Berkeley and Oakland.  Yes, there are three stores so you could call this a "chain," but it is an independent bookstore.  This one-level indie has a great assortment of new and used books available as well as great prices on remainders that are just as competitive as what you get on Amazon.  The store offers cash or trade for the books you bring in and the better deal is to always take the store credit.  You'll also find some rare and collectable books here as well.  The trend with many indies, especially the newer ones, is to offer a variety of sidelines.  You'll find some here, including greeting cards, but this is not critical to the survival of the store.  The current owner, Amy T., has been here 20+ years and the Solano store has been here 30+ years, a sign of good success for any indie.  I think Pegasus Books has things figured out and will be just fine moving forward.

Berkeley is home to UC Berkeley but this store doesn't benefit much from that community.  The customers here are largely local with some tourists, especially in the summer.  Pegasus also holds frequent author events right in the store.  On the evening of my visit they were hosting a jazz group, a great way to bring people into the store.

But the best thing for me was the chance to meet and visit with Tim, Colin, Claire, and Jeff.  Great people to talk to about bookstores, Berkeley, and all things books.  Why any book customer wouldn't enjoy an experience here with people like this is beyond me.  If you're in the Bay Area, take a friend and visit Pegasus Books on Solano in Berkeley.  You'll have a wonderful time surrounded by books and a staff of fun and helpful people to show you around.  You won't match this experience on Amazon.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Good Night, Mr. Tom, Michelle Magorian.  A young boy evacuated from London during the blitzkrieg finds a grandfatherly type in his new town.  A good find for both.  Outstanding.  I loved this book.

CURRENTLY READING:  When Books Went To War, Molly Guptill Manning.  Non-fiction.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler.

It's always nice to start the browsing before you even enter the store.  

A nice front window display.  

Looking straight through the store from the front entrance.  

A great display right inside the front door.  

The poetry section and on the wall in the background a nice Pegasus mural.  

A portion of the local interest books.  

An extensive selection of magazines.  

A few of the greeting cards.  

I encourage collectors to pay this store a visit.  

One of the long book aisles.  

Find the movie on DVD to match the book you're getting.  

I think this is a great mural on the wall.  I see so many unique things like this in many indies.  

If you find this table you're going to find some bargains.  

View from the back of the store looking toward the front.  

Go sit in that corner with your book and don't come out until I say so.  (Oh thank you!).

An assortment of comic books.  

Bring back your used books and get credit for more books.  I love these deals.  

Jeff, the book buyer, getting ready to sign the Pegausus page in my book.  

The Pegausus Books C League Rec Division basketball team, but otherwise these are some of the fine staffers you'll meet here.    L-R, Jeff, Colin, Tim, Claire, and yours truly.  Thanks for a great visit.