Melissa’s Monday Morsels

This week’s morsels include a contest, some darker fiction, and even sea monsters.

Events: University Book Store, one of the few places left where you can still find a copy of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, is now hosting a Julie and Julia contest for anyone interested in the art of cooking. Stop by the store and sign up before September 3rd for a chance to win prizes “including audio book copies of Julie and Julia, fabulous aprons, or the grand prize: cooking classes from Le Gourmand.”

Chop Suey Books
’s deal of the week again features twins separated at birth. Wally Lamb’s I Know This Much Is True, an Oprah book club pick, is the dark story of two identical brothers who struggle with mental instability and a dark family history of abuse. A  multi-layered emotional roller coaster, this 900 page novel tells a gripping story about family and the unbreakable bond of brotherhood.

New Literature: The success of the hilarious Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith has led to a new twist on  another Jane Austen classic: Sense and Sensibility and Seamonsters, which will be released on September 15th. The images from the upcoming novel are particularly amusing. Odyssey Bookshop blogs about some of the best Jane Austen fanfiction out there.

Tracy Kidder, author of Pulitzer Prize winning Soul of a New Machine and Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World, has just published a new book: Strength in What Remains: A Journey of Remembrance and Forgiveness. This story of “heroism inherent in ordinary people,” introduces an immigrant from the central African nation of Burundi who comes to America with very little cash and no contacts, and, through hard work, obtains a medical degree so that he can establish a clinic for the poor in his home country (via Broadway Books Blog).

Other: Reading Rainbow, the Emmy-award winning show that encouraged generations of children to read, is coming to the end of its 26 year run this Friday. NPR suspects that not only the lack of funds, but shifting philosophies about the most effective way to have children read, has led to this sad decision. Read the article here (via Newtonville Books Blog).

Powell’s Books blogs about how, contrary to popular belief, it’s a great time to be a writer.

Published in: on August 31, 2009 at 7:57 am  Leave a Comment  

#55 Rakestraw Books

Rakestraw BooksRakestraw Books
522 Hartz Avenue
Danville, CA 94526

Michael Barnard is the young owner of this great independent in Danville, CA, and it’s obvious after fifteen seconds that he’s one of those booksellers who knows what he’s doing, who was made to own a bookstore.

Rakestraw Books is a handsome shop of 3,000 square feet.  They’ve just expanded their store and doubled their street frontage.  They have also found themseleves in the supportive community of Danville, CA.  Danville is a prosperous little town forty-five minutes or so from San Francisco and is the kind of place you might find in a John Hughes film.

Anyway, customers are supportive, and while a big bookselling retailer nearby might skim off some of the bestsellers, for the most part Rakestraw is this community’s bookstore.

Barnard is a hands-on manager who actually coordinates the events and handles the retail end of the store. In regards to his events, he has a great philosphy of  “filling the room and not the schedule — whether the room is a nearby putting green or the parking lot.”  Rakestraw’s works with local groups to bring a crowd.  They are not just hosting readings at Rakestraw Books, they’re coordinating social events.

Definitely worth the ride out from San Francisco.

Published in: on August 30, 2009 at 12:07 pm  Comments (1)  

#54 Mrs. Dalloway’s

Mrs. Dalloway'sMrs. Dalloway’s
2904 College Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94705

One mile south of UC Berkeley in the Elmwood neighborhood is the very pleasant book shop, Mrs. Dalloway’s.  The store feels warm and open and they will soon expand their space to 850 square feet.

Mrs. Dalloway’s is a general trade bookstore with an emphasis on literature and gardening (from a local and organic perspective).inside Mrs. Dalloways

The gardening theme is original and seems like a great niche and a good idea to get people in the store.  In fact, their sidelines are set up with gardening in mind.  They also work with a local gardener to sell live plants on comission.

College Ave. is also a great location for a bookstore as there is a lot of pedestrian and car traffic.

The post might be short and sweet, but I liked Mrs’ Dalloway’s.  They have a vision of the type of store they want to be and know the type of customers they serve.  They prove that this simple formular works.


Published in: on August 30, 2009 at 11:40 am  Leave a Comment  

Melissa’s Monday Morsels

Highlights this week include recommendations for the mystery lover and some fascinating nonfiction on gender relationships and politics.

Events: Titcomb’s Bookshop is hosting a reading from award-winning author Wally Lamb, author of New York Times Bestseller She’s Come Undone, on Saturday. The event will take place in East Sandwich Grange Hall and reservations are required. Tickets are $5 each.

Twins are featured again this week in Chop Suey Books’ $2 deal of the week, Kim Edwards’ debut novel The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, an international bestseller. This book features a pair of fraternal twins, a girl with down syndrome and a healthy boy, and the way their father’s decision changes their family forever.

New Literature: Broadway Books’ Bookreads reviews The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power by Jeff Sharlet, a chilling exploration of the relationship between church and state that exposes of a “group of believers from the upper echelons of society and politics who see it as their mission in life to spread capitalistic idealism backed by the teachings of Christ”. Sharlet demolishes the myth that religious extremist groups do not have an influence over the American political system. Although it might make it seem like we’re in a hopeless situation, it’s a very important book.

On Powell’s Book Blog, we find a review of  Between XX and XY: Intersexuality and the Myth of Two Sexes by Gerald N. Callahan.  The book deals with the idea that not only can gender roles vary, but the biological determination of sex is more complex than we think.  The book categorizes the 2,000 different types of people who are born interesexed (unclassifiable as either male or female) in America every year due to a variant set of chromosomes. In Leanne Mirandilla’s review, she describes these classifications as “easily the most riveting part of the book”, while the weakest is the outlook of different cultures on intersexed individuals. All in all, it seems like an intriguing read.

Other: Richard Porier, founder of the Raritan: A Quarterly Review and literary critic and scholar, has passed away (via Newtonville Books Blog). He published a wide variety of books and articles related to everything from the influence of The Beatles to poetry and made a huge impact on the literary world.

Powell’s Books Blog posted an NPR article with several mysteries you might have missed this summer. It’s never too late for a great beach book!

The sequel to the bestselling Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert will be Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage in which Gilbert reflects on her feelings about relationships after her failed marriage and gathers stories from friends and family members. The book will be released in January, 2010 (via Newtonville Books Blog).

Published in: on August 24, 2009 at 11:46 am  Leave a Comment  

#53 Moe’s Books

Moe's BooksMoe’s Books
2476 Telegraph Ave
Berkeley, CA 94704


I’ve made it…and well, let’s just say it’s not what I was expecting.  People might be cool with nudity, free expression, and vegetarianism, but your indie, hippie tookis better have the money for parking.  Traffic fuzz patrol this city like there’s hell to pay if they don’t.   Oddly enough it makes Berkeley, CA end up feeling a lot more like Chattanooga, TN than Amsterdam.

Anyway, none of this is a problem.  It’s just an observation.    And none of this is Moe’s fault.P1010446

Moe’s Books is cool — like a candy striper –If you’re looking for a book, chances are you can find whatever you’re looking for here.  12,ooo square feet of space.   Four floors of new, used, and rare.  An art and antiquarian shop.  Readings and events that go on all year.   This is the best, most interesting spot on Telegraph Ave.

If you visit the Bay Area, chances are you’ll visit Berkeley.  You can’t miss Moe’s if you do.

It’s massive — Probably the biggest I’ve seen since Powell’s.


Published in: on August 23, 2009 at 7:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

#52 Walden Pond Books

walden booksWalden Pond Books
3316 Grand Ave
Oakland, CA 94610

Leaving San Francisco and heading over to the East Bay we hit this fine independent bookstore — the oldest in Oakland.  Walden Pond Books is 35 years old.  They carry new, used, and fine books.  It’s definitely got the feel of a community bookstore.  Grand Ave. is a bustling street with traffic and pedestrians.  They’re down the street from a theater as well, so there’s a lot of movie traffic that comes their way.

This is one of the most literate communities in America.  With teachers, students, and more and more families, they’ve catered to theirP1010439 neighborhood tastes.  There’s a playhouse for visiting kids on weekends.  They go out of their way to merchandise sections like maritime and historical fiction.

The rare books room at Walden Pond Books also carries a large selection of first edition Steinbecks.

Thos is a great example of a neighborhood shop.  P1010438

Published in: on August 23, 2009 at 6:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

#51 Green Apple Books

Green Apple BooksGreen Apple Books
506 Clement Street
San Francisco, CA 94118

Another day and another great bookstore.  San Francisco Bay is the best place for a project like this.

Green Apple Books is on the West Side of San Francisco — in the “new” Chinatown.  The store has been around for 42 years.  There are almost no chains in this part of SF, and it’s far enough away from the tourist spots to really feel like you’re just in a neighborhood.  Not too many tourists out here.

At 8,000 square feet, Green Apple Books sells a bit of everything.  They carry new & used books, CDs and DVDs.  They also sell fun sidelines.  It’s a crowded store, but it doesn’t seem like it takes itself too seriously.  Every nook, every shelf, every cranny seems to be carrying some kind of item to sell.  The store is like a bazaar.Masks at green apple

Green Apple seems to be getting a lot of attention for their online productions as well.  Their blog and youtube videos get a lot of buzz and have been good ways to get local customers excited about the store.

This is a great destination shop and easy to get to by public transportation.  The staff seems like a lot of friendly hipsters who know their lit and choose their wares carefully.  Cool and fun to browse.


Published in: on August 23, 2009 at 6:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

#50 Book Passage

Book PassageBook Passage
51 Tamal Vista Road
Corte Madera, CA 94925

I’m half way done with the tour and store #50 is an impressive one: Book Passage in Corte Madera — just a short drive over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco.


This store has been around for a generation.  It started out as a travel store, but eventually grew into much more.  Today, Book Passage carries general trade books, lots of interesting sidelines, local art, used books, and gourmet sandwiches from the full menu in there cafe.

And wait, there’s more!  This bookstore hosts 700 events a year, including writing conferences which have turned out to be great revenue generators.  They host mystery writers conferences, travel writers and photographer conferences, children’s writers conferences, and a lot more.

In working with the community, Book Passage works to help raise funds for local hospices.

The store is made up of two buildings that are stocked full of books.  The area feels more suburban than the other stores I’ve seen, but Book Passage seems to have become a destination spot for it’s customers.

A very nice and established store in the Bay Area.


Published in: on August 18, 2009 at 8:55 am  Leave a Comment  

Melissa’s Monday Morsels

This week’s specials include what at first glance might seem like a few strange paradoxes: adult magic schools, serious comic books, and electronic books.

Events: RiverRun Bookstore posted a few videos from their visit by Alice Hoffman, where she answers some interesting questions about being a writer.

This week’s $2 deal at Chop Suey Books is The Women of Brewster Place, seven stories featuring seven different women in an urban community. This deal ends on Wednesday, so if you live in the area, pick it up while you still have the chance.

New Literature: Les Grossman’s The Magicians, sort of an angstier Harry Potter for grown-ups, was mentioned this week in both the Odyssey Books Blog and the Newtonville Books Blog, where it was the pick of the week.  Quentin Coldwater, a socially awkward high-school student infatuated with the Narnia-like fantasy world of Fillory, is accepted to a magical university, where he discovers that the land of his childhood dreams is somewhere he can actually visit.

Porter Square Books draws attention to two thought-provoking graphic novels:.Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli features architect who struggles to rebuild his life, and Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou’s Logicomix is a  philosophical story that “tells the story of Bertrand Russell’s quest to find a universal language of logic”. Read their reviews here.

Other: As devices to make electronic reading easy on the go race to find ways to make it even easier, Amazon’s Kindle might be in a run for its money. A CNET article discusses some of the Kindle’s latest competition: the highly anticipated Apple Tablet (somewhere between an iPhone and a Macbook in “both price and functionality” – according to Apple) and a new iPhone application, CourseSmart, which makes it simple for students who are looking for a cheaper and lighter alternative to textbooks (via Powell’s Books Blog).

Porter Square Books is helping author Jennifer Ackerman find good “comfort reads” to be mentioned in her new book.

Fifteen financial books have made the longlist on the Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year award. Considering the country’s economic situation, the choices are particularly relevant and informative this year (via Broadway Books).

Published in: on August 17, 2009 at 9:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

#49 Books Inc.

Books IncBooks Inc.
3515 California Street
San Francisco




This indie has ELEVEN stores around California — mostly in the Bay area.  I’m not going to all of them.  I’m only visiting this one in SF’s Pacific Heights neighborhood.

I didn’t realize Books Inc. was a large regional chain until I got here, but the company is privately owned, and each store is given autonomy to purchase their own selection of books.  Each store also works closely with neighborhood businesses and authors to reinforce their neighborhood integration.P1010401

For example, the Pacific Heights store has a great selection of children’s books.  They actively look at school connections as a way of growing business.

It’s an attractive store full of people, children, and pets, and has clearly done a great job of providing its community with relevant content.

Really, a very lovely neighborhood store.


Published in: on August 16, 2009 at 11:58 pm  Leave a Comment