#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  

#48 The Booksmith

The BooksmithThe Booksmith
1644 Haight Street
San Francisco, CA 94117




Chances are, if you’re a tourist in San Francisco, at some point you’re going to visit Haight-Ashbury.  When you do, you’ll see The Booksmith standing proudly on Haight.  It’s a store that opened in 1976.  A mid-sized general trade store really worth visiting.

It’s under new management.  Two succesful business consultants, Praveen and Christin, looking for a more “noble” calling, bought this bookstore from its previous owner in 2007.  Since then the married couple have applied their business savvy to “growing a bookstore for the twenty-first century.”the booksmith

It’s an interesting idea and the first time I’ve heard it put in these terms.  At number 48, I have had the fortune of visiting a handful of stores like The Booksmith: innovative, action-oriented, think tanks that focus on local communities. 

Praveen calls it “revitalizing the community connection,” and at The Booksmith they do this in a number of ways.  They host offsite events, online video events, and even coordinate events in Berkeley.  Retail remains the core, but today The Booksmith is selling via these events, as well as through their website and direct mail.

And as if their day jobs weren’t enough, this couple has also invented their own community website, Litminds.org.  It’s a place for readers, booksellers, and authors to communicate. 

Just another example of a book store revitalizing their community connection.

the booksmith

Published in: on August 16, 2009 at 11:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

Melissa’s Monday Morsels

Monday Morsels this week include the late summer delights of movies and ice cream, as well as interviews and new books.

Events: Powell’s Books blog features recent interviews with  David Lubar, children’s writer and game designer, on his new book My Rotten Life (Nathan Abercrombie, Accidental Zombie #1) and Pulitzer Prize winning author Richard Russo. Russo is also visiting Titcomb’s Bookshop for a signing on Saturday, August 15th, where he will be talking about his new book, That Old Cape Magic, a bittersweet novel about family relationships. Titcomb’s also recently blogged about their 40th birthday ice cream social which included 40 different mouth-watering flavors of ice cream!  Read more about it here.

Chop Suey Books again has an exciting $2 a week deal, this time on the 1997 Booker Prize winning The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, a novel which shows how a few small events greatly impact the childhoods of two fraternal twins in India in the 1960s. Read more.

New Literature: The 40th anniversary of Woodstock has brought about not only a high budget comedy, Taking Woodstock (based on the novel by Elliot Tiber), but several newly released books to commemorate the most famous music festival of all time. Sarah from the Newtonville Books Community Blog draws attention to The Road to Woodstock by Michael Lang (one of the four organizers of Woodstock) with Holly George-Warren and Back to the Garden: The Story of Woodstock by Peter Fornatale, both recommended by The New York Times for fond memories of the hippie heyday.

Other: Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones, the story of a fourteen-year-old’s brutal murder and her musings after death, is going to be adapted to film by Peter Jackson, the director of the Lord of The Rings trilogy. Watch the trailer here (via Newtonville Books Blog and Powell’s Books Blog). It looks terrifying.

Another exciting film adapted from literature is Julie & Julia, staring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, an intriguing hybrid of two novels: Julie Powell’s book of the same name and Julia Child’s My Life in France (via University Bookstore’s blog, The Shelf Life). The movie opened Friday, and it’s getting excellent reviews. Watch the trailer here.

Published in: on August 10, 2009 at 8:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

#47 City Lights Books

City Lights BooksCity Lights Books
261 Columbus Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133

I got misty visiting this one, America.

Well, OK, not really misty, but hallowed be this ground, and I was downright respectful.

I asked a bookseller if I could take some photos and then that’s all I did — no conversations, no questions, I just snapped my photos and took it all in.  P1010375

Then I tried to think of another bookstore in America that carries the same weight as City Lights….

I couldn’t come up with one.

So thank you, Mr. Ferlinghetti.  Thank you, Mr. Martin.

A must visit.


Published in: on August 4, 2009 at 10:06 pm  Comments (1)  

Melissa’s Monday Morsels

I’ve hired an intern  to post weekly updates from the Indie 100 blogroll.  If you’re a bookseller with news to share, email Melissa with the info.This week’s highlights from the Indie 100 blogroll include great book deals, several signings, and a couple of book reviews:

Events: Chop Suey Bookstore has a $2 deal of the week on books they have overstocked. Last week’s deal was Fast Food Nation http://chopsueybooks.blogspot.com/2009/07/2-deal-of-week_28.html, a book which first revealed the nauseating truth behind the diet of fast food loving Americans. Check the website to find out what this week’s deal will be.

Titcomb’s Bookshop is celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year by scheduling 40 events from July to November. Exciting visits this week include Ann Hood’s (author of Knitting Circle and Comfort) visit to the knitting club and book signings from Maryann McFadden (So Happy Together) and Mary Malloy (The Wandering Heart). More details about upcoming events can be found at http://www.titcombsbookshop.com.

New Literature: New books include David Browne’s Goodbye 20th Century: A Biography of Sonic Youth, reviewed by Newtonville Books at http://www.newtonvillebooks.com/blog/?p=967. It focuses more on the artists than the music, but, says Newtonville Books staff Ben, there’s “something new for even the most seasoned and rabid Sonic Youth fans” in this biography.

There’s also The Girl Who Played With Fire (http://camallibookcompany.blogspot.com/2009/07/out-today-new-stieg-larsson-book.html), a Swedish political thriller and sequel to the very successful The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, the first novel in Steigg Larson’s Millenium Trilogy (via The Camalli Book Company).

Other: The Man Booker Prize longlist for 2009 has been posted at http://www.themanbookerprize.com/news/stories/1252 (via http://universitybookstore.blogspot.com/). 

‘The five Man Booker judges have settled on thirteen novels as the longlist for this year’s prize.  We believe it to be one of the strongest lists in recent memory, with two former winners, four past-shortlisted writers, three first-time novelists and a span of styles and themes that make this an outstandingly rich fictional mix.’ – James Naughtie, chair of judges.


Published in: on August 3, 2009 at 5:11 pm  Comments (1)  

#46 Alexander Book Company

Alexander BooksAlexander Book Company
50 Second St.
San Francisco, CA 94105

Hey!  Check out the streets of San Francisco!


It’s not even 10 a.m. and I’ve witnessed my day’s high drama.

What’s the problem, officer?  Ah, well, someone was stealing…BOOKS.  A book thief.  Someone was trying to walk out with a backpack full of summer reading.


And the funny thing about this was that I saw a bank around the corner.  With a recession going on, I choose to believe this was an overzealous reader and not a career criminal.

Anyway, I decide to do my own investigating.   I enter Alexander Book Co. and it’s great!  Really great!  A huge store.  Three floors.  A gorgeous, pre-1908 building with exposed brick walls and reinforced beams.P1010362

One of the owners, Bonnie, tells me about the morning.  Yes, someone tried to take books.  No, it’s not a bad neighborhood.  This is SOMA, the corporate part of the city.  Essentially, downtown’s dowtown.  People who work here are walking around everywhere.

In fact, San Francisco corporate types are a big part of the customer base for Alexander Book Co.

That’s not all, though.  Alexander Book Co. also has a large selection of art/design books and they handle textbooks for the Acadamy of Art around the corner.

Customers are drawn in through word of mouth and review sites online like yelp.com.

The store seems to work well.  They carry a large African-American and a large selection of kids books, and both sections do well for them

At 19 years old, this store seems like it’s found itself and knows who it is.  It’s also my first stop in SF, and as such, it’ s big and impressive and I feel like maybe all the talk about SF and the Bay Area being a great place for books is true.


Published in: on August 3, 2009 at 7:46 am  Comments (1)