Towards the end of every year many book bloggers produce their top ten books of the year. This tradition is a fun way to fill in some of the down time so many of us have between Christmas and New Years. I’ll be posting my long list as part of tomorrow’s Sunday Salon.
But this year I thought I’d celebrate not just the books I read but the bookstores I visited because, truth be told, I enjoy going to bookstores as much–maybe even a little bit more–as I do read books. Wherever I travel, I make a point to visit the local bookstores. This year C.J. and I travelled throughout California, both north and south for the first time in years, and we took a trip to New York as well.
These are some of the bookstores we enjoyed visiting, the long list in alphabetical order
- Beatnick Books — Roseville, California – This little curiosity is clearly a labor of love. They feature an unusual selection of second-hand books, trendy vintage fashions and some very cool antiques. But to have the full Roseville experience, eat lunch in the cafe next door. In the time it too to finish my meatloaf sandwich, I saw six trains go by in the rail yard across the street.
- Bookshop Benicia — Benicia, California — My local bookshop. They feature all the current hits along with some books I’ve never heard of that I really need to read.
- City Lights — San Francisco, California — If you’re a book lover visiting San Francisco, there are two shops you must see, Green Apple Books and City Lights. City Lights features one of the best selections of literature you’ll find anywhere. It’s still a cramped, smallish shop with an accident prone staircase down to the basement, just like it always was. Enter with an open mind, leave with more books than you intended to buy.
- Dog Eared Books — San Francisco, California — I visit this little neighborhood bookstore every time I visit the San Francisco’s Mission District. To be honest, I usually visit the Mission District because I’m visiting Dog Eared Books. A large selection of second-hand and remaindered books in a small shop. They tend towards the more literary set and always keep a decent sized bookcase full of New York Review of Books (NYRB) editions. I’ve never left this shop with less than three books which is why I try not to visit too often.
Gallery Bookshop and Bookswinkle Children Books— Mendocino, California — If you visit the picturesque town of Mendocino, you’ll have to stop in at Gallery Bookshop. It’s a very small town, you’ll see it all in an hour so really, visit the bookshop. It’s an excellent bookstore, one that would rank well in any English-speaking city. It’s here that I found the Penguin re-release editions of Simenon’s Maigret novels.
- Green Apple Books — San Francisco, California — The other ‘must see’ bookstore in San Francisco. This is San Francisco’s equivalent of The Strand. It’s out in the neighborhoods, but you’ll find it easy to get excellent Chinese food after you shop here, and shop you will. Two buildings, two floors, just about everything under the sun. The staff at Green Apple is excellent at finding new books you haven’t heard of but have to read. It’s a little pricey for a used book store, but so it The Strand.
- Hein & Co — Jackson, California — An amazing store. Tucked away in California’s Gold Country you’ll find four floors of second-hand books, room after room, row upon row, you just may get lost but you’ll never be happier to be lost. I’d describe Hein & Co, as a slightly run-down Bali Hai for book lovers. This is not the place where you’ll find the latest Europe Edition. It’s an old school used bookstore, everything half off the cover price even if the cover price is 75 cents. The owners, who are big Sherlock Holmes fans, have converted one of the large upstairs rooms into a mock up of 21 B Baker Street. The first floor annex has a selection of Steam Punk fashions and home furnishings and if you stay long enough the bookstore cat is sure to find you. I love this place.
- Henessey & Ingalls — Santa Monica, California — A store devoted to what we used to call coffee table books. Henessy & Ingalls is a large store with the biggest collection of art books I’ve ever seen. All of the visual arts along with architecture are here. It’s a great store to spend an hour browsing through picture books. If you’re in Santa Monica, be sure to stop in when you need a break from the beach. It’s just a few blocks from the Santa Monica Pier which is really fun by the way.
- McNally Jackson Books
— New York, New York — The one regret I have from our last trip to New York is that I did not get to spend enough time in McNally Jackson Books. I only found it accidentally by wandering around the SoHo neighborhood where we were staying. It’s a smallish store with a cafe, but it features the largest, most interesting selection of literature in translation that I’ve ever found. Organized geographically, I found so many interesting books on the German shelf that I had to leave empty-handed. There was no way I could make a decision in the little amount of time that I had. But I’ll be back…..
- Mrs. Dalloway’s — Oakland, California — A neighborhood bookstore in Oakland’s Elmwood District that never fails to give me six or seven titles I have to read with every visit. They specialize in books for gardeners, but carry a full range of books. The selection tends towards small, eclectic, and interesting. They feature an excellent poetry section. This is not a part of Oakland tourists visit, but it’s a great place to spend the afternoon–lots of good restaurants and fun small shops. A walk around the neighborhood is a must for lovers of Craftsman Style architecture.
- Pegasus Books — Berkeley, California — The Solano Ave. store is my local find of the year. I’ve been to the Shattuck store in Berkeley many times, enjoyed it but not loved it. However, I love the Solano Ave. store. A good-sized local bookshop with a wide selection of new and used books, lots of titles I want, authors I love and books I never heard of that I have to read.
- Small World Books — Venice, California — Nestled between the head shop and pot-dispencaries that line the boardwalk in Venice, California since marijuana legalization, you’ll find Small World Books. In Small World Books you will find the books you have been looking for right next to the books you never knew you wanted. Unfortunately, they did not have air-conditioning the day I visited, which was a hot day. I just couldn’t stay for long in the heat. I’m hoping the next time I’m in Venice their air will be fixed.
- Strand — New York, New York– I wasn’t going to visit The Strand this time around. I really did not like it last time I was in New York City. But how can you miss it. It’s right there, on Broadway, all lit up and everything. This time I loved it. I thought the selection, which is always big, was much better. I found reasonable prices on many books that I wanted. And C.J. discovered the art books floor, which is terrific. I spent enough money, over 50 dollars, to get the free tote bag. 😉 And, just down Broadway a few blocks you’ll find Cozy Burger Restaurant where you can get delicious matzo-ball soup afterwards.
Windsong Books and Records — Fort Bragg, California — After you visit Mendocino and have seen all the Murder She Wrote sites, you’ll want to drive up to Fort Bragg because there’s really nothing left to do in Mendocino. Fort Bragg is more of a ramshackle place than Mendocino but it is worth a trip. On the main drag you’ll find a terrific breakfast place that usually has a line. A few doors down you’ll find Windsong Books and Records, a fun old-school used bookstore. Several rooms of used books, probably one or two you want. Records, posters, book bag buttons. (I bought one that says “The Beginning is Near.”) Windsong is basically a good time.
I’m not really sure that I will come back and do a final top ten bookstores. I’m pretty happy with this list of fourteen. I’ll be posting my long list of top favorite reads tomorrow. Maybe I’ll do a single post with two top ten lists for New Year’s Eve.
As for today, the rain has stopped, looks like it will be drier if not dry today so maybe I’ll get a chance to……..