It Happened in Monterey

I miss chatting with bookstore owners who are avid readers. With only one independent bookstore on the island (BookEnds in Kailua) and a perfunctory Barnes and Noble at the mall, the pickings are slim in Hawaii. On a recent trip to the Monterey Peninsula, I found four independent bookstores within a five mile radius, and with booksellers happy to share their favorites. Of course, I could not get out of a store without buying a book or two.  img_4298

At Bookworks in Pacific Grove, I found two books: an older (2012) Donna Leon mystery I had not read, with my favorite sleuth, Commissario Guido Brunetti – “Beastly Things,” and Joanna Trollope’s “Sense and Sensibility” (2013), her modernized version of the Jane Austen classic.

At Old Capitol Books in Monterey, I found myself scanning the stacks of old used books, some rare editions, checking off those I had read. Looking for favorite authors, I found an Amy Bloom book I had not read (at least I don’t remember reading it) – “Lucky Us.”

In Pilgrim’s Way, the charming bookstore connected to a garden in Carmel, I decided on “The Green Thoreau” and Scottish author Beatrice Colin’s “To Capture What We Cannot Keep.”

Chatting with the proprietor led me to another independent bookstore not far away – River House Books. There I found the first of Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Armand Gamache books – “Still Life” – recommended by a good friend, and Amy Bloom’s new book – “White Houses.” The bookseller commisserated about “Manhattan Beach” – like me, she had not been able to finish it – but I plan to try again. And her recommendation for the best page-turner she had read recently – “The Dry” – went to the top of my to-read list.

With this stack, Laura Lippman’s “Sunburn” on my iPhone and Navin’s “Only Child” on audible, I am ready for a long flight – unless, of course, the movie selection has an Oscar nominee to distract me.

Bookstores and Travel

My good friends know I can get lost in a bookstore and often try to steer me away from one if time is short. When the entire travel section of the New York Times was devoted to bookstores last Sunday, I got lost in its pages and decided to save the section for a time when I could meander (hopefully before the next Sunday issue came out).

Stephanie Rosenbloom’s  Bedding Down with Books  teased me with hotels and cafes from Zurich to Savannah, Georgia, housing libraries for customers.  Her Seneca reference jarred me a little: “It is in the homes of the idlest men that you find the biggest libraries.” Nevertheless, I’ve noted places from her article to visit if I am ever in the vicinity.

I could empathize with Jennifer Moses in her “Bookworm with a Travel Plan,” in her fear of running out of books to read while traveling.  Despite having books on my iPhone and iPad, I always have two paperbacks in my carry-on, at least one or two hardbacks in my checked luggage, and a few books on Audible.  I agonizingly remember being seated next to someone who thumbed through the airline magazine and then stared at the back of the seat in front of him for the rest of the trip (short flight – no movies).  I would go mad if I had no book to read – maybe he had.

Perhaps the most comprehensive article in the section was author Ann Patchett’s “When A Bookshop is a Must.”  Owner of her own bookstore – Parnassus Books in Nashville (“in a strip mall, behind Fox’s Donut Den, beside the Sherwin-Williams Paint Store”),Patchett offers her recommendations of American bookstores to visit. I’ve made a list of my top ten – hoping my next trip includes a few.  If you get there first, let me know what you buy.  unknown

  1. Tree House Books in Ashland, Oregon
  2. TurnRow Book Company in Greenwood, MIssissippi
  3. The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles (see my review below)
  4. An Unlikey Story Bookstore and Cafe in Planiville, Massachusetts
  5. Provincetown Bookshop in Cape Cod
  6. Powell’s in Portland, Oregon
  7. Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C.
  8. Malaprop’s in Asheville, North Carolina
  9. Boswell Book Company in Milwaukee
  10. Book Passage in Corte Madeiros, California

A few of my favorites not mentioned in the article:unknown-1

  1. Pilgrim’s Way in Carmel, California
  2. Sherman’s in Bar Harbor, Maine
  3. The Annapolis Bookstore in Maryland
  4. Northshire Bookstore in Vermont
  5. Book Soup in West Hollywood
  6. Chaucer’s in Santa Barbara, California
  7. Main Street Books in Cedar City, Utah

Where are your favorite bookstores?

Related ArticleThe Last Bookstore

 

 

 

 

 

The Books You Leave Behind

images    If you want to understand who a person is, look at their book shelves.  It was no surprise when I recently found rows of mystery paperbacks on a friend’s shelves as I helped clear out her stash, but it was a surprise to find the complete set of Elena Ferrante from My Brilliant Friend to The Story of the Lost Child.  It was no surprise to find Vogue fashion but the complete set of Playbills took me back.  Not so much what we read, but what we save after we read often tell stories about what we value and perhaps what we dream about.

Realizing this, I wondered if I should reconfigure my own shelves.  I wouldn’t want to be misunderstood by the books I left behind.  Maybe it was time to ditch Margaret Dods’ The Housewife’s Manual or my mother’s 1933 copy of The Modern Handbook for Girls.  Harris’ Twenty Minute Retreats could stay as well as The Thurber Carnival.  But maybe the complete set of Harry Potter could make room for other books.  The Shaker Handbook, a gift to thank me for making a speech years ago and the Annapolitan Quality of Life, with an article on my younger days, remind me of when I was more productive, so they will stay – along with all the cookbooks and treasured children’s books.  I still smile when I look at the cover of the old Free To Be You And Me; it seems more anachronistic in its advice than The Modern Handbook for Girls.

Once upon a time I had a wall of books, dating from childhood, through college and graduate school, with whispers of career days, and on to the luxury of reading whatever I wanted to read.  Sadly, the wall is gone, replaced by only a few shelves.  One shelf has the current reads, rotating with library books and those books I could not get out of a bookstore without buying – all regularly replaced.  But the other shelves have those old friends I cannot part with – telling the story of who I am.

But not everyone will understand.  Someday, someone will clean out my shelves and wonder why I saved W.B. Yeats: Romantic Visionary.  They will think I loved the poetry, but, alas, the book was only a reminder of a Dublin adventure.

Pilgrimage to a Bookstore

Bookends in Kailua is one of a rare breed here in Hawaii, and I feel compelled to go to the bookstore regularly, visit with the well-read staff, browse the piles of new and used books, and buy books, hoping my purchase helps to keep them in business.

Today, the bookseller and I agreed we may the last people on earth who have not read The Martian.  Of course, I had to buy it – it was on sale.

I found a few others too…assuaging my fear of not having a book ready to read when my library requests are delayed.

  

The Last Bookstore

The Last Bookstore in Downtown Los Angeles could be the model for Zafon’s “cemetery of forgotten books – a repository for books from the classics to science fiction to literary criticism and more – except this place is no secret and everything is for sale. The bookstore is housed in a converted old bank building (the guard still stands at the door), and stocks used as well as new books, and an extensive collection of vinyl records – single 45s and long-playing 78s – in a huge hall crisscrossed with books in old wooden bookcases.

I could have wandered through the stacks on the first floor forever, until I discovered the back stairs to the second floor and happily got lost in the maze of more books and art. I felt like Alice in Wonderland as I walked through a tunnel of books, peeked through a window frame of books, and zigzagged through passageways that led to even more books. Soft chairs beckoned and I found it hard to leave.

Of course, I found books to buy – a few children’s books: Dahl’s “The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me”; a boardbook for a small friend – “Ten Little Monkey”; Terry Pratchett’s sci-fi thriller, “Only You Can Save Mankind”; a Man Booker finalist from 2008 – Mohsin Hamid’s “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”; and an old DVD of “Monsoon Wedding.” They all fit nicely in my carry-on for my flight home.

Like the Cemetery of Lost Books, the Last Bookstore has an aura of mystery and reverence, and the caretakers are happy to help or just let newcomers wander in wonder. If you are a visitor in LA, look for this place where readers feel at home.

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