I'm so bummed I missed National Bookstore Day on Nov. 7, because I certainly have overflowing love for many bookstores! Here’s a few special ones—you will see a higher preponderance of bookstores in Oakland, Calif. than other cities, since I lived there most recently for 14 years.
A Great Good Place for Books in Oakland: Started by brilliant and very-missed Debi Echlin, the bookstore is now lovingly and wonderfully run by her friend Kathleen Caldwell. This bookstore holds incredible author events and is responsible in large part for the success of The Kite Runner in the early days of the hardcover, before book clubs picked up the paperback and ran with it. They always have cookies out in the children’s area and have an incredible selection of books and gifts. My favorite part is the Book Club Table, which shows the current selection of dozens of local book clubs—you can benefit from their choice by saving a percentage of the price. This bookstore also works hard to funnel funds to the community through different projects. Most recently, the Bookies by the Bay annual event raises money for literacy programs.
Booksmart in Morgan Hill: This year, owners Brad and Cinda won the Deb Echlin Memorial Award for best community bookstore. This bookstore is everything a book lover could want: a great selection of books, a full-service café, and a toy store! All housed under one roof. Brad and Cinda were kind enough to hook me up with a young reader to help me vet my young adult manuscript: that kind of customer knowledge is the hallmark of a great bookstore.
Laurel Books in Oakland: Owner Luan loves her neighbors and it shows. This small bookstore thrives because of her and her interest in everyone who walks through the door. She’s a big proponent for local authors, and Dennis Evanosky, who lives walking distance from the store, has had huge success with his local history tomes at this store.
Walden Pond Books in Oakland: A stone’s throw from Lake Merritt, this bookstore is an institution. Owner Paul has created the kind of space book people love: long aisles full of wonderfully quirky new and old books, as well as browsing books on carts outside the entrance.
Pendragon Books in Oakland: Part of the Rockridge neighborhood, this bookstore offers a great selection of new and used, with friendly employees like Christopher to help guide you. The annual calendar sale is famous!
Diesel Books in Oakland: Great bookstore events: I saw Mary Roach here and it was probably one of the best writer events I’ve ever attended, thanks to her great sense of humor and the “gift” that came with a purchase of Spook, a bit of ectoplasm presumably choked up by a medium beforehand.
Bear Pond Books in Montpelier, Vermont: Have to admit, I haven’t been here for years, but when I lived in Vermont this cosy bookstore was the bomb. It opened in 1973 and is still thriving: congratulations!
Antigone Books in Tucson, Arizona: Again, one I haven’t frequented in a long time, but I loved its feminist slant when I was in grad school there.
Sad to say, there were many bookstores I loved that are no longer with us: Cody’s, Black Oak, Stacey’s… I wish long life and prosperity to the indies that are with us today!
Causes Erika Mailman Supports
Amnesty International, Oakland Heritage Alliance