Book Lovers’ Paradise (credit: Laurie Jo Miller Farr)
Picture shelves and shelves of fresh inky-smelling, shiny new hardbacks. Add a slew of second-hand books beside a well-worn sofa nestled into a cozy corner. Add slightly squeaky floorboards to indicate the passage of years and perhaps a tiny fireplace. Sprinkle with a dash of great owners, staff and visiting authors. Bookworm paradise is found in the East Bay. With a concentration of great indie bookstores in Berkeley and Oakland, we could fill this list twice over with that one corner of East Bay, so we’ve selected various communities to spread the good word around.
1344 Park Street
Alameda, CA 94501
The West’s oldest independent bookseller is the tagline worn proudly by this small group with multiple Bay Area locations with roots that harken back to the Gold Rush days. This location has book signings, six book clubs, late hours and a children’s story time on Saturdays at 11 a.m. The staff review shelf cards are useful and pithy, always much appreciated. Bestsellers, cookbooks, travel guides and even the classics you never got a around to reading are arranged neatly on these inviting shelves.
3316 Grand Ave.
Oakland, CA 94610
Both new and used books, magazines, a squeaky wooden floor, a staff who knows its stuff and that great smell of the printed page combine to make this a steady local reader’s choice for best in Oakland year in and year out. Next time you’re planning to spend a night in with a good book, think of stopping first at Oakland’s indie bookseller.
550 Hartz Ave.
Danville, CA 94526
Locally owned and operated since 1973, area residents swear by the customer service at this “sweet” and “cozy” favorite. Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon is a fan, saying that the owner, “Michael Barnard may just be the best bookseller in the Bay Area — which, given the competition, is high praise indeed.” Readers’ recommendations are posted online and book clubs include American classics and parent-child.
5433 College Ave.
Oakland, CA 94618
Is it the well-worn red leather sofas for comfortably leafing through a few books or is it the little fireplace in the back? Diesel is a hot favorite among many, with locations in Larkspur, Brentwood and Malibu. Regulars like the smell of ink, poetry readings, author visits, launch parties, events, staff recommendations and the book selection, even the small children’s section. The new Reading Together parent-child book group meets on Sunday afternoons.
1760 4th St.
Berkeley, CA 94710
If your community has a good, independent bookseller, count yourself lucky. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to meet authors, have a word, ask a question and shake hands without traveling far from home. Furthermore, attend an event and have your book signed by the author. What a perfect gift a signed hardback book makes, if you can bear to give it away. Of course, you can always buy two.
Laurie Jo Miller Farr loves walkable cities. A tourism industry professional and transplanted New Yorker by way of half-a-lifetime in London, she’s writing about the best of the bay and beyond for Yahoo, USA Today, eHow, and on Examiner.com.