It’s true that the likes of Barnes and Noble and Borders keep the American economy alive and well, but what about your soul? We all love Amazon, but with an hour of Facebook to every five minutes of online shopping, your brain only ends up one step closer to mush. Sometimes the best thing to do is shut off your cell phone, take a break from Twitter and lose yourself in the shelves of these new and used bookstores where the booksellers choose their words wisely.
KEVIN PATRICK BOOKS
2170 Encinal Ave, Alameda, (510) 865-3880
There is no way that the next 150 words will do justice to the experience of walking into Kevin Patrick Books. The store has the feel of an attic in an old house, a place where bookworms can lose themselves in stacks and stacks of titles as Minerva, the resident cat, swivels through the tight aisles. On the day of my visit, Viola Buckner was all smiles and happy to help patrons look for something specific. But don’t be surprised if you end up spending an hour sifting through an entire section, forgetting why you originally came in.
WALDEN POND BOOKS
3316 Grand Ave., Oakland, (510) 832-4438, waldenpondbooks.com
“Let me know if you need any help,” says manager Bob Fisher to a customer. “We’re really picky and jaded here.” No doubt patrons of this 37-year-old, rustic spot would not have it any other way. Each staff member is an expert in a particular section, so there is always someone to talk shop with shoppers. Fisher is not only the resident sci-fi guy (among many other genres), but also the proud papa of Walden’s rare book room. Bring the kids along, as the children’s section invites budding literary bugs to cozy up in a toddler-sized reading nook. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Walden Pond can get their hands on most any read within 24 hours with no shipping costs. (Beat that, Amazon!)
478 Central Ave., Alameda, (510) 865-1443, wilmotsbooks.com
Ask Tim Wilmot what made him decide to open a bookstore nearly five years ago, and he will answer almost before you finish the question: to avoid getting a job. “I don’t mind work; I just don’t want a job.” Clearly, he puts lots of work into this lovely shop, with well-organized shelves packed with titles to satisfy any taste for literature and poetry. American history buffs can geek out over the comprehensive section on World War II – a period when Alameda’s Naval Air Station was in its heyday. Check out his online stock at alibris.com and ebay.com. But no matter how one chooses to browse Wilmot’s, rest assured, Wilmot will be working.
2476 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley, (510) 849-2087, moesbooks.com
If you live in the East Bay and have not been to Moe’s, just go. This Berkeley institution, which spans four floors and upwards of 200,000 titles, is not only a store, it’s a piece of history. “The very idea of trading books at a fair price was established by Moe,” says Doris Moskowitz, Moe’s daughter and the store’s current owner. Though Moe Moskowitz, who founded the store in 1959, passed away in 1997, the tradition of trading books lives on with thousands of books coming in every day from dealers all over the state. Among the usual sections is an area filled with sheet music. The collectible bookshop on the top floor employs dedicated experts, some of whom have been there for more than 30 years. If you cannot find something, just ask. After 50 years of selling books, you can bet these booksellers know their stuff.
DIESEL, A BOOKSTORE
5433 College Ave., Oakland, (510) 653-9965, dieselbookstore.com
There is a buzzing energy as soon as you walk through the doors of this College Avenue fixture. All over the store, employee and customer favorites are highlighted, beginning with the front table and continuing throughout the store with pastel “shelf talkers.” If you’ve got some extra time, lose yourself in the large magazine section. Diesel also has an array of cards, wrapping paper and journals from local, national and international vendors. Who knows, after being surrounded by so many great books, a person may want to do a little of his own writing.
BLACK OAK BOOKS
2618 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, (510) 486-0698, blackoakbooks.com
The former Rountree’s R & B Club is now the permanent home to the thousands of titles of this Berkeley icon, once located on Shattuck Avenue. With 70 percent used books, this sprawling new location holds a much larger selection than the former spot. The store has also expanded its online inventory with a wider range of exceptionally rare and unique books, which may be searched on the website. But don’t be fooled by these new digs — customers will still find bookies at their service around every shelf.