My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop, edited by Ronald Rice (Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, $23.95, 384 pages)
In My Bookstore, edited by Ronald Rice, numerous authors pay tribute to their favored bookstores, which are usually, but not always, the ones located near their homes. Eighty-one bookstores are examined, including three of the best, essential bookstores — Powell’s Books of Portland, Vroman’s Bookstore of Pasadena, and the University Book Store in Seattle (across from the University of Washington). Chuck Palahnuik explains that the city-block sized Powell’s is divided into color-coded rooms and “…each of these rooms is the size of most independent bookstores.”
Californians will be pleased to see that ten of the state’s bookstores, including two in San Francisco, are lovingly described here. (But San Franciscans will be shocked to find that both City Lights Books and Dog Eared Books are excluded.) Only 3 of these “favorite places to browse, read, and shop” happen to be in southern California. The underlying message of these accounts is that one-on-one service counts. These private businesses have thrived and survived the onslaughts of Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and now-departed mega-chains.
This collection of essays will no doubt cause some to visit bookstores that they were previously unaware of. And perhaps at some point Mr. Rice will ask book reviewers to write about their favorite places, and this reader will shed a light on Orinda Books and Lyon Books of Chico.
A review copy was provided by the publisher.
Note: City Lights Books is located at 261 Columbus Avenue at Broadway in San Francisco. Dog Eared Books is located at 900 Valencia Street in the Mission District of The City. Both are worth paying a visit to.
The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond
With a few small reservations, I very much liked Michelle Redmond’s latest novel, No One You Know. I liked The Year of Fog, her preceding novel, even better. For me, the story flowed much easier and more naturally without strange detours or author’s tricks. I also was unable to predict what was going to happen at the end of the tale. Perhaps most importantly, while Fog deals with the very unpleasant subject of a child’s abduction, Richmond’s telling of the story was uniquely calming.
In No One, the city of San Francisco comes off as part of the back stage. In Fog, the city is an essential part of the story as main character Abby Mason wanders its streets looking for Emma (the child of the man she’s engaged to). There’s even a cute scene included that involves the much-favored Dog Eared Books.
I so much enjoyed reading Fog that I will likely now go searching for the author’s first novel, Dream of the Blue Room. Remember how you felt about a rock band that you “discovered”? Their first and second albums always seemed like their best work, but by albums three and four they either became sadly repetitive or seemed to annoyingly change for the sake of pleasing new-found (and late arriving) fans. I’m not saying that this analogy applies to Michelle Richmond. I am saying that, by virtue of fate or good luck, I’m glad to have found this intriguing writer.
Note: As I was reading Fog, Sting’s CD The Dream of the Blue Turtles kept going through my mind. But then there is a logical connection… The book is about a very much loved child going lost with horrible consequences for the lives of those close to her. Sting’s album focused on the love of children and the controlling desire to protect them from harm. The Blue Turtles song titles eerily relate to what occurs in Fog: If You Love Someone Set Them Free, Love is the Seventh Wave, Shadows in the Rain, Russians (“I hope the Russians love their children too”), Fortress Around Your Heart and Consider Me Gone. And then consider how close the album title, The Dream of the Blue Turtles, is to the title of Richmond’s initial novel, The Dream of the Blue Room!
A review of The Year of Fog, a novel by Michelle Richmond (No One You Know).