a great store for author events and reading advice
I had the idea to blog about great bookstores as I was visiting some wonderful ones last summer on The Wednesday Sisters Summer Tour. But like so many ideas, finding the time… I was recently asked to guest blog about my favorites for another blog, though, so I’m taking the easy path to kicking off my new blog feature, “Bookstores Worth Browsing”, by rerunning a couple posts I did for the “Spotlight on Bookstores” series at She’s Too Fond of Books. This month, Kepler’s in Menlo Park!
Kepler’s Books doesn’t look quite the same as it did when peace activist Roy Kepler first opened its doors in 1955 – or so folks who’ve been around Palo Alto and Menlo Park since then tell me – but those are its roots. It was a serious store where serious readers and thinkers gathered. But then, as now, it was a fun place to hang out, too: The Grateful Dead gave live shows at the store back in the day. And they, along with Joan Baez, often shared ideas with local community leaders surrounded by books.
Those roots are still apparent in the booksellers who make Kepler’s the store it is today: they know books. I can’t tell you the number of times bookseller Nancy S. has put a novel in my hands and said, “Read this.” I’m sometimes reluctant, but she’s rarely wrong about what I will like, or what is worth reading. And that culture runs deep – a fact the store recognizes by giving booksellers their own bookshelves, like this one by Aggie Z., who runs the Kepler’s Writing Group and hosts the Kepler’s blog, The Well Read Donkey.
Does Kepler’s host book groups? When I first moved to Palo Alto – knowing no one – I set off in search of fellow book lovers. It didn’t take me long to find my way to Molly McCall’s Fiction Book Group. Through Molly, I came to Laurie Colwin’s Happy All the Time and L.P. Hartley’s The Go-Between, among other wonderful reads. The store hosts speculative fiction and Spanish literature groups, too, keeps a wonderful display of the books neighborhood book groups are reading, and hosts book club mixers where writers and people in publishing discuss good book club reads. The next book club mixer is this Sunday, May 17.
Kepler’s also hosts terrific readings, and I can tell you as an author that it is a great place to read. Not every author gets the special friends-in-Wednesday-Sisters-Shirts type treatment that local authors like me get, but they do get interested readers (often including prominent bay area authors) asking questions from the seats. Great setting, great books, great company. What more could a reader want? – Meg
I’m just starting to do occasional posts highlighting independent booksellers, who are so important to helping new literary voices find their audiences; the independents–especially those in the bay area–were instrumental in helping me find mine. If you have a favorite bookstore, please email me and I’ll do my best to have it featured here.