For bookworms with a soft spot for the nostalgia of independent shops, the Bay Area delivers.
Though small, local bookstores seems to be going the way of dinosaurs, our region is still a bibliophile's mecca for indie purveyors, where the shelves are stocked with old leather-bound books as well as modern paperbacks, and community programming still includes author readings and signings—even during the Covid-19 pandemic, when book launches and author conversations have all gone virtual.
More than 600 small bookstores nationwide will be hosting in-store and online events for Independent Bookstore Day on Saturday, August 29th. See which of your local shops have something special planned, or just celebrate all things literary by sending love to our favorite, quirkiest, and coziest book nooks in the East Bay.
Walden Pond Books is a neighborhood gem that's provided Oaklanders with reading material for over 40 years. About 60 percent of Walden's more than 100,000 books are used and affordably priced, and the store gladly buys back novels from its customers. The bibliophilic staff is very helpful and can guide you among the teetering piles of fiction, non-fiction, and specialty books to help you find what you're looking for or make a recommendation. Walden's Pond also maintains a rare book collection in an upstairs storage room that once hosted readings by Isabel Allende and other literary greats. The store also sells books online via bookshop.org and rare and collectible books on eBay. // Open for front door pickup 10am to 5pm daily by calling 510-832-4438; 3316 Grand Ave. (Oakland), waldenpondbooks.com
A clever, book-inspired name isn't all you'll get at this local bookstore. It's a small space, but filled to the brim with books of every genre. Plus, there's a frequent buyer's club as well as an online book club and virtual author chats. // Open daily (hours vary); 6120 La Salle Ave. (Oakland), ggpbooks.com
Founded in 1970 (when it was stocked with newspapers as well as books), Pegasus has become an East Bay staple with locations in Berkeley, Oakland, and Albany. Amy Thomas, who bought Pegasus in 1995, has served as the president of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association as well as on the board of the ABA's American Booksellers for Free Expression. Needless to say, the people here know what they're talking about. Check out their anti-racism reading list. // Open for pickup 10am to 5pm daily; free shipping and local delivery ($3 for orders under $50) are also available; 5560 College Ave. (Oakland); 2349 Shattuck Ave. (Berkeley); 1855 Solano Ave. (Albany); pegasusbookstore.com
If watching Beauty and the Beast as a kid ever made you want to find a hole-in-the-wall bookshop with floor to ceiling books and rolling ladders, look no further than Owl and Company. With rare finds and first-edition books, this store will awaken your love for leather-bound covers and vintage postcards—and the smell of dusty old pages that comes with it. // Open for curbside pickup noon to 4pm Monday through Saturday; 3941 Piedmont Ave. (Oakland), owlandco.square.site
Moe Moskowitz became a Berkeley icon when he opened a bookstore on Telegraph Avenue in 1959, right in the midst of the Free Speech Movement and the political chaos that sparked throughout Berkeley. Now an emblem of Telegraph in the '60s, the store may not have the signature presence of Moe charmingly sweeping through the shelves with his cigar, but it does still have four stories of used and new books—and the coolest half-tote bags for bringing home your new collection. Shop online at bookshop.org, and support Moe's during the pandemic by donating to their GoFundMe. // Open for curbside pickup 11am to 5pm Monday through Saturday; 2476 Telegraph Ave. (Berkeley), moesbooks.com
Yes, this bookshop has 11 stores across the Bay, but you can't beat a location right in the heart of the Gourmet Ghetto. Books Inc. traces its history as an independent bookseller all the way back to 1851, and with all the newest and local bestsellers—and author appearances pretty much every week (pre-Covid)—you're sure to strike gold. During the pandemic, look for book launches and author events online. // Open 10am to 6pm daily; 1491 Shattuck Ave. (Berkeley), and multiple locations, booksinc.net
In June 2020, 46-year-old University Press Books was forced to permanently close its Berkeley brick-and-mortar due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The homey bookshop was beloved for its knowledgable staff and sophisticated selection of tomes from all over the globe. While we can no longer shop IRL, University Press continues to sell a wide selection of books, as well as ebooks and audio books, online and will ship orders of $75 or more anywhere in the U.S. Donate to show your support. // universitypressbooks.com
With an extensive children's section for the little ones and a full-blown gardening section (yes, it even has indoor succulents hanging overhead) for mum and dad, this store is a must-stop in Elmwood. The book connoisseurs who work there are as friendly as the soothing green walls. Looking for an exciting new arrival? Order a copy of Obi Kaufmann's beautifully illustrated The Forests of California. // Open for pre-paid pickup and at-the-door purchases 1pm to 6pm Tuesday through Saturday; 2904 College Ave. (Berkeley), mrsdalloways.com