Finding books in the least expected places around LA – Los Angeles Times
The back wall at the Blue Bottle Coffee in downtown Los Angeles is lined from top to bottom with books.
The airy coffee destination fills the corner of the historic Bradbury Building in downtown Los Angeles. Behind plate-glass windows, patrons can be seen drifting to the counter for personalized service at the newest Los Angeles outpost of the Oakland-based chain. Some settle down at shared tables; others sit on high stools. A few are drawn to the tall, book-filled wall.
â€œIf you can reach it, you can have it,â€ says Rose Bridges, the company’s local spokesperson.Â
This literary wall is Blue Bottleâ€™s first â€œlibraryâ€ â€”Â a partnership with the nearby Library Foundation of Los Angeles, whose used books line the majority of the cafeâ€™s reachable shelves. TitlesÂ range from â€œThe Hunger Gamesâ€ to â€œHamletâ€ and are free forÂ readingÂ in-store or available for purchaseÂ at $7 each,Â with proceeds benefitingÂ the foundation.
Though visitors to Blue BottleÂ areÂ more likely to seek out ShakeratosÂ (a shaken espresso and creamÂ drink, also $7)Â than Shakespeare, the storeÂ sold about 40 books in its first month after openingÂ Dec.Â 31.
In cafes andÂ bars, skateÂ shops and co-working spaces,Â books are popping up everywhereÂ in Los Angeles â€” and as more than just decor.
â€œInstead of going to a coffee shop and reading, I could just come here,â€ Â says Kat Bronstroup, a film production manager, admiringÂ a copy of the literary vampire thriller â€œThe Passageâ€ by Justin Cronin atÂ Catcher in the Rye, a bar in Toluca Lake.Â
When Eric Hodgkins opened CatcherÂ in 2014, he bought a couple hundredÂ used booksÂ to complement his literary-themed craft cocktails (the barâ€™s namesake is made with rye whiskey, his favorite spirit; other drinksÂ include the Big BukowskiÂ and Tequila Mockingbird). StackedÂ in a back corner next to aÂ couch, the colorful texts giveÂ the space a â€œFriendsâ€ meets â€œHow I Met Your Motherâ€ vibe.
Unexpectedly, â€œthe books have become a bigger animal than just the alcohol itself,â€ says Hodgkins.Â The shelvesÂ have drawn visitorsÂ from other areas to the neighborhood joint; Harry Potter nights, a semi-regular occurrence, are always well-attended.Â A frequent customer once donated a hardcover copy of the barâ€™s namesake, â€œThe Catcher in the Ryeâ€Â by J.D. Salinger, which Hodgkins keeps behind the counter â€œso people wonâ€™t take it.â€ The bar is considering implementing a more formal check out and catalogingÂ system, given the booksâ€™ popularity and propensity to disappear.
The Wellesbourne in West L.A., a bar fashioned to look like a 19th century English country house, has seldom had issues with book theft. This is fortunate, because some of the books on its shelvesÂ are first edition classics.
Immediately visibleÂ after walking in areÂ two dark wood bookcases situated opposite each other,Â filledÂ with vintage hardcover books (the oldest isÂ dated 1875, according to owner Sophie Huterstein). Next to the books is aÂ set of wooden pew booths. Couples flock to these during the early evening hours; manager May Lee has seen many chucklingÂ over a copy of â€œThe New Book of Etiquetteâ€ â€”Â from 1936.Â
â€œOur Economic Organization,â€ published inÂ 1921, caught my eye. The introductoryÂ textbookÂ was surprisingly readable under the barâ€™s dim lightingÂ after switching on the boothâ€™sÂ library lamp.Â The 500-page tome was readable in other ways, too.Â An American perspective on political theory as well as economics, its final chapter contains the line, â€œIn our country, power to make changes rests, at the last, with its citizens.â€
Books are not the main attractionÂ at the Quiet LifeÂ in Highland Park, the flagship store for Andy Mueller’s skate-inspired clothing brand, which boasts Justin Bieber, Spike JonzeÂ and local amateur skateboarderÂ Chris Chann as its customers.Â But a small display of around 30 volumesÂ sits on a thin shelf in the corner.
This â€œbook nookâ€Â currently featuresÂ seven titles from Hat & Beard Press, an L.A.-based publisher, including â€œSlash: A Punk Magazine from Los Angeles, 1977-80.â€
In addition to carrying books, the Quiet LifeÂ also hosts after-hours book release parties. It has been a fruitful partnership,Â according to J.C. Gabel, Hat & Beardâ€™s co-founder and an old friend of Muellerâ€™s.Â â€œWe’ve sold more books there than [at] most of the local bookshops,â€ GabelÂ explains.
BabylonÂ is another fixture of the local skate scene. An unassuming white house onÂ Highland Avenue,Â the space is aÂ storefront for skater apparel and gear with a backyardÂ bowl.
Inside, aÂ smallÂ bookshelfÂ sharesÂ the side wall with three skateboards carrying the Babylon logo. Flipping throughÂ dozens of zines and picture books, I came across â€œLegal Issuesâ€ byÂ Adam Rossiter, 17 printed pages of theÂ legal troublesÂ of various pop culture icons, sourced from Wikipedia.
The ever-changing selection of zines comes from a mix of authors: byÂ artists like Rossiter, a friendÂ of Babylon co-founders Garrett Stevenson and Lee Spielman (from the punk band Trash Talk);Â from the bandâ€™s fansÂ from around the world; and some are even by the kids who hang out in the back of the shop,Â whoÂ sometimes make their own zines when theyâ€™re not skating the bowl.Â
â€œItâ€™s one of the sickest things in the store,â€ said Shawn Weaver, 22, a frequent visitor.Â
TheÂ Feminist Library on WheelsÂ (FLOW)Â is the brainchild of bicyclists, not skaters, but the desire to createÂ a community is a shared goal. Dawn Finley and Jenn Witte started FLOW as aÂ mobile libraryÂ in 2014, distributing an eclectic assortment of feminist books,Â including Maxine Hong Kingstonâ€™sÂ â€œThe Woman Warriorâ€Â and Carrie Fisherâ€™s â€œThe Best Awful.â€ They can be seen riding around town with their specially outfitted, three-wheel â€œbookcycle.â€Â
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