Rare and antique books in the hills
It was someone Kim knew who alerted us to the presence of Dragon Books up in the shopping center on Beverly Glen, just below Mulholland. Madison McGarry is 14 and wrote the following:
Dragon Books is one of the small business stores that you never want to close down. It looks like the small library room found in old victorian mansions or the house of an ivy-league college professor, this is mainly because they only sell first edition copies. We (my stepmom and I) found the owner of the store, Jay Penske, talking with his some other people about a screenplay or something relative on the big sofas in the store. When we told him that I was planning on writing a review on the store he said that he was glad and gave us a sheet of paper. On the paper it showed which kind of books are under what letter (which I didn’t notice until i saw the list), I’ve never seen a system like that anywhere else which makes it pretty cool. Once he gave me the paper, Jay went back to his conversation with the people on the sofa (makes me glad that he gets to have a life while working in a store, you barely see that in big company stores like Borders). I had no exact book I was looking for so my head went wild at the many kinds of books and covers. I bought three books and ordered some others in advanced when I left the place I wished I worked there. If Dragon Books closes down the same way as Dutton’s I don’t know what would happened. There should be no reason for this store to close down, the books are priced just like anywhere else.
With a recommendation like that, Kim and I had to check out the store ourselves. We set a date and despite a minor hitch–Kim sprained her ankle, putting her on crutches for the excursion–set out to experience Dragon Books.
Parking in Beverly Glen Circle is easy if you beat the lunch crowd and (as we discovered later) much more difficult if you wait, so my recommendation is to go early. And if you have a friend on crutches, drop her off in front of the store so she can go in and warm up the employees before you’ve even parked and made it inside. I’m just saying.
It certainly worked out well for me: by the time I got inside, Kim was already chatting up Chad Reingold who very kindly gave us a tour of the store and showed us some of their most prized offerings.
Dragon Books is “a rare and antiquarian bookseller.” This isn’t the place to go to get the latest Grisham. It is the place to go to get your spouse of fifty years the absolutely perfect golden anniversary present. Does she love Austen? You can get her a first edition Emma. Does he have more modern tastes? A first edition of One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest or A Confederacy of Dunces would thrill a lot of people I know, myself included. There are illustrated texts going back centuries–one very old book of fencing instruction and drawings captivated me–and gorgeously bound old leather editions of almost every classic. Lots of Dickens. I like Dickens.
Prices aren’t cheap. In fact, I’d say prices are the opposite of cheap, especially for the dream items, like that Emma. Fortunately, there are many some shelves of used paperbacks in the back, and while this isn’t a “50 cents for 3″ kind of place, everything is in good condition and if your goal is to find something to read, you’ll find something to read. But the true value of this story is for the rare book collector and that 50th anniversary gift hunter.
The store itself is absolutely beautiful, with shelves surrounding a “curl up and read for the next three hours” center living room area. Hidden stairs in the back lead up to a mini loft where there’s more comfy seating and you can easily spy on the people downstairs. You could even throw water balloons down at them if you’re that kind of person, but you’d be running the risk of having one go splat on a very expensive one-of-a-kind antique book or document. (And don’t send your kids up there alone–that’s where they keep the erotica. Oldfashioned, elegant, classy erotica, but erotica none the less.)
As Madison pointed out in her review, the store has its own system of organization and you will need the legend they have on the back of their bookmarks to figure it all out. Their subject divisions (Law, Psychology, Art, Science, etc.) made me think it would be the perfect place to pick up a really nice gift for, say, a lawyer friend, a psychologist friend, an artist friend–well, you get the idea. Not a bad place to pick up corporate gifts, either–and given the cost of the rarer items, you might want to be able to write these things off.
If you’re driving by Beverly Glen Circle, stop in and look around because you’ll be stunned by the treasures you’ll find at Dragon Books. As Chad pointed out to us, it’s unusual to find a “walk in and browse” rare book store–most books and documents of this quality and rarity are sold by appointment only out of people’s homes. At the moment, they haven’t yet launched their website, but they are working on one.
And once you’ve parked and stopped in, you may want to have lunch at one of the restaurants up in the Circle–just make sure you’re not eating at a table near someone who’s leaned her crutches up against a chair. Those things can fall and crush your shoulder. Consider yourself warned.
2954 Beverly Glen Circle
Bel-Air, CA 90077