About a year ago, Keith came home from a business trip with a present for me. When the kids were younger, his business trips meant three things: 1) we all camped out in our bedroom while he was gone, 2) we had dinner at the Philly Cheese Steak place at the mall, and 3) Keith always came home with something for the kids. For the kids, not me, which was fine, I didn’t want any of the doodads from the airport that the kids craved. Now the kids are teenagers and all of our ‘Dad is on a business trip’ traditions are gone, so I was surprised when Keith arrived home with a present for me. Moreover, he brought the best present of all, a book. Keith visited Books Inc. in Palo Alto, told the bookseller about me, and she recommended that I read The Pig Did It by Joseph Caldwell. Keith said the bookstore is terrific, I should write about it. The problem was I didn’t have anything to say other than ‘my husband really likes Books Inc.’
Fortunately, on our way to dropping our daughter off at camp, we stopped at restaurant just across a parking lot from Books Inc; I ordered lunch and walked over. I spent most of my 10 minutes at a small table dedicated to Ronald’s choices (Ronald is one of the booksellers at Books Inc.). I’m not sure if it was his favorite books or the ones that were most meaningful to him, but I was struck by how much I felt I was getting a peek into the mind of a stranger by looking at the books he personally chose to recommend. Anchee Min said that she felt like she knew Mao because she read what he read, in her opinion the best way to learn about another person was to read his books. I didn’t think about the comment then, but it rang true as I perused Ronald’s books. Having never met him, I would describe him as thoughtful and searching for a sense of balance in his life.
It goes without saying that Keith is right, it’s a lovely store. Books Inc. isn’t huge, but there were a few bookshelves dedicated to each genre. I found the choices in literary fiction and YA (the two areas I can evaluate fairly quickly) well chosen. I didn’t have a chance to talk to anyone (lunch was going to be served), but I witnessed booksellers chatting with customers, a bright atmosphere, event and book club notices, and people buying books.
What did I find on the general recommendation table? The Pig Comes to Dinner by Joseph Caldwell, the sequel to The Pig Did It, which I bought to give to Keith over lunch.
Here’s a review of Compass Books located in the San Francisco Airport and a sister store to Books Inc.
Town & Country Village
855 El Camino Real #74
Palo Alto, CA 94301