Independent Bookstores: Piedmont Avenue

It’s been a while since I reviewed any independent bookstores, but boy, do I have some good ones for you today.

The motivation behind my birthday adventures to Oakland several weeks ago was largely the concentration of independent bookstores on Piedmont Avenue. There are at least four. Mere blocks from each other. It was perfect.

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First up: Owl and Company Bookshop. The shop is owned by Michael Calvello, who has another shop in San Francisco and specializes in antiquarian books. Owl and Company is the quintessential independent bookstore. This is why.

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Floor-to-ceiling bookshelves lining both walls. Ladders (even if they’re not sliding ones).

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And all the old books even my heart could desire. Well–at least for a while.

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There was even a vinyl record of Viennese Waltzes providing ambience.

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And a wooden owl keeping watch.

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Next up: Book Zoo and Issues, next-door neighbors. Much smaller than Owl and Company, Book Zoo has an eclectic, slightly outdated collection of books on adult topics, politics, and environmental issues. Their website has a very intriguing compilation of other independent bookstores in the area.

Issues is more of an independent magazine shop, although there were a few books as well as eclectic print materials (including a large variety of greeting cards).

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Their outdoor sign was also unique and charming. Perhaps I ought to advertise this way?

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Finally, Spectator Books. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, and the display in the front room is all new books, which I don’t find quite as interesting as used ones. But what’s special about this shop is that it’s bigger on the inside.

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In this veritable labyrinth of books, hallways lead to rooms, which lead to more rooms, which lead to nooks and crannies, all lined floor to ceiling (and then some) with books. Note to self: I should never face the temptation of Spectator Books (or any shop like it) alone. If my mom hadn’t diligently dragged me out when our parking meter expired, I might still be there. I bought a copy of Princess Academy by Shannon Hale as a souvenir.

I hear there’s also a fifth bookshop on the avenue called Black Swan. Sadly, I didn’t make it that far. Guess I now have an excuse to make a return trip.

4 thoughts on “Independent Bookstores: Piedmont Avenue

  1. There is nothing better than a used book store and I can’t wait to explore these bookstores you have listed. We have two in Sunnyvale. Leigh’s Favorite Books and right next door Bookasaurus, owned by Leigh. One is new/used books and the other is Children’s new and used books! If you buy a new best seller at 20% off, bring in back within 6-8 weeks in good condition you get credit for half of what you paid. Such a deal!!! 125 S Murphy Ave, Sunnyvale, CA 94086

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    1. You are the second person who’s recommended that bookstore combo to me–I can’t believe I haven’t been there yet! Maybe that adventure will be my next bookstore post 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

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