Sunday, August 16, 2009

My Favorite Place to Browse...

Bookstores have long been among my favorite places to spend a few moments, or hours, of relaxation. The connection between "bookstore" and "relaxation" is a rather new concept in my life as I worked in bookstores on and off for ten years during high school, college, and grad school, first at B. Dalton mall stores in El Cajon (Parkway Plaza) and La Mesa (Grossmont Center), and then at the HBJ Bookstore in the basement of the Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publishing Company in downtown San Diego. The HBJ Bookstore was the largest non-university bookstore in San Diego County in the late '80s and early '90s until the "big bookstores" started moving into our area: Bookstar, Barnes and Noble, Borders.

But during my breaks from the HBJ Bookstore, I often trotted over to Seventh and Broadway to browse to my heart's content in Wahrenbrock's Bookstore, San Diego's oldest bookstore (opened in 1935) -- three stories of used books with that wonderful musty-dusty used bookstore scent that immediately relaxes the stress in my neck and shoulders upon entering a used bookstore. The late Chuck Valverde and red-bearded Jan of Wahrenbrock's knew me as "the girl with the golden hair" -- I suppose from the sun glinting off my auburn hair as I stepped into the store at least once per week.

Over the years I have browsed in many a San Diego County used bookshop, from the rightly famed Adams Avenue Books (where my former student Erin works) to little hole-in-the-wall shops in Alpine. But my favorite used bookstore is found in Old La Mesa: Maxwell's House of Books.

Craig Maxwell is the grandson of the original owner of Wahrenbrock's, and his store is light, airy, and well-organized, all quite the opposite of my frequent Wahrenbrock's forays. Craig and his wife Lynn are lovely people, and the musty-dusty used bookstore smell is far less pungent than my memory of his grandfather's establishment, but it's still there, faintly noticeable when I pull a book from the Shakespeare section to peruse.

Maxwell's House of Books boasts a wonderful literature selection, a respectable literary criticism section, and an entire bookcase devoted to Shakespeare, the backside displaying nicely assorted shelves of playwrights and theatre arts. As I follow the "More Books" sign painted directly on the back wall, I find myself in another well-organized book-filled room in which I find shelves devoted to the study of theology, mostly Christian. Craig and Lynn are Christians; I first met them at Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity, and they currently worship at Holy Trinity in Ocean Beach, another conservative Anglican Church that pulled away from the Episcopal Diocese in San Diego. So their Christian theology section is well-stocked with books on church history, CS Lewis, theology, studies on specific books of the Bible, etc. With chairs scattered throughout the store, Maxwell's House of Books provides a very pleasant place to wile away a couple of hours of delightful reading.

Maxwell's House of Books is located on La Mesa Boulevard midway between Palm Avenue and Spring Street on the south side of the street next to a travel agent. Parking can be at a premium on the metered streets of Downtown La Mesa, but on weekdays shoppers find parking to be a cinch. So if you live in the San Diego area, stop by Maxwell's House of Books. It's truly a dangerous place for my budget, but I try to escape with only one title rather than the teetering stack I often desire, a circumstance for which Keith is quite thankful as I've maxed out the eight book cases in our home. Come by Maxwell's House of Books for a leisurely browse which will be be well-worth your time and your wallet.


Anne said...

My high school job was in a library, and a library is still my favorite place to go! Now I favor the Salzmann Library at our Seminary with a never-ending supply of spiritual reading! Keeps me busy!

Susanne Barrett said...

Yes, I adore libraries, too, Anne. The Copley Library at the University of San Diego has the most gorgeous reading room -- my favorite library to study in -- big Gothic tables and high-backed chairs on wood parquet floors with huge open windows overlooking the rose gardens.


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