Get Lit Up: California Bookstore Day - OZY | A Modern Media Company

Get Lit Up: California Bookstore Day

By Rachel Levin


Because sipping Starbucks at Barnes & Noble is hardly as fun as the first-ever California Bookstore Day will be.

Attention readers: Put down your iPads and prepare to squabble over one-of-a-kind signed prints by Lemony Snicket as if they are Cabbage Patch Kids.  

On May 3, at 93 indie bookstores up and down the Golden State, is the first-ever California Bookstore Day. “Think Record Store Day for nerds,” explains Pete Mulhvill co-owner of San Francisco’s beloved Green Apple Books (recently dubbed Bookstore of the Year’ by Publishers Weekly) who came up with the idea.

Illustration of bear reading with california flag colors

Green Apple Books’ Pete Mulvihill

Source Nate Keck

Last year, Mulhvill, the 40-something father of twins who bikes daily from the beach to his bookstore, pitched the notion of a nationwide bookstore day to the American Booksellers Association. They weren’t quite sold – but the Northern and Southern California’s Independent Booksellers Association was, and signed on as sponsors. Next, Mulhvill garnered support from bigwig publishers like Penguin, Random House and HarperCollins, who all agreed to put out special items for the occasion. And then the wise man roped in his wife (writer and OZY contributor), Samantha Schoech, to produce the all-day statewide event. 

Perpetual New York Times best-selling author James Patterson donated a nice chunk of change to the cause, too, while Schoech went about soliciting contributions from local lit stars like Dave Eggers and Isabelle Allende and Michael Pollan. “Every single author we asked said yes, without hesitation,” says Schoech. The result? 13 very cool limited edition “word-based” works — available in-store only on May 3rd. Not just books, but wooden stencils and recipe boxes and a bag with an Egger’s story silkscreened all over it. 

Over the last few months, in-the-know Californians have been getting excited, slapping bumper stickers on cars and proudly carrying canvas totes adorned with the CBD’s hand-drawn logo of a black bear snug on a rug holding a book. It was the winning entry of “not very many,” admitted Schoech. “But it’s so cute, we didn’t care.”

Whether book lovers will sleep on sidewalks overnight for signed copies of George Saunders’ famous graduation speech “Congratulations by the Way” the way record store fans recently did for limited vinyl editions of Tears for Fears’ “Ready Boys & Girls?” remains to be seen.

Regardless, CBD is bound to be the most fun you’ve ever had at a bookstore. Sipping Starbucks at Barnes & Noble doesn’t count. 

Plans vary by bookseller, but we’ve heard rumors of mimosas and literary costume contests and free flowers with purchase. Live author talks and al fresco wine bars and food trucks (of course). It’s like one big book fair from San Diego to San Francisco to Eureka — but better. Folks coming together not just to, you know, support their kids’ school (a worthy if often obligatory cause), but to honor the written (and printed) word — and the living, breathing people and places behind them.

A simple, old-fashioned idea — one that was ironically hatched in the tech-happy Bay Area, a part of the country better known for killing print than promoting it.

It’s no secret that San Francisco has always felt a little inferior to the publishing powerhouse that is NYC, but Left Coast literary types expect a little payback with California Bookstore Day. “Apparently,” says program director Schoech, “New York booksellers are jealous they didn’t think of it first.” 

A Selection of CBD’s Literary Loot
Available one day and one day only! And, no, sorry, definitely not on 

1. Congratulations, By the Way, by George Saunders
(Random House) $20
A special CBD edition of Saunders’ epic eight-minute convocation May 2013 address at Syracuse University is signed, numbered, and doodled in by the author. (Hello, Ideal Gift for any upcoming graduate.)

2. Depressed. Repressed. Obsessed. 3-Panel Book Reviews by Lisa Brown
(California Bookstore Day Publishing) $17.99
68 hardback pages of wit and humor and amazing full-color illustrations by Brown. Signed and numbered, it includes an intro by the bestselling author of the Pigeon and Knuffle Bunny books, Mo Willems.

3. “Bad Citizen” Stencil by Don DeLillo
(California Bookstore Day Publishing) $35
CBD was given permission by DeLillo to turn an iconic quote from his novel White Noise into a wooden stencil you can hang as art, turn into a T-shirt—or use it as a graffiti artist might.

4. Recipes from Michael Pollan’s Kitchen, by Michael Pollan
(Penguin Group) $16
“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” A gorgeous little box of old-school recipe cards that feature Pollan’s personal recipes, plus a note from the bestselling author and food guru, too.

5. Bookstories, by Various Contributors
(McSweeney’s) $30
Short, literary odes by selected McSweeneys’ writers that detail the best bookstores they know of that don’t exist. In an accordion book that loosens to unfold a hidden, multi-panel illustration inspired by the California landscape.

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