When I tell you that California is celebrating its first annual Bookstore Day on Saturday, May 3, your first question may well be: What took so long? Despite the supposed demise of the printed word, California is full of bookstores, from neighborhood gems to tourist landmarks like City Lights in San Francisco and The Last Bookstore in L.A.
Saturday’s festivities will take place in nearly 100 bookstores from Eureka to San Diego and from San Francisco to Truckee, where special events such as games, readings by local authors, workshops, and activities for both kids and adults. In other words, California Bookstore Day will be a condensed and more festive version of what independent bookstores offer daily: a community around books. On any given week, readings and book launches at local books stores give readers with chances to meet their favorite authors, discover new ones, or chat with like-minded people about literature. California Bookstore Day draws attention to this phenomenon and the fact that bookstores are a cultural resource by demonstrating how reading is about more than sitting down alone with a book.
What really sets California Bookstore Day apart from any other day in the life of an independent bookstore is the array of limited edition books, posters, and other literature-related collectibles that will be available only in bookstores and only on that day. With contributions from several well-known authors, designers, and publishers, the organizers of California Bookstore Day have assembled a collection of special items that symbolizes how Californians value the printed word.
Some of these items emphasize a personal connection to a well-known author, like the special edition of George Saunders’ convocation address, Congratulations, By the Way, which features Saunders’ doodles and addendums in the margins; or the tasteful box set of recipes from local food icon Michael Pollan. Other Bookstore Day items are works of art in themselves — a printed illustration from The Invention of Hugo Cabret and a tote bag featuring the complete text of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius are two of the more artistically spectacular items, having been beautifully designed to be something bibliophiles can treasure for a long time.
The organizers behind California Bookstore Day also acknowledge that book lovers come in all shapes and sizes, and they’ve made sure some of the special items being released on May 3 reflect that. Do You Smell Carrots?: A Joke Book for Kids features contributions from an array of beloved children’s authors, including Lemony Snicket and Jeff Kinney. Wendy MacNaughton’s Punk Rock Writers Journal and a poster designed by Snicket poke good-natured fun at the literary establishment, and Depressed. Repressed. Obsessed. 3-Panel Book Reviews follows a popular trend of blogs-turned-books.
The activities planned for California Bookstore Day also cater to a wide range of tastes – costume contests and trivia for the connoisseurs, appearances by well-known authors for the star-gazers, music and cartoon drawing for the art lovers, and treasure hunts for the kids.
Most of all, this will be a day for Californians. A box set of classic California literature and a literary map of California spotlight the rich history of books in our state, from The Maltese Falcon to The Joy Luck Club. But the celebration is more than a commemoration; California Bookstore Day shows that our state’s literary tradition is being proudly upheld by authors, publishers, booksellers, and book buyers, so that there will be independent bookstores here to celebrate and enjoy for many years to come.
California Bookstore Day takes place on May 3, 2014. For more information and a full list of participating bookstores, visit cabookstoreday.com.