This time we talked to Dog Eared Books Castro about San Francisco readers, books recommendations and the challenges a bookstore faces nowadays.
- How does the community of San Francisco respond to literature and bookstores?
San Francisco has a long & rich history of independent bookstores. Although we have sadly seen many dear stores close in the city in the past years, there is still a very dedicated community of writers & readers that helps us to keep the literary scene alive & humming.
- How do you think the place where you are located affects the readers’ vision of literature?
Our location in the Castro, a neighborhood with a strong history of queer activism and organizing, expands our readers’ vision of literature to include voices & histories that have not always been recognized or known.
In addition to raising up queer voices, we aim to center voices that have typically been on the margins in the literary world.
It’s also necessary to note that we’re housed in what used to be A Different Light, a gay bookstore that served as a gathering space & community resource for decades in the neighborhood. Many writers had readings there, and many writers and artists worked as booksellers, as well.
- What is something special about San Francisco readers?
San Francisco readers are impossible to categorize.
- What kind of audience usually goes to the bookstore? Do you have any strategy to attract people?
The bookstore attracts many different kind of people: neighbors who live & work nearby, tourists, visitors from throughout the city & the Bay Area, avid readers, occasional readers, beginning readers, English language readers, Spanish language readers & more. Everybody is looking for something different, but we do get a lot of demand for our LGBTQ+ history & literature.
Our window displays & our Instagram account are our main avenues of getting the word out on what we’re about as a store.
- What can you learn from the reader audience?
Our customers have helped us shape our collection tremendously. What we sell is a combination of what we are interested in & excited about, & what our readers are excited about & looking for.
- Which are your audience’s favorite books? What can you recommend to readers right now?
Current Customer Favorites:
- On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
- Pleasure Activism by Adrienne Marie Brown
- The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
- White Fragility by Robin Diangelo
- The Collected Schizophrenias by Esme Weijun Wang (SF writer)
Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl by Andrea Lawler – This is the ultimate fun rollicking queer summer read that will totally grab your heart.
How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell (Bay Area writer) – A wandering & gorgeous meditation on where we direct our attention, this book redirects us to what we are likely missing.
Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval by Saidiya Hartman – This is my current read & it is unlike anything I’ve read, a history book that uses poetic detail & inquiry to bring the reader deep into the feeling of the lives she portrays.
- What is the greatest challenge for a bookstore nowadays? How do you see its future?
I have no doubt that bookstores will continue to be significant sites of connection, transformation & discovery as long as their doors remain open. The excitement and engagement that I see in customers day after day in the store ensures me that people want and need such spaces where they can be affirmed, challenged, confused and delighted by books old and new. The challenge will be to make sure these spaces stick around.
- What is special about Dog Eared Books Castro bookstore?
We are a mix of serious & silly, deeply invested in gorgeous writing, social justice perspectives & laugh inducing titles. Our staff reads widely, so we have a random assortment of specialities that somehow mix well together, including nature & ecology, Russian studies, classic campy pop culture, illuminated manuscripts, contemporary poetry & more.
We also strive to bring our readers a wide selection of queer books in all genres. I do a lot of ongoing research to be updated on what is new, upcoming or just little known that we haven’t discovered yet. Customers’ requests & inquiries also help us to shape our selection!
Visit Dog Eared Books webpage – http://www.dogearedbooks.com/