Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Bookstore of the Month: Green Apple Books

Green Apple Books
506 Clement St.
San Francisco, CA  94118
(415) 387-2272
Green Apple Books on Facebook
Green Apple Books on Twitter

Last year, in the midst of the Fobbit World Domination Tour, Pt. 1, I found myself in San Francisco for the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association trade show.  Everywhere I turned, I got unsolicited advice from well-meaning friends: "You cannot leave San Francisco without paying a visit to Green Apple Books," said one.  "Green Apple?  It's a must!" insisted another.

Two days later, I left San Francisco without--you guessed it--visiting the Apple.  Not only did I leave my heart in San Francisco, I left a suitcase of regrets there.  One of these days, I'll make my way back to Fog City and, as sure as the gate is golden, you can bet I'll make my way to the bookstore which first opened in 1967.

At the Algonquin Books blog, David Bradley called it "the happiest bookstore around."  Novelist Dave Eggers has said it "smells like paperbacks and sun and paperbacks faded in the sun."  In his response to my Bookstore of the Month questionnaire, co-owner Pete Mulvihill also points out that actor Robin Williams has called the shop's workers "book pimps" (in the kindest sense of the word, I'm sure).  But really, the twenty-plus booksellers on staff are, first and foremost, book-lovers.  "The 1,000-plus Yelp reviews and countless face-to-face compliments seem to focus on the broad but carefully chosen selection of books; the friendly and helpful staff and the 'shelf-talkers' they write about their favorite titles; the quirky, winding, dusty space; and the community that assembles around all these books and bibliophiles," Mulvihill adds.  "Our customers are curious and deeply human."

When I asked him what he loves most about the community which he serves, Mulvihill said, "Oh, asking a San Franciscan to wax poetic about our city is too tempting!  We can’t shut up about our hills, our ocean, our parks, our museums, our writers, our views, our food, our musicians....But community means much more than that here at Green Apple--it’s Litquake, other indie booksellers, our sales reps from the publishers, 826 Valencia and McSweeney’s, Schubert’s Bakery across the street, and our fellow merchants on Clement."

One of the most recognizable mainstays of Green Apple Books is the carved wooden mascot Mergatroid.  Each morning, he's rolled out when the store opens and every evening, he rolls back inside.  By now, customers have made a habit of rubbing the statue for good luck (or maybe they're participating in a science experiment to see how quickly germs, disease, and plague can be spread in a pandemic--Wash your hands, people!!!).  Mulvihill's attorney asked that we include this statement in regard to Mergatroid: "We can’t be liable for splinters!"

When I asked him what the store's current staff picks were, Mulvihill replied: "With 28 employees, I don’t know how to answer this, other than to link to our staff faves page and mention three of the books that have sold extremely well from that display for many years:
      ●  You Can’t Win by Jack Black (a hobo and petty criminal’s exploits in early 20th-century San Francisco);
      ●  The Baseball Codes by Jason Turbow (the unwritten rules of our national pastime); and
      ●  A Fan’s Notes by Frederick Exley (a sad-sack novel that made me mad at the world for not telling me about it sooner)"

Ditto for the store's best-selling titles: "Our top ten list typically doesn’t reveal too much," Mulvihill noted.  "What’s interesting is that with about 3,500 transactions each week, our top-selling new book usually sells 10-15 copies, which speaks to the diversity of what our customers are buying.  Also fascinating (to me, at least) are the books that we sell whose titles I can barely understand, like the Unimaginable Mathematics of Borges’ Library Of Babel from Cambridge University Press, of which we sold over 50 copies, and I don’t think it got any help from this video":

Green Apple Books is the featured bookstore all this month at The Quivering Pen.  By clicking on the links to books mentioned in this month's blog posts, you'll be taken to the store's website where you can purchase the book (or, better yet, several books).  The Quivering Pen is dedicated to supporting independent bookstores.

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