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Bay Area Books

Though the Bay Area is teeming with high quality bookstores — Green Apple, Moe’s, Pegasus, Booksmith, Modern Times, etc. — I was wondering last night, while following the Reeses-pieces path I laid so that I might find my way out of the labyrinth that is Green Apple, why I’ve yet to find a really quality theology/religion bookstore.  With Moe’s as the only notable exception, most of the good stores only seem to care about alternative & eastern religion, with very token gestures toward Christian theology.  This makes sense, of course, considering where I’m living, but we do have the GTU around here.  Don’t those students ever need to sell their books?  I only recently learned of the University Press Bookstore in Berkeley, even though I’d walked by it dozens of times, so it’s possible (given I’m only prone to browse theology, and not actually read it) I’ve simply overlooked such a place.  Any Bay Area natives or former residents know of such a place?

I could probably find my answer via Google or Yelp, but what’s the fun in that?

Also … anyone, is Meillassoux’s After Finitude worth my time?

October 19, 2008 - Posted by | books, bookstores


  1. ‘after finitude’ is definitely worth the time; especially considering it only takes a few hours to get through.

    Comment by michael burns | October 19, 2008

  2. Graduate Theological Union had an excellent bookstore, but it either closed down last summer permanently or is currently undergoing renovations. The signs and notes were a little vague.

    Comment by nathan | October 19, 2008

  3. Oh, they moved.

    Comment by nathan | October 19, 2008

  4. If Modern Times is the one next to Dog-Eared Books, you should go to Dog-Eared Books instead.

    I don’t have any advice regarding the actual point of the post, though.

    Comment by ben wolfson | October 19, 2008

  5. I spent a lot of time in the bookstores in Berkeley this summer but missed GTU. From what I hear they have a wide selection of theological books from classic to contemporary and even popular type stuff. I think you hit the nail on the head with Moe’s. I love that store; if you are into philosophy they are better stocked than anywhere I have ever seen in the area, and with respect to theology I think they have most of the classics represented in used form.

    Comment by Colin McEnroe | October 19, 2008

  6. Dog-Eared books is excellent, too. My favorite bookstore in the Mission, though, is Bolerium.

    Comment by Brad | October 19, 2008

  7. Also, Nathan, thanks for the link. I’ve actually only been in the Student Union bookstore once. And I do remember it being nice. Sadly, nothing used, though. Very spacious, though.

    Comment by Brad | October 19, 2008

  8. I’ve always found the Cartesian Bookstore, a little to the west on Dwight around the corner from Shambala and Moe’s to be worthwhile. It’s quite small, but specializes to an extent in theology, as its eponymous name might suggest (at least if it is still there, I’ve been gone for 6-8 years.)UP Books is a jewel, well worth regular browsing – and they carry the whole Penguin classics series, in addition to the Univ. Press stuff. The GTU bookstore goes up and down with what I would guess is fairly regular fiscal problems but they try hard to maintain a varied set of resources. The GTU library is also a great resource and a wonderful place to sit and read.

    Comment by grackle | October 19, 2008

  9. I was really, really impressed with Moe’s this summer. I think some ex-theologian unloaded their entire library on that place. It was the best I had ever seen it.

    Yeah, I can’t imagine a GTU-Berkeley hybrid resembling anything like the old GTU bookstore. Unfortunately, that the was theological bookstore in the East Bay, and, given the religious climate of the area, you’re not likely to find very much else out there.

    *Black Oak sometimes surprises me with what they have, but they are over-priced.
    **Pegasus always surprises me with what they have, and at what price, but their theology selection is typically weak.

    Comment by nathan | October 19, 2008

  10. From the link above, it looks like the GTU bookstore is dead and buried, replaced by a corporate textbook source. The student union bookstore is pretty prosaic place.

    Comment by grackle | October 19, 2008

  11. Oh! And near Cartesian is a little place called Shakespeare & Co. (Yes, another Shakespeare & Co.) Their philosophy section is lame, though I picked up a nice Janicaud edition for 6.00. But their religion/theology section, if you can find it, is quite good, and fairly large given the smallness of the store.

    Comment by nathan | October 19, 2008

  12. The GTU library is probably the best place to sit & read in the entire area. I love it. Nice comfy chairs. I can’t remember if I’ve been to Cartesian. I think so.

    Also, Nathan, you’re right about Shakespeare & Co. I like shopping there in general. Has a nice vibe.

    The best fiction section in the area, in terms of variety and price, is Green Apple — though I guess I’ve bought more at Moe’s. I do live in Oakland, after all.

    When in Santa Cruz, I always hit The Bookshop. Well worth a visit if you’re in the neighborhood. Wonderful presentation, and some surprising finds. I discovered a nice, cheap copy of The Sleepwalkers there, and have loved it ever since.

    Comment by Brad | October 19, 2008

  13. Living now in San Mateo, I get to choose between the wonders of Borders and the wonders of Barnes & Noble (yes, satire should be read into the previous sentence). Most of the used book stores that used to be in Palo Alto have gone bust. (And most of the new book stores that used to be in Palo Alto have gone bust too).

    People who have been denied the use of an academic library, though, should head down to the San Jose Public Library. The SJ Public Library also serves as the library for San Jose State University and incorporates that university’s former collection. At over 1,000,000 volumes, while it doesn’t compare to the Cal or Stanford libraries, it’s better than any US public library I know of except perhaps for New York’s. I have Ptolemy of Lucca’s Il Regno out, and I’m not returning it till I’m done, so all of yous can wait!

    Comment by burritoboy | October 21, 2008

  14. That’s very good to know about the San Jose Public Library. Not sure it’s worth the drive down there, but sometimes one gets desperate.

    A random note about public libraries. The best one I’ve ever used on a regular basis is that of my former employer, the Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library. You would not expect it, but they are just under UC-Berkeley in terms of volumes held — not to mention having a flat-out amazing audio-visual department that I’ve never seen rivaled in any public or private library. (All this was enhanced even more by the fact that Cincinnati is a relatively small city, and the books/CDs/DVDs were almost always readily available to me. Back in the day, before they cut staff, working in the stacks was a recluse reader’s dream job.) Between that and Ohiolink, I had every book I could every dream of at my disposal. To get anything comparable out here I have to shell out $100 for an annual membership to the UC-Berkeley library, and even then I don’t get inter-library loan privileges. It’s enough to make we want to move back sometimes.

    Comment by Brad | October 21, 2008

  15. The problem with most public libraries – even the very largest ones – is that they’re generally full of the most abominable crap imaginable. Totally worthless shit – old programming manuals for computer languages that effectively no longer exist, Left Behind novels, minor apocalyptic racist scifi from the 1970s, accounting textbooks that were written before computer spreadsheets existed…..

    The Berkeley Public Library has Link+, which means you can get interlibrary loans from about 30 different libraries (including some, though not all, of the UC library system).

    Comment by burritoboy | October 21, 2008

  16. The problem with most public libraries – even the very largest ones – is that they’re generally full of the most abominable crap imaginable.

    Ain’t that the truth.

    Didn’t realize that about the Berkeley Public Library. Ever since they turned me down for a lowly page job I’ve not darkened their door.

    Comment by Brad | October 21, 2008

  17. “Didn’t realize that about the Berkeley Public Library. Ever since they turned me down for a lowly page job I’ve not darkened their door.”

    Well, I once got fired from a summer shelving position at Stanford and it ain’t bothered me none!

    Comment by burritoboy | October 22, 2008

  18. It has been well established here that I’m not a very good person.

    Comment by Brad | October 22, 2008

  19. The SF public libraries also have Link+ (as does San Jose), though Oakland (for some reason beyond me) doesn’t, so you’re not limited to re-experiencing the terrors of being turned down for a job by revisiting Berkeley. I’ve gotten books through Link+ with my own undergraduate scribblings in them, since Link+ incorporates the libraries of the Claremont Colleges.

    Comment by burritoboy | October 23, 2008

  20. I really had no idea. I should’ve scheduled a second lunch with you so I could get caught up on stuff like this.

    I’ve actually only used the SF library a few times. Kind of a pain to get over there. But, knowing this, it becomes worth it. Esp. if it means I can avoid shelling out another $100 to UC-Berkeley.

    Comment by Brad | October 23, 2008

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