Saturday, February 21, 2009

There's A Dragon In Our Store!

The Ecosystem of The Apple

When training new employees, I often use the analogy of Green Apple as a digestive system (nice, huh?). In this scenario, the books that customers bring into us to sell are the food. Our used book buyers are the mouth, the gateway into the store. The cave upstairs is the stomach, where the books get priced, and enter the bloodstream. The shelvers are the blood vessels, distributing the books to all corners of the store. The customers are the veins, carrying the books away. The register, well, that's the last stop before the books go out the door. And playing a vital part in all of this are the free boxes out front. No system is perfectly efficient. There is always waste. That's where the free boxes come in. Books the buyers pass on but would-be sellers don't want to cart home; books that have been marked down and still can find no buyer; damaged books. All end up in the free box. And the thing about the free box is, almost anything you put in there will disappear. Nine-year old computer book? Gone. Reader's Digests from 1973? Gone. I even bring in stuff from my house that I want to get rid of but can't bear to toss out, like old frying pans and shoes.

And a culture builds up around the free boxes. Over my years here there have been several folks who made something of a living out of our free box. If you've been to the store in the last few years, you'll most likely recognize the man to the left. He's known as The Rev (he sometimes wears a clerical collar). I don't know if he's an actual reverend or not. He also sometimes wears a Santa hat, and I'm pretty sure he's not Santa. He collects books out of the free box. I think he sells some at a flea market. He gives some away to charities. He's part of the ecosystem of Green Apple.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Clement Street is not unlike the Serengeti.

If you're a driver in the ol' Inner Richmond, then you already know that Clement St. is a different beast: a place where the pedestrians reign supreme... and you and your pitiful automobile are just in the way! Where double parking isn't even illegal anymore! Where three-wheeled DPT Interceptors feed upon the meek like vultures! Where hunting for a parking spot could lead to (a) severe road rage, or (b) muttering a silent prayer to the parking spot gods!

Enter David LaBua, author of Finding the Sweet Spot: the Insider's Guide to Parking in San Francisco! He recently emphasized to us the use of strategy when finding a delectable parking spot:

"People are quite habitual in the mornings. They tend to leave the house close to the exact time every morning. The next morning, go to one of the observed cars a few minutes before they left the previous day, and wait. Chances are that they will be leaving their spot at the exact same time. And he will have his personal reserved spot each morning."

Like a lion waiting to pounce upon its prey.

"Another great thing is that residential parking is limited to 2 hours... these 2 hour signs are only enforced for 100 feet. I found 7 spots that are 100 plus feet from the 2 hour sign. This means that you can park there all day, as the 2 hour time limit is not enforceable. The spots are on 12th Ave between Lake and California from in front of 130 12th Ave all the way up to California St."

So remember these tips the next time you take a drive to Green Apple! Drive like a stealthy parking ninja!

KFOG plus 3 Easy Pieces (and Why I read)

if you have ever considered getting up early in the morning, then next tuesday the 24th would be the perfect occasion for such madness, as i'll be donning my official "book guy" cap and going on the KFOG morning show to review a big stack o' tomes at 7:15am (ugh). i've been a regular guest on KFOG for close to 10 years now, but my next spot (tuesday 24th at 7:15(ugh)) will be the first time without the wonderful presence of host Dave Morey, who has left the bay area for the whiter pastures of michigan. dave is one of the classiest acts that i've ever known, and while i'm sure that the morning show gang will do just fine without him, and that his replacement webster is a great guy who will do a stellar job, i'm still gonna really, really miss him. anyway, tune in on tuesday at 7:15am (ugh): 104.5fm or

swung by the ha-ra last week for the launch party of peter maravelis' wonderful collection of pulpy-stuff, San Francisco Noir 2, and while barman / noir expert carl played it fairly nice for the massive crowd, he had every reason to be grinning from ear to ear - the number of readers participating was truly staggering; i'll bet at least 10 folks took the mic that night to read from their appearances in SF2. From Don Herron, David Corbett and Dominic Stansberry to John f'n Shirley(!), the words flew like a barrage of fists, and yet a fine time was had by all! after the readings, and fairly well into the night, i convinced author craig clevenger (whose debut novel The Contortionists Handbook completely wowed me when i read it a few years ago) to take a brief moment and participate in the:

3 Easy Pieces (and why I read)

Craig's 3Easy from kevin hunsanger on Vimeo.

thanks craig! now, who's going to be next?

lastly, it's an endless source of amusement what we find tucked inside of the used books that come across our buy counter. family photos, foreign money, love letters, parking tickets, baseball cards. . .well, the list can just go on and on and on. we have some items on 'display' along the front wall of the main store, and a staff member has even gone so far as to accumulate 5 entire photo albums chock full of these found shots, but all this pales compared to an art project that i recently heard about, Nameless LeTTer. In a nutshell, it's a social website / collaborative art project where people from all horizons leave personalized bookmarks in books with the goal of seeing other readers discover them...beautiful! i love the notion of someone creating a unique item and then tucking it away to (maybe) be found later, like the one above, inserted at a particular page number in lord of the rings! i love hoping that one day i'll find one myself - and i certainly encourage anyone and everyone to feel free and use green apple books as a frame for your beauty.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Why I Read by Beth Lisick

About three years ago, we launched an occasional feature in our monthly e-mail newsletter called "Why I Read." We asked authors, mostly local, to answer that seemingly simple question. The replies were as varied as the question allowed: from the quirky (Dave Eggers) to the earnest (Joyce Maynard), from the episodic (T.C. Boyle) to the hilarious (Kim Wong Keltner). It seems as good a time and forum as any to release these brief essays to the larger world, i.e. the vaunted blogosphere.

Here's one of my favorites, from local author Beth Lisick. Beth's a funny writer; her latest book, here, is a hilarious romp through the world of self-help, just out in paperback. She is also the co-host of one of the most pleasant ways to spend an evening in San Francisco: the Porchlight Series. Here's her essay, written for us back in August of 2006.

"My mom says I learned to read when I was four years old. My oldest brother Paul would come home from kindergarten and hold a 'class' for me and my other brother Chris, teaching us what he had learned that day. By the time I went to kindergarten myself, I was really good at reading out loud, and the teacher would let me read Maurice Sendak books to the class. My favorite was Pierre, the boy who didn't care about anything and ended up getting eaten by a lion.

"Then I stopped caring about books for a good long time while I honed my skills at sports and boys. I was a total outdoorsy jock child who would race through whatever books I had to read for school just to put them behind me. This went on for about twenty years. Not very cool, I know. It's embarrassing to admit how many books I technically 'read' that didn't stick with me at all and I like to fantasize about how much smarter I could be right now if only I'd been truly reading that whole time.

"GOOD NEWS. I fell in love with reading again. Finally. It happened a couple years after I started writing and I felt like I was unearthing a lost civilization. You know those ladies who admit to Oprah that they'd never had an orgasm and then start freaking out about how amazing it is, while simultaneously feeling strange and incredulous about the dry spell? That's how I feel. I love you, books. You make me feel like a human." --Beth Lisick
Why do you read?

Monday, February 16, 2009

15 Bucks or Less

The economy...enough said. So I thought I would start out with the top ten paperback fiction books that I read from February '08 to February right now. (I will give a small disclaimer on the $15.00 part of this. Most of these books will cost a little more then that with the addition of tax.) There is no particular order here & no real order that you need to read them in. They are a fairly eclectic collection but if you are looking for a great read, read on:

1) Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell ($14.95): I was very close to putting Ghostwritten on here as well. It is rare for me to read two books by the same author in a row but Cloud Atlas was so amazing that I immediately read Ghostwritten. But to make things easier I say start with this.

2) Zazie in the Metro - Raymond Queneau ($14.95): I read this book on my way to Chicago last October & it was the most enjoyable flight I have ever had (though people do look at you a little strange when you laugh out loud on an airplane). This book is funny & brilliant & unique. It is also one of my Staff Favorites.

3) Book of the Unknown - Jonathan Keats ($13.00): Local author Jonathan Keats' first book is an incredible reinvention of Jewish folklore. These tales have already had me rereading them multiple times & the book was just released.

4) Out Stealing Horses - Per Petterson ($14.00): This is just a beautifully written book. I was on a three hour bus ride to Santa Rosa & arrived all too soon. This was also Green Apple's best selling paperback fiction book last year. If you haven't read this book yet you must do so.

5) Housekeeping - Marilynne Robinson ($14.00): When George Albon told me, "this books kicks your ass," he wasn't kidding. This is now one of my favorite books I have ever read. It is a haunting, small miracle of a book. It is the kind of book that you wish went on forever.

6) Motel Life - Willy Vlautin ($4.98): This book is a real & visceral novel. Willy's voice is one of a kind & makes Reno, NV come to life. This is a fun, gritty novel.

7) Everything is Illuminated - Jonathan Safran Foer ($10.00): I feel like most everyone has read this book already but I just read it for the first time last year. & it was awesome. So if you haven't read it do so & if you have you should still buy this edition that Harper Collins recently put out for only ten bucks.

8) The Bathroom - Jean-Philippe Toussaint ($12.95): This is a fascinating novel. It is written in short chapters that play out like mini scenes in a movie. I started reading it & could not stop. It's a quick read so if you feel like you don't have much time to read these days, this is a great book for you.

9) The End of Vandalism - Tom Drury ($5.98): This has been a long time Staff Favorite & now we have it on remainder for only $5.98! Tom Drury has now become my favorite living American author, everything I have read by him is effortless & beautiful.

10) The Way Through Doors - Jesse Ball ($13.95): To be honest I am only halfway through with this book. I am really enjoying it & loved Jesse Ball's last book Samedi the Deafness. This book is a strange & wonderful story that winds back & forth through the mind. So even though I haven't finished & am pretty certain that it is one of the top ten books that I read in the past year.

Looking at this stack of books in front of me I am pretty happy that I got to read so many great books. There are of course others but those can wait for another time.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


The literati have made a long-standing habit of lamenting our nation's literary insularity. In the January/February issue of ForeWord, publisher David Godine points out the fact that in the United States "fewer than three percent of all books published are translated from a foreign language, as opposed to roughly fifteen-twenty percent in the rest of the civilized world."

This shameful fact became glaringly apparent last October with the announcement that J.M.G. Le Clezio, a French author little known and published in the States, won the Nobel Prize for Literature for 2008. (There was a bit of a controversy leading up to the award that unfortunately may have obscured Le Clezio's merits.)

All of this is a preamble to the point of this, my first posting on the Green Apple blog. Instead of lamenting our insularity and the narrowness of our literary horizons, San Franciscans should be proud to be the exception to the rule. While we may only have that 3% to choose from, we continue to show our willingness to explore the world's literature and to move past the comfortable boundaries of our national consciousness to investigate how things are viewed beyond our borders.

This was made apparent when I looked at Three Percent's shortlist for the soon-to-be-announced 2008 Best Translated Book award. Among the books listed are several Green Apple favorites and bestsellers, including Bolano's epic 2666, Victor Serge's Unforgiving Years, and one of my recent obsessions, Alejandro Zambra's Bonsai. (My enthusiasm for this book does not come across as well as I would like it to in my shelftalker on the Staff Favorites display, but I like to think it's modestly effective: "Bonsai is a perfectly rendered story about the consequences of falling in & out of love. Read it & see why it was one of my favorite novels of 2008.")

Being a fiercely proud San Franciscan, as is your right simply by virtue of living here, I implore you to carry on with your willingness be more than just a citizen of the United States, but a citizen of the world as well.