Local Lit | Give the gift of books

Support your local independent bookstores

The staff at Mrs. Dalloway’s on College Avenue focuses on providing careful, personal attention to shoppers. The usual author appearances resume in the New Year and fill the January 2023 calendar, but for now, it’s holiday gift giving, meaning not only books for readers of all ages, but garden and tabletop ornaments, finger puppets, blooming Paperwhites, paper products, access to the Berkeley Unified School District’s Mock Newbery award nominees, autographed books, ideas such as banned book subscriptions, and more.

Great Good Place for Books has likewise put author events on hiatus, but that doesn’t mean the knowledgeable and book-passionate staff lack for recommendations. If you know what you want, they’ve probably read it and can chat up a storm about every title on your bookshelf. If you have no clue what book to read next or give as a gift, they are super sleuths with serious new release, frontlist and backlist intel. If you’re lucky, you might even score one of owner Kathleen’s legendary homemade chocolate chip cookies.

Marcus Books is widely recognized and often heralded as the nation’s first Black bookstore. Founded by Drs. Raye and Julian Richardson and originally located in the  Fillmore District of San Francisco, they named their shop after political activist and author Marcus Garvey. While advocating for Black history and knowledge, they published books by independent authors, poets, and artists and hosted iconic authors including Toni Morrison, Rosa Parks, Muhammad Ali, Maya Angelou, Walter Mosley, Angela Davis, Terry McMillan and many others. Moving to Oakland and now holders of a 60+ year history, there isn’t a better place to find books written by or about Black authors: beloved fiction, banned and challenged books, and works that address anti-racism, allyship, Black Feminism, Queer Thought, and more.

An Exedra editor favorite, Builders Booksource on 4th Street in Berkeley sells a highly curated selection of books that goes well beyond construction and design. Find clever gifts, beautiful coffee table books, bestselling fiction and non-fiction, books about the natural world, children’s books, puzzles and more.

Visit East Bay museum shops for books, all month

In addition to always-available gift memberships and admission tickets, the Oakland Museum of California’s terrific gift shop includes apparel and accessories, homeware, stationary, Oakland creeks and watershed maps, jewelry, and always, books! Most often the items are themed according to recent or current exhibits, which means titles presently on the website showcase Angela Davis’s autobiography and a Seize the Time exhibit catalogue; Tile Makes the Room: Good Design from Heath Ceramics by Robin Petravic and Catherine Bailey; Mitchell Schwarzer’s Hella Town: Oakland’s History of Development and Disruption; and The Ohlone Way: Indian Life in the San Francisco-Monterey Bay Area by Malcolm Margolin and other selected works. Carry home with you (legally!) some art from OMCA with the perfect book.

Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archives lays out quite a spread, with dazzling exhibition catalogs, artistic apparel, jewelry, totes, calendars and books. Local connections are emphasized and on the featured list in 2022 are literary gifts including a new book by San Francisco artist/creative director George McCalman, Illustrated Black History: Honoring the Iconic and the Unseen; a coffee mug and other items related to the renowned East Bay quiltmaker Rosie Lee Tompkins; a 48-page acid free paper sketchbook created by Oakland painter David Huffman; and The Daily Feast, a book geared for foodies published by Berkeley’s Kelly’s Cove Press by Sonoma painter Chester Arnold and Berkeley poet Bart Schneider.

Read local authors and complete your gift-giving list with a purchase

There is no lack of books penned by East Bay or San Francisco authors. Among a few suggestions for adults are Leila Mottley’s Nightcrawling, Less is Lost by Andrew Sean Greer, On the Rooftop by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, Comrade Sisters by Ericka Huggins with photos by Stephen Shames, The Man Who Could Move Clouds by Ingrid Rojas Contreras, Loving Eddie by Meredith May, Booth by Karen Joy Fowler, Inspired, by Matt Richtel, Nature Swagger by Rue Mapp, We Are What We Eat by Alice Waters, the poetry of San Francisco’s 8th Poet Laureate Tongo Eisen-Martin, the cookbook California Soul by Tanya Holland.

And for children or teens, start with Ying Chan Compestine’s delightful Little Red Riding Hood and the Dragon, Mac Barnett’s What Is Love? (Ok, it’s a 2021 release but it’s hugely durable for re-reading), the Title IX-themed YA novel No Stopping Us Now by Lucy Jane Bledsoe, Love, Escargot by Dashka Slater with illustrations from Sydney Hanson. There are dozens more in all categories and perusing the catalogues and websites of Bay Area publishers such as Creston Books, Chronicle Books, Heyday Books, and the University of California Press is a good way to discover new titles.

Still looking? Try these resources

  • Shop at the Friends of the Library bookstore at your favorite public library branch. Purchases support the location’s programming and events.
  • Jump online and research book club selections for ideas because local readers groups in the Bay Area often focus on local authors.
  • For a different perspective, visit the Writers Grotto to learn about new or established authors you might enjoy.
  • Finally, turn to any librarian, bookseller or book hound and say the magic words, “Can you recommend a good book by a local author?”

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