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bookstore travelers


Analog Books Berkeley
Bay Books San Ramon
Book Passage — Corte Madera
The Bookery — Placerville
Books Inc. — Berkeley (updated June '15)

Builders Booksource - Berkeley
Diesel Bookstore
Hicklebee's — San Jose

Moe's Books Berkeley
Mrs. Dalloway's Berkeley
Rakestraw Books Danville
Spectator Books — Oakland

University Press Books — Berkeley

Walden Pond Books — Oakland



  Here are our former bookstores:


Mansion Book Merchants

   — 132 E Street, Davis  

The Next Chapter
   — 225 G Street, Davis

The Next Chapter
1059 Court Street, Woodland
The Next Chapter
   — 622 Main Street, Woodland

Raven's Tale
   — 352 Main Street, Placerville


We are two unemployed booksellers who are living and visiting bookstores in Northern California. We have our opinions and hope people will value them and the expertise we've garnered over the last thirty years in the book world. 
(learn more about our expertise)

This website is an opportunity for us to promote the things we love best—books, bookstores, and grand booksellers. There will be reviews of the bookstores we visit. We'll use our trained eyes to give a fair critique of what we liked about the stores we visited. Our reviews will focus more on the positive, what these stores do well, what brings pleasure to two booklovers like us.

Perhaps we'll introduce you to a great bookstore you haven't been to before, or highlight the strengths and charms of a store you've already visited. All we can do is try to give you a little more appreciation for what these independent booksellers are working so hard to achieve—to create a good place for people to come together around books. Making an independent bookstore as good as it can be, takes an incredible amount of effort by its booksellers. And to keep these stores going and improving, requires a public that appreciates and strongly supports them. Every independent bookstore is different. Every store owner has a different look, feel, selection, bookstore, that they are striving for. It's exactly because of this reason that it so much fun to visit as many different independent bookstores as possible.
(what's a review based on?)


 We may at any time, correct or update any review. If you have any feedback or corrections (go ahead, correct us)just send it to us. And, remember,  this is how our eyes saw it and all opinions expressed are our own. As for any of the changes we might suggest, if these bookstores are happy with their stores and their bottom linemore power to them.

                                                  write to us - nextchap@aol.com


What would that expertise amount to?

monkey brains design and build

For 22 years, in 5 locations, in 3 cities, under 3 different store names, we owned and operated our own independent bookstore. The stores ranged in size from a little over 1,100 square feet, to two spaces over 5,000 square feet. Both of the larger locations also included a full coffeehouse. With each location, we had to envision a design for the best way to use the space for the shoppers pleasure, as well as to be efficient for our staff. After the design phase, came moving a wall or two, sometimes plumbing and flooring, always electrical work and painting. Oh, did we mention the paperwork? Any small business person has to know about all types of paperwork, be that leases, permits, all manner of approvals, banking, credit card, payroll, and tax and governmental reports — local, state and federal. We did 90% of the work ourselves, and we also designed and built custom counters, shelves, displays, tables, other fixtures for all our spaces. There were never any consultants being paid for this or that advice. With many things, what we didn't know, we learned, and learned quickly. Another thing very important to all these efforts, was to keep a sense of humor. 

And with all those different locations, we learned how to organize, pack, move, unpack, setup support systems, shelve and decorate, while leading an army of friends, relatives, customers and sometimes strangers, to help with everything. We never closed the bookstore for more than a day for any move, and all those helpers always felt even more a part of the bookstore's family when it was all done. Once everything was built, and even before all the books were all on the shelves, we got our doors open and started doing what we love the most — selling books


We both have a long history of working in the book world, be it in libraries, other independent bookstores, or for regional and national bookstore chains. We've done it all in the retail book world. All those bookseller and management jobs gave us many skills and talents. Managing a bookstore, with your eyes and mind open, teaches you a great deal about marketing, selection and inventory management, bookstore design and layout, staffing, and dealing with the many different kinds of people who are out there looking to buy or sell books. While we were learning how other people did things, it was always in our heads of how we would do it differently. The two of us met while working for the same national chain, in a bookstore in California, and when that situation became ugly, we simply thought — let's try our own store. We got our first store together, from scratch, in a few short months, and kept it all going for 22 years.

Our latest experience working in a bookstore, was first as consultants, and then the managers of read. booksellers in Danville, California. Though we weren't the owners, this was a fantastic time, as the distant, incredibly-busy owner was a fabulously positive man who saw life and business as an opportunity to try new things. This was our first time working with serious financial resources and, working all together we created a very unique bookstore that was strikingly attractive and had a most impressive inventory. It was a general bookstore with concentrations in children's', fiction, art, photography and fashion, but there were many sidelines. There were almost 500 magazine titles (this was solely my baby, and I really got into some great magazines) a stunning collection of quality fountain pens and other writing instruments, journals and blank books, very popular greeting cards, stuffed animals, games, some distinctive furniture, and a huge variety of special gift items priced from a couple bucks to thousands.

As we started the second year, our sales were seriously beating the previous year, and things, with some fine tuning, looked like they were very much headed in the right direction. Then because of some unforeseen circumstances, the owner decided to sell the store. The new buyer was the owner of a toy store that was located next door, and he was looking to grow his space. As we didn't agree over many of the changes that the new owner wanted to make in the focus of the store — we left.

We will always remember what was a most unique place in the bookstore landscape, and what a great time we had bringing it all together.

Now we're looking for the next opportunity.


learning   What's our bookstore review based on?




overall feel & design
 ̶  how does a bookstore hit you when you walk in (let's hope for friendly, attractive & interesting  ̶   as opposed to smelly, threatening, or say, on fire)
     ̶  is there enough room to easily move around the store and are you drawn in to explore the different areas
     ̶  is it clean and straightened (two simple words that take hours & hours of bookseller time)
     ̶  are the bookcases, tables, and other fixtures attractive and functional
     ̶  is the signing easy to find, read and useful
     ̶  hey, are they going for a look
 ̶  is there an easy flow from subject to subject
     ̶  are like subjects near to each other

 ̶  a BIG ONE - are customers acknowledged or greeted as they come into the store
     ̶  are the staff members friendly, attentive and knowledgeable (don't even get us going on staff members who are more interested in talking to each other, on the phone, or using the computer, without paying the customers any attention)
     ̶  if the store doesn't have the book do they ALWAYS ask if they can order it

the selection
 ̶  what's a bookstore without good books
     ̶  are the new titles interesting, unique and fresh
     ̶  do they represent the books you see everywhere, or does the buyer know how to bring some edgier or more unusual titles
     ̶  is it a general bookstore (one that carries all the usual subjects) or specialized in, say, Vermont's tropical beaches
     ̶  does the store concentrate on bestseller/frontlist, midlist, backlist titles, or go for a good mix
     ̶  what's the mix of hardcover, paperback, new, used, sale, and collectable books like
     ̶  what do they carry for nonbook items
     ̶  do they discount the new inventory
     ̶  do you want to buy one book or do you want everything

 ̶  are the books on display interesting, new and fresh
     ̶  is there clear signing or good props to help show off the books
     ̶  does the store give space for staff recommendations
     ̶  are upcoming events highlighted
     ̶  are there displays about local authors/titles or Indie Bound titles

store events
 ̶  are events held often and are they varied (author readings, poetry, panel discussions, book clubs, children's events, whatever)
     ̶  are the guests well-known authors and participants, or does the store concentrate on local talent for their events
     ̶  is there a charge for events, are they held at other locations, and does the store work with area groups for fundraising

 ̶  is it useful, interesting, complete, and easy to get around
can you order online

kudos for things that caught John's eye
 ̶  whatever might catch my eye as unusual and/or interesting

? maybe change
 ̶  these are our suggestions to improve a store ... if we could change something ... we would


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