books inc

I had an unusual experience for present day America. I went to two new bookstores in Berkeley.

First, I stopped in at Books Inc on Fourth Street. I’ve lamented before the loss of Cody’s, which had robbed me of my main reason for going to Fourth Street. Books Inc, which opened in October, doesn’t rise to the heights of Cody’s, but it has an excellent selection of both fiction and general non-fiction. I would have liked a stronger history section, but that’s probably just me (although I did find and buy Philippe-Paul de Ségur’s Defeat, the classic account of Napoleon’s Russian campaign — Books Inc seems to have intelligent selection, even if the number of books isn’t vast).

I then drove down San Pablo to the relaunched Black Oak Books. Black Oak, which opened just before Christmas in the old Rountree’s nightclub building, is clearly still a work in progress. As TN noted before, hardly a penny was spent on the exterior or interior. The air smells a bit musty and damp, although a heater was blowing away. There was vigorous stocking of shelves while I browsed. The wonderful trove of academic books in the old Black Oak is severely diminished, although I suspect some of those riches will return over time. The history section, reasonably stocked at this point, was strong.

For a book fiend like me, I’m thrilled that the number of bookstores in Berkeley seems to be slowly climbing back to something that equates with civilization.

Lance Knobel

Lance Knobel (co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine in Britain,...

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  1. Wonderful to see that, though bookstores in Berkeley may die, they’re eventually reborn in a different guise. Good luck to Black Oak and Books, Inc. Hope we do all we can to support them.

  2. Books Inc. has a great selection of offbeat greeting cards. And not the cringey Hallmark version of offbeat, but actually charming, strange, and funny options.