Reads in the City: San Diego Bookstores

Maxwell’s House of Books

Address: 8285 La Mesa Blvd

Comfortably nestled within the La Mesa neighborhood is Maxwell’s House of Books — a hole-in-the-wall used bookstore. It’s rich not only in its love for books and book-lovers alike, but in the history of its conception. The seeds were first planted in 1935 when Vernon Wahrenbrock opened Wahrenbrock’s Book House with his spontaneous Great Depression splurge on three truckloads of books. He was a meticulous and dynamic man who kept shop as such. Customers were quick to find new selections and unearth gems as he constantly rearranged his hodgepodge collection and was supported by particularly well-trained employees.

His passion for literature persisted through the generations as his grandson, Craig Maxwell, opened Maxwell’s House of Books in 2003. The bookstore may look modest from the entrance, but extends much farther back with bookshelves adorning every visible inch from floor to ceiling. Their selection is an expansive garden of genres, each with fruit ripe for the picking for those willing to look. Fiction novels are the first to be perched amongst the front shelves of the store, enticing with familiar titles, then obscure editions and cover art, and finally with rare finds cozied between the more popular companions. But deeper into the dense fog of spines and covers are the other species of literature: science, art, economic, philosophy, political science, history, psychology and sociology. Each section has its own culture and population, tempting exploration like a backpacker setting foot onto South American soil, ready to reach each path and border. Explore the whole expanse, or take your genre picks. Your body may tire from cradling books on each arm, but your heart and wallet will be satisfied with the affordable prices and overall purchase.

— Maria Manalang (Lifestyle Staff Writer)

Southern California Comics

Address: 8280 Clairemont Mesa Blvd. Bldg. #124 92111

Whoever said we were too old for picture books has clearly never understood how much it means to us when we see a sixty-page reading assignment broken up by a series of diagrams, charts, photos and historical images. There is something so comfortably nostalgic about the way narratives can be told through images, either in an aesthetic way, or simply because it cuts a sixty-page reading down to a forty-page skim. And for the Southern California Comic Books company, their goal is to create an environment where anyone can reminisce about their childhood or explore the future of comics through their abundance of iconic pieces, such as the Batman Animated Series Production, current sketches, newspaper classics and much more.

Not only does Southern California Comic Books boast an army of comic books ranging from different time periods and places of origin, but features a solid arrangement of works done by local authors and illustrators — contributing to the unique San Diego comic landscape. This comic book center is not just a buy-and-sell bookstore, but a true San Diego establishment that offers locals, tourists, students and Comic-Con fanatics an opportunity to venture into alternate dimensions, variances of personae and a wildly imaginative space.

— Brittney Lu (Lifestyle Co-Editor)

Adams Avenue Bookstore

Address: 3502 Adams Ave

On the corner of Adams Avenue & 35th Street in Normal Heights is a quirky little bookstore where cat and book lovers alike unite in search of those hard-to-find books, all while hoping to find one of the many cats meandering around the bookstore. Full of character and hardcore book junkies, Adams Avenue Book Store is a place one goes to in order to indulge that inner nostalgia for an old-school bookstore experience. Boasting an inventory of 60,000 books in over 100 subject categories, Adams Avenue houses many used and antique specialty books, including: children’s books, cookbooks, military history (in particular World War II and the Civil War), philosophy, poetry, Shakespearean studies and theology.

A major part of the Adams Avenue culture stems from the large San Diego local customer base which helps protect its favorite little jewel-in-the-crown safe from the likes of Amazon. As one of San Diego County’s oldest stores (established in 1965), Adams Avenue Book Store maintains itself as a vibrant part of the community by hosting events for locals, such as book fairs, readings and Wednesday Happy Hours. Not to mention the fuzzy friends, Bartleby and Felixia, who serve as the bookstore’s greeters and watch-cats, adding to the homey and familiar vibe of Adams Avenue Book Store.

— Shelby Newallis (Lifestyle Senior Staff Writer)

Upstart Crow Bookstore and Coffee House

Address: 835 W Harbor Drive

Easily missed amid the tourist shops, seafood restaurants, street performers and a carousel, Upstart Crow Bookstore and Coffeeshop is a one-stop necessity for literature and latte lovers alike. Located inside the tourist hub that is Seaport Village, this hidden nook boasts a plethora of books — from modern fiction and must-read classics to travel guides, humorous how-tos and philosophy pamphlets. Not to mention a huge collection of children’s stories, making this bookstore the go-to destination for any age. Upstart Crow also prides itself on featuring regional authors and subject matters, making it a true San Diegan treasure.

Centered at the heart of the first floor of this cozy, bookworm’s dream is a small coffee stand, roasting organic fair-trade beans, steaming their iconic coconut lattes and lemon chai, and baking fruit-filled scones to accompany any literary journey one chooses to embark upon at Upstart Crow. No need to bring your own venti, double-shot espresso from Starbucks when the baristas at Upstart Crow can make you a fresh brew to accompany the many hours you will spend reading Hemingway. Couple that with live music, comfortable reading corners, furnished with plush pillows and homey lighting, and windows overlooking the Midway and Pacific, Upstart Crow Bookstore and Coffeeshop is a must-visit if you’re an avid book enthusiast, or if you simply have a few free hours to spare.

— Brittney Lu (Lifestyle Co-Editor)