This time we talked with Jyoti Arvey from Dog Eared Books Castro about Bay Area readers, book recommendations and the current challenges independent bookstore face.
- To start off, tell us about San Francisco’s bookstores and literary scene.
San Francisco has a long and rich history of independent bookstores. Although we have sadly seen many dear stores close in the city in the past years, there is still a very dedicated community of writers and readers that helps us to keep the literary scene alive and humming.
- How does the location of the Dog Eared Books Castro affect how your readers relate to literature?
Our location in the Castro, a neighborhood with a strong history of queer activism and organizing, expands our readers’ vision of literature to include voices and histories that have not always been recognized or known.
In addition to raising up queer voices, we aim to center voices that have typically been on the margins in the literary world.
It’s also necessary to note that we’re housed in what used to be A Different Light, a gay bookstore that served as a gathering space and community resource for decades in the neighborhood. Many writers had readings there, and many writers and artists worked as booksellers, as well.
- Is there something unique about the San Francisco reader?
San Francisco readers are impossible to categorize.
- Who usually goes to the bookstore? What’s your strategy to get people through the door?
The bookstore attracts many different kinds of people: neighbors who live and work nearby, tourists, visitors from throughout the city and the Bay Area, avid readers, occasional readers, beginning readers, English language readers, Spanish language readers and more. Everybody is looking for something different, but we do get a lot of demand for our LGBTQ+ history and literature.
Our window displays and Instagram account are our main avenues of getting the word out on what we’re about as a store.
- How do Dog Eared readers influence the books you carry?
Our customers have helped us shape our collection tremendously. What we sell is a combination of what we are interested in and excited about, and what our readers are excited about and looking for.
- What books are most popular right now? Any top recommendations?
Current Customer Favorites:
- On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
- Pleasure Activism by Adrienne Marie Brown
- The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
- White Fragility by Robin Diangelo
- The Collected Schizophrenias by Esme Weijun Wang (SF writer)
Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl by Andrea Lawler – This is the ultimate fun rollicking queer summer read that will totally grab your heart.
How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell (Bay Area writer) – A wandering and gorgeous meditation on where we direct our attention, this book redirects us to what we are likely missing.
Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval by Saidiya Hartman – This is my current read and it is unlike anything I’ve read. It’s a history book that uses poetic detail and inquiry to bring the reader deep into the feeling of the lives she portrays.
- What would you say is the greatest challenge independent bookstores face today? What do you think the future holds for them?
I have no doubt that bookstores will continue to be significant sites of connection, transformation and discovery as long as their doors remain open. The excitement and engagement that I see in customers day after day in the store ensures me that people want and need such spaces where they can be affirmed, challenged, confused and delighted by books old and new. The challenge will be to make sure these spaces stick around.
- What is special about Dog Eared Books Castro?
We are a mix of serious and silly, deeply invested in gorgeous writing, social justice perspectives and laugh-inducing titles. Our staff reads widely, so we have a random assortment of specialties that somehow mix well together, including nature and ecology, Russian studies, classic campy pop culture, illuminated manuscripts, contemporary poetry and more.
We also strive to bring our readers a wide selection of queer books in all genres. I do a lot of ongoing research to be updated on what is new, upcoming or just little known that we haven’t discovered yet. Customers’ requests and inquiries also help us to shape our selection!
Visit Dog Eared Books webpage – http://www.dogearedbooks.com/