In Defense of Cranky Bookstore Owners

Came across this article recently that had been reposted in a trade blog. It's about a fellow named Jim Toole, who runs a store called Capitol Hill Books in our nation's capitol. Jim is a cranky guy. Here is a short example of his retail philosophy:

"And then, there are the rules of the store. First, you can only get in when it is open. Second, no cell phones. This is a book store and not a phone booth. Third, there are words and phrases that you can’t use in my store: like, oh my God, neat, sweet, have a good one, that’s a good question, totally, whatever, perfect, Kindle or Amazon. These words give me brain damage. I’m serious. When people use them in here, I tell them to get a thesaurus and stop being so mentally lame."

Remember old Bruno at Persian Aub Zam Zam? People reveled in his crankiness (until they fell victim to it themselves, in some cases), though you've got to admit it's not bad being able to actually sit at one of the tables if the bar is full. I used to visit a bookstore down in Pasadena called something like The Oriental Book Company. The guy kept most of his lights turned off, and if you wanted to see a particular section, he would huff in frustration that he had to go through the trouble of turning the lights on. That guy was a crank. You might not like shopping at his store, but there was no doubt that it was his store. In this world of Bed Bath & Beyond blandness, a retail approach like that can be....refreshing.

A note of caution: this is a defense of cranky owners, not staffers. I find cranky staffers a lot less romanticizable. In fact, I almost couldn't watch the movie High Fidelity after Jack Black abused that customer for wanting, what was it, Paul Simon? My retail owner's hackles were raised.

At Green Apple, we place a high value on hiring people who are nice, people who are passionate about books and passionate about sharing them with our customers. We're not going to start writing down arbitrary "store rules." But Green Apple does have a store personality- a bit disheveled, little rough around the edges. When you walk in here, you know you're not in Barnes & Noble. But people seem to like us, check out our Yelp reviews.

Some links for a Friday night

Paul Madonna's GAB postcard

We don't often post series of links on the Green Apple Core, but I don't often work Friday nights and right now I'm covering a co-worker's break in the Annex (to clarify: the Annex is home to both new and used fiction, science fiction, and mysteries; new and used graphic novels; a display of literature in translation; a new-ish display of Staff Picks; books (new and used) on music, theater, film (including television), magazines; and CDs, LPs, and DVDs) and want to share with you a few bookish things around the internet and elsewhere that have caught my attention.

  • Do you recognize the name Gordon Lish? Lish was a(n in)famous editor at Knopf during the 1970s and 80s, the man responsible, some say, for creating (by severe and creative editing) Raymond Carver's signature style. Besides introducing to the American reading public such writers as Cynthia Ozick, Amy Hempel, and Barry Hannah, Lish also wrote fiction himself, the shorter pieces of which are included in O/R Books recent Collected Fictions (which despite not being on our website is on our shelves). The first installment of Carla Blumenkranz's profile of Lish is included in the latest issue of N+1.
  • Also of note from the new N+1 is Richard Beck's appraisal of indie music website/cultural taste-maker/love-to-hate-'em Pitchfork.
  • Writer Ted Gioia (who's got a mustache to die for) just launched a new website dedicated to what he calls The Postmodern Mystery Reading List. Included on the list are such GAB favorites Thomas Bernhard, Jonathan Lethem, and Patricia Highsmith. Worth a glance, an argument, an addendum.

  • And finally, because it's just about time for me to head on back to the main store, please read Charles Simic's essay on the Lost Art of Postcard Writing and remember: we sell postcards.

Graphic Language: Color is Important. Show It!

Often I see designer’s displaying all their logos in their portfolio in black and white. Its frustrating to see, because showcasing everything in black and white cuts out a large part of the design decisions you put into the work, and kills part of the branding message. Its critical to choose the right palette to communicate the company’s messages. The visual “tone of voice”, and even brand archetype, can change with a slight color adjustment (such as royal blue to navy blue) so dropping color all together makes an even bigger impact.

“Color is used to evoke emotion and express personality. It stimulates brand association and accelerates differentiation.“ – Designing Brand Identity, Alina Wheeler

This is not a case against using black and white in logo design. Sometimes color isn’t needed because the brand is expressed best through black and white. And of course, you should build your logo in black and white before adding color. The addition of color will emphasize who the mark is for and what its all about. In the very least, it can help separate a company from its competitors, pulling from the Von Restorff theory that something that is different in a group stands out and is more memorable. You have you portfolio to showcase all of your skills to clients, so don’t forget about your important color decisions.

“In the sequence of visual perception the brain reads color after it registers a shape and before it reads content. Choosing a color for a new identity requires a core understanding of color theory, a clear vision of how the brand needs to be perceived and an ability to master a consistency and meaning over a broad range of media.” - Designing Brand Identity, Alina Wheeler

When im looking through a portfolio and I see every logo set in black and white, im not getting the full story of the designers skills. I don’t know if they are able to choose proper color palettes, or why they are content with cutting out a large portion of their work process/decisions, or more importantly what these logos truly represent. Color effects our moods, our buying decisions, our appetites, even our blood pressure. Its critical in branding that you use it properly and important to show that you CAN use it properly.

“We are all persuaded, moved, aroused, challenged, inspired, repulsed, warned, and informed by colors. And though each of us perceives color uniquely, there is an amazing amount of commonality in our reactions to color across culture and time.” – Color Index, Jim Krause

Choosing colors is my favorite part of the design process with each project. Heres a few ideas to help in choosing palettes.

- Start with 1 or 2 colors that most communicate what you want (refer to the design brief). Then add the accents and secondarys
- Give those colors names. It will help in communicating the right message and choosing compliments.
- Is the color/palette distinctive from competitors?
- Is it appropriate to the type of business?
- Will it have sustainability? (does it need to or can it be trendy?)
- Is the color/palette reminiscent to any other business, product, or service?
- Can you achieve consistency across media? (web, print, embroidery, etc.)
- Test the color in its environment if possible
- When all else fails, remember 1.) nature 2.) 3.) Home Depot/Lowes paint departments

Other Color Resources and Recommendations:

- Color Index, Jim Krause
- Designing Brand Identity, Alina Wheeler
- Pantone books
- paintings by Cyril Rolando
- magazines
- fashion
- graffiti and street art
- photography

Infinite Jest and its Offspring

I read an article in the New York Times the other day about Michael Schur, co-creator of the television series Parks & Recreation directing a music video for the band The Decemberists based on a passage from Infinite Jest involving the fictional game, Eschaton. Thinking the idea was promising I sought it out, and Mike/everyone in The Decemberists, I'm sorry, but I wasn't feeling it. Why couldn't you have made it as fun to watch and listen to as it was to read? Nice try? I suppose the track record hasn't been to good for book to film adaptations. I'm not sure why I bothered to get my hopes up. Oh well.

made an attempt, the times wrote about his work and I was incensed enough to write about his work, and all press is good press, right? Now I've got to pondering though, what is a good book to film adaptation? I liked the 1965 version of A High Wind in Jamaica despite certain qualities severely lacking, but what else is there? Fight Club? ...I'm kidding about that. I hardly have the patience for movies, so you tell me.


Oh, by the way, pictured up at the top of this post is a piece of Infinite Jest inspired art that I do like by Cody Hoyt. It was part of a series done by a small collection of artists for the Kitsune Noir Poster Club back in 2009. You should check it out if you've never heard of it. It's pretty neat.

Summer (reading) at last!

Well, it had to happen. . .today is August 23rd, and we finally have a day of sunshine in the Inner Richmond. So, with only 7 days left in the month I think it's a fine time to make another pitch for the August book of the month: The Magician King by Lev Grossmann. But don't just take my word for it:

Cory Doctorow of BoingBoing : The Magician King is at once an existential exercise that angrily shakes escapism by its shoulders and demands that life have a purpose, and a story about extraordinary deeds, heroism, magic and love -- all the stuff that makes escapism go. (Full Review Here)

Alexander Chee of NPR : ...a spellbinding stereograph, a literary adventure novel that is also about privilege, power and the limits of being human. The Magician King is a triumphant sequel, surpassing, I think, the original. (Full Review Here)

Kevin Hunsanger of Green Apple Books: Ok, so this is when the ‘happily ever after’ part is supposed to kick-in, right? Well, if you know Fillroy, and the magicians that populate this enchanted land, then you already know that it just isn’t going to be that easy. . .(Full Review Here)

Don't forget - All of our Book of the Month selections come with a money back guarantee.

Now go and enjoy this fabulous weather while it lasts!

Justice now! Exempt Green Apple Books from Sales Tax

Sign HERE today! Spread the word!

photo by Robin Allen

Here's the press release Green Apple Books issued today. Media inquiries welcome.


Contact: Pete Mulvihill – | (415) 387-2272

Green Apple Books to petition state government to become exempt from sales tax

San Francisco, CA (August 16, 2011)—In a move spurred by’s campaign to collect 500,000-plus signatures in an effort to overturn California’s Sales Tax Fairness law via referendum, Green Apple Books owners Pete Mulvihill, Kevin Ryan, and Kevin Hunsanger have decided that they, too, will take a step toward not collecting sales tax. “We, too, are fed up with government providing infrastructure, security, and education” says Pete Mulvihill. “Enough is enough.”

Co-owner Kevin Ryan further argues that while Green Apple Books is a long-established presence in San Francisco that has always collected sales tax, there are more compelling reasons for the store to discontinue the practice. “Sure, the sales tax on books purchased at our store contributes to a better quality of life for all Californians, including social services for the elderly and disabled, but collecting sales tax kind of feels like overkill. We do enough for the community anyway,” says Ryan.

“I like Amazon’s angle here, and I think ALL indie stores should be exempt,” adds co-owner Kevin Hunsanger.

Additionally, Green Apple’s ownership provides this list of talking points:

  • More than two-thirds of Green Apple’s staff do not have children and therefore should not really contribute tax money to public education;
  • Most of the staff members do not own cars, so maintaining good roads isn’t that important. They could just walk;
  • Statistics suggest that booksellers are 36% less likely to use emergency services than antiques dealers;
  • Although many of the staff at Green Apple do in fact enjoy state and local parks, they sort of think someone other than the bookstore’s customers should pay to maintain them;

On Saturday, August 20, 2011, co-owner Kevin Ryan will hit the streets in an effort to collect enough signatures to put this issue into the hands of voters.


I rang up Daniel Handler and Mike Giant today, in that order. It's nice to see the local talent out and about and supporting us. I suppose I am trying to pay it forward, or pay it back or something. Blogging about this is the 'retweeting' of early aughts, I guess. Note that Handler has a new book coming out soon. I would promote Giant's too if I was aware of such a thing, so his previous will have to suffice.

Back to School (yes, already)

Sunshine on Day One at Sunset Elementary!

Public schools have started up in San Francisco already.

My twins are on Day Two of kindergarten, and all is well so far. They were pretty beat after day one yesterday, and we spent a lot of time reading picture books at day's end. Even though we've largely moved on to longer chapter books (Matilda by Roald Dahl was a big hit this summer), they seemed to want to take it easy with some picture books. I think they somehow yearned to reconnect with their old picture books (and cuddly home rituals).

If you feel like treating your back-to-schooler with a new book, we have a nice display in the kids section right now. Good luck, kids and parents, in the new school year.

The Art of the Bookmark...Part One

I recently was doing some spring cleaning here at the store and came across two bags of bookmarks another bookseller had collected. The intent originally was for me and my friend to do a large collage. It never happened. I happened to rediscover these at the moment that I had submitted new art work, done by C., a bookseller and artist in residence here at Green Apple.
(as seen below) So I thought I would share some old Green Apple Bookmarks and some from all over. Going through them was a little depressing as I saw all the bookstores that have closed over the years. So let us remember our fallen comrades with the art they put in the pages of your books...

One of my all-time favorites.

This was our bookmark for many years, maybe even a couple decades as we were really excited to be on that "World Wide Web" everyone is talking about.

Here is an old one from our friend across the country, one of the most famous of the Independent Bookstores, N.Y.'s The Strand Bookstore. I'm not sure what year this was, they still boasted their "8 Miles of Books", but they stay open much later these days.

This is one of the classier bookmarks from the now extinct Pickwick Book Shops that once were scattered throughout the greater L.A. area. A nice little die-cut that you can kind of make out in this picture so that your bookmark does not slip out.

(the L.A. area should take advantage of their independent's that are out there and great: Skylight Books, Book Soup, and Others.)

And R.I.P. Blair Fuller.

Logo Theft and Fighting Back

As it is illegal to break into someones home and steal their belongings it is also illegal to steal work from a designers portfolio. There is no difference, that is the designer's (and likely a paying client's) property and no one else has the right to use it.

Im not talking about a designer getting a little too much "inspiration" from another. I mean actually 'Save As > to desktop' lifting, stealing, copying, THIEVING, from a portfolio and using the work for their own promotion. This is something every designer should be aware of. This is something logo designers Fraser Davidson and Joe Bosack, among others, face constantly. Their designs have been stolen multiple times from semi-pro sports teams to wannabe-graphic designers. Below, is the most recent example of theft from Fraser's portfolio, an Oakland Raiders concept. So far, the thieves have been completely unresponsive.

Matt Kauzlarich is another recent victim of logo theft: His Sharks word mark concept lifted by an airbrush artist to paint the on Sharks goalie Brian Boucher's helmet.

The purpose of this post is to make the public a little more aware of this injustice. It seems these designers are in a losing battle as legal action can be costly and time consuming, and in the most recent case with Mr. Davidson, the thieves dont respond to email or messages at all. Im not asking anyone to read my other articles or for any type of self promotion, but i do ask that you pass this particular post along anywhere and everywhere you can. This is about making as many people aware of the stolen property as possible in support of Fraser, Joe, Matt, and anyone else who has faced a similar problem. Be sure to add other examples if you can!

Fraser Davidson:
Joe Bosack:
Matt Kauzlarich:

I believe the more exposure their work has the safer it is. Pass it through Twitter, Facebook, Google +, make a flyer and hang it up! However you can just send it out there! In the meantime, heres some tips for the rest of us to protect our work and/or try to get it back. I wasnt able to find any current stealings from Joe Bosack, but he did have this to say on the topic. . .

As designers our greatest means of promotion is our work and the only way to exploit that is to get that work in front of people. Clearly one of the best ways to do that is via the internet in a number of forums, including personal/corporate sites and places like Dribbble or Logo Lounge. The other edge to that double edged sword is that the work is now neatly packaged for those who want to claim it as there own.

I'm not a big fan of watermarking a design as I think it can distort things and presents the work in a way that it was not intended to be seen. Adding an effect might be a better solution as you can control the context in which it is seen and in some instances enhance the presentation."
- Joe Bosack, Joe Bosack Graphic Design Co.

Watermark Everything - its unflattering for a portfolio presentation, as Joe points out, but a watermarked image is less "usable" than an unmarked one. just an option to keep in mind. You could also have an unmarked PDF version to send to clients/creative directors that you trust.

Use effects on presentations - This is one of Fraser's tricks that others have used as well. Skewing the perspective, using lens blurs, and adding grunge textures to your logo presentations make them harder to lift and reproduce.

Send thieves and invoice? - This is my idea, but i honestly cant be sure of the legality of it. if theres no binding contract i suppose the invoice is worthless, but its just a scare tactic. Double or triple the value of your work and send it to the thieves on an invoice. Hopefully they will drop the stolen work rather than pay the large invoice. if they do happen to pay it? Congratulations i suppose.

Cease and desist letter - Try writing a C&D email. this is probably the best action to take immediately if your work has already been lifted. Take a look at this one:

Have a lot of friends - The more people you know, the more "eyes" you have working for you. Networking is something every designer should be doing, but now theres another reason to do it. And if you recognize someone elses design being lifted, let them know about it.

Swedish duos

Quiz time!

One of the following sexy, pouty-lipped Swedish duos are the band Roxette. The other are "Lars Kepler," author of the crime bestseller The Hypnotist. Care to guess which is which?

A whale of a dilemma

Should I be unfaithful to this "definitive text"?

I'm about to begin Moby-Dick again and though the trusty Penguin Classics edition I've underlined, annotated, and dog-eared pretty heavily through the course of two previous readings has become a sentimental object, I'm thinking it might be time to invest in a new edition, one whose yellowing margins are free of the embarrassing penciled in thoughts of my younger selves.

But I'm not sure. You can learn a lot about yourself by returning to a book you've read before. Will those passages that resonated previously affect me the same way now? Will I agree with my assessments of a character or plot development? And, especially important in the case of a book as weird and patchwork as Moby-Dick, will I remember which chapters I can skip?

On the other hand, there are benefits to approaching a familiar book by a new route. I'd be seeing Moby-Dick free of former prejudices and might, by getting my hands on a fresh copy, pull the book out from under the layers of thoughts I've added to my sturdy Penguin Classics copy.

I'm undecided. Should I remain faithful to a my copy, with its cracked spine and all of its history, or is straying in this case morally acceptable? Maybe you can help me decide.

In the meantime, here's a collection of Moby-Dick cover art, some old, some new, some imaginary:

Books We're Excited About (and you should be too)

It might be the middle of a cool foggy summer outside the store, but inside, up in our buyer's office, the holiday season is well nigh here. Almost daily, sales representatives from publishers big and small come by the store to show us their wares, and what they are presenting to us now are the books we will be stacking up come November and December. Here are a half dozen books coming out this Fall that we think our customers will be most excited about. Feel free to pre-order anything you see and we'll have it waiting for you on publication day.

He might be a celebrity chef to the rest of the world, but to us he's the guy running that awesome restaurant on the corner of 22nd & Geary. Aziza's Mourad Lahlou shares his food and his philosophy in this lovely book, due out in late October. And good news: Aziza will not be closing their Richmond District restaurant when they open downtown.

Daniel Handler's first novel in a long time to be published under his non-nom de plume is written for the teen audience, but we think bigger kids are going to want to grab a copy for themselves. It is the story of the breakup of Ed and Min. Min is writing Ed a letter and giving him a box. Inside the box is why they broke up. Two bottle caps, a movie ticket, a folded note, a box of matches, a protractor, books, a toy truck, a pair of ugly earrings, a comb from a motel room, and every other item collected over the course of a giddy, intimate, heartbreaking relationship. Best of all, these objects are all illustrated by Maira Kalman. Due in store right around Christmas Day.

There's a lot of buzz for this title due from McSweeney's in mid-November. It is the story of Miranda July's fascination with the PennySaver, that relic of classified advertising that seems to be a holdover from the pre-internet age. July tracks down thirteen folks selling their wares and tells their stories, along with photographs.

What else is there to say? We've had people asking for this book since rumors of its existence began crossing the Pacific a few years ago. At almost a thousand pages, this is Murakami as we haven't seen him since the magnificent Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. October 25 is the official pub date for this one.

Written in 1989 and found among Roberto BolaƱo's papers after his death, The Third Reich is a stunning exploration of memory and violence. Reading this quick, visceral novel, we see a world-class writer coming into his own—and exploring for the first time the themes that would define his masterpieces The Savage Detectives and 2666. Should be arriving in late November.

Another big (over 1000 pages) ambitious fantasy thriller from the author of Cryptonomicon and Anathem. This one is the story of an internet virus that hits an online gaming community, and the violence spills over from the virtual to the real. Look for this one on Sept. 20.

The Roads to Green Apple

It's weird when I am at work and people ask me to watch their car while they run in to the store. I have received this request in all seriousness multiple times, enough for it to be worth mentioning and now publicly respond, hollering into this echoing internet void, "I'm sorry, but you'll just have to find parking somewhere close by."


Green Apple Books is fortunate enough to be located mere feet away from multiple stops for a few major bus routes (2 & 44 right out front, 1 & 38 a couple of blocks away, and the 33 a few more) and hosts ample bicycle parking right in front of the store, but Clement St. being the hectic and heavily trafficked that it is can pose problems for drivers. Especially those who just wish to come to sell a handful of used books. Finding parking around these parts can sometimes take longer than your planned trip to the store, but unless you're expecting to make upwards of $253.00 on a book sale I recommend avoiding parking in the bus zone... and in the event that SF's parking policies ever catch up with those of Lithuania, well, the recommendation stands even a bit more firm.

Oh, and as a final note, if you really want to impress make your way here on a Pedersen. Don't know? Read this.


New Directions, the innovative, trailblazing, super awesome publishing house that's introduced American readers some of the best international and experimental literature from the 19th to the 21st centuries, is celebrating its 75th anniversary. From early-to-mid-century stalwarts like Henry Miller, Ezra Pound, Marianne Moore, Dylan Thomas, and Louis-Ferdinand Celine (the first ND book I read was Celine's Journey to the End of the Night) to contemporaries Cesar Aira, Anne Carson, Enrique Vila-Matas, and Laszlo Krasznahorkai, New Directions is proving itself quite the feisty septuagenarian.

We've always had a deep and abiding love for New Directions here at Green Apple and would like to offer our gratitude and best wishes for another 75 years by offering you, gentle reader, a selection of our current favorites.

My Emily Dickinson is a poet's book about the life and work of a fellow poet. Largely through the lens of one of her best-known poems, Howe reveals Dickinson to have been astutely aware of the literary community and tradition in which she wrote, even as she famously did so from the confines of her room, raising some profound questions about fame, isolation, and what defines a writer in life and in death. It's not an easy book; Howe writes both as a scholar and as a poet herself, her style a windy mix between academic and poetic as she weaves together pieces of Dickinson's influences and wide-reaching world. The result is a breathtaking and revelatory examination of a poet, a poem, and a life.

If you don't already have a grasp on how incredible the work of Tennessee Williams is, well then let me emphasize his brilliance. Williams was a friggin' baller. We should be calling him Tennessee Chill-iams he is so cool. His presentation, slang, and many other things about his work can come off as antiquated, especially true for a child of the 90s like myself, but the guy understood some things about girls, dudes, ludes and bad attitudes. The plays in The Magic Tower range in tone from Williams' two best sides as an author, both stinking drunk and hilarious drunk. I cannot encourage people enough to take a look at this awesome new collection, especially if your only contact with his work is the already critically lauded.

I made the mistake of reading my first Bolano novel (By Night in Chile) on a flight to London in early 2008. As I finished the book somewhere over the mid-Atlantic, I realized with a sinking feeling that it would be weeks until I was able to race through the rest of his theretofore published work. And as soon as I returned home, I did just that: reading Amulet, Distant Star, Nazi Literature in the Americas, and Last Evenings on Earth all in about a week and a half.

The stories in Last Evenings on Earth are among the finest pieces he ever wrote. Concise, abrupt, and compulsively readable, they form a fine counterpoint to his later sprawling novels.

Each novel that I read by Queneau quickly becomes my favorite. Not just my favorite work by Queneau, but my favorite novel period. The Flight of Icarus is no exception. A novel masquerading as a play in which a cast of unruly characters decide they have better places to be than in this story promises--and delivers--on its riotous premise.

The first part of Vila-Matas' title refers of course to Melville's laconic clerk who answers all questions and demands with a mysterious and vexing "I prefer not to." The Co. refers to a cast of writers who, for reasons often mysterious (J.D. Salinger, or a lookalike, makes an appearance), sometimes heartbreaking (Juan Ramon Jimenez), and yes, even vexing, have become "artists of the refusal" or artists who prefer not to. Some of the names are familiar, some deserve to be more familiar, and others, in a fittingly Borgesian manner, never existed. Bartleby & Co. is that perfect book: one that leads to another, that leads to another, and another...

Carson's fans know her interest in deconstructing and reappropriating all things ancient--Greek myth, Sappho's poetry, the tango...--in her haunting poetic verse. And so it is fitting, while tragic, that her latest work Nox is a scrapbook of sorts eulogizing her late brother. Aside from being an eerily gorgeous object, this uniquely bound book will surely resonate with anyone who has lost someone and attempted to piece together what they left behind.

For more of our selections and recommendations, please visit the store or see our Staff Picks page (you'll see why most of us agonized over selecting just one book for this post).

And once again, Happy Anniversary, New Directions!