Recently, over lunch, when a friend of mine mentioned that there were lots of great bookstores in La Jolla that I might like to visit, I have to admit to experiencing a moment of cognitive dissonance. On the one hand, she is one of the most cultured, well-traveled people I know. However, on the other hand, as I looked out over the breaking waves and seals napping in the warm California sunshine, I wondered what exactly one would find in a bookstore located near some of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in the country, if not the world.
Clearly, I was not familiar with La Jolla at all, because wrongly, very wrongly, I imagined a smallish funky bookstore with a handful of the latest best sellers, a couple of marine-life reference type books, and a few travel guides, all aimed at tourists. I even, I am ashamed to admit, imagined a sort of shabby nautical beach theme… and yes, it included nets and starfish. However, I held my tongue, reminded myself how much I valued this person’s opinions, and tried to have an open mind.
As we continued our lunch, my friend went on to explain that the store in question was the country’s oldest family-owned and operated bookstore. This allowed me to alter my mental image from a surf shack with magazine racks to a log cabin type structure with well worn hand-made shelves grown shiny with years of use, but still offering the same garish assortments of reading materials mentioned above. The one mental addition to this erroneously imagined collection’s contents being an assortment of local history books and pamphlets.
However, from the moment we left the restaurant and I really started to look around and take in the richly varied and diverse area that is La Jolla, it quickly became very apparent just how far off base I had been. La Jolla isn’t your average beach town. It has a casual elegance that simultaneously feels sheik, modern, luxurious, classical, and traditional – just like the bookstore we were heading to.
Warwick’s Books, to be straight to the point, is an amazing world-class bookstore that looks more like a modern art museum’s gift shop than the busted pirate shack I had imagined. The store is divided into two separate but connected sections. Half of the store is dedicated to stationary, office supplies and unique gifts, all of which are of the highest quality. The other half of the store is dedicated solely to books. Books, I must say, on every topic imaginable, including, but in no way limited to, the items I mentioned earlier.
Carefully selected collections of books are assembled together by common themes, interests, styles and genres by actual readers rather than by corporate algorithms and spreadsheets. This is the beauty of the independent bookstore, they allow for smaller more intimate settings with books chosen for readers, by readers. Not to mention the extensive calendar of book related events like signings and readings they play host to throughout the year with some of the biggest names in the publishing world.
Funnily enough, it is only now as I sit here trying to imagine the store filled with the number of people who would come out to see authors like Anne Rice, Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Gilbert or Deborah Harkness that the store is actually quite small, but feels deceptively large due to its open design, ingenious wheeled display units and tremendous selection. At Warwick’s Books you may not find a copy of every book currently available for sale in the store, but chances are more than likely that you will find the right book(s) for you. And if for whatever reason you can’t, one of the store’s awesome staff will either help you find it or order if for you.
With a wide range of books, a fantastic selection of gifts & papers, and a calendar of events that would make your head spin, there is bound to be something that captures your fancy at Warwick’s Books. I can almost guarantee that you won’t be able to leave empty handed.