Walking into D.G. Wills Books, in La Jolla California, is a bit like walking into the government warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. The store is absolutely brimming over with thousands of barely contained tomes, stacked unceremoniously (and at times even precariously) next to and upon each other. Like some kind of utopian new world order, books lay together, new and old alike, on nearly every topic under the sun, spilling over into each other’s borders and sections without incident, as they pull the reader along into potentially new areas of discovery and interest rather than simply stopping at the end of the decreed shelf or case as they are “supposed” to do. There are so many books, and shelves, and nooks, and crannies, and unexpected surprises, that one feels more as if they are exploring the store rather than simply perusing it.
Obviously, as La Jolla’s largest collection of new and used scholarly books, most of these treasures are books. Nonetheless, one would be seriously remiss not to take a moment to appreciate the antique printing tools and materials used to decorate the store. Although, in truth, decorate may not be the right word, because it suggests that the items placed in a particular space were planned and put their with intention. The items in D.G. Wills Books, however, do not feel as though they are decorations, instead they simply feel as though they belong there, nestled in among the textbooks and the rare editions. They even add a sober, steady presence and unspoken, yet equally seamless, solidarity with the brightly colored illustrations of the children’s books.
But by far, the biggest treasure in the store is not to be found upon the shelves at all, but rather behind the counter. D.G. Wills, the owner, is friendly, extremely knowledgeable, and seems to have that happy knack for being able to speak to absolutely anyone: from the Pulitzer Prize winning authors, world famous scientists, film makers, artists and historians who have visited and spoken at the store over the years, to a six year old looking for the children’s section. It is also clearly obvious that Mr. Wills has a delightful sense of whimsy and playfulness, as the store has a secret room. Hidden behind a bookshelf, that opens like a door, is a tiny room filled with, at the time of my visit, cookbooks and vintage children’s books.
Whether you are looking or a collection of poetry, fairy tales, or perhaps even a book once owned by Francis Crick (yes, that Francis Crick – the one who co-discovered the structure of DNA) you cannot leave D.G. Wills Books without finding something interesting. For those willing to dig, the possibilities are endless.