A Dog Eared Interview
For the last twenty years, Dog Eared Books has made its home among the bars, taquerias, thrift stores, and various quirky knick-knack shops on Valencia Street adding to the surrounding vibrant, cultural neighborhood.
Just as the name suggests, Dog Eared Books carries a fantastically eclectic range of new and used books, literary journals and magazines. The overall feel that this store is able to pull off, cozy and warm even if it’s pouring rain outside, is something to marvel at. With their tall reaching shelves packed to the brim with stacks of books and pretty much all the literary journals and zines choices you could want, along with their friendly staff it’s easy to see why Dog Eared has such strong ties with their community: it’s a book lover’s heaven.
After perusing the bin of free books sitting just outside their front door, I finally made my way into the store one Saturday afternoon. Upon entering I was struck by how wide their selection actually is. Not only did they have sections for books I’d never seen in other bookstores, such as Beat Lit, Noir, and Memoir (and rumor has it they’re considering a 19th century French Decadents section next), they even had a section specifically for Bay Area authors. And if that isn’t enough, the staff and managers at Dog Eared are awesome enough to even carry some books from unsolicited, newly emerging authors as well.
I had a chance to speak with Ryan, one of the managers, and was able to ask him a few questions about their store and his thoughts on how the independent bookstore interacts with their Bay Area community and the literary world in general.
14H: How does your bookstore represent your local neighborhood/community?
Ryan: A lot of youngsters go on dinner dates on Valencia Street and come here and browse afterwards, which gives them a chance to demonstrate to their prospective love interests that they are literate people, not dullards or barbarians.
14H: Does Dog Eared have readings or lectures? Why do you believe that live readings and events are beneficial to your community?
Ryan: Isn’t everyone sick of staring at computer screens all the time? Live human interactions trigger all sorts of different neural pathways than those triggered by the printed word.
14H: In what ways do you specifically hope to facilitate an environment for emerging writers in the bay area?
Ryan: We actually employ a lot of emerging writers, which facilitates their not starving to death since their advances are paltry at best. Plus we carry and promote a lot of local writers who otherwise would be overlooked by the general public in its manic quest for more phone apps.
14H: What are some of the things you wanted to accomplish as a bookstore when you first opened your doors?
Ryan: We wanted to foster romances between people and books.
14H: What are some of the freedoms and limitations that come with remaining independent?
Ryan: Indie bookstores are free to promote good books instead of those sanctioned by our literary overlords at the NY Times. The limitations are that it costs more to run an indie operation than a chain.
14H: How do you think the independent bookstore as a whole is able to flourish given the economic recession?
Ryan: At this point indie bookstores survive solely because of the goodwill and good taste of the reading public. Fortunately, both of those are abundant in these parts.
14H: Do you have any advice for someone interested in starting their own independent bookstore?
Ryan: Come up with a clever comeback for people who ask the perennial question: They still print actual book books?
14H: Are there and specific books you are currently recommending to readers? What are you reading right now?
Ryan: We’re recommending a lot of local authors’ works: Damascus by Joshua Mohr, Instant City by Rebecca Solnit, and Why Aren’t You Smiling? by (SFSU Alum) Alvin Orloff. Right now I’m reading Love And Shame And Love by (Fourteen Hills contributor, 10.1) Peter Orner, which is fantastic.
Check out their website for more information about the upcoming events hosted in house, and how to be a part of their monthly book club. And next time you’ve got a hankering for some new reading material, make the trip down to Dog Eared books and see what you can find.
Jacob Wyley, Fourteen Hills Intern
Jacob Wyley, Fourteen Hills Intern