July is National Independent Retailer Month, so of course I want to celebrate indie bookstores. My hometown of San Jose, California, however, doesn’t have a lot of any kind of bookstores. San Jose is a city of over a million people, the third largest city in California. It bills itself as the cultural, financial, and political center of Silicon Valley. I would think you need more bookstores to claim that. I’d like to note that the largest city, Los Angeles, has a LOT of bookstores. I’ve never been to the second largest, San Diego, so I can’t comment on that. I do know that San Francisco, the fourth largest city in the state, has quite the variety of independent bookstores. Poor as the prospects are, I would like to support San Jose’s independent bookstores.
Recycle Bookstore is on the Alameda in downtown San Jose. Step into this bookstore, and you will be lost for an hour or more. Its tall shelves of used books create a wonderful maze. They also buy books, so you can earn some money to buy more books! They have resident cats who sit in haughty observance of the store’s goings on. Why do stores like this always have cats? I’d shop at a store with a Labrador, but I suppose that would put some people off.
Hicklebee’s is on Lincoln Avenue in the Willow Glen neighborhood of San Jose. I first started buying books there when they were solely a children’s bookstore. Now they have a full line of books. They have author events, and hosted J.K. Rowling in an intimate store event at the very beginning of her career. The next time she came they had to rent a hall! On one visit years ago, the store owner, Valerie Lewis, saw that my twelve year old son was having trouble picking a book. She plucked a copy of Holes, by Louis Sachar, off the shelf and began reading it to him. At first he was embarrassed, but the story drew him in and of course we had to buy it.
If you search online for independent bookstores in San Jose, Barnes & Noble comes up, as well as Amazon books and college bookstores. There are more bookstores in nearby cities like Sunnyvale (Leigh’s Favorite Books), Morgan Hill (Book Smart), and Campbell (Books Inc.), but I’ve chosen to include those with specific San Jose addresses. If you know of any other great indie bookstores that are actually in San Jose, please let me know!