"I cannot live without books." -- Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Mark Haskell Smith shares a Book Soup memory.

I don’t remember the exact day, but it was early-October in 2002.   My first event for my first novel.  I had always been a huge fan of Book Soup and the idea of seeing my name up on the marquee was thrilling and kind of intimidating.  That first event is a rite of passage for a writer and having my debut at Book Soup made me feel like a hapless talent show walk-on suddenly opening for AC/DC.  I’d never done a reading before and for all I knew this would be the only novel I’d ever write.  I was feeling excited and insecure. To add a complication -- and what novelist doesn’t like to add a complication? -- I’d invited a woman I had just met and had a serious heart-palpitation inducing crush on.  Nothing like flopping in front of someone you’re trying to impress.

But I guess I shouldn’t of been worried because there’s a magic to Book Soup, some kind of good karma, positive juju, invisible kittens high on MDMA riding unicorns vibe, that makes people smile when they’re in the store. 
In other words, this story has a happy ending.  Border Grill catered with margaritas and guacamole (the mashed avocado dip is used as a personal lubricant in a scene in the novel), and my reading earned an encouraging thumbs up from Jen Ramos and Tyson Cornell who were working the event.  Or maybe they liked the margaritas.  Even better, the Book Soup magic has continued, I’ve written
six books since then, and I married the woman I was trying to impress. 

Mark Haskell Smith's new book Naked At Lunch: A Reluctant Nudist's Adventures In the Clothing-Optional World is available here at Book Soup! 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Four Feet from Elton Freakin' John!

While still relatively new in LA, a friend of mine said he had heard a lot about this cool bookstore in West Hollywood. We got there just in time for an event to start and sat and listened for a bit. Jen Ramos (who went on to be my boss!) was hosting the event. In that 90 minutes or so that we were in the store we saw Keanu Reeves perusing books and my now husband found Michael Gladis and small talked with him because they had just recently worked on a TV show together. I left Book Soup for the first time wondering "What IS this magical place?"

Over the next few years, I made some big life decisions that included me leaving the film industry and left me looking for a job. The hope was to find something in events. I applied on Craigslist for an event host position. Who ever actually gets a call back from a job posted on Craigslist? Apparently, people do because Jen asked me in for an interview and we had, what I thought, was a great interview. A month went by, three months went by. Nothing. I wrote it off - just another Craigslist job not panning out. Out of nowhere, Jen called me back in for another interview (it really was three months later). The next day I was hired. That was in the summer of 2012 and I haven't looked back since. I went on to work as a Book Soup event host for two years before moving up in the Promotional Department to Vroman's.  In those two years, I feel like I saw it all (although I'm sure if I stayed longer I would have seen even more). I worked offsite events in places that if it wasn't for that job I would have never stepped my scuffed shoes in otherwise and believe me I sampled all the passed hors d’oeuvres I could!  I talked to authors on an almost daily basis. I loved learning about them and hearing their stories.  I helped celebrities find books. I'm sure I had in depth conversations with people that were somebody but I was oblivious to it. I stood 4 feet from Elton John...Elton freakin' John (and maybe I peed myself a little in excitement)! My first ever solo hosting event was for Jess Walters for his book Beautiful Ruins. In his talk he spoke about how he came to meet Kurt Vonnegut and I'm pretty sure in that moment I fell in love with that job and I fell in love with Book Soup all over again.

Looking back it makes perfect sense that I was led down this path to books and events because without knowing it then they have always been some of my favorite things. I’m so happy that I started at Book Soup and even happier that Book Soup is still around and going strong. It truly is a magical place!

Jessica Dickieson is the Digital Media Coordinator for Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena.  She really did drag twenty pounds of POS equipment to book parties in some of the swankiest hotels and homes in Los Angeles.

Did you know Book Soup once had a Bistro next door?

We did! Although we are having trouble finding photos from the old bistro. It was next door to us in the ground floor of the 8800 building, right next to our old newsstand.  This essay is from Clark Mason, our C.F.O. and a long time Book Soup staffer. 

I have a ton of memories of Book Soup.  Although my fondest memories are probably of the bistro.  I use to have lunch there almost every day.  I loved the food and the staff, I even had a table that I regularly ate at as well. They had this amazing peanut mango chicken sandwich and also a cobb salad that I loved.  I remember often attending book events at the bistro as well. One time I even hosted a dinner party there for some friends who had helped convince me to take the Book Soup job. I worked there originally from 1996 to 2000 and during that time I met  a bunch of fantastic people, too many to name, but many of them had a long term imprint on my life.  My favorite memory of Glenn was his advice to eat dessert first.  Another powerful memory I have is from the office that I worked in.  From the day I started there was a plaster cast of Whoopi Goldberg’s face hanging in the office near my desk.  I always thought it was odd and whimsical to have her face hanging so close to where I sat every day. I always think fondly of Glenn, the store and the bistro. 


Do you have photos from the old Book Soup Bistro to share? Please email us at info@booksoup.com

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Part of the Soup

True story, I once skipped town on the very day I had landed an interview to work at the formidable Book Soup. It was 1998 and I was a scared kid from Kansas. I'd only lasted two months in Los Angeles and the city was just too...Los Angeles for me at that time. I slinked home with my tail between my legs, convinced I had blown it. I eventually hit reset and made it back to California the way kids in their twenties do.  Like a gambler, convinced they just need one good hand to win the table. The house can't always win. It just can't.

I missed Glenn Goldman, the owner and founder of Book Soup when I skipped that interview.   I wonder now if he would have hired me and who I'd have become if I had stayed put and worked here then.  I can't spend too much time on it; life takes its time getting you anywhere and sometimes nowhere.  Mostly I think he'd have taken a pass on me, and the truth is I needed time to be a better reader and bookseller.  I kept selling books and made it back in early 2011 but I missed him. He had passed away from pancreatic cancer by then.

As we get ready to celebrate 40 years this week he's very much on our mind. Mostly things like, why did he open his bookshop on the Sunset Strip? And why did he call it Book Soup? And how did he ever land Muhammad Ali for a book signing?! I wish I had met him.  He's familiar to me the way a favorite author is.  He has a presence here in the store, and not in a ghost-y way.  He lives with the books, with the great and infamous who have shopped and signed here.

When I knew I would be moving back to L.A. from San Diego I made a stop by the Soup on a lovely autumn day. I browsed the aisles for quite a bit of time, reading the staff selections that jutted out from the shelves like panting tongues.  I heard voices in conversation and laughter from behind the rare books case (presumably from the break room) and I wondered if there could be a place for me here after all.

 I met Amy on that visit and I bought a copy of Just Kids from her.  I devoured that book just as she said I would.  It's the perfect Book Soup book; a book that makes you feel good when you buy it and even better after you read the last page.  You'll give it away 10 times and always buy another copy. I asked for an application too.

I'm very happy to be here now, and for however long they will have me.  I'm grateful I met Paige and Manny, for all those Saturday mornings with Fawn and Jagger, and for the chance to sell books with Emily and Sue who I swear are maybe the best booksellers ever! And of course Tosh, a sort of Jedi master of all things literary.  I read better now - and more, things that would have never interested me before. 

It wasn't easy being new, learning the staff and the customers (who truly are the best) and getting my legs here but I did. I remember hoping Jagger or Fawn would eventually like me and being relieved when both did.  I think of Jagger a lot (gone now too) and still expect to see him sometimes curled up in a ball behind the register sleeping or maybe keeping watch a little bit, over Glenn's shop, our shop. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Book Soup Turns 40!

With our 40th anniversary just around the corner, Julia Callahan of Rare Bird Books and former Book Soup glory shares not one, but TWO tear-jerking remembrances from ye olde bookshop: 

"I started working at Book Soup when I was 22. I was working as a Page at Paramount Pictures, made no money, and decided working at a bookstore for extra money was the way to go. I had been in LA for about a year and I had some friends, but not many (I knew no one when I moved here). My Book Soup co-workers became family. I remember Ruth and Sue and Amy bringing a bit of extra food with them and making me eat healthy because I was making so little money, I could barely afford to eat. I remember Nancy giving me dating advice. Manny and I fought like siblings. Scott and I talked baseball. Fawn always made me tell her what I was reading. I remember walking into Book Soup and feeling like I was home. It felt like someone would care for me there. Like there were people that asked how my daw was going and what was new in my life. 

I still fully believe Book Soup is the reason I stayed in Los Angeles. I would have hauled myself back to San Francisco by now if it weren't for the amazing people I am lucky enough to call friends. Of course, the most significant relationship that came out of my time at Book Soup was with Tyson Cornell, with whom I've helped build Rare Bird Books & Lit. I was his assistant at Book Soup and now here we are, five years and hundreds of books later, with a company that just keeps growing.

That store was truly a blessing for me."


"It's no secret that the Marketing and Publicity department used to drink a lot. In our defense, on a good day we worked 12 hours, but normally we were there for 14-16 hours. Still, we drank a lot. I'm not sure when it began, perhaps before I ever came to Book Soup, but at 5pm every day we had what we called Draper Time (after Don Draper from Mad Men). We'd all go over to Red  Rock or Mirabelle and have a few drinks, chat for a while, and then go back to work.

It's a memory that seems like it can only happen in your 20s. Going to that bar across the street from your office where everybody knows your name. We drank whiskey and talked books and got to know each other in that special way that people who work closely together for very long days go. It is one of my favorite memories. Every time I drive by State (which used to be Red Rock), different memories flood back. Great times. Great friends. Learning some of the most important lessons of my life."

Email your own Book Soup to info@booksoup.com to be featured here on our blog!