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THE STORY BEHIND THE PHOTOS

In memory of José Clemente Orozco Farías

This is the photo of Clemente with a newly born butterfly on his finger.

I first met Clemente in the year 2013 after I opened a used bookstore here in Guadalajara, México. Over the years we became very good friends. The friendship was centered on a mutual love of books. That is an understatement. We were both insane booklovers and book collectors.

The photos of the man with the monarch butterfly on his finger are of José Clemente Orozco Farías. His grandfather was  the “José Clemente Orozco”: one of the most respected, powerful and well known artists from the 20th century. These photos were taken on January 15th, 2021. 

In the last year of Clemente’s life we grew to be very good friends. When he was alive I never visited his home, however Clemente would visit me at my home about every other week: sometimes more, sometimes less. 

Clemente was associated with a group named “Impronta Casa Editora”. Every year they would do a Christmas party (posada). A day or two before that Christmas party, Clemente gave me a personal invitation. I told him that I really didn’t want to go because the crowd that would be at the party were not really my kind of people. Then he did not only ask me to go to that party, but he demanded it. It turned out to be so much fun and so enjoyable because Clemente and I spent over 70% of the time talking with each other.

One of the fascinating things at that Christmas party was when Clemente handed me a book entitled “Catastrophe”. It was a very short book consisting of about 24 pages. I looked at that book for a few minutes then I sat it down. After thinking about it and knowing Clemente like I do, I picked up that book again and really started checking it out and asking him questions about that book. The story he told me went something like this: 

Clemente went to an ivy league colleague named Dartmouth, one of the most prestigious schools in the United States. His friend, a professor at Dartmouth, asked him to pick one word, any word; Clemente chose the word “Catastrophe”. There were about 14 students in the class and each student was given two pages to do whatever they wanted to do with them to make a book out of it. They made one copy for the professor, one for Clemente, one copy for each student in the class and then they made one extra copy. The book was incredibly beautiful and the different students made radically different beautiful use of their two pages. That christmas party was incredibly special.

Back to the photos. Clemente loved visiting me at my home because I have thousands of really cool books in my house. Normally I had one or two books that were just so incredibly fucking cool that I knew Clemente would start drooling by looking at them and touching those books.

Clemente and I agreed that he was going to visit me on Tuesday 11th of January. On that particular Tuesday I didn’t have much in a way on super super cool books for Clemente to look at. That Tuesday morning it was cold by Guadalajara standards, and I knew that on cool days the caterpillars just sit and be cold and don’t move. So that fateful day I called up my dear friend Clemente and said that it was too cold and that the caterpillars wont do anything, and asked him if we could wait until Friday. Clemente agreed with me and on Friday about 10 or 11:00 in the morning, he showed up at my house. It was a nice warm day. 

On warm days, when there is a lot of caterpillar action on my patios, the caterpillars are everywhere. You just cannot help but step on them.

So I’m standing in my back patio looking at my garden and I saw a butterfly coming out of its cocoon. Of course all I could think of was “wow, this is cool, a monarch butterfly being born in front of my eyes”. Then I looked over about a meter away and there was another butterfly coming out of its cocoon. At that point I became very excited, Clemente had just arrived and he was talking to Juan in the front patio and I started yelling. I was yelling to Clemente to come back and watch this happening, and then I started yelling at my two young workers to get a camera. A minute or two later the 4 of us were watching the monarchs coming out of their cocoons. I have seen that at least 10 times, and when they come out of their cocoon they really don’t know how to fly: they attempt to fly, but they really don’t know how to control their movement. One time I saw one butterfly coming out of its cocoon and that butterfly landed in a bucket of water. That butterfly had a really short life.

About 5 years ago my friend Maria Ochoa took a gardening class and learned about raising monarch butterflies, which are native to parts of western Mexico. The name for the monarch butterfly in Spanish is “mariposa monarca” and they only eat one kind of food: the milkweed, which is “algodoncillo” in Spanish.

Anyway, my friend went to this gardening class and she learned about the monarch butterfly life cycle. It goes something like this: you grow a plant named milkweed (which was very common where I grew up. When I was 5 years old I took milkweeds to “Show and tell”). Once you have the milkweed, the monarch lays its eggs on the plant, if everything goes just right the eggs are born and the little caterpillars (orugas) eat the monarch plant, and if everything keeps going correctly, that caterpillar turns into a cocoon and with even more luck, a butterfly is born. 

Over the last 5 years I am sure over hundreds of butterflies have been born on my two outdoor patios. On 5 or 10 different times I actually watched a monarch come out of its cocoon and turn into a butterfly and fly away.

So back in January of 2021… The four of us were watching the butterflies, one did its first flight and flew to Clemente and landed on his finger. It made for some great photos. A few short days later, Clemente died of a heart attack. 

In the last year of his life, Clemente and I had decided to open a used bookstore here in Guadalajara. I felt that I had the world by its balls. Clemente and I were gonna open a used bookstore and between that nut and this nut we would create the most incredible bookstore imaginable. Clemente told me that he had a friend who had a three story old-french style house, maybe 80 years old, who said something like: “Wow, I should do something with that house”. The last words that Clemente spoke to me was that he was going to talk to the owner of that house about us renting it for our bookstore.

I was in shock for the next few months and missing my dear friend so so much. 

It turns out that I am in those photos of Clemente, actually my reflection is in the photos. Clemente was standing in front of a black door in my patio and in the reflection you can see my white hair and a profile of my shoulder and my head.

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Thinking About Mom: Part 1

Thinking About Mom: Part 1

Actually I never called Mom “Mom” – to me she was always Ma. Twice in the last twenty years of her life I saw Ma with the most outrageously, huge, brilliant smile on her face. I grew up in a small town in the middle of the Great Plains in the U.S. It was a great place to grow up and a good place to leave. When I was a young man in that town of about twenty thousand people, it was all white people. Ok, not quite all white people. There was one family of native Americans and one family of Mexicans, and there were two black people on the college football team. The vast majority of the people were not only European descendants, they were also predominantly northern Europeans. A nice, clean and orderly town. Of course I became a radical at a young age as to me, those white people for the most part were a bunch of fascist. The Republican Party was totally dominant and the largest newspaper in the state, which I read everyday, was pure rightwing garbage. 

In my mid twenties I discovered San Francisco and the East Bay and I fell in love with the place and I had to live there. For ten years it was my home, for ten wonderful years. My mother would visit me about once a year and twice Ma visited me with my father. On one of her yearly visits I got to see that brilliant smile on Ma’s face.

To me, San Francisco is just the coolest place. The city was incredibly vibrant. Culture, culture, and more culture. The average person there was a Democrat and there were tons of radicals. San Francisco has a history of being progressive and radical.

During that decade the U.S. started a war in Iraq and in the Midwest, the good citizens supported this war. Not in San Francisco though. Those goddamn radicals in the bay area would go to huge protests. Fifty to a hundred thousand people would be out protesting this war in Iraq and it felt so good to be part of those protests. My friends back home complained that they could not say one word about the injustice because those good solid citizens in the Midwest would be ready to beat them up for being pacifist. 

Another thing I really loved about San Francisco was this Macy’s Store in the heart of downtown. The store was absolutely amazing. I went there many times and they had everything for the home. They had clothing, furniture, appliances, electronics, home decoration, art, you name it, they had it. Their restaurants and deli’s, every culinary delight you could think of. Of course it was too expensive for me but who could resist their candy shops and deli’s. 

One year Ma was making her yearly visit. In that year my sweet, silly cousin decided she wanted to live in San Francisco and asked me if she could come out and live with me. My cousin’s family and my family were really close to each other. My sweet cousin’s name is Jane and my father and Jane’s mother were brother and sister. For the longest time we lived about twenty of thirty minutes apart and we were close friends and relatives.

On Ma’s yearly visit I decided to take her shopping at Macy’s. I did not tell my mom what I had planned. At that time I actually had a girlfriend, I guess we were pretty serious. Her name was Sue and she knew my mom and my cousin Jane. So, Ma is visiting us and we get in cousin Jane’s car and the four of us drive over to San Francisco and go to the parking garage right by Macy’s. I told Ma  I wanted the four of us to go to Macy’s. Ma wanted to wait out in the car but I insisted and insisted for her to go in the store with us. We went to the women’s clothing section in Macy’s and I found a chair for me and mom. I then had cousin Jane and my sweetheart Sue bring different blouses and other female clothes to show my mom. Ma then realised that I was taking her on a shopping spree at Macy’s.

It was magical, those girls were bringing out the nicest clothing. Then Ma started smiling and got to like the idea of having a bunch of new clothes from one of the finest clothing stores you could ask for. At one point my dear, dear mother had the happiest smile I had ever seen on her face. That was a magical time for all of us. Of course after shopping we went to a wonderful restaurant in the city. 

Part two coming up. With Ma in Las Vegas!!!


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Three Ingredient Recipes

Three Ingredient Recipes

Today we are going to talk about the Culinary Arts. A few days ago I was going through lots of books and I pulled out this book:

I might have looked at it before but I have so many goddamn cookbooks, I didn’t pay any attention to it. However, I started really checking out this book. The title is: “Healthy 1, 2, 3” , and the subtitle is: “Fat – Free Low Calorie: The Ultimate 3 – Ingredient Cookbook”

WOW! Something new under the sun: a cookbook where every recipe in it had only three ingredients, and it is going to be healthy and natural; how cool! I love to cook and I like to cook healthy with lots of whole grains, beans, and tons of fresh vegetables. Silly me though. I thought that since there are only three ingredients, it would be fast and easy. All the recipes have only three ingredients however, this author, this culinary genius, made these recipes extremely complicated. Actually, I was hanging out with my brother and I showed him the book and told him to pick out a recipe and I would cook it. The recipe he chose was: “Stir-fried asparagus with tofu” doesn’t that sound absolutely delicious? Of course this is the springtime and that is when asparagus is in season. 

My dear brother journeyed to “Delicias Beef” in Santa Tere to do the necessary shopping. Of course, this cookbook makes everything so complicated they asked for roasted peanut oil, which I do not have and so I substituted it for olive oil. I like to think that I am literate and I have a large vocabulary but this recipe confused me when it said I should cut the asparagus on the bias and all I could wonder was, what the hell is bias? So I just cut it where it seemed natural to me. The recipe says to cook this in a very hot, non-stick pan. When buying the cooking equipment for my kitchen, price was more important than the quality. I could not afford a nice beautiful state of the art stove so I bought a really funky stove, but boy was it inexpensive. The problem is that it has gas burners, but the flame never gets super hot. If anybody knows how to change that please contact me.

Back to cooking. 

I love to cook with and eat tofu as it is so incredibly delicious, natural, healthy, and wonderful. One thing I love to cook is a stir fry. You just go and get a bunch of fresh vegetables, and then I like to add some chicken or tofu. Whenever I make that stir fry my burner is just not hot enough to make it crusty. That “Stir-fried asparagus with tofu” was delicious. Of course it would have been better if the flame would have been higher then the asparagus would have been caramelised and the tofu would have been crusty. 

As you can tell by the inclosed attachment this recipe for tuna is incredibly complicated, incredibly demanding and way too complicated for this guy. However I love this cookbook and it is going into my cookbook collection.


Browse our Culinary Arts section to see what cookbooks we’ve got for sale in the store

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A Book Seller

A Book Seller

In the year of 2012 I had been living in Mexico for about ten years and somehow, my house on the beach was completely full of books. At that time I decided to open a bookstore. What I was looking for was an established store of any kind that would allow me to put books in their store, then I would go away and come back every two or three weeks and check on the books and what was happening. In March of 2013 a friend of mine informed me that his friend had opened up a record store. When I heard this news I went straight to the record store and talked to the owner and we made a deal and his record store became a record store/bookstore. That would have been in March of the year 2013. 

I had a lot of space in an empty room so I needed many more books. One of the first things I did was to put an advertisement in the newspaper El Informador. At that time I was asking for books in English and I got a few responses but not that many, but I kept that advertisement in for a while. Three different people responded and said they had boxes of books for me to purchase so I visited those people and saw the books in three different places that had the same thing in common: in those boxes of books there were many that were stamped with the words “Lake Chapala Society”. After seeing this I decided to contact the Lake Chapala Society and the director of the Lake Chapala Society informed me that he had books to sell and that he wanted to come down to Guadalajara to see what I was doing. He and two of the librarians at the Society visited me and approved of me. One of the librarians that day informed me about the “Lake Chapala Society”.

The Lake Chapala Society is a charity. A woman named Neil James from Mississippi who had spent her life traveling around the world and writing books. She ended up buying a huge piece of land on the shores of Lake Chapala in the town of Ajijic but died about twenty years ago and left her land and her house and other buildings to a charity named “The Lake Chapala Society”. This is a non-profit organisation and their goal, their mission, is to help the poor people and society in general there in Ajijic and other places. One of the things they did is to make an English language library. They told me that they had the largest English language library in Latin America. 

When I met these people I passed their test and they started selling me books. On that day, one of the librarians told me they had so many books that they did not have any space or use for them. Because of this they used to give books to men that made fireworks out of them. They didn’t like doing that and so were very happy to sell me the books so that the books had a chance to live. 

In the years before that happened and before I started my bookstore, I had a serious addiction to reading. To feed that addiction I went to any place I could think of to find books in English here in Guadalajara and wherever else I went.  At that time I would go to a lot of tianguis around the city to find books. One time when I was in a tianguis a man told me that he had books in English at his house. Of course I went to his house to see the books he had but it was not good hunting.

However, on that same day, that book loving bookseller told me to go to the “Bazar Ciudad de los Niños”. Wow, what a find! This charity sits on the most incredible piece of land and is set up to help orphans. I am positive that when this orphanage was opened it used to be out in the country. The city of Guadalajara then grew and surrounded the orphanage, so now it is an orphanage with not that many orphans and it occupies the most incredibly expensive land.

What they have is a giant bazar. I first went there about ten or twelve years ago. As a book junkie this is the greatest fix I could find. They had thousands of thousands of books mostly in Spanish but enough in English to make me extremely happy. Over the years I would go there many times looking for and finding books to read.  Eight years ago I started going to that charity to buy books for my newborn bookstore. I was not the only bookdealer going to that bazar to buy books and that is how I met many of the used book dealers here in Guadalajara.

For a novice bookseller it was very educational. One time when I went to that bazar they had sixteen copies of a book named Folklore, Myths and Legends: A World Perspective by Donna Rosenberg. This blooming bookseller decided to take a chance and bought all of the sixteen copies of that book. My guess is that I paid about 8 pesos per book and priced them at 160 pesos and it took about six years but I sold them all. Somehow one copy of that book made its way to my home and here is a picture of it.

In my life I have read who knows how many thousands of books. However, I have read maybe two or three books of fantasy and about the same amount of science-fiction. Because of that, I did not know how important science fiction and fantasy are to a books seller. One time at the Ciudad de los Niños they had a stack of about thirty copies of “The Once and Future King” by T.H White. Silly, stupid me I could have picked up thirty copies of that book for a few pesos each but I was too stupid to do that. I bought three copies and they sold just like that. Life is very educational.

HAPPY READING!


Browse our Fantasy and Science-Fiction books in our Literature & Fiction section

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

A classic story about pirates, adventure, treasure, and the high-seas…

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

A story of four sisters surviving through New England during the Civil War…

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

A young English girl in Victorian England travels to a bizarre and fantastic world…

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Coming of Age Novels

Coming of Age Novels

Last week I needed a book to read so I went to my bookcases and pulled out “Treasure Island” by Robert Louis Stevenson. This is a really famous book and it was written in 1883. It has been reprinted God knows how many times but it’s a lot of times. The copy I found in my bookcase was published in 1949 by Random House. This particular copy that I am holding is illustrated and just a pleasure to read. I would read about any kind of book from mass market paperback to the illustrated  copy I have in my hand. For your edification I will take a minute to explain what a mass market paperback is. Mass market paperbacks are the smaller inexpensive books. There is another type of book called “trade paperback”, which are much larger than mass market paperbacks and more expensive.

Back to Treasure Island. It is a coming-of-age story and in these books, the main character is a teenager or a younger person. By the end of the book though, the main character has matured and now is an adult man or a woman. Many times when I am reading a book I realise it’s a coming-of-age story. 

In Treasure Island the main character is Jim Hawkins and this book is about pirates, it is probably the most famous book ever written about pirates. The young character Jim lives in England by the ocean and his parents have a small “hotel” or “lodging home” where guests can stay for long or short stays. One of their guests in their lodging home is a pirate.They did not know it at the time, but that pirate had a map that showed where a treasure was buried in the south seas. It was kind of weird for them to have a pirate as a guest but like a good pirate, he drank a lot of rum and used a lot of profanity. Then, other pirates showed up at their door. Captain Flint was the original pirate and it turns out he had a map to find a treasure. The other pirates ended up killing Captain Flint but they did not find the map for the treasure. Our young hero, Jim, finds the treasure map after a bloody battle at the lodging home. Jim then takes the map to show the village squire. This rich and powerful squire, realised that they could go and find the treasure, so he immediately buys a boat and finds a crew and takes off seeking the treasure. The squire did not realise that the crew he hired for the boat were pirates. These pirates knew that the squire had the map, then the books starts getting violent and fun.

Happy reading!


Find Treasure Island and other coming-of-age novels in in our Literature & Fiction shelves!

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

A classic story about pirates, adventure, treasure, and the high-seas…

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

A story of four sisters surviving through New England during the Civil War…

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

A young English girl in Victorian England travels to a bizarre and fantastic world…

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Obscenity

Obscenity

I cannot remember where I bought this book, but my guess is that I bought it in a used bookstore here in Guadalajara. Before I started my bookstore, searching for books took a fair amount of my time. About ten years ago I went to the Annual Book Fair in Downtown Guadalajara with a couple of friends. When we were finished my friend was amazed because the vast majority of the used books sellers recognized me. “Ten Little Niggers” makes me chuckle just looking at it. To me racial slurs are not that big of a thing, it is just a word and any word can be mean depending on how you use it. Agatha Christie is so sweet and nice and non-offensive, it’s like white bread. 

From the time I found this book I could not stop laughing when I thought about it. I think the best thing I can do with this book, and I have thought about it many times, is to make a framed display for it and says, “if racial slurs upset you, be very careful with what you read”, then list a bunch of authors that use racial slurs. That list of authors would include Hemingway, Mark Twain, Steinbeck, Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens, Doctor Seuss, and Aldous Huxley. I’d warn people not to read books by these authors, and whatever they do, stay away from Agatha Christie!


Find Agatha Christie and other great 20th century authors in our Literature & Fiction shelves!

The Mysterious Mr. Quin by Agatha Christie

A collection of short, classic Christie mysteries that get solved by a socialite and his enigmatic and peculiar friend, Mr. Quin…

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

One of the true classics of the 20th century, East of Eden follows two families in mid-century America and their intertwined lives…

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

An American masterpiece which follows the adventures of the young Tom Sawyer and his friend Huckleberry Finn in Mississippi…

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Midnight Cowboy

Midnight Cowboy

The next book I want to talk about is “Midnight Cowboy” by James Leo Herlihy. About three decades ago I was looking through the shelves at Holmes Bookstore in Oakland and for some reason I started looking for books by Ernest Hemingway. That put me in the H section of that bookstore. I stumbled across a copy of “Midnight Cowboy”. All I knew about the book was that it was a very famous movie in the 1960’s and it was rated X. At that time, I don’t think it took much to get an X rating and by today’s standards, I am sure it would be very mild. The book blew me away and actually, after reading the last page and putting the book down, I decided to read it again. The reason being it was like no book I had ever read before and the author had the characters doing some really wild shit. The main character in the book is named Joe Buck, and he ain’t none too smart to put it mildly. The word innocent comes to mind – Joe Buck has basically no clue about the world and the people in it. He is actually a rather lonely guy who lacks the social skills necessary to make friends. The author does talk about his background, which would be termed sheltered.

Lo and behold Joe Buck ends up in Houston, Texas working as a dishwasher in a low-class restaurant. He actually makes a so-called friend, which is magical to him that he actually has somebody that wants to be his friend and talk to him, or so he thinks. This friend gets him stoned on Marijuana, a new experience for Joe. The man then takes him to a house where there is a prostitute. Mr. Buck ends up in bed with the lady and at one point Joe realizes that his “friend” and the female manager of this prostitute are watching and listening to what transpires between Joe and the fallen angel. At one point Joe hears the “manager” tell Joe’s “friend” that Joe is so handsome and so attractive that if she had Joe Buck in New York City she could make a lot of money by renting him out as a prostitute for women. So, Joe gets it in his mind that he is going to New York City to become a male prostitute. Joe does take a bus to New York City however, things did not work out too good for Joe, to put it mildly. 

Near the end of the book Joe is desperate and instead of being a prostitute for women he becomes a prostitute for men. I am going to have you read the author’s words. Joe is robbing a client and here is how it reads. The little dots … shows where I speeded up the action:

Joe: “Let go, let go that table.”
Client: “No, no! I won´t! There’s no money here! There’s just private things!”
Joe hit the man across the face again, this time with his open palm.
The man continued to whimper and moan, but he didn’t move. Joe struck him again, this time harder and with a closed fist.
Locke cried out, and then he said, “I deserved that! Oh yes, I did, I deserved it!” His moaning continued again, but in a much higher key than before. Still, he clung to the night table with both arms.
Client: “I brought this upon myself” he said. “You should hit me again! My thoughts, all evening my thoughts have been disgusting, hideous. Is this blood on my face?” He tasted the blood that was coming from his nose. “I’m bleeding! Oh, thank God, I’m bleeding, I deserve to bleed!”
Joe: “Turn loose that fucking table.”

Joe picked up the table lamp and held it high in the air. “You want to give me fifty dollars? Or do you want your head broke open?”
The expression on Locke’s face made his preference perfectly clear. He looked with longing at the lamp, and his body remained pressed against the table.
Realizing what was being required of him, Joe began to feel sick.

Joe: “Please let go that table, mister.”
Locke shook his head
Joe swung the lamp down towards Locke’s face, bringing it to a halt several inches short of contact. Locke cried out, but this time with pleasure. His body went limp and he loosened his grip on the table. Joe did not at first understand what had taken place. He hadn’t struck that man, and yet Locke had given up the battle.
Then Joe looked down and saw the evidence of the gratification Locke had received.

(Hey folks, did you catch what just happened? The guy ejaculated when he almost got his head smashed. What a book!)

Locke was still in the throes of some emotion, but Joe couldn’t tell whether he was laughing or crying.

Actually, at the same time I was reading “Midnight Cowboy”, I was also reading a book by Louisa M. Alcott who is famous for her sweet, innocent, soft books. For me it is normal to read two books at the same time. What a contrast and what a way to mellow out “Midnight Cowboy” by reading Alcott. “Midnight Cowboy” is a powerful book with a lot of nasty weird shit happening. It is so weird it actually makes me feel normal, kind of.


Find Midnight Cowboy in our Literature & Fiction section, as well as some other great, yet slightly kooky, novels.

Midnight Cowboy by James Herlihy

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Let’s Read Women

Let’s Read Women

Pearl Buck is a favorite author of mine, but of course I have hundreds of favorite authors.

Pearl Buck won the Nobel Prize for Literature in the year 1938 and her most famous book is “The Good Earth”. That book is so good and timeless that I have read it at least four times. “The Good Earth” takes place in China, where Miss Buck’s father was a missionary, so what she writes about China is authentic.

Whenever I fall in love with an author, I try to find a biography or an autobiography about him or her, that makes it easier to understand their books. Pearl was a very progressive woman, and I think the word feminist would apply to her.

She was a strong supporter of birth control – for some reason 100 years ago, birth control was against the law. They would actually arrest people for talking and trying to spread birth control! Pearl was in the middle of the fight for birth control, and she used her power and intelligence to forward its use. I can’t remember the exact details but she definitely financed the research and development of oral contraceptives (that’s French for birth control pills).


Unlike most authors I have read, Laura Hillenbrand is still alive. She is famous for three books; “Unbroken: A World War Two Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption” and a book intitled “Seabiscuit: An American Legend” and “Unbroken: An Olympian’s Journey from Airman to Castaway to Captive”. I have read all three of those books and to me, Seabiscuit was by far the best. It’s the story of a horse, but not just any horse. Seabiscuit was a racing horse and one of the fastest and most successful racehorses ever. I think that Seabiscuit was racing in the 1920’s or 1930’s.

What makes this book so fun is that Laura intertwines the history of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Northern California into the book. I remember when the book came out in the main Denver Public Library and they had a huge table with 40 or 50 copies of the book.

“Unbroken” takes place in World War II and is the biography of a man who was in the U.S Airforce and a member of a particular crew – they were dropping bombs in the Far East when the Japanese knocked their plane out of the sky. “Unbroken” is two books in one, with half of the story of detailing his experience in the Airforce and the other half talking about this man’s athletic career. At the time, the very first athletes were running a mile in less than 4 minutes. This main character is one of those athletes.


I saved the best for the last. My boss Charlie instructed me to keep this brief. How in the hell I can keep it brief when I’m talking about Willa Cather? Any list of the best female authors of the 20th century should include Willa in their top five. I have been in Willa Cather’s home – about 27 years ago I found myself close to Red Cloud, Nebraska and I visited her home, which is now a State Park. To me, her greatest book is “My Antonia”. Great is too small of a word to describe that book.

The people of Red Cloud did not appreciate this book though. Willa made characters in her book from actual people that lived in Red Cloud back then and it was obvious to the people in Red Cloud that Willa used certain locals as models for her characters. For example, in the book, the man that owned the bank is a real sleaze bag. In her Book “My Antonia” the owner of the bank attempts to rape a young woman. Willa did that with other characters too and because of this many people did not appreciate her in Red Cloud. Once her books made her rich and famous she lived in Paris for a few years and then she spent the rest of her life in New York City.

I went to one of my bookcases and found two different copies of the book “Shadows On The Rock” and as you can see by these photos this book was reprinted many times. It was originally published in 1931 and it went through eight printings in four months. What you are looking at is the Copy Right page of the first edition and I am sure it was reprinted many more times in that first edition. No doubt it was published in England and in other countries and other languages.

Now you are looking at a photo of an edition of that book published in 1995. At the very bottom at the photo you see the numbers 20 – 19 – 18 – 17. Those numbers inform you that you are looking at the fifteenth edition of the Vintage Classic Edition.

In my opinion this is one of her weaker books. I tried to read it but I could not get into it. Right now, if I had a copy of “My Antonia” I would be reading it for the fifth or sixth time and without a doubt I would be loving it.


We’ve got some great female authors in our bookshelves as well as some fantastic reads on women in history, feminism, and empowering women. Go take a look!

Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand

A spellbinding story about an incredible animal and the men who staked their lives and fortunes on him…

Prairie Women by Carol Fairbanks

A collection of tales from women who have lived an worked on the prairies during the frontier to modern times…

Are Men Necessary? by Maureen Dowd

A witty look at the state of the sexual union in the US and examination of everything from economics to politics…

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LEON’S BOOK EXCHANGE

Leon’s Book Exchange

Leon’s Book Exchange in Melaque, Jalisco

When I first moved to Mexico I spent a lot of time in a little town on the beach in the state of Jalisco. In the last half of the 1990’s I did a lot of motorcycle touring in Western Mexico and so because of that, I was familiar with that little village on the beach. As a newly retired bum my goal was to play tennis. Previously I had to go to my place of work five days a week and for too many hours, everyday. I always loved playing tennis but with that goddamn job I did not have time – in that first year I played tennis one hundred and sixty two days out of one hundred and eighty. Early on I met a woman named Leon on the tennis courts. Somehow we started talking about books, can you imagine that? I discovered my new friend Leon was a book lover so when I informed Leon that I had put 37 books in the saddle bags of my motorcycle, she was impressed. The reason I carried those books was that I was going to a strange place that I did not know anything about and I wanted to be sure that I had a supply of books. Leon and I have been good friends ever since and for a long time. 

In the first year or two with my friendship with Leon she bought a piece of property to build a house on. Wow, that woman has good taste and she designed a beautiful house. After that she managed the construction of her future home which was something very impressive to do. In her design of the house Leon included one room that was going to be a book exchange. In the village of Barra de Navidad there has been a book exchange for over 30 years. In the year 1995 on my first motorcycle ride to Mexico, I read as many travel guides as I could and one of them mentioned “Beer Bob’s Book Exchange”. I actually went to Beer Bob’s and met Beer Bob. When I met Bob, I told him that I read about him in a guide book, which he then started grumbling about and then he cussed out those damn guide books.

In a book exchange no money changes hands, people bring in books and take books. That is what Leon did. Way back when, I spent a lot of time working at Leon’s book exchange. 

About 10 years ago I met a man at Leon’s book exchange named Lee. He was an elderly man who was in his late eighties. I had known Lee for a couple years but I would not have called our friendship strong. That changed when I decided that Leon’s exchange needed to be radically cleaned and organised. Lee offered to help but I did not expect much from him. I had let people know that I was going to do this project and a few people offered to help. Lee was insistent that he wanted to help. The man amazed me, he did so much work and he did it so well. We ended up becoming good friends. For me it is normal to give people books. It is just something I do and I gave Lee a really nice book. The book was about eighty years old and it was about one man’s experience in the book business. I had read that book and it was good but not great, but it was worth 20, or 30 or 40 dollars and was very beautiful. Lee and his wife would spend their winters in Mexico then they would spend their summer in the San Juan Islands in the Puget Sound. The next year when Lee returned he gave me a book. Lee informed me that the public library where he lived has a section of  “Staff Picks”. That is how and where he first was exposed to “Browsings” by Michael Dirda.

The book that Lee gave me was about a hundred times better than the book that I gave to him! This book is subtitled “A year of reading, collecting and living with books”. Mr. Dirda won a Pulitzer Prize and in the introduction to the book, the author tells you that this book is not to be read start to finish or in big pieces. He encourages you just to read an essay or two and then come back to it later, which is some good advice. What a man! He makes a living by writing about books, a lucky man too! As I read the book, I realised that this man knows a hell of a lot about books. His tastes in books and my tastes in books are very different though, but it is obvious that he has spent his life reading. In these essays he drops many names and many titles; hundreds and hundreds of them! Some of these essays include Michael talking about his adventures shopping for books, checking out book stores, and meeting with many people in the book world. 
The very first sentence in the introduction to the book is this: “Between February 2012 and February 2013, I contributed an essay each Friday to the Home Page of  ‘The American Scholar’”. This book is so much fun to bounce around in and see obscure authors and titles mixed in with more famous authors, titles, and publishers. Such fun for a book lover, opening doors to non-stop authors and titles.


Whilst we are not a book exchange, we are always happy to receive book donations or to buy your unwanted used books! Drop us an e-mail or stop by our physical store if you’ve got something you think we might be interested in!

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COOKING UP A STORM

Cooking Up A Storm

Here at La Perla Books we take cooking seriously and our Culinary Arts section is always full of many wonderful books about food, drink and entertaining. This is true about our online store and our physical store at 1530 Pedro Moreno.

Personally I love to cook and these photo show only part of my cookbook collection. I personally touch every book that comes to our book store so of course anything that really catches my eye ends up in my book case.

A few years ago a book showed up that I have never heard of – “The Boston Cooking School CookBook” – and it has become a favourite of mine, as well as to hundreds of thousands of other people. At this moment in time, I have a copy of that book in my hand. It was originally published in 1896 and my copy was printed in 1937. On the copyright page it lists all the times this book was reprinted and between 1896 and 1937, 1’836,000 copies of this book were printed!

The author is Fannie Farmer and they didn’t stop publishing the book until 1937. The copy I am holding in my hand right now is basically the same cookbook that she published in 1896, only it’s been updated. This edition is known as a mass market paperback, which are small and inexpensive. My copy from 1937 is a hard back (very special!). This mass market copy was originally printed in 1979, then it was reprinted 28 more times. The paperback copy is basically the “The Boston Cooking School Cookbook” with updates and a different title.

Whenever I want to cook something different or something new, I always go straight to my cookbook collection. Luckily I have about 20 cookbooks so it gives me a lot of ideas, but the first book I always consult is that Boston’s School cookbook. 


There are thousands and thousands of books about the Culinary Arts and like any other subject, some authors can take something that should be really boring and turn it into something really  interesting. The first author that comes to my mind is Julia Child. Julia was born and raised in Southern California and as a young woman ended up in France. Somehow Julia conquered the world of Culinary Arts and among other things she had a very famous weekly TV show that lasted for many decades. Julia wrote an autobiography named “My Life in France”, and what a masterpiece it was. For some reason I don’t have a copy in my bookcase but my guess is I loaned it to somebody and it did not make its way back to me. If I had a copy of it in front of me I would be rereading it as for me, rereading a book is no problem. Hell, two favourite books of mine are “Of Mice and Men” and “The Heart of Darkness” and I have read each one of them over twenty times!


To see what cookbooks we’ve got stocked on our shelves currently, head to our Culinary Arts section and have a browse!

Cocina Mexicana by Beatriz Cadena

A bilingual cookbook (Spanish and English) to fulfill all your Mexican cooking needs!

The Comfort Food Diaries by Emily Nunn

A journey to find comfort through travel, home-cooked meals, and family and friends.

Turkish Cookery by Inci Kut

A collection of delicious, traditional, and easy to make Turkish recipes at home.