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Bibliography at Vroman’s Bookstore in California


Have you ever found yourself using a word where you knew exactly the meaning of the word and used it correctly, but at the same time realized you didn’t? Really Do you know what the word means?

Sometimes when you look at the history and etymology of the word, you find that it is more appropriate and interesting than you thought.

Today’s word is “venerable”: The venerable Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, California, a family business for 130 years, is currently being sold to an outside buyer.

I have to imagine I’m not the only bookstore tourist out there who makes sure to make time to visit major bookshops during their travels, and I’m pleased to say that I crossed Vroman off my list during a trip 15 years ago. Visit Southern California. Although it is not as storied as San Francisco’s City Lights or Paris’ Shakespeare and Company in terms of its history, its continuous operation for 130 years makes Vroman more than worthy of the word “venerable”.

Now, as a bookseller, you’d be hard-pressed to find a store I don’t like, especially one that’s independently owned and based in a neighborhood, but Vroman’s is several cuts above the average bookstore. With an unusual capacity of over 30,000 square meters (in a flagship location), this is a store where you can spend the day, wandering around and enjoying the breadth and depth of products on offer.

At least that’s what I did on my visit while my travel companions spent the day at the beach. Idiots.

Something that is “venerable” is old and deserves respect. This is a recognition of enduring significance and impact. Think of how many people have crossed paths with the Vromans over the years, the number of books purchased, the lives changed, the impact on a neighborhood with the advantage of a news outlet like Vroman’s. It’s a little difficult to understand.

But in researching the etymology of the word “venerable,” I found that the word is associated not only with things ancient and revered, but also with beauty, through the Roman goddess Venus (who shares the same root). We don’t tend to associate age with beauty in American culture, but there’s something beautiful about an institution this old, and its eventual change of hands so significant that it became national news.

Vroman’s is currently owned by Joel Sheldon III, whose great-grandfather was the godson of the store’s creator, Adam Clark Vroman. The store has been operated by the Sheldons since 1916. Joel Sheldon III plans to sell not to the highest bidder, but to the person most committed to preserving the store’s legacy.

Legacies are good because you can’t take them away, and Vroman’s has already passed the threshold of making an indelible impact; but even better is to choose a sustainable future path. Many seemingly respectable institutions have become vulnerable when greed gets in the way of mission.

I must admit, as the son of a mother who started a neighborhood bookstore (The Book Bin in Northbrook) when I was just a year old, I have a bit of an emotional attachment to long-standing bookstores and the importance of those stores to me. communities in which they reside. I’m grateful that The Book Bin is still going, even though it’s been 50 years and 30 years since my mother sold her interest in the store.

We need these places. We need people like Joel Sheldon III who realize that making money is not the highest calling in American society. I wish him and Vroman’s future caregivers all the best for a wonderful future.

John Warner is the author of “Why They Can’t Write: Killing the Five-Paragraph Essay and Other Requirements.”

excitement @biblioracle

Book recommendations from Biblioracle

John Warner tells you what you should read, based on the last five books you’ve read.

1. “Frozen River” By Ariel Lawhon

2. “The First Lie Wins” By Ashley Elston

3. “1000 Words: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Creative, Focused, and Productive All Year Long” By Jami Attenberg

4. “The Last Supper Club: A Waiter’s Lament” By Matthew Batt

5. “Road to Dalton” By Shannon Bowring

— Tammy G., Glendale, Wisconsin

When I think of Wisconsin, I think of supper club, and when I saw this list of books, I thought “Saturday Night at the Lakeside Supper Club” by J. Ryan Stradal was a perfect fit.

1. “Electronic Hounds: Spruance Class Destroyers” by Michael C. Potter

2. “The Country That Time Forgot” By Edgar Rice Burroughs

3. “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy

4. “Mysteries” by Bill Watterson

5. “The Bad Guy in the Beginning” By John Scalzi

—Gordon H., Elmhurst

Gordon loves science fiction with a bit of humor and books that are part of a series, so I recommend “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” by Douglas Adams, the first in the trilogy.

1. “Lamb” by Christopher Moore

2. “Brothers K” by David James Duncan

3. “American Tabloid” by James Ellroy

4. “Congo” By Michael Crichton

5. “Confederation of Idiots” by John Kennedy Toole

—Roger M., Las Cruces, New Mexico

An interesting and diverse list. I feel like I want to suggest something with a bit of humor: Paul Beatty’s “The Sellout.”

Get a reading from Bibliocle

Send a list of the last five books you read and your hometown to: biblioracle@gmail.com.


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