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Readers React: What communities lose when an old bookstore closes

Teppei Hirose, a graduate student at UC Irvine, drove two hours to find a scholarly book on philosophy at Sam: Johnson's Bookshop in Mar Vista on March 29.
Teppei Hirose, a graduate student at UC Irvine, drove two hours to find a scholarly book on philosophy at Sam: Johnson’s Bookshop in Mar Vista on March 29.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: It certainly was a shock to read that Sam: Johnson’s Bookshop in Mar Vista is being forced to close by the end of May because the the owner of the building put it on the market.

A trip to a rare and used bookstore is always one of excitement and anticipation because you never know when a book of interest to you on the shelf will say, “Buy me.” On every trip to Sam: Johnson’s Bookshop, I have found at least one book to buy and read, which gives me a great deal of pleasure.

When a rare and used bookstore closes, a center of culture is unfortunately lost, to the detriment of the community.

David R. Russell, Santa Monica

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To the editor: Your beautifully written article profiled David Benesty, who has managed the bookstore recently, but the heart and soul of Sam: Johnson’s Bookshop were my late brother-in-law Bob Klein and his partner Larry Myers.

Bob and Larry literally built the shelves, and Bob loved to decorate — especially the Halloween items you mentioned. He had a love for the macabre.

They would have readings and music (there used to be a Steinway grand piano) in the store, and Bob, an English professor at Santa Monica College, wrote and published many short stories and books.

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Sam: Johnson’s Bookshop in its heyday was a meeting place for book, literature and music lovers. Classical music played as shoppers browsed.

Our bookstores are disappearing — so unfortunate for those of us who can’t think of anything better than browsing a bookstore and settling down with a good book.

Ellen Klein, Los Angeles

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To the editor: I had to quit reading the May 1 newspaper halfway through.

Reporter Jeffrey Fleishman’s moving story about the closing of Sam:Johnson’s Bookshop had already tugged at my heart. Then, the California section brought the terrible news that rat poison had killed one of the few magnificent mountain lions we had left.

Both of these examples of “yet another final chapter” did me in. I am very sorry to see both go.

Jan Brown, Panorama City

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