Taken for Granted: Throw the books at me

In his bestselling book of the same name, Nicholas Basbanes describes the malady as "A Gentle Madness." And I have a bad case of it.

A floor-to-ceiling library, cabinets in the garage stuffed to the gills, numerous bookcases and random stacks in several rooms of our house bear witness to my passion for books. It's an addiction supported by frequent visits to used bookstores, thrift stores and I reluctantly admit the big chain bookstores, which in conjunction with the Kindle, iPad and Nook have set out to destroy one of the joys of my life: used bookstores.

Perhaps it is an overstatement, but to my mind a good used bookstore is a little haven that offers a unique sampling of the knowledge and creativity of the ages. Within its walls are the basic ingredients for a liberal education far superior to what most universities offer. It is also the ultimate "green" activity, recycling a product that can be used again and again, and that, with a little care, will last and never be "used up." A great, old book can provide insight into an age gone by and offers the gift of continuity from one generation to another.

So need I say it, I'm a happy camper because Montrose now has that seeming contradiction in terms: a new, used bookstore. Ocean View Books Etc. is on Ocean View, just off Honolulu, about a half-block south of the Coffee Bean. Previously in a remote nook of a La Cañada mall, the new store offers a more spacious setting and a substantially expanded selection of books for virtually every taste.

One of the major attributes of a good used bookstore is a staff that is thoroughly acquainted with literature and displays a genuine love of books. Ocean View Books offers just that, in contrast to the many well-meaning clerks at the large, impersonal chain bookstores, whose knowledge is limited to the graphic novel (we used to call them comic books when we were kids) and the astrology sections.

The store readily lends itself to browsing for a gem or two; be it an old history book, mystery or a 75-year-old illustrated copy of a classic. Well organized by topic and reasonably priced, the store offers the additional convenience of not having to fight the downtown traffic.

Priscilla Luther-Heft is the knowledgeable proprietress of this welcome addition to the Montrose business community. With a graduate degree in modern European history and a background teaching English as a second language to international students at USC and abroad, she and her husband Michael Heft, a science teacher at Rosemont Middle School, are determined to succeed in a market that has witnessed the tragic decline of the independent bookstore.

In addition to an excellent collection of old illustrated children's books, the shop offers a large selection of American and world history titles — a substantial number of which are devoted to World War II. When the second floor is completed, it will house a wide variety of hardback fiction and "comfy" chairs, enabling readers to browse at their leisure. At some point in the near future, a limited number of specially selected new titles will be made available for sale.

Book groups are in the planning stage, and Priscilla will be offering ESL classes for the parents of school-age children in the fall. The store is now open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. six days a week. The official grand opening will take place July 24. Don't wait for the grand opening, drop by now and browse a little.

PAT GRANT has lived in Glendale for more than 30 years and was formerly a marketing manager for an insurance company. He may be reached at tfgranted@gmail.com.

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