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By Olivia Boler
April is literature's month, a time to praise the written word and those who pursue the craft of writing. Across the United States, people celebrate National Poetry Month. Around the world, the birth and death date of playwright William Shakespeare--April 23--is feted. And here in Noe Valley, we honor books of all stripes with the fourth annual Noe Valley Celebrates the Book Week.
The yearly affair is sponsored by the Friends of Noe Valley in cooperation with the neighborhood's four independent bookstores: Cover to Cover Booksellers, Omnivore Books on Food, Phoenix Books, and the San Francisco Mystery Bookstore.
"The Friends do it because we like to sponsor events that bring the neighbors together and involve doing things in our neighborhood," says Mindy Kershner, a Friends member who spearheaded the first Book Week. "We are very proud that we have all these independent bookstores, so we decided we wanted to encourage people and remind them that the bookstores--these wonderful resources--are there."
All events are free, and participants can anticipate some special treats. "I'm calling this year's event Eat, Sleep, Meet," says Kershner, in keeping with some of the bookstores' themes.
Those who love food, especially the organic slow food movement, should plan to show up early for the first event. The celebration kicks off on Saturday, April 10, at Omnivore Books with an appearance by Alice Waters, "the grand dame of California cuisine," says Kershner. Waters, who is the proprietor of Chez Panisse in Berkeley as well as a world-renowned advocate for seasonal foods and teaching gardens in public schools, will be at the store from 3 to 4 p.m. She'll be signing copies of her new cookbook, In the Green Kitchen. "While copies of that book must be purchased from Omnivore in order to be signed, people are welcome to bring copies of her other books to be signed as well," says Omnivore Books owner Celia Sack.
The next gathering takes place on Wednesday, April 14, from 7 to 9 p.m. at Cover to Cover Booksellers. "We're planning a 'Pajama Party in Noe Valley,' geared for young kids in the 3 to 6 age range," says store owner Tracy Wynne. Author Debra Sartell will be reading from her newly-released picture book, Time for Bed, Baby Ted. Illustrator and author Jane Wattenberg--aka Mrs. Mustard--will be on hand with her latest, The Duck and the Kangaroo, which illustrates Edward Lear's classic rhyme about interspecies romance. In addition, Clare Doornbos, who is the Cover to Cover's storyteller, will be telling stories and putting on a performance.
"We'll have sleeping bags and pillows nestled around the store, and cups of hot cocoa with mini-marshmallows to sip," says Wynne. She encourages kids as well as adults to come dressed in their PJs.
Phoenix Books jumps into the fray on Thursday, April 15. "They're very excited about this because their new space has more room," says Kershner. The program goes from 6 to 8 p.m., but Kershner advises getting there "as early as 5:30 to get first dibs on the free food and drink."
The Phoenix lineup has a definite local flavor. It includes Noe Valley author/journalist Allison Hoover Bartlett, who wrote The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, about an obsessive book thief; the Mission District's Tony DuShane, author of Confessions of a Teenage Jesus Jerk, a fictional work that delves into the culture of Jehovah's Witnesses; Noe Valley author Clare Willis, bringing her vampire novel Once Bitten; and local poet Lisa Gluskin Stonestreet, whose Tulips, Water, Ash won the 2009 Morse Poetry Prize. Ted Savarese of the musical duo Octomutt will accompany the prose and poetry on his solo guitar. Kershner jokes that this will be "an evening of rejoicing that your taxes are in."
On Friday, April 16, the party heads over to the San Francisco Mystery Bookstore. From 7 to 9 p.m., three mystery authors will read from their latest works, answer questions, and share food and drink with participants. Noe Valley powerhouse Cara Black will read from the latest in her Aimée Leduc series, Murder in the Palais Royal. San Francisco writer Kelli Stanley will introduce her new novel City of Dragons, which takes place in San Francisco's Chinatown in the 1940s. Also appearing will be Berkeley writer Seth Harwood, who teaches at both Stanford University and City College. Harwood's Jack Palms crime series first found an audience as a podcast in 2006. Three Rivers Press published the first book in the series, Jack Wakes Up, last year.
Noe Valley Celebrates the Book wraps up on Saturday, April 17, with a literary dessert at Omnivore Books. Rose Levy Beranbaum, creator of The Cake Bible, will be signing her new recipe collection, Rose's Heavenly Cakes. "We'll have refreshments and something to eat, and Rose will speak about her career, baking, and her new cookbook," says Omnivore owner Sack. "She'll take questions after her talk, and then sign books."
Kershner notes that all five events will be very casual, and "they give us a chance to meet other like-minded neighbors." She also encourages people to try out a local restaurant before or after visiting the stores. "And buy a book! It's never too early to shop for Christmas."
To find out more about Noe Valley Celebrates the Book events, contact the participating bookstores:Cover to Cover Booksellers
1307 Castro Street
Omnivore Books on Food
3885A Cesar Chavez Street
3957 24th Street
San Francisco Mystery Bookstore
4175 24th Street