DIESEL bookstore to open in Del Mar Highlands


By KAREN BILLING Via Del Mar Times

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies...The man who never reads lives only one.” – George R.R. Martin

Readers rejoice: A book store is returning to Del Mar Highlands Town Center with DIESEL, A Bookstore.

It’s been five years since Barnes & Noble closed after 21 years when the center renovations began, a heartbreaker for both the community and the center owner. Donahue Schriber Realty Group pledged to bring back a book store when the expansion was complete and they are delivering on that promise with DIESEL, a longtime California indie book store that also has a location in Brentwood.

“A bookstore has been the number one request from our customers for a number of years. We are thrilled to have a long-established independent bookstore join the center”, said Patrick Donahue, chairman and CEO of Donahue Schriber Realty Group. “Diesel’s new Del Mar Highlands location will be a great addition to the community.”

Owners John Evans and Allison Reid bring 40 years of experience in the book business, opening their first independent book store in Emeryville in the Bay Area 30 years ago in 1989. On Oct. 28 they will be one of the first tenants to open in the new Collection at Del Mar Highlands Town Center expansion.

Inside the store there will be tall ceilings, wood floors and Evans states the obvious: “There will be a lot of books.” DIESEL will have best sellers and staff recommendations, a children’s book nook in the back of the store and a plethora of art books about design, fashion, music and film. He likes to say his titles cater to readers with a wide variety of interests, from an entertaining Judith Kranz romance to a thought-provoking Julia Kristeva book on French critical theory.

Evans said he is a sucker for community that is desperate for a bookstore, “I really think every community and neighborhood should have an independent book store,” Evans said.

In the independent book store, the shopping experience is personalized by a staff of omnivorous and voracious readers, people who truly love books and can help customers find books they might not even know they want yet.

“It’s aspirational to buy a book,” Evans said. “And reading a book is transformational.”

Evans and Reid have been partners for 35 years and were just married last year. When they opened their first store in 1989, they knew it was what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives. The name DIESEL was the name of the dog next door, after hearing its name called so often they joked about naming their store after it— the name stuck.

Evans said they were passionate about building a bookstore where they would want to shop and a place where they would want to work.

“We wanted it to be the best neighborhood bookstore that you can imagine,” Evans said. It had to be light and happy, aesthetically pleasing, a place where people never felt disappointed or uncomfortable walking into.

“Bookstores are fun and exciting and they’re for the curious, they shouldn’t be heavy or snobbish,” Evans said. “Snobbish is the worst.”

For several years they ran many DIESELs—they opened a store in Oakland in 1994, Malibu in 2004, Brentwood in 2008, and 2010 in Larkspur in Marin County. They were down to one store for three months before they decided to open in Carmel Valley--they were personally sought out by Donahue.

In the United States about 300,000 books are published a year and about another 700,000 are self-published, creating a challenging task for a bookseller. Evans and Reid aim to keep the shelves stocked with a variety of titles that will keep customers satisfied— Reid keeps tabs on the pulse of society, what the trends are, buying from major publishers while Evans keeps an eye on smaller presses and academic publishing houses.

“I look for what’s unique,” said Evans, of his ambitious goal to “keep ideas and experiences in circulation so people can access them when they need them.”

As an example, he talks about a bestseller he read called “The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean” by Susan Casey. The book followed surfer Laird Hamilton around the world as he sought out monster waves but also dipped into scientists’ efforts to explain a wave called the soliton, a giant wave that moved forward without a change in form.

“I remember those kinds of things,” he said. So when he came across a book about the soliton, he thought it might be an obscure topic but 70,000 people read “The Wave” and maybe 60,000 were like him, fascinated by the soliton and would be excited to discover that title.

Those are the kinds of ideas he wants to keep in circulation.

Evans believes the number one talent of a bookseller is to be curious. “I think about a lot of things endlessly,” said Evans, a lover of poetry who is interested in science and history but enjoys going on adventures with customers to seek out the book they are looking for and explore their interests.

Within a day he could help someone find a book about grief for someone who has lost their husband or pick out a humor book for a friend in the hospital; he can find birthday gifts for an 80, 40 or 4-year-old; or assist someone interested in coin collecting before turning to help another person asking, “What is a good book about Madagascar? Do you know anything about island biology and geography?”

“It’s interesting,” Evans said. “I only know what I know and I am curious about everything they know so it’s like I’m on this perpetual treasure hunt.”

What he loves most is when customers get talking to each other and make connections and recommendations. Evans believes a bookstore is also a place where a diverse community can come together, “a civil and civic institution,” a place to gather and speak your mind, where you won’t feel judged, where you will feel welcomed and encouraged to be curious and enthusiastic.

“Being together has become a rare event,” Evans said, hoping that DIESEL events will allow people to learn about wide-ranging topics and experience question and answer sessions with visiting authors.

Evans is looking forward to opening the doors in Carmel Valley and filling the space with readers and happy interactions.

“All communities need and deserve to have access to books that feed and nourish them,” said Evans.

“Feed your head and feed your heart while you’re at it,” encouraged Evans, because books bring joy, companionship, discovery and understanding.

He couldn’t help but add a snippet from a poem by William Carlos William: “It is difficult to get the news from poems yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.”

OCT. 17, 2019


DIESEL, A Bookstore to Add San Diego Branch



Diesel, A Bookstore plans to open a new location in San Diego this November, just as the California indie bookseller marks its 30th anniversary. The new bookstore will have 2,200-sq.-ft. retail footprint, tall ceilings, and what co-owner John Evans calls “a beachy vibe.” The booksellers signed the lease in December 2018, but waited to announce the opening. According to Evans, they are currently “looking for good booksellers.”

The new bookstore is one part of a $120 million expansion project at the Del Mar Highlands Town Center in Carmel Valley. The San Diego shopping center housed a Barnes & Noble for more than 20 years, but the location closed in 2014. “The owners had never gotten more flack from customers than when the bookstore closed,” said Evans, who cofounded Diesel with Alison Reid in 1989. “So they were eager to find a bookstore. And the bookstore that they wanted was us, because they were fans of our Malibu and Brentwood stores.”

Diesel began with a bookstore in Emeryville, Calif., but Evan and Reid relocated the bookstore to Oakland after an earthquake. During the next few decades, the booksellers expanded to include three more California locations in Brentwood, Malibu, and Larkspur.

The Malibu store closed in 2014. The founders sold the Oakland branch in 2016, it is has since been renamed East Bay Booksellers. The Larkspur branch closed in 2018. The Brentwood branch is still a popular location is Los Angeles, and Evans and Reid repainted the store this year to celebrate the 30th anniversary. “We opened up when things got very challenging for a lot of bookstores across the country,” Evans said. “We toughed it joyously through that whole thing. It's still super challenging, but we're still going strong.”

Evans and Reid are not from the area, but found a home in San Diego as they prepared the for the new bookstore. Earlier this year, they volunteered to help staff Book Catapult in San Diego when the bookstore’s co-owner Seth Marko had a medical emergency. “There's a great community of booksellers in San Diego,” said Evans. “They've been extremely welcoming.”

via Publisher's Weekly

Bay area bookstores are thriving!


Point Reyes Books is owned by Stephen Sparks and Molly Parent, who met while working at San Francisco’s Green Apple Books and acquired the 16-year-old shop in 2017.Who said indie bookstores are dying? Not in the Bay Area, thank you!

By Barbara Lane for Datebook

For years the death knell was clanging for the independent bookstores. First, they would be killed off by the chain stores — Borders, Barnes & Noble, et al. We all know how that turned out. Then the predator was Amazon. Then e-books.

But while there’s no doubt that Amazon has had a major effect on our book-buying habits, I’m happy to report that here in the Bay Area, the indies are thriving. And better still, a new crop of young, passionate booksellers has sprung up, ensuring that the future looks bright for those of us who love nothing better than to get lost for hours in a well-curated bookstore.

Part of this happy trend is thanks to the foresight and wisdom of what I’ll call bookstore elders. Kate Levinson and Steve Costa out at Point Reyes Books and John Evans and Allison Reid, who owned Diesel in Rockridge, handpicked their successors, making it possible for their beloved stores to both endure and change with the times.

The proud next-generation owners of Point Reyes Books, Stephen Sparks and Molly Parent, have been running the store for more than two years. The pair met while doing what could be called a residency at Green Apple, the venerable San Francisco indie. When Levinson and Costa decided it was time to sell Point Reyes, there were over 30 interested parties, and Sparks and Parent were deemed the best fit — they actually won an essay contest — for carrying on the store’s legacy.

The most important thing the former owners did to help the new owners was to create favorable terms for the purchase. Then it was up to Sparks and Parent to find investors. Happily, it wasn’t too difficult: They got financial support from Point Reyes locals who wanted to keep their beloved bookstore open and book-loving angels from outside the area.

Point Reyes Books is a hub for the West Marin community. The store reflects the glory of the natural surroundings with a strong environmental and nature section, one Sparks aspires to make “the best in the country.” Prominently displayed as one enters the store are Peter Wolleben’s “The Hidden Life of Trees,” “Horizon” by Barry Lopez, Robert Macfarlane’s “The Old Ways” and Obi Kaufmann’s “California Field Atlas.”

“People want to live their best life up here,” says Sparks, adding there’s lots of “aspirational purchasing.”

Brad Johnson came to Rockridge’s Diesel Books after earning a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Glasgow and a stint at a seminary where he seriously considered becoming a minister. The pool of highly educated people in the Bay Area made the odds of getting a teaching job slim to none, so in 2013 he answered a Craigslist ad for a bookseller at Diesel. After a time, he found being in the bookstore “scratched every itch intellectually and socially,” and he was hooked. As was the case in Point Reyes, the former owners made it relatively easy for Johnson to purchase the store as he was their hand-picked steward. He raised the necessary cash in four months with 99% of his lenders living within a mile of the store.

Johnson works hard to keep East Bay Booksellers (formerly Diesel) reflective of the greater Oakland community. His shelves are a showcase for his passion for poetry, independent presses and works in translation. In the best-seller section are books you definitely wouldn’t see in that category at any other bookstore: Carolyn Forche’s “What You Have Heard is True” and Jackie Wong’s “Carceral Capitalism” along with the usual suspects like Amor Towles and Helen Oyemi. A special section on Border Studies includes “Enrique’s Journey” by Sonia Nazario and Jessica Bruder’s “Nomadland.” Johnson is optimistic about the future of indies, but his biggest reservation has to do with the price of real estate.

Then there’s Manny’s in the heart of the Mission at 16th and Valencia. Manny Yekutiel, 29, is a force of nature. A former White House intern and Obama field organizer, he opened his eponymous bar/cafe/restaurant/civic engagement place on election night in 2018. Five hundred people came, most of them in their 20s and 30s. In its first five months, Manny’s hosted Edward Snowden (via Skype) and Mayor Pete Buttigieg; four more presidential candidates are already on the schedule. Every future debate and election will be a watching party at Manny’s.

Did I mention Manny’s is also a bookstore? Dog Eared Books, his Valencia Street neighbor, has a satellite store at Manny’s, and author evenings (largely social consciousness- and citizen action-related) are an integral part of the event schedule.

Yekutiel presides over the place like a modern-day Perle Mesta. To see him in action on an event night is like watching a small tornado: he’s pulling a draft beer, setting up the mikes, schmoozing with neighborhood regulars. He single-handedly epoxied and sequined the restrooms, which have to be seen to be believed.

Manny says he opened his place because of his fervent belief that in an era where our conversations, our connections and much of our civic discourse is happening digitally, we need to come together in person now more than ever. I’m not sure how he did it — there seems to be some pixie dust in the air — but somehow he and the other proud new bookstore owners have found a way to make that happen. Now, it’s up to us to do our part to patronize these real-life places of ideas and conversation.



Book Trailer for "The Light Years" by Chris Rush


The trailer for this remarkable book features a quote from our own John Evans! 

Chris Rush was born into a prosperous, fiercely Roman Catholic, New Jersey family. But underneath the gleaming mid-century house, the flawless hostess mom, and the thriving businessman dad ran an unspoken tension that, amid the upheaval of the late 1960s, was destined to fracture their precarious facade.

His older sister Donna introduces him to the charismatic Valentine, who places a tab of acid on twelve-year-old Rush’s tongue, proclaiming: “This is sacrament. You are one of us now.”

After an unceremonious ejection from an experimental art school, Rush heads to Tucson to make a major drug purchase and, still barely a teenager, disappears into the nascent American counterculture. Stitching together a ragged assemblage of lowlifes, prophets, and fellow wanderers, he seeks kinship in the communes of the west. His adolescence is spent looking for knowledge, for the divine, for home. Given what Rush confronts on his travels—from ordinary heartbreak to unimaginable violence—it is a miracle he is still alive.

The Light Years is a prayer for vanished friends, an odyssey signposted with broken and extraordinary people. It transcends one boy’s story to perfectly illustrate the slow slide from the optimism of the 1960s into the darker and more sinister 1970s. This is a riveting, heart-stopping journey of discovery and reconciliation, as Rush faces his lost childhood and, finally, himself. 

More Poetry !


More Poetry! 

One of DIESEL's favorite poets -- Layli Long Soldier -- whose stunning book of poems, Whereas, is an instant classic, was interviewed by Krista Tippett in this moving issue of the On Being podcast.  Take some time away from the news and turn to poetry since "Literature is news that STAYS news." (Ezra Pound)

Layli Long Soldier — The Freedom of Real Apologies - The On Being ...



April Is Poetry Month!


DIESEL has always been a welcoming home for poetry and a site for poetry's exuberance!  This month we are going to either introduce you or reintroduce you to poetry that has made its way onto our website over the years and that has entered our ears over the past months via various podcasts that you may have missed. 

As you may know, audio streaming from DIESEL's partnership with Librofm has made audiobooks available for download on your user-friendly phones, tablets, and computers.  There are a plethora of sources for poetry on the internet, which is one big part of the current surge in interest in poetry.  Social media, social dislocation, global challenges, cultural flux have each foregrounded some of the virtues of poetry as part of our coping, our thriving, and our connecting with ourselves, our relationships, and with the world.

We hope this helps, by turning you on to poets and their work, and encouraging you to seek out more in our store. 

Here is our first taste, to get Poetry Month 2019 started:

Teju Cole — Sitting Together in the Dark - The On Being Project



Have a wonderful month of poetry!
John & all DIESELfolk

Podcast Interview with John from DIESEL


Dear Reader,

Vik Singh does these hourlong + (!) podcast interviews with booksellers, called Bookstories.  (I just recently heard Allison Hill's and loved it!) Anyway, Vik interviewed me a few months ago and just aired it.  You may or may not be interested in listening to this while you are driving, or drinking a cocktail at home, or on the treadmill.  I really enjoyed talking with him and we delved into many things bookwise.  Hope you get a kick out of this.
Here’s the link: 

Happy Reading!