Inside {Pages} a Bookstore

As waves hit the shore nearby, the reader takes one step through the welcoming Dutch double door and enters {pages} a bookstore, a safe haven where troubles are left behind and a hub of literary offerings and activities await. Shelf-talkers call out titles and offer recommendations, enticing readers to try something different. Diverse specialty book clubs provide a forum for mystery aficionados, children’s tales, and morning coffee conversations about bestsellers. Exceptional evenings with publishers’ reps are fan favorites. Lunch with an author brings readers “up close and personal” at select talks, and evenings with authors like Barbarian Days William Finnegan bring works to sports enthusiasts who revel in the sun and surf titles that characterize life at the beach.

This celebration of books began with best friends and bibliophiles Linda McLoughlin Figel (co-owner), Patty Gibson (co-owner and resident bookstore muse), and Margot Farris (recently retired) who set up their dream shop in 2010 when affordable rents allowed.

Pages a bookstore
{pages} a bookstore storefront. (Image courtesy of Pages bookstore)

{Pages} embodies author Neil Gaiman’s quote “A town isn’t really a town without a bookstore” in a landmark way. This oh-so-personal gathering place has a strong reach and deep loyalty among supportive patrons and the public in Manhattan Beach, California. The South Bay shop invites everyone in, both returning and first-time visitors. “It conveys a feeling of unity and community,” says Linda. Interviewed on March 29 about {pages}, from its name to its vitality and ongoing presence, she speaks of her literary enthusiasm, her own background with books, and why independent bookshops can and must endure.

The Back-and-Forward Story

What’s in a name? On a fact-finding trip to check out independent bookstores in New York, in a cab driving down Madison Avenue, Linda and her daughter, Erin, were floating possible name choices for their new endeavor. “Erin suggested ‘pages,’ and I said, ‘That’s perfect.’” Patty and Margot agreed that the name was great, a reflection of a shared belief in printed books. “Because this is truly a bricks and mortar bookstore, particularly in this day and age, it’s a celebration of the physical book – the pages in the book, the way they smell, and the way they feel when you touch them.”

Related: The Art of a Good Interview

{Pages}’s customers are often greeted by name, a familiar and feel-good “gathering place for books and book lovers, and people who want to talk about books.” Linda explains, “Having an independent bookstore, you also have an obligation to curate a collection of lots of different authors’ ideas and points of view, a stage for a lively exchange of thoughts. Hopefully, {pages} successfully provides such a comfort zone.” In keeping with her belief that “books are gateways to so many new and varied ideas,” Linda shares her favorite quote from author Haruki Murakami in Norwegian Wood. “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”

How to Nurture and Inspire a Lifelong Love of Reading Books in Children

Praise of books quotes border the walls of {pages}. Editor and author Emilie Buchwald wrote, “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” This marks the role model example that parents play when they start young kids on their quest to love books and bring them into bookstores and the library to get ‘up close and personal’ to real volumes.

Related: Forgotten Children’s Classics

Linda labels “Our fabulous children’s specialist is our secret weapon. She has an infectious knowledge of books and she is truly gifted at finding the right book that might really spark their interest.” {Pages} hosts a number of child-oriented events, including Children’s Story Time for pre-schoolers, a book club for 1st and 2nd graders, a middle-grade book club, and a YA book club that also encourages middle schoolers. “The ones kids are reading and talk about are highlighted in shelf-talkers that they write and we proudly display.”

Pages a bookstore
{pages} a bookstore interior. (Image courtesy of Pages bookstore)

Brought up with books, as Linda tells it, “My father is a voracious reader, always ready to talk about a book, and my grandfather is a brilliant man who has read anything and everything. So we always were taught to value books and we went to the library. One of my favorite books my dad ever gave me, when I really started to like reading, was a paper composition book. He said, ‘You should do two things with this. You should write down every book you read and keep track of that.’ I have to say that I haven’t done as good a job of that over the years as I did initially. But my children keep up the tradition. I gave them books and they practice what we do in our family…keep track of the books read. Another thing we do is write down words we don’t know and look them up. Your vocabulary will increase, and that’s just another thing you have accomplished from reading books.”

Partners in Print Promotion: Festivals, Events, Evenings with Publishers’ Reps

Partnering with larger book-oriented entities can mean business for independent bookstores. Linda says, “We have a wonderful partner in the L.A. Times newspaper, a way that they provide their support to us. We host and provide books for the L.A. Times book club at {pages}, where they offer a facilitator of their own.” Last year, they hosted an event with Billy Jean King, “where people participated in the event through the Times, and then ordered the books through them and us. Often, the books are signed editions, and sometimes special swag comes with them. {Pages} processes all of those orders and ships them out from here.”

Linda is excited that {pages} will be partnering with the L.A. Times for the LA Times Festival of Books, returning at long last to an in-person event in late April at USC. As a bookseller, {pages} will have three booths that are good-sized tents with lots of tables and registers, books, and everything else. “At one,” she explains, “we partner with Penguin Young Readers, Penguin Random House, a curated selection where we work with our publishing reps to include books, new and classics, that we love, plus those from authors who are actually speaking at the Festival. Our second booth features all of the books of the YA authors who will speak on stage. The third {pages} booth, a Special Sellers Booth of which there are only a handful, will be selling a portion of the books from other authors appearing on-stage. Amor Towles (A Gentleman In Moscow and The Lincoln Highway), for example, will be speaking at a 500-seat venue, and we will be the bookseller for that, the place to obtain copies, hopefully signed.”

{Pages} has partnered with TedX in Manhattan Beach at Mira Costa High School for five or six years, and will participate as a bookseller again. “We do a pop-up, and we support any authors who are speaking that have books. Then we curate a collection of things we consider relevant to the themes or very hot and current topics that people want. We appreciate this opportunity.”

So many readers love signed books, whether that brings a closer, even emotional, connection to a favorite author or the thought that one day they may appreciate in value. “They are very special,” Linda agrees. She thinks, “A lot of people believe that signed books are more expensive, and at least with us, that is not the case for now.” As a bookstore owner, Linda says, “I have the option of pre-ordering some small portion of the limited quantity of signed books available.”

Starring the Bookseller Staff

Linda characterizes {pages} staff members as booksellers, “Because I think that’s a valuable revered profession, and we have the very best. We’re all ‘{pages} peeps,’ a team, and we all work together.” Bibliophiles all, of course.

Asked how she picks these people, Linda says “I think they find us. If you’re a book person who lives, reads, loves, and talks about books, that’s who we hire. Our best staffers are those who literally started with us as sophomores in high school, better than a summer person who is a senior from my perspective because we’ve spent lots of time training them to learn our system. Hopefully, they come back for holidays and summers, in college also, and beyond. We’ve had a couple such people…truly phenomenal.”

The Character of Our Bookstore: Person-to-Person Service

“We’re not making recommendations based on algorithms or the zip code in which you live, or what your neighbor bought,” Linda remarks. It’s a very personal connection, hand-selling books, facilitating something that speaks to someone or something they are seeking…we certainly feel that. It’s an important piece to connecting with a community.” If a book is not in stock, even if it’s difficult to find, they will make every effort to obtain it for a customer. That’s their mission.

The Best of Times in This Bookstore

Asked about her best moments at {pages} a bookstore, Linda laughs, “I really think it’s the everyday event – the connecting people with books. When you put the right book in the hands of a reader, and when they come back and tell you, ‘Oh my gosh, you got me so excited about this book, help me pick another…’ Those are the moments that so affect us and help us do what we do every day and make us want to come back to work every day. Those are the best.”

904 Manhattan Ave.
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
Tel: 310 318-0900
Fax: 310 318-0944