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Books, Etcetera with Lynn Carey: Rakestraw to move

Rakestraw Books to moving to bigger space in Danville on April 1.

There’s some exciting news for one of my favorite bookstores. Danville's Rakestraw Books is moving at the end of March, owner Michael Barnard announced. This will be the third location for Michael.

The store was in Danville’s Livery and Mercantile shopping center when he first bought it in 1995, and it’s been in a Railroad Avenue strip mall for the last decade.  But, increased rent has forced several of the businesses out of that mall.

Michael was worried at first, he told me a few months ago, but it sounds like he's found the perfect location. Rakestraw is moving to the Valley Pioneer building at 522 Hartz Avenue in Danville. The space will be about 50 percent larger, which means more room for his fabulous author events. There will even be a special room for book club meetings, with a speaker phone set up for live chats with authors.

If you’ve never been to Rakestraw, it’s worth a visit. Michael is known as one of the best “hand-sellers” in the business, which means that if you wander in, he’ll ask you a few questions, size you up, then basically shove a book in your hand. You’ll buy it because it’s hard to say no to Michael, but more often than not, you’ll love it.

When I first met Michael, I found him intimidating. I wrote an article comparing him to “Cecil Vyse” (from A Room With a View) and I don’t think he’s ever forgiven me. But I’ve sure learned to listen whenever he suggests a good book.

I’ll never forget having coffee with him at Peet’s in Lafayette one morning, where he was pushing a particular book. I wasn’t too interested because it was a kid’s book, but Michael started quoting from it (by heart) and reading other bits, and I became intrigued. So did the woman next to us. “Can I buy that?” she asked.  “No, it’s mine!” I said, and wrote a check. Turns out the book was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. Michael was on that train way before it left the station, and hand-sold hundreds of the books before anyone had even heard of Harry Potter.

For the next few weeks, Rakestraw is still definitely open for business: in fact, Alan Brennert will be reading from and signing his new book Honolulu at the store on March 5. His Moloka'i was a book club favorite a few years ago.  In the meantime, Michael and his employees —which includes his mom, Julie, who is equally opinionated when it comes to books, and that’s a good thing!—will be beautifying the new space, and plan to move at the end of March (they’d be grateful for some help). Opening day is April 1, and that is no fooling. It also happens to be Rakestraw Books 36th anniversary.

For 12 years, Lynn Carey has run the Times Book Club, which now appears in the Contra Costa Times and Oakland Tribune newspapers. For the past 17 years, she's lived in Lafayette with her husband, Lamorinda Sun columnist Mike Zampa, and their two teenagers.