Posted on December 1, 2021 by Sonoma Valley Sun
Under the Sun: Andy Weinberger, bookseller
The proprietor of Reader’s Books talks with The Sun’s Anna Pier about how the shop began, 30 years in the business and his own writing career.
So, 30 years. How did it all get started? It’s been quite a ride, quite a ride. Lilla and I were always in the writing world. I’ve been writing since I was 12, and Lilla editing, speech writing in Washington, and ghost writing. She helped Ved Mehta write his book on Gandhi’s disciples.
Tell me about meeting Lilla. In the summer of ’72 we were both in Pasadena. We’d always known each other. I had written a fairy tale about elephants, “Drabo the Storyteller.” Lilla said she could take photos at the zoo to illustrate it. We self-published it and sold it at little bookstores. Then we got married and had a house in downtown LA.
Talk more about you as a writer. My childhood ambitions went from garbage man to doctor –until I realized science wasn’t for me – then to lawyer and, in high school, poet. After Pasadena City College I went to the University of New Mexico which had a big poetry scene. Gary Snyder was there, Allen Ginsberg. But my father was always telling me “You’ll never make a living as a poet.” So I called him up one day to tell him he was right. “I want to do something more commercial,” I said. “I want to be a novelist.” In the 70’s I wrote three or four novels. Lilla was working and I was at home writing and fixing dinner. And we had the two boys. I got many rave rejection notices. For three years I worked on a novel about a working class guy from Altadena who worked at Sears. It went nowhere. Finally I quit writing. It had become a burden. I became a case manager for a mental health organization for deinstitutionalized patients.
What was next? Various moves and jobs, including teaching ESL in Japan for a year. Fast forward a couple of decades, and we moved to the Berkshires. We thought about a bookstore, but my best friend had one there, and I didn’t want to compete.
Somewhere in here you’re going to get to Sonoma. My brother had moved to Sonoma in the 70’s, and our parents had come out later, so we visited every winter. Then in the spring of ’91 Lilla was out here and noticed that there was no literary bookstore. She came home, and the next day we put our house on the market. That summer we moved here, and found 127 …….