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Bookstore of the week: Brand Bookshop

January 6, 2011 | 10:51 am

Brand Bookshop is the kind of used bookstore that's built for a long afternoon of browsing. It's got rows and rows -- and rows and rows and rows -- of books. And its prices are low. When I was there, I heard two female voices on the other side of a wall talking. The younger said to the elder, with awe, "I can get all these books?"

  Brandbooks_2Brand Bookshop was opened in 1985 by Jerome Joseph -- now 82, he can still be found in the store five days a week. It's at 231 N. Brand Blvd. in Glendale, a commercial district just a few blocks away from the Americana at Brand mall. There are parking meters out front, and a structure around the block for which Brand Bookshop provides 90 minutes validated free parking. The only catch is noticing that 90 minutes have gone by, and it's time to leave.

Store manager Noriaki Nakano, who has worked at Brand Bookshop since 1993, says, "This store depends on foot traffic."

Brand Bookshop has a kind of personality, a little esoteric, a little goofy. Among the ordered shelves there are hidden surprises, books that have been arranged to tell a story. For example, in the category of literary biography, Neil Gaiman's pose on the cover of "The Faces of Fantasy" has been displayed to echo the photograph on the cover of a biography of Oscar Wilde.

In fact, Brand Bookshop's categories tell a story all of their own.

Of course, there are classics.

And some of you already knew that you'd find a whole shelf of books on E.S.P.

Some stores have a section on history, or maybe also the history of the American West, or California history, or even Northern California history. Brand Bookshop has all of those, and also a separate section for books about the Gold Rush.

In addition to General Military Aviation, there are more specific aviation and military sections. Want the "Jane's Weapons Systems" from 1978? Brand Bookshop has it.

But at Brand Bookshop, military aviation doesn't have to be realistic. It's got an entire section dedicated to "Star Trek."

Yes, there's a section for books about Sea Adventures. And Art History, Theory & Criticism. And Shrubbery. In all, Brand Bookshop has more than 1,500 different labeled sections on its shelves: while you're looking at Buddhism & Zen, you might be leaning against Papacy & Vatican. There's a looseleaf notebook behind the front desk labeled Master Section List. It begins with "Albee, Edward" and ends with "Zulu."


In addition to the retail space, Brand Bookshop has a nearby warehouse with an additional 30,000 books in various stages of being cataloged. They do some Internet business, with more than 5,000 books listed through online used bookselling sites Abebooks and Alibiris. Nakano says the most expensive book he's sold was an Internet sale; it was a first edition hardcover of Zora Neale Hurston's "Their Eyes Were Watching God," which went to an East Coast dealer for $8,500.

Despite the enormous stock, the staff seems to know exactly where to look to help customers. Nakano took me from one section to another to see if they had a book I've been trying to find. They didn't, but hey, they've got a couple of copies of "Tom Jones," which I've never read. Brand Bookshop is less a place to find what you think you want then to stumble over something you'll be inspired to get.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photos: Brand Bookshop. Credit: Carolyn Kellogg