The Best We Could Do: The Book I Just Can't Stop Thinking About

Do you ever read a book that simply will not get out of your head?  Well The Best We Could Do has been circling my mind since I read it last month. And for me that's a sure sign that it's worthy of a staff picks blog post.

 A simple summary of Thi Bui’s graphic memoir would be that it weaves together the author’s family history with the war in Vietnam . BUT IT IS SO MUCH MORE. The Best We Could Do is gut wrenching, heart-warming, emotional, educational, and visually stunning. On the cusp of being a new mother, Bui undergoes the very adult experience of learning to reconcile childhood impressions of her parents with who they really are and confronting the life-defining force the war had over her childhood, her family, and her country. The elements at play in this beautiful memoir not only highlight an under-represented side of the conflict but detail the struggles of coming of age against the backdrop of the immigrant experience.

Telling this story through art adds an emotional impact that I think prose just couldn't match.  If, after reading the One Book One San Diego's MARCH, you find yourself wanting more of the genre--pick up this outstanding work. 

Take Home Chef: Bookseller Edition


with Library Shop Cookbook Critic Scott

Loyal readers of the Library Shop’s blog are probably doing a double take right about now.  Cookbook Corner?  The Library Shop has a cookbook critic?  Why wasn’t I informed?  Well friends, though I’ve been with the shop since inception (September 2013), I take my job as resident cookbook critic seriously.  I’m not just going to pick something every quarter to fill space in a newsletter.  I’m not going to sell you a cookbook that looks good at first browse but ends up on your shelf as nothing more than a book of pretty food pictures.  I’m going to test it, cook with it, and, if I walk away from it after a few weeks and a few recipes I’m not going to even mention it to you.  It has to be a book that lasts.  That’s how much I value your time, and that’s why I’m excited to announce, after four years, my first Cookbook Corner pick:  Tartine All Day ($40). 


Tartine All Day was released early this year and has been in my kitchen’s heavy rotation since.  Written by pastry chef Elisabeth Prueitt, co-founder of the legendary bakery Tartine in San Francisco (Chad Robertson’s excellent Tartine Bread is also available at the shop as well) the book branches out from breads and pastries providing some amazing dishes for every meal of the day, with a nice selection of creative vegetarian creations, but enough meat thrown around to occupy the carnivores.   The book is also 100% gluten free (as Ms. Prueitt, despite running a baking empire, is gluten intolerant) with about a quarter of the book devoted to gluten free baked goods, if gluten free is your jam.  (It isn’t mine, but I found it worthwhile to buy three different kinds of obscure flours to make sure I followed the recipes as instructed (there’s nothing worse than a cookbook critic who alters recipes then negatively reviews the frankenfood that didn’t turn out as written) and the taste, texture and crumb (cookbook critic terms) didn’t suffer from any of the deficiencies a lot of gluten free baking does.  Many of the dishes appear exotic and complicated at first glance, but nothing I made took me longer than an hour from start to finish and other than the gluten free flours I had most of the ingredients on hand, and none of the techniques are intimidating, so I was able to cook some things on the spur of the moment.  Lack of spontaneity is often what turns a potentially great cookbook into an aspirational-someday-I’ll-be-this-person-who-cooks-these-dishes untouched book on my shelf.  In my six months with the book I’ve made the Goat Cheese-Garlic Spread (4 ingredients, 5 minutes max, tasted amazing), the Gravlax (beat the Barefoot Contessa’s), the Zucchini Herb-Fritters, the Golden Beets and Greens with Hazelnuts and Honey-Vinegar Dressing (who knew beet greens could taste decent?), the Brandade (which has a few clever shortcuts to avoid spending three days and having to find salt cod), the Savory Bread Pudding with Wild Mushrooms and Bacon (a big hit here at the Library) and the show stopper for me, the humble Ricotta Dumplings (I took the optional extra step of making my own ricotta cheese out of milk and vinegar, but it was totally worth the effort and only took half an hour) simmered in an amazingly simple tomato sauce after pan frying to crisp them up.  Tartine All Day is truly as cookbook for every day all day (see what I did there?) and that’s why it’s Cookbook Corner’s Cookbook of the Quarter!



Board Games For The Whole Family

It's mid-July...the nights are long, the days are hot, and the kids are still home for the summer. Try a board game to beat the heat! We're living in a fantastic era of tabletop gaming, so you can let that dusty old copy of Monopoly stay buried under last year's beach towels--there's a whole world out there of exciting options. I've highlighted a selection of board games that I love (and regularly play in my own life), which fit a variety of ages, skill-levels, and situations.    - Kimberly


Bring Your Own Book  [Ages 12+ / 3-8 players / 20-60 min] 

Combining my two favorite things, Bring Your Own Book is the perfect activity for a varied group of people, and a MUST for die-hard book nerds.  How to play: draw a suggestion card (e.g.  "a line from a teenager's diary"), then everyone searches their chosen book to find a line that fits. Call it when you've got it ("it was the best of times, it was the worst of times"), and that round's judge chooses a winner. The versatility is endless. You can have a lot of fun it with any group, for however long. You can play with your favorite book, or one you've never read, or everyone can pick the same book (a great idea for a book club party game).

Sushi Go! [Ages 7+ / 2-5 players / 20 min]

This oh-so-cute Sushi collecting game is jam packed with skill building mechanics-- basic counting, probability, pattern recognition, and resource management. Each round you select one card from your hand to keep, then everyone passes their whole hand. Game play is fast! Like a sushi boat making its way through a restaurant, you have to grab what you need to build a set, one sushi at a time (and hope another player doesn't snag it first). And did I mention it's super cute?  

I love Forbidden Island for its relative strategic simplicity: find the artifacts, save the island from flooding. Easy. But to stay afloat and find the treasures, you need to think a few steps ahead of the card-drawn variable of floodwater as a team. You must work cooperatively to strategize on the most efficient use of your moves in order to escape the sinking island with your loot. This is an excellent introduction to strategy planning game play for younger children, but it still provides a challenge for older players. Packaged in a durable tin, Forbidden Island is great to take on the road. 



Tsuro [Ages 8+ / 2-8 players / 15 min]    

A Super simple game that's easy for even the most inexperienced player to quickly learn. The game is built by adding path tiles on each round, and where the path leads, your piece must follow--even if it's colliding with another player or falling off the board completely! If yours is the last left standing, you win. Not a lot of concentration is needed to have fun with Tsuro, which is great for groups who'd like to chat around the table between turns. No reading required also means kids younger than the recommended age of 8 can get in the mix too. In the end, I think Tsuro's real strength is its fast-paced game play (15 min or less) and ability to work just as well with two players as it does eight. 


Dixit [Ages 6+ / 3 -6 Players / 30 min) 

A board game of storytelling, an excellent way to indulge the creativity of kids (and adults).  Each card in the deck is illustrated with a different imaginative image, the meaning of which is totally up to you. The Storyteller for the round chooses a card from their hand and gives it a title, without showing the other players. Everyone then picks a card from their own hands that fits, all the cards are shuffled, and players try to guess which was the Storyteller's original card. An easy game to play with even very young children. 

Dad to the Bone -- Father's Day Gift Ideas

Gifts for Dad

Shopping for Father's Day can be a tricky one-- if your dad is anything like mine there's only one real criteria for a good gift: is it useful? Soap, key chain, shoelaces, coffee cup. Yep, yep, and yep.  Now you might say hand crafted hot sauce and a cork board dart set aren't really functional...but for a certain dad, you bet they are! We've highlighted some of our favorite dad-centered books and gifts below. Call the shop to place anything you see here on hold 619-236-5802.


Product Details

1. All Natural Gentleman's Soaps by Matr Boomie. $9.95

These Fair Trade vegan soaps come in a 'manly' variety of scents that inspire adventure with every wash: lemon, citrus, passion fruit, and mint. 7 oz bars packaged in organic cotton cloth. 

2. 33 Glasses of Whiskey tasting guide notebook, $5.95

Pocket sized for perfect in-the-moment field notes for up to 33 different whiskeys. Each page has a spot for product information, flavor wheel, and tasting notes. 

3. Atlas Obscura, An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders $35.00

This unbeatable staff favorite is a treasure trove of unusual facts and fascinating photos. Each vignette highlights a unique off-the-grid location, with historical notes and traveler information. 

4. The Greatness of Dads, $18.95

Featuring compelling quotes, literary excerpts, and pop culture references as well as inspiring photographs of fathers (some famous and some not). A lovely offering to the dads, grandads, and father figures in your life.

5. Dad to the Bone Mug, $12.95

Hefty 8oz mug from Waste Not Paper will show your dad who's boss. 

6. Stolen Riches Dress Shoelaces, $18.95

Stolen Riches has been a family owned and run mill for over 100 years, and their offering of patterned shoelaces are the perfect gift for that little bit of luxury in an everyday item.

7.  Tools of Titans, $28.00

Internationally bestselling author Timothy Ferriss is at it again with a truly inspiring read on the tactics, routines, and habits of some of the world's most successful people. 

8. Animal Trophy Magnetic Key holder, $14.95

No need to go hunting in the wild (for animals or keys) again! Mount this guilt free steel tiger head on your wall to be the guardian of your keys.

9.  Baby Clydesdale Sriracha Hot Sauce, $10.00

Sauce with a little kick! This unbelievably fresh and delicious hot sauce is made in small batches right here in San Diego.

10. Work Darts Cork Board, $15.95

Fun and functional, this cork board doubles as an actual dart game or a place to pin notes and ideas. Good for work or home. 


Gifts for Grad

Don't get me wrong, I love Oh, The Places You'll Go! The late great Dr. Seuss is a fountain of wise words (and definitely 100% one of the best children's authors ever), but the last thing I wanted to take with me to college was a picture book that made my mom cry when she gave it to me. 

Give the grad in your life a token of your appreciation befitting an accomplished student, destined for greatness.* We've highlighted a selection of practical, entertaining, and just-for-the-heck-of-it gifts, sure to please. Everything displayed here is available in the shop or online.


*and a little future fun

Mother's Day Gift Guide

Mother's Day is on the horizon, we've put together a selection of books and gifts that are sure to bring  joy to her day. 


Product Details 

1. The Perfect Book: Tartine All Day ($40.00), Rad Women World Wide($15.99), Foraged Flora ($40.00), The Mothers ($26.00)

2. Craft + Foster Soy Wax Candles, $22.00

3.  All Linked Up Silver Necklace from, Matr Boomie $26.95

4. This Season's Newest S'well Bottle Designs, $25.00 - $42.95

5. Brass Desktop Perpetual Calendar, $21.00

6. Gold Foil Coffee Cups from Easy Tiger, $12.95

7. "Soap for Okay Moms" by Whiskey River Soap Co. $8.95

8. Storiarts Literary Infinity Scarves, $48.00

9. Vanilla Bean Boxed Pen, $15.95


Come in to see our full selection of curated gifts, or give us a call to place any featured item on hold (619) 236-5802

¡Viva Cuba Libre!

Is your bland cookbook collection stuck in the 1950s? ¡Cuba! by Dan Goldberg, Andrea Hun, and Jody Eddy will spark a revolution in your kitchen. With Fidel six feet under, and throngs of tourists flying direct to Havana, now is the perfect time to bring these Caribbean and Spanish influences onto your plate. This new era brings delicious opportunities for all of us, and this collection is just the start. Each page is a photographic tribute to the culture and history of Cuba and her people. Featuring mouth watering recipes and local anecdotes that will leave you saying "¡Viva Cuba Libre!" -Jeff

Stocking Stuffer Goodies

There's less than a week before Christmas &  the start of Hanukkah -- still time to find those last minute little goodies to round out your gift giving selection. We've got lots of fun toys and gifties in the Shop, come on down & check out a few of our favorite Stocking Stuffers! We're open every day of the week M-Thr 9:30 to 7, Fr & Sat 9:30-6:00, and Sun 12-6 --- but we're closed Dec 25th & Dec 26th. 

1. Ideal Bookshelf Enamel Pins, $11.00

  • Such cute book cover designs from Hawaiian artist Jane Mount; you can rock your literary love on jacket, purse, or lapel. 

 2. Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty -- Minis, $3.95

  • Pocket-sized plaything, Crazy Aaron has created a 'silly putty' for the modern day. 

3. Sock It To Me Knee Highs, $10.95

  • Take your sock wearing to the next level with these fun patterned Uni-sex Knee Highs. 

4. Seven Year Pens, $7.98

  • Amazingly this pen holds enough ink to write 3 meters a day for 7 years! 

5. Finger Hands, $0.99

  • Who wouldn't want an extra set of hands? Finger Hands (Available in both Left & Right) are a hit kids and adults alike...especially when holiday cocktails are involved. 

6. Lego Batman LED Key Chains, $13.95

  • Bright LED beams from Bruce's foot, lighting the way for Justice in a dark world, right?

7. Composition Notebook Business Card Holder, $6.95

  • This handy pocket-sized rolodex makes networking a breeze, sturdy metal patterned after a classic composition notebook.

8. 50 Year Calendar Paperweight, $11.95

  • A sleek looking paperweight for any home or work desk: pick any date in the next 50 years, and this little calendar will tell you the day of the week. 

9. Cyberoptix Dewey Decimal Silk Ties, $39.95

  • We're in love with these sumptuous silk ties from Detroit's Cyberoptix. Perfect for the librarian-loving book worm in your life. 

Gift Picks for Kids!

We've chosen a range of great gift items for babies to tweens and everything in between. Stop into the Shop to see our full line of children's toys, books, games, & more. 

1. Plush Toys by Jellycat, $22.00 (Ages 0+)

  • Jellycat must infuse some kind of cloud-magic hybrid in their products; each plush toy is oh-so-soft-and-cuddly you'll have a tough time turning it over to your little one. 

2.  Remote Control Metal Detector Robot by 4M, $25.00 (Ages 8+)

  • More than just a toy, building this robot from scratch teaches kids the basics of circuit construction. 

3. Harry Potter Puzzle by New York Puzzle Company, $18.95 (Ages 12+)

  • Featuring the classic 1997 Year One cover art, this 1000 piece puzzle is the perfect post-holiday family activity.

4. Animal Parade A - Z by Begin Again, $38.95 (Ages 3+)

  • Made from sustainably harvested wood, little ones can learn their upper & lower case alphabet on this two sided puzzle-- plus play with the animal figures on their own!

5. Crystal Growing Coral Reef by Copernicus Toys, $13.95 (Ages 6+)

  • Kit contains three multi-colored coral forms to grow your own beautiful desk top ocean reef. 

6. Sushi Go! by Gameright, $13.95 (Ages 8+)

  • A fun family card game that encourages strategy and probability learning in middle grade kids.

7. Books For Everyone to Enjoy, $17.99 - $29.95

  • A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers & Sam Winston, $17.99 (All Ages)
  • Shy by Deborah Freedman, $17.99 (Ages 3-5)
  • The Ultimate Peter Rabbit by Camilla Hallinan, $19.99 (Ages 10+)
  • Dinosaurs: How They Lived and Evolved by Paul Barret, $29.95 (Ages  12+)
  • The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon, $18.99 (Ages 12+)




Holiday Gift Picks

It's December 1st and officially time to get serious about your holiday shopping. Check out our first installment of the Library Shop Holiday Gift Guide 2016: a curated selection for everyone on your list. 

1. Books for the Art & History Buff in your life, $15.99-$75.00

  • Rad Women Worldwide by Kate Schatz & Miriam Klein Stahl, $15.99
  • The Smithsonian's History of America in 101 Objects by  Richard Kurin, $35.00
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Masterpiece Paintings, $75.00
  • An Artist's Alphabet by Norman Messenger, $17.99

2. Bottled Up Glass Decanter by Fred & Friends, $20.00

  • The perfect balance of classy and sassy, these gilded glass decanters hold 35 oz of liquid. Makes an excellent host(ess) gift!

3. "Day" Folklore Enamel Tea Pot by Wild & Wolf, $28.95

  • Drink you tea in style with this camp-ready enamelware featuring folklore inspired illustrations. 

4. Due Date Pashmina Silk Scarf by Cyberoptix, $54.95

  • Custom printed in Detroit, these luxurious scarves are light enough to wear in any season-- show your #librarylove every day of the year.  

5. Home is Where the Heart Is San Diego Bangle, by Mimi & Lu, $40.00

  • Available in 14K Gold, Rose Gold, or Nickel Silver, these locally made bangles keep you looking chic and tell the world that your heart lies in SD. 

6. Books for the Politics & Pop-Culture Lover in your Life $30.00-$45.00

  • The Daily Show (The Book): an Oral History by Jon Stewart, $30.00
  • Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda, $45.00
  • Red-Blooded American Male: Photographs by Robert Trachtenberg $40.00
  • Star Trek 50 Artists 50 Years, $39.95 




BUYER'S PICK: My Kids Book Obsessions This Winter

I wanted to pick one stellar kids book to write about today, but I just couldn't decide. There are three books currently rocking my children's lit world--and the common denominator seems to be... "dissatisfaction?" I'm not so sure what this says about me, but my soul connects with the protagonists of each of these absolutely lovely picture books. Lessons geared toward our children can be just as important to remind ourselves of as adults.  Be present. Be content. Be Nice. 

  • Tek: The Modern Cave Boy by Patrick McDonnell

Poor little Tek, he just loooves his tablet. He never sees his friends anymore, never sees his family. "Outside the world was evolving," the story bemoans, "but Tek couldn't have cared less." But one day, everything changes. Tek is forced to disconnect. And what does he find? That the world, is in fact, worth appreciating. "He looked around and discovered a dragonfly, a tiger lily, a ginkgo tree, a hairy elephant, the hairy people, and an awesome Awesomesaurus." 

This fuzzy little grump could be any kid these days; it's so easy to get plugged in and hooked. Patrick McDonnell, who just happens to be one of my favorite kids books authors, is spot on here-- don't forget to experience the world around you! Each page is an adorable Mutts-like take on the classic cave man, and the book itself is shaped like a tablet, complete with home screen button and text emojis. 


  • Penguin Problems by Jory John & Lane Smith

Oh BOY do penguins have problems. "It's too cold... the ocean smells too salty today... everybody looks the same as me... I look the same as everybody else." Our penguin narrator woke up on the wrong side of the iceberg and refuses to see the world in any other light. Why should he? It's too dang bright.  But one day a walrus shows up, as they do, always thinking the glass is half full. "Have you gazed upon the blue of that cloudless, winter sky, my friend? Have you felt the sun as it gently warms your back?" It's all about perspective. We might find a thousand things to complain about, but take a step back and we'll see the world for its better side. At least for a moment. And that's a step in the right direction.


It is tough to be misunderstood, and nobody knows this better than the Kraken. He just wants a little social interaction. But yet fish swim away in terror. "Why?!" he cries out to the salty depths above. The solution comes from an unlikely source: the fearsome Great White knows how to make friends, it's as easy as one, two , three (...and four, five, six).

1. Keep your cool. 2. Smile! 3. Hugs, not slugs! 4. Share! 5. Lend a helping fin. 6. Be yourself!

The truth is some people have a hard time making friends--kids and adults alike. But the simplest answer is the easiest: be a nice person and stay true to yourself. You may not conquer the world, but gosh darn it, you'll have at least one good friend.  



Each of these supremely awesome kids books are avaialbe in the shop or online. I know they will be come your new obsession too    --Kimberly

Teen Book Review: Something in Between


Bestselling author Melissa De La Cruz has a new book out this week! Something in Between is the story of Jasmin de los Santos, daughter of devoted Filipino immigrant parents, grappling with a life changing family secret. Their visas expired years ago-- her entire family is illegal.   

Check out what real-life-teen Nkechi thinks about Something in Between,  she's one of our Super Awesome Teen Book Crew Guest Reviewers!

This book was the ultimate modern story of everything going right and then one event throwing all of it into chaos. The author turned a real life event for many people in this country into a reality for me.
-3 1/2 stars

Teen Book Review: Signs of You

Here at Central we have an awesome Teen Center. Not just a great collection of books (which we have), and not just study rooms, comfy couches, and a media gaming room (which we also have)-- but the Pauline Foster Teen Center is patronized by some of the coolest teens in San Diego. 

One such rad teen is Charisse, our very first Library Shop Guest Reviewer! The Teen Book Club meets every 2nd & 4th Friday of the month and reads the latest in YA in addition to helping with teen author events.

Here's Charisse's take on Signs of You by Emily France:

This book is really awesome! From reading this book I learned that you have to live your life and you can’t let tragedy define your life. I would definitely recommend this book to one of my friends.

Euphoric over Euphoria

Euphoria, by Lily King, is one of the best books I've ever read.

Whoa. Bold statement, right? I know I'm probably not telling you a hot secret, seeing as Euphoria is a several times over award winner, but if you haven't had a chance to pick it up: now is the time!

Based on the life of Margaret Mead (real-life pioneer in the field of anthropology)-- this 2014 novel is a can't-put-it-down thrill to read. King totally immerses you into this intense moment in history: anthropology as a budding field of research, women taking charge in the male dominated 1930s, "Western advancement" in all its evil...and yet the 254 pages of Euphoria is also perfectly written emotional journal of three unique people. A love triangle that tests the definition of marriage, of sexuality (especially in the early 20th century), and of (dare I say) euphoria. 

plus, the fact that Rainbow Gum trees are a real thing is amazingly mind blowing. Bark that oxidizes at different rates, turning bright rainbow colors?? WHAT IS THIS SCIENCE?

Did I lose you there for a minute? Sorry, I can't help but be totally wowed.

But even if you aren't impressed by Rainbows growing out of the Earth-- you will be by this book.